All across the country unemployed Australians are today bracing themselves for more stress and suffering, as the Coalition unleashes its new needlessly cruel benefit sanctions regime, writes Jeremy Poxon at The Guardian.
Starting 1 July, the Turnbull government is granting job agencies new, unprecedented powers to punish Newstart recipients for failing to comply with gruelling compliance demands.
Under this new “demerit point” system, agencies will now impose payment suspensions if (they believe) jobseekers are behaving inappropriately, or failing to attend appointments and activities like Work for the Dole without a “reasonable excuse”.
Alarmingly, jobseekers currently battling drug or alcohol related illnesses are now no longer (“reasonably”) exempt from activities, nor safe from financial punishment.
Until 1 July 2018, Centrelink has been able to overturn any job agency penalties if it deems that they’re unfair or will lead to “extreme poverty”. It will lose much of this power. Now, job agencies will be able to punish their unemployed clients without government regulation or oversight.
Unemployed workers will also lose significant powers of appeal. They will have to passively accept many of the decisions ordered against them. In short, privately owned job agencies – many of which are for-profit private companies – will wield unlimited, unchecked power over the unemployed.
Under this system, unemployed workers can be completely cut off Newstart if they refuse to attend unsafe work for the dole activities. Even though 64% of sites are failing to meet basic safety standards, jobseekers will be forced to accept any dangerous, hostile conditions they’re met with.
Jeremy Poxon is a media officer for the Australian Unemployed Workers Union