Economic Justice Australia’s CEO, Leanne Ho, delivered this speech at the Jobs and Skills Summit on 2 September 2022
I’d like to start with the words of a Robodebt victim who contacted me last week following the welcome announcement of the Robodebt Royal Commission:
“My husband had a sudden heart attack, leaving me sole carer for 3 disabled kids. I suffered immense stress and trauma from the Robodebt letter, with one month to repay. We did the right thing, got the information from past employers, took it to centrelink, leaving important parenting duties behind, stressed out of our minds for fear of fines and having to borrow money to pay it back. There is no head space to even think about looking for work when Centrelink puts you in this crisis situation”
The impact of punitive interactions with Centrelink are no different today than they were with the Robodebt letters.
Economic Justice Australia’s legal centres see thousands of people each year whose jobseeking efforts are frustrated by the social security system.
- A mum who can’t finish her TAFE course because she’s swamped by ParentsNext obligations
- A mum who couldn’t pay for meds for her disabled child because was cut off payment for not attending an appointment
Skilled migration may be the answer to our skills shortages. Yet, we make migrants wait 4 years for even the payment of last resort, Special Benefit. Remembering how they were left without support during covid lockdowns, migrants may well choose countries other than Australia to contribute their labour.
Disability Support Pension enables people with a disability who have a partial capacity to work to cycle in and out of work as their condition allows them to participate. But you only have to look at the 56 pages of forms required to see how impenetrable the system is.
Here’s a question on page 23:
Are you under 21 years of age? Have you worked and earned at least 75% of the maximum Wage Level A of the transitional Australian Pay and Classification Scale or a modern award applicable to trainees within an 18 month period since last leaving secondary school?
Would any of you in this room be able to answer this?
The social security system has the potential to transform lives. We assisted a survivor to get onto parenting payment by having her domestic violence recognised. She used this support to retrain as a social worker and now helps others in the same position.
A great outcome, but she needed a lawyer to get it. It shouldn’t be this hard. We need the system to change.
MEDIA CONTACT: Leanne Ho (Chief Executive Officer) M: 0448 007 201 E: firstname.lastname@example.org