Turnbull’s tough new welfare rules slammed

Contributed by Jim Hayes

The Turnbull government is under attack from experts, over the claim that people are spending on” non-essential items” to get Centrelink payments sooner.

The claim is contained in a memorandum to the legislation.

“The tightening of the severe financial hardship waiver also acts as a discouragement for people to spend their resources on non-essential items in order to obtain income support payments,” the document says.

Swinburne University welfare expert Dr Kay Cook has condemned this suggestion, adding that there is no research backed evidence to support the claim.

To be eligible for w waiver, under the new rules, applicants must show evidence that they are in “personal financial hardship, when applying for Newstart, Youth Allowance or parenting payments.  This means having no more in the bank than the amount of a fortnightly benefit payment for a single and double that for couple. Any more and you don’t qualify. This excludes most people who are in urgent need of help.

ACOSS chief executive officer Cassandra Goldie said that “this new requirement is a mean-spirited and erroneous measure, which will really hurt people needing assistance”.

The Turnbull government is continuing to blame the less fortunate for their situation and starting from the implication that they are doing something wrong by the act of claiming a benefit. Conveniently overlooked is that the person still must pay for housing, food and other needs that often exceed Centelink payments. Anyone who has experienced living without an income knows very well that there is little left for non-essentials.

The accusation is far more than a silly statement. The hardline stand against all benefits is still in place, despite the robo-payment and other scandals enveloping Centrelink, the Department of Human Services and the government. The objective of making the most vulnerable pay the debt for perceived economic problems and the addiction to failed neoliberalism and its trickle income upwards, remains intact.

One point warrants repeating. Those who do not have a job are seen as a cheap and casualised  source of labour source. This is clear when one sees the measures being taken, not only in relation to the unemployed, but also with single parents, the disabled and even the aged. Many are forced into the workforce. Not to proper jobs, but on low wages and inferior working conditions.

The attacks being launched through Centrelink are ultimately directed to shaping a weapon  to cut down the conditions of against the employed.

These measures are not about creating jobs, but a means to destroy jobs and bring Australia  as close as possible as close as possible to the days of the industrial revolution. And this is built, on the lie that this is the way to economic growth.

If cheap and mistreated labour was the road to economic growth, it would stand to reason that those countries with the lowest wages and worst jobs must be the great success stories. They are not. Many years of experience has shown that locking in a low income for most economy results in stagnation.   Those countries that have enjoyed higher wages have been much more successful.

The declining share on wages in national income has not created more and better jobs. The economy is in a worse position and stagnant, secure full-time jobs are giving way to increasing casualisation of work and the number of Australians out of work and underemployed has grown much more than officially admitted. There is a connection.

Despite all this, the government continues in the same direction. It will continue to be criticised. In the end, it must be stopped.



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