Anti-poverty activists from the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU), the Antipoverty Centre and supporters gathered outside Labor employment minister Tony Burke’s office in Punchbowl, Sydney, on July 1 to protest the new Workforce Australia system.
Burke’s office did not allow the activists in so they were unable to hand over a petition calling for no one to be suspended for the first three months of the new system. The petition was supported by more than 30,000 people.
Antipoverty Centre spokesperson Jay Coonan said it is “disgusting that the minister can close his doors to people”. “What we are seeing is the automisation of welfare, people are not going to have the support they need.”
Burke has refused to talk with anti-poverty advocates, who have major concerns about the new points-based activation system that begins in July.
He has, however, discussed the system with the privatised job service providers, that profit from people being trapped in poverty.
AUWU spokesperson Jeremy Poxon thanked welfare recipients and low income workers for supporting the action, and said Burke would not “escape accountability for the pain he is causing”.
While Labor has refused to raise the rate of JobSeeker — currently at $46 a day — half the Henderson poverty line of $88 per day — they are going ahead with the stage 3 tax cuts that will benefit the rich.