The welfare reform bill that contains a suite of measures that hurt people with disability, bereaved pregnant women, people struggling with addiction and older unemployed Australians amongst others will be opposed by the Australian Greens.
“The welfare reform bill is a mishmash of measures designed to once again erode the social safety net, making it increasingly less accessible and more paternalistic whilst insidiously reducing some payments.
“The most well-known measure contained in the bill is the plan to drug test 5000 income support recipients, but there are cuts and changes beyond that.
“The drug testing trial is going to make circumstances worse for people struggling with addiction attempting to access supports. During the inquiry into the Bill we were told extremely clearly by medical professionals and social services providers that the drug testing income support recipients is flawed.
“The Minister has disregarded this evidence despite comparable overseas measures and local experts making it crystal clear that this is going to be a costly and ineffective endeavour that just stigmatises people struggling with addiction.
“It is very concerning that the Government is tightening up mutual obligations for older Australians aged between 55 to 59. Instead of having to complete 30 hours per fortnight of paid or voluntary work, they will now be forced to find a minimum of 15 hours of paid work or be looking for work per fortnight.
“Senators were told during the inquiry process that not only will this have a negative impact on recipients in this vulnerable cohort, but also on the volunteer sector that provides an estimated economic and social contribution of $290 billion.
"Although it is pleasing that the Government finally admits that the current compliance system is flawed we have strong concerns with the proposed demerit point system, which would not allow penalties to be waived.
“People applying for Newstart and Youth Allowance will have to wait longer to receive their first payment – a move widely condemned by both stakeholders and the community.
“Most heartbreakingly, the Bereavement Allowance is being effectively cut, with the highest cut effecting grieving women who have lost their partner during pregnancy.
“I have to ask whether this is really worth the menial saving that the Federal Government is trying to scrape back. For some context, reducing the Bereavement Allowance will save $1.04 million over four years, whilst the creation of the streamlined Jobseeker payment will cost $11.6 million and will leave some people worse off.
“On top of this, the removal of activity requirement exemptions for people with drug or alcohol dependence, and the exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act, shows just how cruel and harsh this whole Bill truly is. It is time to leave our most vulnerable alone, they have been through enough”.
The Australian Greens have dissented from the majority senate report into the welfare reform bill and will be opposing the legislation as a whole.