Last night the crossbench had the opportunity to reduce some of the harsh impacts of the Welfare Reform Bill that passed the Parliament in March this year by supporting the Greens’ disallowance motions on some of the legislative instruments that implement some of the measures. Measures that punish people in our community, simply because they are out of work or have a an addiction, Senator Rachel Siewert said.
“Just last week we heard about how dysfunctional and inadequate the Jobactive program is. We heard that there is no formal or standardised training for employment consultants, yet these instruments give them more power to make significant decisions about the lives of people on income support.
“Social Security (Administration) (Job Search Efforts) Determination 2018 tightens the requirements for job searches in relation to the suitability of the jobs people are applying for relative to their qualifications or experience.
“What we know from those receiving income support is that employment service providers often do not ensure that the number of job searches specified in the person’s employment pathway plan are suitable for the person and area in which they live.
“So how can we be sure these same employment service providers will exercise discretion and take into account other factors such as a person’s individual circumstances? There is also the concern that people could be found to be in breach depending on the discretion applied by the employment service provider regarding what is considered suitable work for each individual.
“It could be that someone is found not to have undertaken adequate job search efforts because they have only applied for jobs below their qualifications or conversely only applied for jobs in their qualification fields, but there is really no oversight or standard across the board.
“This is all about the employment service provider’s interpretation at any given time.
“For those subject to the Targeted Compliance Framework, the instrument provides that the Secretary must not take into account a person’s drug or alcohol misuse or dependency in determining whether they had a reasonable excuse for a compliance failure, where they have previously used their misuse or dependency as a reasonable excuse and they not participated in available and appropriate treatment for their drug or alcohol misuse or dependency, to which they have been referred and are able to participate in.
“If the person concerned has an addiction, this is a health issue and should be dealt with by a health professional. It should not be up to an employment consultant, with no qualifications in issues of addiction to decide “what is appropriate treatment”.
“The Government should not be penalising people for their drug or alcohol dependency, or singling it out, without addressing the underlying issues for this dependency, such as physical and mental health issues, childhood trauma and poverty. This measure fails to understand the complicated process of recovery and will only cause harm to vulnerable members of our community.
“It’s deeply disappointing that the crossbench (except for Senator Storer) didn’t support these disallowances and instead are supporting the continuation of this punitive approach to some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
“What we have now is a blunt instrument, a one size fits all approach that doesn’t work and is causing harm. We need an approach that fits individual situations and barriers, particularly for young people and vulnerable jobseekers.
“5.2 million penalties have been imposed on people looking for work since Jobactive started in July 2015. Half of those penalties are overturned by Centrelink, clearly showing the inadequacy of the process.
Lucy Cowcher-Guthrie: 0418 401 180