Author Archives: 01.obiwan1955

Maribyrnong City Council Draft Letter

Welcome comrades, if you are reading this you’re probably considering contacting the Maribyrnong council in regards to their vote on the Newstart payment on 24/4/18.

Below is the email template the Union has used to reach out to the councillors, please feel free to use it as a basis for your own emails. In particular you may want to replace the personal accounts below with some of your own experiences. Please when addressing our councillors, keep your tone polite and avoid aggression; while those in government often deserve the worst of our bile we need to keep them onside when asking for their support, and in the case of local council our representatives are very much removed from the legislative conditions we suffer under.

We all make this union what it is, so we need to project our best selves, keep it fiesty but keep it civil.


Mayor, Cr Cuc Lam –
Deputy Mayor, Cr Sarah Carter –
Cr Simon Crawford –
Cr Catherine Cumming –
Cr Gina Huynh –
Cr Mia McGregor –
Cr Martin Zakharov –

I am writing on behalf of the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union in regards to a motion being put by Cr Simon Crawford at the next Maribyrnong City Council meeting.

As a member of the AUWU I wanted to start by thanking yourself and the council for considering this important issue, with special relevance to the low-income and disadvantaged residents of Maribyrnong City. Furthermore I wish to put forward the AUWU’s position as to why you should vote in favour of this motion.

Newstart at $269 per week, is $177 per week below the Henderson poverty-line. It is less than 41 percent of the minimum wage, less than 18 percent of the average wage, and has not been raised in real terms for 23 years.
The Newstart payment is the second lowest in the developed world.
An Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) survey of 600 Newstart recipients in 2015 reported:

• 40% are unable to pay their bills on time or see a dentist;
• 50% are unable to raise $2,000 in the event of an emergency;
• 50% are turning off heating and cooling to save money;
• 32% skipped meals in the previous year;
• 25% are suffering from “housing crisis” — spending more than half their income on rent; and
• 20% do not have enough money for essentials like housing, food and electricity.

One of the reasons Newstart is so low, is that traditionally it was meant as a ‘temporary payment’. However, going by figures the government released in 2013, the average time spent on Newstart is over four years. This is largely due to the lack of jobs available. According to the latest government data, there are 2.8 million people competing for only 180,000 jobs. Newstart has become a one way ticket to poverty.
The low rate of Newstart is major factor that pushes people into homelessness. According to a 2017 study by Anglicare, only .03% of properties on the market are affordable for a single person living on Newstart.

There is also a growing problem of Newstart recipients with disabilities being unable to afford the medicines they need. 25% of Newstart recipients have a diagnosed disability. This is because of significant attacks over the past several years on the ability to access the Disability Support Pension (DSP).

Increasing the Newstart rate to the Henderson Poverty Line ($1026.24 per fortnight) – the most reliable and regularly updated measure of poverty in Australia – will go a long way to giving Newstart recipients control over their lives and helping them out of poverty.

Council Benefits of Raising Newstart:
Increasing Newstart would benefit local economies, by increasing the spending power of those on low incomes, whose extra funds would circulate through local businesses. It would also reduce the strain on Council community services assisting the growing number of people experiencing hardship, particularly homelessness. Experts in this area frequently point out that the low rate of Newstart contributes to crime, mental health issues, and creates an extra strain on council and health services.

Increasing Newstart would not only help people into employment, but create a more prosperous community. In the council area, there are thousands of unemployed people that need representation in the your council

There is growing concern about the low rate of Newstart amongst the community. In the petition work we have done on increasing Newstart in the area, the vast majority of people have voiced strong concern about the low rate of Newstart. The rate of signatures we received on our petition calling on your council to advocate for an increase was about 10 per hour. These will be presented to the council.

The Business Council of Australia has advocated to the Federal government that the low rate of Newstart is a barrier to employment and risks entrenching poverty. Auditing company KPMG and the OECD have also advocated for an increase in Newstart, as well as the community sector.

Already there is a ground swell of local councils who have taken up this issue. Ten local councils in South Australia have added their voices to the chorus of business, union and welfare groups which have called for Newstart to be increased. The South Australian councils which have passed motions are Adelaide, Clare and Gilbert Valley, Copper Coast, Kangaroo Island, Mount Gambier, Onkaparinga, Playford, Port Adelaide Enfield, Salisbury, and Streaky Bay. Recently in Victoria the Moreland Council passed the motion too.

The more councils who adopt this demand, the more pressure can be applied on the Federal government. I hope Maribyrnong can join them.

Below are some personal stories from Newstart recipients:

“I often have to skip breakfast and lunch every day in order to save money. I do not feel I eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables; I look for specials and Black and Gold products. Nutrition never enters into what I buy, how cheap it is the only thing I’m capable of buying. If my income was higher, I would be able to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, things other than frozen products; I would buy more food in general if I could afford it.

I think every day about my finances. I’m living from hand to mouth without any chance to save or prepare for the future.

Very rarely am I able to see my family and friends … my family lives in a different state and I haven’t seen them in about two years due to being unable to afford the travel expenses, with no chance of being able to join in on family occasions or holidays. Leaving the house is hard, even bus transport affects my budget, so leaving my house as little as possible is necessary. Any kind of community activity, festivals or events, getting there, buying anything whilst there, is beyond my income, and means any bus ticket or drink or food I buy there effects my income and ability to pay for rent, groceries and bills.

I feel as if relationships are impossible until I’m able to support myself.”

– Joel, Newstart recipient

“My son has ADHD, anxiety and autism, and requires three different medications to function at an acceptable standard to attend a mainstream school. He also attends a Catholic school, which is prepared to accommodate his learning needs because the public system in our area simply doesn’t have the support systems in place to meet his learning needs. Just school fees are $150 a fortnight.

So we have six regular prescriptions a month, at a cost of $40. By the time I pay for school fees, rent, electricity, phone and internet bills, I am left with $250 a fortnight to cover everything.

To stay well with both diabetes and my son’s ADHD/anxiety/autism we rely on a diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, bread and dairy foods — basically we live on a diet of largely unprocessed, sugar free, artificial colouring and preservative free, gluten and lactose-free products, wherever possible. All the expensive foods.

$250 doesn’t really cover the fortnight’s groceries. It means we eat a lot of apples and potatoes, mince, sausages and rice. We’ve done the ‘100 ways with mince’ recipe book. It also means that I often end up unwell — either I eat cheaper processed foods and it affects my blood sugar levels, or I skip meals and my blood sugar is affected. And either way I end up spending more time in the doctor’s office and a burden on the health system. I can’t win.”

– Natalie, a single mother forced onto Newstart when the Gillard government significantly tightened the eligibility of the Single Parent Pension.

Please find attached the AUWU’s draft motion for consideration and please contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Warm regards,

In solidarity,
Tilde Joy

Newstart City Council Motion [Draft]

Work for the Dole Updates: Members’ Stories

Recently the union asked our members for stories and information regarding their experiences with work for the dole. The response has been amazing! In this series of posts we want to share some of the harrowing tales from the coalface of this ridiculous programme.

If you or anyone you know has done work for the dole, make sure to fill out our survey to help us Boycott Work for the Dole #BoycottWFTD

Kara from Queensland says her work was demeaning, abusive and pointless:

Utterly disgusting. No training, no explanation of tasks needing to be done. Slave labor for zero benefit. Verbally abused by the “supervisor”. Made a formal written complaint, site manager brushed it off completely. I left and never returned. Sorting rotten fruit and vegetables for 8 hours a day. Mopping floors multiple times a day when once was more than sufficient. Biggest waste of my time ever!

Lisa from the Blue Mountains was forced to work at Vinnies, but there was little to do, seems like another situation where the JSA and the host are more interested in getting their government payouts than actually getting people into work.

I was not allowed to be trained on the till or anything else. The only job I was allowed to do was to colour code the clothes on the racks and pick up dropped coathangers. So nothing, really. I was not allowed any breaks at all, while the volunteers got morning tea supplied and a lunch break, I was required to “work” through, though there was no actual work to be done.

The irony is not lost on James in Sydney who reckons his host organisation’s mission was undermined by their methods:

Coercive slavery for a religious organisation that claimed to provide respite for the less fortunate but forcibly employed those same people instead of actually being a good corporate citizen and paying someone for their work!

We were not told about safety issues, we were encouraged by the Work for the Dole not to bother with insurance for accidents, we could not use it for a resume, and the whole exercise took us away from actually applying for actual work!

A story from the other side, Judith, a worker hired to implement a WFTD programme in Victoria, says she was massively under-resourced and had to reach into her own pocket to get basic needs met. At the AUWU we ask, where does all the funding for this programme disappear to?

I was employed under contract by St Vincent De Paul to run a Work For The Dole program over 10 years ago, and I found the facilities for participants were incredibly substandard, while expectations of them were incredibly high. Likewise, the conditions for me as the sole staff member onsite. I endeavored to make the environment as safe and comfortable for participants as possible, but I was untrained and unable to secure the necessary resources from my employer. I often had to use my own money and resources to run the program. It was among the more humiliating treatment of human beings that I have ever seen and I would not work in such a role ever again. I felt that the participants and I were all trapped in a cruel, unfair and broken system. I have also lost all belief in, and respect for, St Vincent De Paul as a charitable organisation, and for the Work For the Dole program.

Sandor from Ethelton in South Australia was exposed to asbestos before he successfully got the worksite shut down. This is an absolute outrage and there are many questions unanswered:

I was exposed to Asbestos at my work for the dole site. Safe work SA cover up. They denied any information about the investigation. All they would tell me is the site is shut down. I am the person who started the investigation. I have photos of the Asbestos also the asbestos managment center confirmed how dangerous it was. Michalea Cash claims the asbestos i was exposed to was safe and the site was safe. I have her letter from her saying this and other lies. No one from work for dole site the supervior host or job network was held liable or prosecuted for my exposure. Every day I think about what they done to me. If it will affect me it’s a matter of time. Shut Work for the dole down it has killed inocent people already and will injure and kill more.
Pissed off

Ted from Brisbane was forced to perform skilled labour with no training, under extremely unsafe conditions:

Very exhausting , my job is doing a fully qualified tradies would do. eg. putting up a corrugated steel ceiling and insulation in the roof system . two persons get hoisted up using a forklift and standing on a pellet without a cage or a harness. One wrong move and can you can fall onto a concrete floor. Very unsafe , I mentioned it to the team leader , he just said it is fine.

That’s it for this update, but we’ve got more to come. In the mean time we’d love to hear your story and if you want to help Boycott Work for the Dole, please fill out our survey!


The Coalition Government wants to pass two Bills: the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017, which contains a raft of punitive measures, and the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, which seeks to unjustifiably expand cashless welfare.

Drug testing may be off the table, but the fight isn’t over. Parliament will re-open on the 5th of February – we have only until then to influence the decision our representatives will make. We encourage you to send letters to the representatives listed below, urging them to vote down these Bills (registered “person-to-person” letters would be best, if you can afford it).


Letters opposing the Welfare Reform Bill

We’ve drafted a letter template, which you can download and edit here: Welfare Reform Bill template
(If you’d like to write a letter from scratch, please consult the general guide to writing to politicians at the bottom of this page.)

We recommend sending your letter to the following crossbench Senators:

Derryn Hinch, Justice Party Contact details and Voting record (The easiest and quickest way to contact Senator Hinch is through our special campaign page here)

Stirling Griff, Nick Xenophon Team Contact details and Voting record

Rex Patrick, Nick Xenophon Team Contact details and Voting record


You may also consider contacting:

David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democrats Contact details and Voting record

Fraser Anning, Independent/One Nation Contact details and Voting record

Brian Burston, One Nation Contact details and Voting record

Peter Georgiou, One Nation Contact details and Voting record

Pauline Hanson, One Nation Contact details and Voting record

Letters opposing the Cashless Debit Card Bill

We’ve drafted a letter template, which you can download and edit here: Cashless Debit Card Bill template
(If you’d like to write a letter from scratch, please consult the general guide to writing to politicians at the bottom of this page.)

We recommend sending your letter to the following crossbench MPs:

Rebekha Sharkie, Nick Xenophon Team Contact details and Voting record

Bob Katter, Katter’s Australian Party Contact details and Voting record

Andrew Wilkie, Independent Contact details and Voting record

Cathy McGowan, Independent Contact details and Voting record

…and your local MP (Enter your postcode here to find your local MP).

More Information

The Cashless Welfare Card Bill 2017

The Cashless Welfare Card Bill will come before the lower house as early as February 5 2018. It removes section 124PF of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999, which specifies that the cashless debit card trial will occur in only three locations, include no more than 10,000 people, and will end on 30 June 2018.

Removing this section will allow the indefinite extension of the program in current sites, and the card’s nation-wide expansion.

What is the Cashless Debit Card (CDC)?

The Cashless Debit Card (formerly the Healthy Welfare Card) is a measure that forcibly restricts 80% of any income support payment to an EFTPOS-style debit card. The card can only be used at approved Government locations (ostensibly to prevent gambling, the purchase of alcohol etc.). It’s a much tougher version of the completely discredited Basics Card, which only quarantines 50% of one’s payment.

The CDC was developed by by billionaire mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, and was forced on communities with little or no consultation with stakeholders. It’s currently being applied indiscriminately to the unemployed (aged 15 to Aged Pension age) in three trial sites. Seventy-eight per-cent of people subjected to it are Indigenous.

A recent evaluation of the trial found that 75% of respondents either don’t have a drinking, substance abuse, or gambling problem, or if they did, such behaviour wasn’t affected by the card. Moreover 74% of respondents said the trial had either made their lives worse, or had made no difference. The card costs $10,000+ per person (the Newstart Allowance is $14,000 per person)

  • Contrary to Government propaganda, the Cashless Welfare card is not as user friendly as is claimed. Local and regional communities with high unemployed, single parent and underemployed cohorts mutually support local small business owners by working with them to mutual benefit: Both will be negatively impacted by this card.
  • The card is produced by the Australian company Indue, to use it the business owner needs to enter into a business agreement with Indue which may not benefit the business.
  • Small business in regional and rural areas do not necessarily use EFTPOS machines. The cost of small business is climbing, particularly in relation to utilities, the books are getting tighter and every cent counts. There is currently no way for small business owners to quantify how much of their takings is supplied through welfare recipient cash transactions, making a feasibility assessment of whether or not to invest in an EFTPOS terminal and go into an agreement with Indue impossible
  • The cashless card is geared towards bigger business such as Coles and Woolies, where shopper anonymity is encouraged, particularly with the installation of Cashier Terminals where no human contact is necessary for a transaction to take place. This means that people who feel stigmatised by the cashless welfare card may choose to stop shopping with small businesses.
  • Unsurprisingly these bigger supermarkets are the very same businesses that co-own the Australian Eptpos business, so they stand to take the lions share of Government welfare spending under this card. Australian EFTPOS is a company which makes money from transactions and card production, it is wholly owned by its 18 Members so all profits from cashless welfare transactions will go to a handful of large companies.
  • The Indue card is very different from a bankcard. It operates as a credit card in the sense that funds are not the property of the recipient, so a recipient has no claim to interest accrued on funds over time. In the case of persons becoming ill and spending a period of time in hospital, (elderly, chronically ill and mental health patients who are unable to access the Disability Support Pension) this can amount to regular periods of many months. Interest accrued on funds becomes a significant revenue stream for the company Indue who have full ownership of accrued interest across millions of Newstart recipients. In other words Indue gets to keep the sum total of all your small change, the stuff that goes in the jar above the fridge and comes in handy to pay the winter electricity bill with. This amounts to welfare spending contributing directly to the profit margins of big business, diminishing the growth of smaller local economy
  • The low amount of cash that can be accessed through compulsory income management is not enough to participate in alternate markets such as farmers markets, trash and treasures, local craft markets, alternate food and goods banks and many charity shops which deal exclusively in cash transactions. In regional and rural areas eggs, mulch and fresh vegetables can often be purchased from road side sales points and co-ops dealing only in cash, these healthy options for people on low incomes will be impossible to access with the cashless card.
  • The small-economy becomes impossible under income management, how do you pay the babysitter with an INDUE card? How do give $50 to the bloke up the road who fixes your lawn mower or $20 to the boy who mows your lawn if you are unable to? How do you support your children and teenagers to participate in school fates and local excursions that require lunch money, pocket money and taxi money for an emergency such as having no safe option to get home from a late party? How do you teach your kids how to handle cash?
  • Residents in Ceduna, one of the trial sites for the Cashless Welfare card have reported their mortgage payments have become more expensive due to added transaction fees
  • People cannot contribute to share house costs with a cashless card. How can you pay your landlord if they only accept cash?
  • There are reports that people on income management are begging, are buying food and then reselling it at lower prices to get access to cash so they cover costs like share-room rent, private studio and caravan rent, getting around town using alternate transport systems (throwing in some cash to help with petrol for a friend who gives them a lift somewhere etc) and providing pocket money for their kids, which effectively makes welfare recipients even poorer than they already are
  • Compulsory income management stigmatises people and separates them from mainstream society even further, disallowing social mobility and scapegoating poverty
  • Cheap shopping alternatives such as Aldi are excluded from participating in the scheme because there is no separation between the liquor store and the main store, thus preventing cheap goods being obtainable to people on tight budgets
  • The only people with access to cash in welfare demographics will be elderly pensioners and disability pensioners who will be made vulnerable targets for criminals
  • Cashless welfare, in a society where the welfare payments don’t lift people over the poverty line, forces people to use mainstream shopping outlets that are just too expensive for limited budgets, making emergency situations requiring cash impossible to manage
  • People in welfare demographics will not be able to “chip in” or help each other financially from fortnight to fortnight
  • Indue is not a bank and cannot provide any of the privacy and security measures that banks provide. Our data will be open to organisations who collect data to profile and target consumers. The Government cannot guarantee our privacy because Indue are not a Government organisation, regardless of assurances and agreements Government and Indue come to. This lack of privacy is already an ongoing issue with Job Network Providers who are reported to be repeatedly breaching the privacy rights of their clients
  • There are reports of people manufacturing bootleg liquor because they can no longer by alcohol. The cashless card has already created a back yard market in liquor and gambling in exchange for resalable goods
  • The card will encourage black market labour hire because more people will accept cash work that pays below the minimum wage

For a concise indictment of the Cashless Debit Card Bill, see ACOSS’s submission.

The Welfare Reform Bill will come before the Senate as early as February 5 2018. It is loaded with ominous measures: mandatory drug testing for the unemployed; increased penalising-powers for job agencies; increased mutual obligations; and increased waiting periods for the dole. It seems one of the most odious of these, namely mandatory drug testing, has been scrapped – due in part, no doubt, to fierce organised opposition from people like you.
  • A new ‘demerit points’ system: failure to meet mutual obligations (missing an appointment etc.) will result in the automatic loss of a point (ES providers will have no discretion). Four demerit points in six months means you’ll fall into a three-strikes (“intensive compliance”) phase. One strike: you’ll lose one week’s payment; two strikes: you’ll lose two weeks’ payment; three strikes: you’ll lose four weeks’ payment.
  • Parents will have to find a third party to back up claims their relationship is over in order to receive the single parent pension. Witnesses caught making a false declarations about a relationship could be jailed for up to a year. This is an outrageous attack on single parents pensioners (roughly 90% of whom are women) and will make it significantly harder for mothers to leave abusive relationships.
  • The maximum Liquid Assets Waiting Period will double from 13 to 26 weeks when a claimant’s liquid assets are equal to or exceed $18,000 for singles without dependants or $36,000 for couples and singles with dependants – that is, people with savings above these levels may have to wait up to six months before receiving payment.
  • People aged 30 to 49 will have to spend another 20 hours more per fortnight looking for work or doing Work for the Dole. Those aged 55 to 59 can currently meet their mutual obligations by volunteering for 30 hours per fortnight, but the proposed measure will require them to spend 15 of those 30 hours on job search or another job-related activity, like Work for the Dole.
  • People affected by drug and or alcohol dependence alone will no longer be eligible for the Disablity Support Pension. Conditions/circumstances arising from drug or alcohol dependence will no longer be considered an acceptable excuse for failing to meet mutual obligations (eg. being hospitalised due to a car crash sustained while under the influence may not be considered an acceptable excuse for missing an appointment).
  • Removal of protections for those who – due to extenuating circumstances (eg. hospitalisation, domestic violence, homelessness) – can’t lodge a completed claim in time.
  • Payments will be calculated from the date of your first appointment with an ES provider, not from the date you express an intent to claim.
  • Those currently on the Bereavment Allowance or a Wife or Widow B pension will be worse off.
  • The DHS’s power to gather information through coercive means and to use that information during investigations and criminal proceedings will be broadened.

Use the correct title

In the case of letters, set out the name and address of the MP or Senator in the top left hand corner. This is not necessary in the case of emails. An MP’s name should be stated in the address as follows: ‘Mr/ Mrs/Ms/Dr First Name Last Name MP’. A Senator’s name should be stated as follows: ‘Senator First Name Last Name’.

MPs or Senators who are, or have been, government Ministers, are given the title ‘The Honourable’. In the address, this becomes ‘The Hon. Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr First Name Last Name MP’ in the case of Ministers who are MPs or ‘Senator the Hon. First Name Last Name’ in the case of Ministers who are Senators.

Start your letter as follows: ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ or ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Dr Last Name’ in the case of MPs, and ‘Dear Senator’ or ‘Dear Senator Last Name’ in the case of Senators.

Introduce yourself and your issue

Start your letter out by saying who you are and why you are writing to them. If you are a member of their electorate, make this clear. It can also be helpful to briefly set out any relevant connections in the community – for example, you may want to indicate that you attend a local school or church, are involved in a youth group or Rotary organisation, or work for a local business. If your letter is about a particular region or country and you have visited it, outline this connection.

Keep it brief

Your letter should be as short and simple as possible. Try to keep it to one or two pages. Ideally it should be typed, or written very neatly and signed by hand. Stick to one issue per letter and use simple points to make your case. State the facts clearly, and try not to exaggerate or be overly emotional.
If the issue is technical or requires further explanation, keep your letter short but include an additional document which sets out the extra information. Alternatively, you can refer the MP to a website, article or book where they can get more information. Sending reams of paper is not an effective way of getting attention. In fact, there is a high possibility that most of the information won’t be read.

Use your own words

Politicians’ offices receive hundreds of letters from constituents. Your objective is to make your letter stand out from the crowd.
Form letters generally do not have the same impact as a well-crafted, personal letter. If you’re starting with a form letter in support of a particular campaign, take the time to personalise it by adding your own thoughts, or putting the points in your own words.

It can be useful to:

  • Include relevant facts and figures
  • Refer to a recent news item about the issue
  • Highlight a local connection to the issue
  • Include a personal experience that made you want to speak up on the issue

Be polite

Being polite and respectful in your letter is far more likely to achieve positive results than being insulting or abusive. If you disagree with a stance your MP has taken, or some comments they have made, say so, but in a reasoned, forthright way. Rather than generating a response, an abusive or threatening letter may be forwarded to the police.

Tell them what you want them to do

Simply telling your MP how you feel about an issue is unlikely to bring about change – you need to tell them what you want them to do about it (in this case, we’re simply asking MPs and senators to vote against a particular Bill). But, the most important thing you should ask for is a reply to your letter.

Oxfam’s guide to making your MP work for you.

Provide your contact details

It’s no good writing a passionate letter requesting action if you forget to provide your contact details. Make sure your letter includes your first and last name, your address, telephone number, and email address if you have one.