The Welfare Reform Bill that passed the Senate today contained a suite of measures that will hurt bereaved people, people struggling with addiction, and older and unemployed Australians.
“The drug testing measures initially contained in this bill were an outrageous attack on vulnerable people trying to access our social safety net and we are glad they were removed but there are a suite of other changes in the bill that hurt those on income support, Australian Greens spokesperson on Community Services Senator Rachel Siewert said today.
“We cannot let the measures in this bill that will affect older Australians, people with complex health issues, people who are bereaved and those who will have to struggle with the new compliance process pass by unnoticed.
“Schedules 13 and 14 remove temporary exemptions from mutual obligation or activity requirement for people struggling with addiction and make changes to reasonable excuses. People will be able to be kicked off income support for having a health issue.
“Yet again, the Minister blatantly ignored the evidence the committee has heard over and over again during the inquiry process that drug and alcohol addiction is a health issue that must be treated through the health system.
“These are cruel and punitive measures to those suffering medical and health crises. These measure single out alcohol and drug addiction as a single barrier to employment rather than addressing underlying issues and need for service funding and fails to understand the complicated process of recovery and will only cause harm to vulnerable members of society.
“Our mutual obligation compliance framework is broken and it is not going to be fixed by the punitive demerit point system that was just passed in this bill. The Australian Greens support the ACOSS recommendation that there be an independent public review into the compliance system for people who are unemployed before any reform of the existing compliance framework occurs. We cannot keep trying to plug this leaky boat.
“I’m very disappointed that the so called review of the new compliance framework the Government has committed to in 18 months is not going to be independent, it will be done by the Department that designed the new process and the Government would not commit to making the so called review public.
“This bill further erodes our social safety net, making it increasingly less accessible, more paternalistic and reducing payments.
“Again and again the Government introduces insidious bills with a suite of complex schedules that are attacks on our social safety net.
“We need to look at this bill for what it really is, an attack on our social safety net and vulnerable Australians. We are going to push people further into poverty.