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Greens to oppose tougher penalties for jobseekers

The Australian Greens will not be supporting the Government's move to significantly toughen penalties for jobseekers, which will lead to mandatory eight week suspensions in the event of compliance failures.

The report of the Senate Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Stronger Penalties for Serious Failures) Bill 2014 was tabled today, with the Greens tabling dissenting comments.

"The Bill is unnecessary, ineffective and punitive. It is another part of the Government's cruel attack on people who find themselves in need of income support," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services said today.

"The Bill will remove the ability of Centrelink to waive eight-week non-payment penalties for jobseekers, which represents a significant toughening of the current regime. Taking away a person's income support for two months could have catastrophic impacts on their lives.

"All of the witnesses during the inquiry, with the exception of the Government's own departments, raised concerns about the devastating effects of this Bill and the fact that these severe penalties are counterproductive to the aim of supporting jobseekers into work. A person experiencing severe financial hardship will not have the means or capacity to find employment, or even meet basic living costs. This Bill discourages people from re-entering the system quickly which we know is vitally important for positive outcomes.

"Submissions to the Inquiry also reiterated the fact that this Bill will not address the lack of jobs in the market, with jobseekers far outnumbering the jobs available. This Bill is an unjustified, ideological attack on some of the most vulnerable members of our community, with no perceivable benefit to their employment prospects.

"I am concerned that the Government continues to rely on charities to respond and solve crises knowingly caused by their own policy and legislation. When people are left without income support, their only option will be to turn to charity and community organisations for support.

"It is clear that the Government is more interested in its ideological agenda than it is in helping job seekers find work. The Greens do not support this legislation," Senator Siewert concluded.


The Committee Inquiry Report has been tabled in the Senate and will be available online here.


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