Our elected representatives need to act now and make decisions that prioritise equality, opportunity and wellbeing for every person in every community. In response to this, QCOSS made four submissions to Social Security Inquiries in September and October 2019. Throughout the submissions, QCOSS is calling on our politicians to make decisions that prioritise living affordability for every person in every community.
QCOSS Position Statement on Newstart
In September, we made a submission to the Newstart Inquiry. In this statement, we called on our elected representatives to:
- Increase single unemployment (Newstart) and student allowances immediately by at least $95 per week.
- Ensure that social security payments keep up with living affordability changes by indexing them to wage and CPI increases (whichever is the highest).
- Increase Commonwealth Rent Assistance by 30 per cent (approximately $20 per week) for low-income households currently receiving the maximum rate.
- Establish an independent Social Security Commission to advise on the financial needs of people requiring social security payments to simply afford basic essentials.
- With an average of eight jobseekers for each job vacancy, improve employment services so that people locked out of the labour market receive the help they need to get paid work or other appropriate activities.
- Do not link increases in social security payments to any other punitive welfare program, such as the Cashless Debit Card Trials. This would further limit the adequacy of the payments by limiting people’s access to their own money.
- Governments and media must change the stigmatising narrative that frames people as ‘welfare dependent’ and leads to excessive restrictions and penalties.
QCOSS Position Statement on Centrelink Automated Debt Recovery
On 20 September, we made a submission to Centrelink’s Automated Debt Recovery system. In this statement, we asked our elected representatives to:
- abolish the current automated debt recovery scheme including suspending any further action against individuals who have been affected.
- redesign the debt recovery scheme with experts in social security, including people affected, to ensure that it is fair, accurate and humane.
- ensure Centrelink is adequately resourced to support all operations including any future debt recovery actions, and that this work is not outsourced.
- change the stigmatising narrative that frames people as ‘welfare dependent’ and leads to excessive restrictions and penalties.
Joint QCOSS and QNADA position statement on Drug Testing Trials
On 27 September, we made a submission to Drug Testing Trial inquiry. In this statement, we called on our elected representatives to make decisions that prioritise equality, opportunity and wellbeing for every person in every community, by:
- recognising that most people who use drugs do not experience unemployment and most people who are unemployed do not use drugs.
- ceasing attempts to introduce drug testing trials for people accessing income support, when there is evidence it is harmful.
- accepting the evidence on effective responses to problematic substance use and on employment issues.
- exploring alternative solutions to increase employment opportunities.
- adopting a place-based, citizen-led approach to reduce harms from substance use that ensures people impacted by the approach are involved in decision-making.
- ensuring that the approach incorporates an economic development focus to make sure that participants have a pathway to employment.
- ending stigmatising narratives that frame people receiving income support as ‘welfare dependent’, and people who use drugs as non-contributing members of society.
QCOSS position statement on Cashless Debit Card Trials
On 18 October, we made a submission to the Cashless Debit Card Trial inquiry. This submission also included our report on our Cashless Debit Card Trial Hinkler – Follow-up survey results.
In this statement, we called on our elected representatives to:
- Increase inadequate income support payments, such as Newstart. This is far more helpful in supporting vulnerable people than punitive measures such as the CDCT.
- End all compulsory income management such as the CDCT.
- Identify and implement the most effective response to these health and social issues in target communities:
- seek expert advice regarding the scientific understanding of problematic substance use in the context of wider community socio-economic problems.
- incorporate an economic development focus to ensure participants have a pathway to employment.
- work with all levels of government and the community to adopt a place-based, citizen-led, strengths-based approach that ensures people impacted are involved in decision-making.
- Make any participation in income management voluntary, and supported by a suite of relevant, adequately funded, holistic services such as legal services and counselling for alcohol, drug and gambling problems.
- Challenge stigmatising narratives that frame people who access income support as ‘welfare dependent’, and lead to excessive restrictions and penalties.