Senate debates

Monday, 12 November 2018

Regulations and Determinations

Disallowance

7:47 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

In winding up the debate on this disallowance motion, I continue to be gobsmacked that the government does not get the fact that treating people who have a drug or alcohol addiction in a punitive manner does not help the situation. The government does not get that this is a health issue and it needs to be addressed as a health issue. Under the approach that's being driven by the two instruments that relate to reasonable excuse, we will see people drop out of the system. They will drop out of the system, they will not have income support, and that will make their situation even more tenuous. If they aren't already homeless, it'll lead absolutely to homelessness and potentially to interaction with the justice system—because this government does not get that this is a health issue.

These measures will make our already punitive income support system even more punitive. In terms of job searches, I completely disagree with the government that this will lead to more consistency. In fact, it will make it harsher and, as I articulated in my first contribution, it could lead to even further inconsistency—and it's being applied to a system that already has so many massive problems with it.

I've already articulated the concerns I have about putting even more pressure on employment consultants and caseworkers working for jobactive providers. With their lack of qualifications and the heavy case loads they are bearing, the high turnover or churn of staff in these services points to problems in terms of what they have to deal with through this punitive compliance system. I'm expecting that churn will probably get higher, once we start seeing the further implementation of the targeted compliance framework. The job of these people is supposed to be to support jobseekers and those who are unemployed. Their role is to support these people and to help them find work. In fact, they now have to apply this punitive approach and be responsible for making decisions around penalising people. This makes their job even harder.

This system needs reform; it absolutely needs reform. We don't need a system, with these sorts of instruments, that makes it harder for jobseekers to find work and harder for them to comply. A number of times now I've heard of the situation where somebody has actually had to leave their part-time work to go to an appointment with their jobseeker provider to help them find work. So they've actually had to miss out on work. Another situation was where a young mother had to stop studying to comply with this system. She had to drop some of her course units in order to comply with the requirement for meetings with her provider. This system is failing. These delegated instruments make an already failing system worse.

I ask the Senate to support these disallowances so that we can at least not make the system worse. Then I urge the Senate to look at what comes out of the jobactive Senate inquiry, when that inquiry presents its report in the future, to look at how we can get real reform in a system that is not punitive, that is supportive, that helps people trying to find work, and that recognises that this country has structural unemployment and that there simply are not the jobs there for people to apply for. Instead of penalising those who are unlucky enough not to be able to find work, we should be supporting them to find work and offering meaningful training opportunities. I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard people talk about the inadequacy of the training that people get through the jobactive process. It's time we reform the system. There is absolutely no doubt that it needs change, but not—this is a disallowance motion—through the sorts of changes that these delegated instruments have brought in.

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