AfD/Dissenterlink Welfare Changes Forum: TRANSCRIPT

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Jul 24 2011 11:32
AfD/Dissenterlink Welfare Changes Forum: TRANSCRIPT

Alright! Took a while but here it is, the transcript from the Thought Centrelink was Bad? - It's about to get Worse Forum put on by Assembly for Dignity/ Dissenterlink.

I really enjoyed this forum so hope people get something out of this. Thinking about turning this into a pamphlet. Some bits in the recording were a bit hazy but will try to cut the inaudible stuff and upload it in the coming week. red n black star

Transcript

*Opening / Welcome to country*

Dissenterlink / Assembly for Dignity

We are a small group of students workers activists and people from the community who meet to try and understand the changes and to spread that information.

Starts from 3:42:

I want to keep this presentation pretty informal so feel free to interject at any time to correct me, ask questions - anything like that and I’ll try to keep it as quick as possible. I’m quite confident that I’ve got a pretty good image of what all the changes are but there are things I might not know or might get wrong so feel free to pull me up on those points

Over the last couple of years we've seen a number of quite important changes to welfare and they’re quite layered. There’s a number of different ones so it’s hard to get your head around how they all fit together and what the new welfare regime's actually gonna look like. But luckily enough the federal government does the hard yards for us and we've spent some time reading the recent federal budget which kind of does describe how it all fits together. So we've got a couple of years of legislation which have laid the ground work and then the budget. For those of you who remember the last previous big changes were under the Howard government which introduced 'mutual obligation', 'work for the dole' and those kind of things.

These welfare changes that are happening now are in some ways a continuation of those from the mid 90s but in other ways are quite different. So I think its worth talking and thinking about firstly what are these changes but also why are they happening and why are they happening now.

The point that I want to allude to later is the really strange thing about this is we've got these massive welfare changes at a time of record low unemployment - unemployment is 4.5% in Australia and its going to drop to 4.3 % predicted by the middle of next year. So why do you have these massive changes to welfare when unemployment is not a problem? And compared to the rest of the developed world, it's massively not a problem. I mean we're looking at a rate of 10% unemployment in the United States, with more than that in Greece, Italy and so on.

Ok. So where do these new welfare change start? Well my suspicions are that these policies have been talked about by various sorts of think tanks for a while and it can be hard to trace that development. But really it comes out of the Northern Territory Intervention ¹. So part of the NT intervention is the creation of a moral panic over what they describe as being a link between poverty and child abuse - so you have a massive intervention by the State and one of the things that is rolled out at that time is Welfare Quarantining. Under Welfare Quarantining all Indigenous peoples who were affected by the intervention have their welfare quarantined on a thing called a Basics Card - you have this card and 50 percent of the payment is linked on this card and can only be spent at certain shops on certain things. That is the origin of welfare quarantining.

And while the tone of it is different now, that link to the idea that there is some kind of moral panic about the poor - Ie: People on benefits are doing something wrong - this is gonna have a terrible impact on society - the way we can deal with it is through quarantining their welfare.

Anyway, the next major change happened last year where there’s an introduction of a piece of legislation called the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendments: Welfare Reform and the Reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act. So this bit of legislation when it came through in 2010 technically extends the ability of welfare quarantining to be extended to anyone and anywhere in Australia. This is the big bit of legislation. So it invents 4 categories - it says that the Government can declare an area subject to welfare quarantining and in that area four categories are rolled out;

The first category is Disengaged Youth
- So that's anybody on benefits that's under the age of 25 who has been on benefits (Youth Allowance/ Newstart/Disbaility Support Pension DSP) for more than 6 months – they are classed as Disengaged Youth

The next category is Long-Term Unemployed
- So this category is for people who’ve been on unemployment benefits and sometimes some form of DSP for 2 years or more. In these 2 categories if you're in an area where welfare quarantining is rolled out then again - 50% of your payment goes on a basics card which can only be spent on certain things at certain places. 100% of all one off payments (baby bonuses/$500 advances) - that's all going to go on the card.

Now on top of these there are two new categories - these are the interesting ones.

The first one of these is if you are declared vulnerable
So it says that a Centrelink social worker, based on your personal behaviour, can declare you vulnerable and if you’re in this category 70 % of your payment becomes managed.

The other category is if you’re referred by the child welfare - so I assume in Queensland this would be Queensland Community Services (Department of Child Safety) who could refer you and again - 70 % quarantined.

So this legislation came through in 2010 and there's lots of debate about what it means – Where is it going to be rolled out? And when I get to the budget in a minute you'll see where it's going to be rolled out.

The next piece of legislation which I have in front of me has just become law. So It went from being a Bill to an Act at the end of June. And this is the Social Security Legislation Amendment Job Seeker Compliance Bill.

I might actually read directly from it because you can’t make this stuff up - then we can think a bit about what it means. Just to note this bit is not location specific - this is law and this will be rolled out everywhere.

"This Bill implements the governments election commitment to introduce tougher rules for job seekers which was announced on the 11th of August 2010 as part of the modernising Australia’s welfare policy statement..
(Basically if you ever want to find the modernising welfare system its about half a page on the labour partys website under policy..)
"The amendments in these bills will enhance the current job seeker compliance framework by providing additional incentives (which means punishments) for jobseekers to engage in their employment service providers and participate fully in activities designed to improve their employment prospects."

So this is what it does..

"The bill will introduce the suspension of payments for job seekers following the initial failure to attend an appointment or in some circumstance an activity such as training or work for the dole. as soon as the job seeker agrees to attend the appointment their payment will be restored in full back payments. All job seekers will be required to attend a rescheduled appointment regardless of their reason for missing the first appointment. If the job seeker attends the rescheduled appointment, the job seeker will not be penalised. But if the job seeker does not attend the rescheduled appointment payment will again be suspended but this time if they do not have a reasonable excuse for missing he appointment they will incur a reconnection failure and thus lose payment for each day for the second missed appointment until they attend a rescheduled appointment"

So what does that mean right - well we all already know you can be breached for failing to comply with a whole range of things. But this extends the net of what you can be breached for and reduces the time. This means you’ll be breached for not attending a job network/training meeting straight away. If you go to the rescheduled appointment - you get your payment re-connected again – but if you miss the next one and this is interesting- you will never get those payments back - you’ll be penalised and miss a payment for each day until you attend. Again this bit is not area specific. This is being rolled out everywhere. That legislation went through at the end of June with almost no fan fare and you'll have to dig far to find anything about it - and that’s huge.

The way I understand it is it there's been a bit of conversation coming from the job network employers (Mission Australia etc) who are saying they don’t feel they have the power to discipline people the way they really want to. Because if you don’t come to a meeting they have to call Centrelink and tell them ‘look this person's been really bad and then Centrelink contacts you and says why did you miss a meeting --ok that’s naughty you should attend the next one’. This one however makes it direct - if you haven’t attended – bam— cut off. So that's a massive increase.

All this is stepped up a notch in the latest federal budget. The centrepiece of the federal budget is this thing called 'Building Australia’s Future Workforce: Trained up and ready for work’ (laughs from audience). Obviously the budget is bigger than this but if you read it this is the central issue - this is the main thing behind it.

Now I think we need to talk about why - what's going on in the Australian economy - and why are they so concerned about this. Now there are three elements in the budget and they’re called: Training, Participation and Infrastructure - and it's under participation that you'll find the huge list of the welfare changes that are going through. And again these are broader than the welfare quarantining and they affect a whole range of different people on different payments.

Youth Allowance

Now the first one – and I think this is massive - is that youth allowance - which at the moment you’re on until you’re 21 if looking for work or unemployed and 25 if you’re a student. The important thing to grasp about youth allowance is if you’re on youth allowance unless you can prove otherwise you’re considered dependent on your parents - your parents income is factored in to your payment. So the first thing they’re going to do is increase the age of youth allowance. The cut off is not 21 now, its 22. That’s a whole extra year you will not be considered independent. That says something pretty interesting. What they’re also doing is extending the 'Earn or Learn' requirements. Right now if you’re on youth allowance and your 18 or younger - if you don’t have your year 12 certificate and you’re not working you have to enroll in some form of education or you lose payments - this will be extended until you’re 21. So if you’re on youth allowance and don’t have your year 12 if you don’t enroll in a course your payments are cut off - earn or learn will be everywhere in Australia and I think the roll out for this is mid September.

Disability Support Pension (DSP)

The next big one is what’s happening to the Disability Support Pension. So if you’re 35 or under and you can work 8 hours a week you will be expected to work 8 hours a week and this means that you have to attend Centrelink interviews and make up participation plans and fulfill these plans. And now for people on DSP - the amount you can work before it effects payments is 30 hours. Effectively this is saying if you’re on DSP and if you can do 8 hours you’re going to be required to and this will be enforced through Centrelink interviews and payment plans. There will also be an extension of wage subsidies as well. At the moment if you’re on DSP and you find work through a job network agency your employment/wage can be subsidised by the state

Question:
Sorry does that mean that people are expected to work 8 hours? I mean if they apply for jobs, they work jobs and casual shifts – say you can’t make up that 8 hours – is it then the responsibility of those individual to make sure they have enough work to make up the minimum 8 hours?

Answer:
I don't know – I’m sure this will fit into your participation plan ...A lot of this stuff that’s in the budget - the devil will be in the detail when its actually rolled out.

Intensive Obligations for the Very Long Term Unemployed

Now what’s also being rolled out nationally is something called ‘Intensive Obligations for the Very Long Term Unemployed’ – People who have been on benefits for 2 years or more

If you’re considered in this category you will now be required to do 2 days a week work experience for 11 months a year. At the moment its 6 months, this is 11 months- that’s huge. Work otherwise you’re not getting your payment. I don't know what the work experience program will look like or what the opportunities are for it but that’s a pretty massive rollout

Quarantining

Now another thing we've found out is where welfare quarantining is actually going to be rolled out. It’s being rolled out in 10 locations nationally. The two in QLD are Logan and Rockhampton. As far as we can tell it’s all of what you can call Logan and all of what you can call Rockhampton. I haven’t been able to find a document that says it will stop on this street or whatever. Interestingly they're not rolling out the full welfare quarantining just as of yet – Just 2 of the categories. The two they’re rolling out first are if you’re assessed to be vulnerable or if you’re referred by a child safety worker, and if you volunteer to have your welfare payments quarantined - I think there’s some incentive to this as well - a sweetener of a 250 dollar payment or something…So that’s being rolled out to Logan and Rockhampton

Parents

There’s also particularly tough changes coming out to 'tackle intergenerational disadvantage' - this is legislation targeted specifically at parents. I'll read from the actual document..

So for teenage parents - "The new participation plan will be introduced from the 1st of January 2012 to teenage parents. So they finish year 12 or equivalent and participate in activities that support their child’s development. These new plans will focus on improving job readiness for parents and meeting their child’s development needs as they grow. The changes will be trailed and evaluated with a view to rolling them out further.”

Ok so it's written in their kind of language but you can see what happens: If you’re a teenage parent now as part of your payment there’s going to be a whole range of other criteria as part of a plan - now this is also being extended to what they call 'Jobless Families'. So if you have a child under 6 years old - the people who make up this 'jobless family' will be required to attend compulsory workshops and interviews from the 1st of July 2012. And then it also says that parents will have access to additional services such as childcare, support and training but we'll have to see what that will look like.

Why?

So that's the total picture of the changes, which I think are massive. You can see the multiple different levels that are going through. Some of it involves quarantining in specific areas: we’ll see how that’s being rolled out. The other is a kind of like salami divide up - we'll see what’s going to happen.

It’s probably worth while thinking about why this is happening - why are these changes going through - and they’re quite different from other massive changes that have happened in the past. And it helps to work out why these are going through because the government tells you themselves why they’re doing this in the budget:

Boom Mark II

So the Australian economy is going through something at the moment that’s called ‘Boom Mark II’ - which is the resources boom. What’s happening at the moment is that the price of the stuff were digging out of the ground in Western Australia and some parts of Queensland is at a record high. We dig it out of the ground – particularly gas/steel coal or whatever - we dig it out of the ground and we sell it to India and China. And they’ve got 8% growth so their economies are rocketing at the moment and because there's not many people digging the stuff out of the ground so the price is really high.

Now this Boom Mark II is causing problems for the Australian economy. In the language that they use we're reaching 'full capacity' which means that unemployment is so low that people who are looking for work can demand relatively high wages. So there’s a worry that those sections of the economy that aren’t linked to mining - the retail industry and the rest - can't offer the wages there had been to keep people going. This is also linked with a very funny thing that the government is worried about called the Dutch Disease.

The Dutch Disease

Now the Dutch Disease is apparently what happened to Holland in the 70s when they were selling a lot of oil from the North Sea. When you dig a lot of stuff out of the ground and you sell it at high commodity prices the value of your dollar rockets up. Which means if you’re doing other things in the economy it becomes really really difficult. So if you’re a manufacturer at the moment in Australia its tough - the Aussie dollar is up its relay hard to make something and sell it - if you’re running a shop your labour costs go up and there’s a worry that when this boom ends and the federal government says - look really - mid term view the boom's over, so mid term the boom is 4-5 years something like that - when the boom ends the rest of the economy doesn’t pick up – the business has ended. So there's this worry about this idea if the Dutch Disease.

And so what does this all mean? It means Capital is struggling to find people to work at the rate that it wants. It’s worried about problems in the economy and the stat federal government is looking around and saying where is there a lack of participation - so they look at people who are not classically seen as being in that element – people on welfare that are looking for work - people on DSP, parents, 'disengaged youth' etc.

And they’re looking at these groups and saying how can we squeeze these people to fill the gaps in and get them into the gaps in the economy. To get them into these sections and to compel them to train.

Now I’m not convinced that this will work. But what it will mean is that people’s lives will become increasingly difficult. For a huge range of people that are on welfare the requirements that you are going to have to meet are going to be intensified and the power that the State has over your life is also going to be intensified. So in short that’s what the welfare changes in total look like at the moment

**Applause and open up to discussion/questions from the audience
– ‘Answer’ refers to answer given by the above speaker**

Question :
I might start with a question - Are these changes for new people in the welfare system or are they going to be affecting everybody - people already on it?

Answer:
Yes - If you fit into these categories it will affect you. I think with the parenting payment there’s some grandfather clause that says people who got on a while ago have slightly better conditions – that’s going to be faded out. So if you meet these criteria it will apply to you. I don't know if the changes will slowly trickle through or if there will be a set day.

Comment:
What the government may or may not care or take responsibility for is that if people are being cut off and having to meet requirements and if there’s penalties.. I mean even with an application it can take 3 weeks for an application to be approved - in that time you still have to pay the rent, pay bills, feed your dog.. If you quit your job then they penalise you by not allowing you to apply for Centrelink for something like 12 weeks after you quit. I mean If they’re going to be rolling out these types of breaches where they immediately cutting people off payments then yeah they’re going to effectively punish people but that’s going to lead to a dramatic increase in poverty/homelessness, a huge impact on community services/support services.. You know for emergency accommodation/food parcels – and that’s probably going to be unavoidable especially if they’re pursuing it so seriously and intently.

Comment:
One of the things that disturbs me is the extent to which everything down to the very last detail is spelt out - every circumstance - the job networks - they have no discretion - you know you can’t reason with them and say look here’s my circumstance let’s work something that sits where I’m at – Nope this is what the rule book says and this is what's going to happen.

Answer:
Even more than that with the intensifying of breaches there’s actually some part of the legislation that says a legitimate excuse is no longer good enough. You have to tell them beforehand. So if you haven’t called the meeting off beforehand it doesn’t matter the quality of your excuse.

Comment:
The other thing I noticed is that this sounds actually tougher than the Howard government’s changes doesn’t it? Initially labour softened it although they hid their softening behind a sort of hardline rhetoric. I think under Howard it was 3 strikes and you were suspended for 8 weeks - so if you failed to turn up 3 times in a row you were suspended for 8 weeks and god only knows what happened to those people that that happened to - they just fell of - no body knows you know - they might have died (laughs). But then under Rudd they brought in - they made it sound tough by calling it 'no show no pay' but it was softer because you were only docked the time of the appointment - so if the appointment was gonna go for 2 hours you’d be docked 2 hours just like a worker would be.
But now they’ve done a U-Turn and gone right back the other way and its worse than Howard - similar with the refugee issue too - they initially softened it and now turned around and its worse than Howard you know.

I can vouch for this because I think that people working at the job network - which I was involved in at that time actually felt sorry for me. I forget what year it was but it was when Peter Costello announced that they were getting rid of all the training assistance – he didn’t mention this in his budget speech back then. The first I knew was when I answered a job network appointment and my mouth dropped open - I just couldn’t believe my ears - I said what have you got for me in terms of re-training and they said nothing — all we’ve got and they described - it was just the same as what I done in the previous year - this useless supervised job search - where you just go in put in all these applications and never get an interview and they wanted me to do it all over again. And the guy said to me you gotta do this and the only way you can get out of this is if you’ve got a medical certificate - he actually coached me on how to get out of it.

Comment:
If you look at the NT intervention where quarantining has been in affect - I think we can trace it to the intervention when it was first made compulsory - at first it was voluntary - and then with the intervention impacting certain communities it has been proven that it doesn’t work - and its deepened racial divisions and deepened poverty unemployment and it doesn’t actually address any of the social issues people have been talking about. Poverty unemployment abuse /violence/addiction/homelessness all of those kinds of things are not going to be addressed and they definitely not going to be addressed by cutting off people from welfare. I guess an argument that needs to get out there is that welfare is a right people have - a right to welfare, they have a right to a minimum standard of living - this is not the way to address issues that everyone’s willing to recognise.

Comment:
I think that’s a good point and again - the fact that welfare is no longer considered a right – its considered a burden on the wealthy and the people who are 'earning their living'...

Comment:
That's right just like in Julia Gillard’s speech only a couple of months ago when she said "its not fair that we should be paying taxes for people who could be working"

Answer:
I think its also important as well to say that this is not just about people on benefits its about the cost of wages across -... They want more people to compete for jobs - so if you are working it’s not in your interest to have more people compelled to basically the bottom level of the labour market in an attempt to force down wages generally. I think trying to put those things together - the conditions of people on benefits and the conditions of those who are in work are actually profoundly linked - you lose one and everyone else suffers.

Comment [Mostly Inaudible]:

The employment market is already tough and competitive- People aren't scrambling for jobs. Everyone’s doing it tough. Doing that 'lets do more with less mentality'. The jobs may not actually be there for people to walk into. Despite this boom we don’t actually see that money in a lot of places. ..It should be your right to get AusStudy when you’re studying - you know I had to fight to get AusStudy this year because I was working 3-4 days casually... I couldn’t get AusStudy for the first 2 years I was forced into full time work. It feels like such a struggle to get AusStudy - I have to feel guilty - these people are asking me intimate details about my life - I made the mistake once of saying I was partnered and I couldn’t get AusStudy for 2 years. I still get notices for my ex-boyfriend you know – can’t it just be my right that I get some money while I study? You know it’s a constant feeling of guilt going into Centrelink. The feeling I get walking into Centrelink is just horrible.

Comment:
An interesting point that you touched on as well is that people on welfare have become the focus - that its their fault that they need welfare assistance - its not a problem with capitalism or the system we live in its the individuals fault - its your fault you cant get a job - its your fault you’re fired.

Comment:
And those job network training courses! – I had to do about three or four of them and they’re the same every time - and they actually have sessions - virtually lecturing you on why its your fault - sessions on why it's not a good thing to be unemployed! [laughs across the room] This assumption that we want to be and they could talk us out of it you know!

Answer:
This is exactly - when they talk about ‘intergenerational welfare dependency' - this idea that unemployment is created by the lack of parenting to he poor you know and therefore that’s why they need participation plans. When you do look at the places where quarantining is being extended - the categories being used to determine if you’re vulnerable - particularity if you have kids - are they in ‘15 hours of structured socialisation?’ - If they’re not in 15 hours of structures socialisation – then they’re vulnerable - you have to have your payment quarantined. It’s this huge intrusion into questions of how people are living their lives - inscribing blame in those things and then saying you have to meet all these massive requirements.

Comment [largely inaudible]:

Logan is already stigmatised - people that live in Logan are suffering this label already as a result of extreme neglect from previous governments. The place there was so underfunded. I had two casual jobs - gave up one and then unexpectedly lost the other one so I was unemployed. I was immediately forced into 3 weeks of intensive job search - how to write a resume/photocopy a resume/how to job search etc. And I knew all this stuff already because id had a job beforehand. Anyway it got to the point where there was this immediate contradiction that because I was 19 I was at risk of long term unemployment but because I was 19 I was considered super employable and everybody would want to give me a job! So I was considered vulnerable and I was expected to do a course. So I found a course I was interested in - and when I actually expressed this interest and said that I wanted to do it they said well you don’t meet the category because you’re 19, you’re employable and you’re at no risk of long term unemployment! You know I said what is this?! I ended up finding a job on my own through the skills I already had - which I was doing anyway by the way - Id spend half the day looking on my own then half the day at the centre with absolutely no help and support - other than supervision - you know 'are you doing this/ you should be doing this' etc. Even the people at the job centre themselves knew that they had unrealistic expectations for the people that they were trying to help - there was not much they could do - not much available - So I got a job that I hated, the job network couldn’t help me find anything better and I couldn’t leave the job or id be cut off.

Comment:
Id like to get off the topic of jobs and study cause that does not affect me – I’m just wondering I’m long term Disability Support Pension – I’ve got support workers/doctors and all that - will it affect me?

Answer:
Are you over 35? [yes]. Then at this budget no problems - they’re not gonna touch you - but the way these things are going I’d be interested to see how this goes next budget. Both parties in Australia have been really good at salami tactics - none of the major changes have ever come through all at once. So for people on 35 and under on DSP - that’s where it’s starting - as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing this year but we’ll see how it is next year. It'll be interesting to see what DSP payments will be about - increasing the amount you’re required to work and how this is managed - can they do 8 hours? Then you’ll have to do all the other penalty bullshit. The state is certainly looking for where there are pockets of people they can try to squeeze into elements of the workforce - or at least make their lives hell.

Comment:
See how it goes for the Aged pension as well.

Comment:
Well I think that’ll be the last to be touched - they wont get rid of it but they'll probably push it up! [laughs]...

Answer:
Well interestingly I've actually got a document here - 'Harnessing the skills and experiences of older Australians: Recognising the potential of older Australians" [laughs across the room]
It says:
"The Australian government recognises the contribution made by older Australians in the workplace and this is why it recently announced the establishment of an advisory panel on the economic potential of senior Australians. The panel will examine the benefit and opportunities that come with a larger and more active community of senior Australians. It will ensure that the potential of older members of the community will be considered in a range of policy debates."

Right so that basically says that they’re setting up a fund on how to fuck with the pension isn’t it - now the starting point is to make it voluntary - so from the 1st of July "Aged pensioners will benefit from improved work bonuses which will reward older Australians who continue to participate in the work force. Aged Pensioners who work will be able to earn up to $250 above the income threshold a fortnight before the pension is affected."

So based on what's happened in the past I think this is how it works - you originally make it voluntary and then make it compulsory - but this is redefining what we expect form the pension - Australia has an aging population and they expect and need people to work longer.

Comment:
Getting off that topic - I’m just thinking are they thinking that one step further for when the boom crashes or something?

Answer:

Yea interesting - so if you read the budget it says this is gonna fall so we're gonna become a ‘knowledge and service economy that will be kept up by the growth of the middle class in Asia’ - No details in there about what that means.

Comment [largely inaudible]:
That's buying into the china story isn’t it? It’s like the .com boom was said to be a 50 year boom - do they think that -

Answer:
Yeah well the whole budget is completely optimistic right - it is the recovery tactic - so I don’t know if the US doesn’t get its shit together about its debt ceiling this week everything’s over on Monday. We don't know what's going to happen with Europe - I think their thinking is that whatever happens after the boom it will be easier if labour is pliant - if people are willing to accept work conditions and there's more competition - whatever is going to happen it will be easier this way - This idea that everything’s fine and the 50 year china story - that’s what they’re basically selling here.

Comment:
So what can people do about it?

Comment:
Ultimately it would be great to see people outside and inside Centrelink offices, in the workplace, people talking about these changes and standards of living across the country. There’s groups around the country campaigning against the NT intervention including welfare quarantining. Trying to make links with other groups about broader changes - making a link between the NT Intervention and these changes. I know that the NSW Nurses Union have taken up the issue – they had an event on the 13th of July. Community service sectors have called out against welfare quarantining - Let’s have a discussion of what people could do or what might be worth trying.

Answer:
I think this is a really massive attack. A really massive attack. And this is not going to disappear when the rate of unemployment rockets up - It’s just that what people expect is going to be there just isn’t going to be there anymore.

*Inaudible comment about job networks*

Comment:
They’ve made this ‘Stream Four’ for people classed under Long-term Unemployment. The thing is with job networks regardless of what job you get they get paid thousands of dollars to refer you on – they’re all for-profit, even the ones linked to charities. They’re industries in themselves-

Comment:
- I have a friend who tried to get a job independently and they wanted her to go through the job network so they would get paid! They were saying things like 'are you sure' spending half an hour trying to convince her to stay in the program - saying they could get her $300 job clothes and things like that.

Answer:
I think we should think really big about this. This is a big attack and we should think about - and I know a couple of us have been pushing this barrel for a while - I think it’s not to say that the legislation is bad but to actually break this welfare regime. What’s probably interesting is in at the same time with this massive expansion of power with what Centrelink can do/with what the job network can do - They are all points to cause problems. And there's a whole history of different things that unemployed people and people in welfare movements have done from mass applications for appeal to jam the systems to pickets outside of places to standard kinds of protests and stuff - I think the basic thing we got to do first is this kind of talking about it and laying the foundation for it - but also in all the different areas - not just the activist circles and the welfare circles but the people this is going to affect themselves.

Comment [Mostly Inaudible]:
Like this idea that an attack on one is an attack on all

Answer:
I think yea you know, this is central to Australian capitalism at the moment - this is what the budget is about and this is what the federal labour government thinks is the big issue and we need to think about what a real movement against this would look like. We’ve been trying to organise forums like this and I imagine more of these is what’s needed - and setting up more kinds of groups which can have some kind of social weight to have an affect. When people start getting these new breaches are their going to be different job networks breaching more regularly than others? - the Sarina Russo’s of the world -

Comment [Mostly Inaudible]:

Online activism/forums where people can share there ideas - many people probably can’t come to meetings - maybe something online that people could do - print out - talk to friends about, pass things on and stuff like that

Answer:
We've been talking for a while about making videos and putting them on YouTube, 4zzz community radio etc
It's a really hard time that we’re in to think big about things since everything seems so shit - but we should really be thinking about what it would take to actually win and work on that basis.

*Ended with inaudible chatter/meeting plugs etc - mention of doing this forum in Logan*

We meet weekly!

For more info see
Assembly for Dignity [facebook]
or
assemblyfordignity.wordpress.com
dissenterlink @ riseup . net

¹ The Northern Territory Intervention was enacted through the suspension of the Anti-Racial Discrimination Act (1975). With army and medical teams sent in, imposed measures outlined in the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 included a blanket quarantining of 50% of welfare payments, a banning of alcohol and pornography, re-acquisition of Aboriginal land through five year leases, the disregarding of customary law and cultural practice on sentences and bail conditions, the abolition of the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) and the suspension of the permit system, which allowed people to have some say in deciding what happened in their communities and on their land.

If interested see Chris Grahams excellent talk exposing the lie that built the NT Intervention here: http://vimeo.com/13907985

See also discussion paper putting the welfare changes into perspective


http://assemblyfordignity.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/clink3.jpg