AUWU Address at ACOSS Post-Budget Breakfast

In July 2015, the Abbott government implemented the most punitive approach to unemployed Australians ever seen in this country. Under the three new contracts rolled out by Abbott (Jobactive, CDP and DES- DMS), the number of penalties skyrocketed to 2 million – double the previous year (and a 10 times increase in 2011 figure).

Many Australian Unemployed Workers Union members report diminished capacity to effectively seek work combined with increased mental health pressures as a result of these systems. Some have described these systems as “soul destroying”.

The very expensive job provider system and its punitive regimes including the breaching of payments, denies money necessary for basic living in a consumer driven society.

These policies form a downward pressure packaged in the form of repressive justice which politicians claim to be the will of the taxpayers.

Since the announcement of new, demoralising, still more punitive measures in the federal budget – such as the ‘demerit point’ system, the cashless card and mandatory drug testing – it is true to say that welfare policy looks a lot like correctional services policy.

If Government is going to further target Australians on behalf of taxpayer desires, misinformed as they may be, then AUWU suggest they start at the top and work through the middle rather than target the bottom.

On the basis of welfare policy alone it will be Mr. Scott Morrison and his fellows who history may recall as being the first true tyrants of contemporary Australia.

In her 20th C commentary regarding the nature of political parties, philosopher & activist Simone Weil pointed out that:

“Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing.

It is the person who is crushed who feels what is happening.

Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand.”

As representatives of welfare recipients we all need to do much more work to undermine this oppressive treatment of the unemployed. We need to actually take some action.

The AUWU would like to propose a compliance working group be established immediately to workshop effective strategies to resist the current punitive approach to the unemployed.