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Suspend payment cut-offs now!

ABC headline: Jobseekers remain in the dark just days out form major Centrelink changes
Take a punitive system, make it worse, and rush the implementation: introducing 'Workforce Australia', the Morrison Government's new employment services model.

Under this new system, people on income support have to complete exhausting activities to accrue 100 'points' a month — or have their payments cut-off. And a computer could cut off a person's lifeline, a chilling parallel to Robodebt.1

This massive overhaul is being rushed into implementation, increasing the likelihood of no-fault payment cut-offs even more. We know when Centrelink systems fail, people in poverty wear the damage.

The new system only just came into effect. It's not too late for the new Employment Minister Tony Burke to suspend payment cut-offs for three months, as an urgent first step.

We can't let a Robodebt-like disaster happen again, where people's lives are senselessly upturned. Minister Burke, will you suspend Workforce Australia payment cut-offs for at least 3 months?

Workforce Australia is the new employment services system being introduced on July 1.

  • A new "points-based activation system" (PBAS) will replace standard job application requirements. Each month, JobSeekers will need to make up 100 points to fulfil their "mutual obligations", or have their payments cut off.
  • Some job seekers will be moved into 100% online services, replacing face-to-face appointments.
  • Many job seekers will still have to report to predatory, for-profit private providers, continuing the worst elements of the previous jobactive system.

Here's why it's concerning:

  • The PBAS could demand even more of people living in poverty. For example, if you're doing full-time Work for the Dole, you'll still need to apply for jobs on top of that — or have your payments cut off.
  • The move to online services could make it difficult for JobSeekers without digital access. For example if you're older, homeless, or living in a remote community.
  • Digitisation means a computer will have the power to cut-off payments. Anyone who copped a Robodebt will tell you that's worrying.
  • The transition is rushed and communication has been poor, which leaves a whole lot of room for error. And when things go wrong, it's people living in poverty — who rely on income support as a lifeline — who'll bear the brunt of it.
  • It continues the worst elements of the system. Mutual obligations are designed to make being unemployed miserable and have been proven ineffective at helping people find work. Predatory private providers will still be able to coerce and bully people into jobs they don't want or can't do.
Under the punitive mutual obligations system, people on income support are forced to take part in exhausting, often pointless job search related activities — or have their payments cut-off.

Mutual obligations have been slammed by unemployed advocates, have been proven to be ineffective at actually helping people to find work,2 and cause more harm than good.

Take a punitive system, make it worse, and rush the implementation, and what we're left with is a significant risk that payment cut-offs will increase, leaving people in poverty without a lifeline.

Which is why we're joining with movement partners to demand payment cut-offs are suspended for at least three months, while people on income support and Centrelink staff navigate a completely new system. This is an immediate first action — in the longer-term, the harmful and ineffective mutual obligations model needs to be completely dismantled and replaced by a high-quality, opt-in public service.

Mutual obligations were suspended practically overnight during the pandemic. Minister Burke can do it again, and protect people on income support from untold distress and deeper poverty.
[1] Employment minister urged to delay rollout of points-based system for jobseekers, The Guardian, 16 June 2022.

[2] What happens when you free unemployed Australians from 'mutual obligations' and boost their benefits? We just found out, The Conversation, 25 March 2021.


To the new Employment Services Minister, Tony Burke:

Prevent another Robodebt-like disaster by suspending Workforce Australia payment cut-offs for 3 months.

31,584 signatures

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