The new job providers points system and the dismantling of Australian welfare

Contributed by Joe Montero

Australians on welfare payments continue to face a long-running government offensive, which is making getting through life’s basic needs  increasingly difficult.

Unemployed individuals already receive the second lowest income support in the OECD, as well as having to contend with a barrage of obstacles and harsh punitive measures. Australia has the most onerous set of requirements in the developed world. It has been made even worse.

From the I July, job agencies have been granted new punitive powers to punish Newstart recipients for failing to comply with the escalating compliance demands. Like excessive reporting requirements that take up time better used for finding a job, and engagement in activities that provide grants to the providers but do little to resolve unemployment.

Refusal to attend a work for the dole program, because it is unsafe, is now considered a particularly serious breach, despite the evidence of too high a rate of serious injury and even death on occasion, as unscrupulous employers exploit the system to get hold of government grants. This does not qualify under what is considered by the government as a “reasonable excuse,”  despite the fact that 64 percent of sites are failing to meet basic safety standards. Failure or refusing to attend an unsafe job will result in being completely cut off from Newstart.

Job agencies are to administer this, through a new “demerit point” system aimed at payment suspensions. The old appeals process, even though inadequate, will be largely scrapped. An individual who believes they are being unfairly treated, is left no avenue to be heard. Job agencies have consequently been given the power. to use the points system, to further exploit the unemployed to increase their bottom line.

In 2015-16, job agencies imposed a record of two million financial penalties on the unemployed. The National Welfare Rights Network has pointed out that roughly half of these penalties, were found to be unfair and were rejected by Centrelink. This means that in 2015-16, more than 1 million unemployed people had their payments cut off when they did nothing wrong.

Without even this past level of scrutiny, the number of penalties is bound to escalate, because of little accountability and funding to the job agencies is based on the number of placements, rather than the achievement of proper ongoing jobs. The industry enjoys $10 billion in handouts every year.

The privatisation of the administering compliance, is a response to the enormous criticism that the government, Department of Human Services and Centrelink have been receiving in the recent period. With it, they can deny any they have any responsibility for unfair treatment.

Although the government is keen to get off the hot seat, this is about much more than shoving off the responsibility. The government’s welfare reforms are deeply rooted, in a deep seated belief that  in dismantling the existing Australian welfare system, which it sees with interfering with the proper operation of the market. In its view, the market is the best allocator of resources. In terms of labour resources, the welfare system is accused of creating bottlenecks that prevent the most efficient allocation of labour.

Centrelink benefit payments and the conditions under which they are provided , have been deliberately evolved towards dismantling the welfare system. The gap between benefits and cost of living has been purposely widened and the system sharpening to discourage applicants and maximise the number denied. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed that due to the tightening of eligibility requirements, only 36 percent of unemployed people receive Newstart. The government’s own figures estimate that 80,000 unemployed lose Newstart payments over the next year.

This is a future increasingly looking like a march backwards towards the days of the industrial revolution. It was the worship of the unfettered market as the efficient allocator of resources, that saw children working in the factories and mines and the misery of the poor houses in the old world. The unfettered market did not produce a just society.

Admitting any of this would not make for good public relations. So, it is swept under the carpet, and we are told that it is all about reducing welfare dependency and working within the limitations of the government’s budget deficit.

Reducing welfare dependency is a worthwhile goal. It means finding a successful path towards participation in the economy, together with an appropriate share in it. To use the term as a cover for the exploitation of the vulnerable is a mockery.

Australians on Centrelink benefits are not there because they have become over dependent on handouts. They are there because there are fewer jobs available for those seeking them. The latest ABS figures show that there are 16 jobseekers for every position available. Others are incapacitated in some way, have the burden of looking after children or others, or a re just trying to enjoy the reward for a lifetime of work.

Using budgetary constraints as an excuse, fails to explain why the most vulnerable are made to pay the price, while handouts to the richest keep on rising.

These two justifications are not genuine, and a deflection of attention from the real issue.

The unemployed are the thin end of the wedge, because they are the most vulnerable. Recipients of other benefits, single parents and those on disability and their carers are being pushed down the same trajectory. Even those on the age pension are finding the system tougher, benefits tightened and those coming towards their retirement, forced into working till an older age.

The dismantling of the welfare system is leading to a social crisis. We are witnessing the scale of the rise in homelessness through Australia. There is a widespread loss of hope. With this, the government is creating a powder keg. If it goes too far, there is a point at which rising anger will explode.

Perhaps, this is what will be needed to make a difference. Those who are in the firing line can transform themselves from being victims, into asserti9ng their rights and winning greater control over their own destiny. The other side is to in the meantime alleviate the misery being caused, and all of us have a role to play in this.


11 Comments on "The new job providers points system and the dismantling of Australian welfare"

  1. Welfare payments to the unemployed provide a much need income source to help provide for families and individuals who have little or no employment all this money is returned to the economy by way of paying for rent and living expenses helping to keep small businesses operating this is vital to help people lead a normal life even though the amount of money they receive is totally inadequate it is much better to provide welfare then let our society decline into the gutter as poverty and crime increase because of the lack of compassion shown by our leaders that lack in integrity and vision driven by their greed.

  2. more crimes like theft will rise.

  3. As a dsp pensioner and my husband is my carer I wake up every morning wondering if this will be the day I am told by this government that I should be working. There is no feeling like it it gnores at you until you can think of nothing else it’s comeing I know it is and what can I do who will help me who will help anyone in this position no one because people don’t care.

  4. Australian government destroying lives and being apart of the problem not the solution. Incompetent politicians . They dont deserve to steal tax from the rich or poor for the hardship they cause the public they also leech off. Disgraceful. Hope god does away with them.

  5. kathy mcconnon | 5 July 2018 at 7:39 pm | Reply

    this is a very worrying time for all on benefits. for myself my anxiety is worsening day by day .not knowing how we r going to survive when all these measures r implemented.

  6. More familiy tragedy, more crime, no job satisfaction, no hope or future ….. this doesn’t sound like the Australia my family contributed to or the country our diggers willingly died for ….. who is really calling the shots here ???

  7. Creating a class of prison fodder is the commercial objective. That’s the neoliberal “aspirations ” in action. Take a social reality, twist it into a nightmare then supply a profitable business solution. Vote these thieves out.

  8. Marion Clarke | 20 July 2018 at 11:45 pm | Reply

    It is a tragedy of unknown proportions just how much damage is going to occur through these punitive measures of the most corrupt government in Australia’s history. I’m glad I’m able to work however I begrudge my taxes going to support the likes of Rinehart, Murdoch and Forrest and of course the LNP.

  9. I believe there are lots of people that receive payments and are quite capable of working, it’s this minority that is pulling the system down
    Certainly centrelink should be there to help you whilst looking for work or incapacitated.

  10. “I believe there are lots of people that receive payments and are quite capable of working….” says one respondent. Well, let’s take a more detailed analysis of that statement, shall we? On the one hand, we have Person A who is made redundant at the age of 45. Person A goes from being, for example, a person in middle management to a person who is “too qualified,” “too experienced,” or what have you for similar roles that they apply for. You might say, “Oh, but they can take lesser roles,” if offered, maybe. Person B has multiple chronic health conditions, that may not be obvious to an outsider, but Person B is too sick to work but not sick enough to be granted the DSP, so is put on Newstart. Yes, Centrelink should be there for you at that time, BUT, the government needs to stop the lie that Newstart is a lifestyle choice and you get paid to do nothing. How long is person is unemployed, however, is like asking “How long’s a piece of string?” Work for the Dole has repeatedly been demonstrated to be unhelpful, so must be scrapped. For all those who say, “Put them in the army,” well, the most logical reason to deny that is that the army takes fewer recruits than it receives applications from.

  11. Gordon Woodward | 24 July 2018 at 10:11 pm | Reply

    I lost my first job when I was 43 thenI managed to get another job which I applied for up to 12months then I was told to have my uniforms ready at every month for 12months after that they kept me for 11years then the government took over then they sacked 160 a month then it went to 180 . I again found my self unemployed at 53 . I again started looking for work only to be told that I was over qualified and nobody would take me on eventually I ended up on the sick list never to work again. I feel so sorry for every one looking for work from the youngsters up when the government say they have found work for 4 thousand but neglect to say about the other 20 thousand or so that they put out of work. They always ust to call Australia the Lucky country well I have news for them it is now the unlucky country. Yet they keep bring in people in when there are no jobs for them and they cause trouble because of there religions and hurt the peopl that gave them sanctuary. The current government has no idea on how to this country or there own people first.

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