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Unemployed advocates hold “mini jobs summit” at Parliament House
Protesters respond after the government failed to include unemployed people as full participants in its landmark Jobs and Skills Summit
Today a small group of unemployed advocates from the Antipoverty Centre and Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union gathered outside Parliament House in an effort to ensure people not benefitting from the tight labour market could share their response to the government’s Jobs and Skills Summit. The government did not include unemployed people as full participants in its event.
Included below: comments from the Antipoverty Centre and Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, footage and photographs of the protest and crisis line contact information.
The “mini jobs summit” was intended to include a larger group of unemployed people and welfare recipients, however permission was not granted for the protest so organisers were forced to limit participation and hold the event unauthorised. The full text of speeches read out on behalf of contributors who were unable to attend due to the need to scale back the event is available here.
It is disturbing that the government has failed to prioritise social security at its Jobs and Skills summit, particularly when there are still 900,000 people depending on unemployment payments – more than before the pandemic, when the unemployment rate was 5.1 percent.1 While the government has signalled its intention to maintain full employment, this is no substitute for a genuinely safe safety net. Right now, Centrelink payments are so low and “mutual” obligations so punitive that they stop us getting paid work.
Quotes attributable to Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and JobSeeker recipient Jay Coonan
What we’re hearing right now out of the government’s jobs summit is incredibly disappointing. On the one hand they are committed to give a raise to the wealthiest who don’t need it, while on the other they continue to deny people on social security a desperately needed increase during a poverty crisis.
We’re in a poverty crisis. The full employment white paper they have in the works won’t put a roof over our heads or put food on our tables. We need decent, secure work for everyone who wants it, but the fixation with full employment needs to end – a liveable social safety net is vital to protect people from being forced into unsuitable, unsafe and underpaid work.
It’s shocking that we’re seeing so many people struggling to house themselves, with many now living in tents or caravan parks, and the best the government can say is “we can’t afford to help”. It just isn’t good enough.
The government needs to take us seriously and start recognising that unemployed people are the real experts in what we need to overcome our barriers to work. First and foremost, poverty and “mutual” obligations are barriers to work – and they could fix those overnight.
We have many concrete proposals to contribute, but they have refused to include unemployed advocates as participants in the Jobs and Skills Summit. That’s why we were forced to take things into our own hands and come to them. We don’t want tokenistic inclusion, we want to be treated as equals. We do not need professional advocates to speak on our behalf about things they don’t understand – often they do more harm than good.
They are obsessed with so-called consensus, but what good is their consensus to us? All it means is that people who’ve never done a real day’s work in their life agree that poor people should continue to starve, to forego healthcare, to fall behind on bills, to be left without a safe place to live.
We need a genuinely safe safety net and we need it now. Lift all payments above the poverty line, then work with us to do the hard work of addressing the structural barriers to work facing so many of us who have relied on Centrelink payments long-term.
Quotes attributable to Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union spokesperson and JobSeeker recipient Jeremy Poxon
This week has marked a new low for our “new” government. This week, Anthony Albanese labelled welfare recipients a “burden”, while Minister Rishworth ruled out increasing the JobSeeker payment in the next budget.
For anyone on welfare, stuck below the poverty line, this summit has been a cruel farce.
While the government hob-knobs with billionaires and business leaders, they’ve now confirmed they will continue starving people on Jobseeker in the next federal budget.
Instead of offering low-income people any hope, they are simply pretending we don’t exist. This marks the final betrayal of Anthony Albanese’s own values: instead of standing up for people like his mum, he has chosen to deliberately starve them.
Media contact: 0413 261 362 / media at antipovertycentre.org
Photos and footage
Please credit the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union and Antipoverty Centre.
Video features Jay Coonan from the Antipoverty Centre, Jules Kelly from the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union, Kristin O’Connell from the Antipoverty Centre and Jeremy Poxon from the AUWU protesting outside Parliament House at their “mini jobs summit”.
Crisis support and counselling services
If you need support you can seek guidance, counselling or crisis help from the below organisations or talk to someone you trust.
Suicide Call Back Service – general: 1300 659 467
SANE Australia – general: 1800 187 263
13YARN – for First Nations people: 13 92 76
National Counselling and Referral Service – for disabled people: 1800 421 468
Headspace – for young people: 1800 650 890
QLife – fo LGBTQIA+ people: 1800 184 527
Full Stop – for people who have experienced sexual harassment and assault: 1800 385 578
Embrace Mental Health – multilingual service: embracementalhealth.org.au
MensLine – for men: 1300 789 978
Brother to Brother – for First Nations men: 1800 435 799
About the Antipoverty Centre
The Antipoverty Centre was established in May 2021 by people living on Centrelink payments to counter problems with academics, think tanks and others in the political class making harmful decisions on behalf of people they purport to represent.
We have deep expertise in poverty, disadvantage and unemployment, because we live it. Our goal is to help ensure the voices and rights of people living in poverty are at the centre of social policy development and discourse. We believe there should be no decision made about us without us.
The Antipoverty Centre is not aligned with any political party and does not accept funding that places political constraints on our work.