Scrap Broken Compliance System for Unemployed
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In the lead up to the 2017-18 budget, the Turnbull Government have proposed implementing a 'demerit points system' to give job agencies and Centrelink more powers to financially penalise the unemployed.
This is a disaster waiting to happen. Already the compliance system is overly punitive and out of control. It should be scrapped.
In 2015-16, the $10 billion job agency system imposed more than 2 million penalties on unemployed workers for not meeting requirements (up from 200,000 in 2011).
DHS data reveals that each year roughly 35-40% of reviewed penalties are overturned because there was not sufficient evidence or the unemployed worker had a reasonable excuse. This means that 4 out of 10 penalties imposed on unemployed workers are unfair. It can take months for fined unemployed workers to go through Centrelink's lengthy appeals process and retrieve money incorrectly deducted from their entitlement - an entitlement that is already just under $400 per fortnight below the poverty line.
The AUWU has received countless cases of unemployed workers being penalised unfairly, most commonly for not attending appointments that they were not even informed of.
Despite this broken compliance system, the Turnbull government wants to give money-hungry privately owned job agencies more power to punish unemployed workers. The Coalition has justified these increase penalties by arguing that there are too many unemployed workers refusing to accept jobs. This is a lie.
In 2015-16, job agencies imposed 12,000 penalties to unemployed workers for refusing to accept 'suitable work'. This represents less than 1% of the total amount of penalties imposed that year. Of these cases, only 1,047 unemployed workers face a penalty as the majority were deemed to have 'reasonable excuses'. Other unemployed workers had their penalty 'waived' by Centrelink as it was deemed to harsh to cut them off Newstart for more than 2 months (this is the alleged 'loop-whole' the government are trying to "slam shut").
There is not a problem of unemployed workers not accepting jobs. The problems is that this government is not creating any. Currently, there are 17 job seekers competing for each job vacancy according to government statistics.
The compliance system is broken. It needs to be scrapped, not strengthened.
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