Calling for an end to the demonisation of jobseekers, the Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) held a rally on September 8 outside Channel Seven's Sunrise studio in Martin Place. They opposed the vilification of Australia's economically disadvantaged in Sunrise programs such as "Australia's worst dole bludging areas named and shamed", in which commentators called for punitive welfare penalties.
The AUWU believes Channel Seven has provoked downward envy with selective citing of statistics and loaded statements like: “Just 10% of welfare recipients who regularly miss Centrelink appointments are penalised financially”. Yet Sunrise ignored the obsolete Centrelink computer system that causes delays and misunderstandings that are not easily resolved. More than 42 million phone calls from welfare recipients were unanswered last year, a situation that was aggravated by another Centrelink staff cut of 1188 in the May federal budget.
Speakers at the rally pointed out that with 18 jobseekers for every job vacancy, claims that Newstart recipients are shirkers were unfounded and individual jobseekers were not to blame for the failure of the free market.
AUWU Inner West branch member Josie Evans told the rally: “More and more people are living far below the poverty line under circumstances of hardship and humiliation through no fault of their own. Channel Seven’s televised hate speech against jobseekers only makes life harder.”
The AUWU called for an expansion of the public sector to employ everyone needing work and the introduction of a universal basic income. The AUWU is also pushing for a senate inquiry into the punitive and unregulated $10 billion privatised job service industry. Their unfair treatment of jobseekers has resulted in almost 40% of penalties being overturned on appeal to Centrelink.
The AUWU is demanding an end to the vilification of jobseekers and the opportunity to reply to Sunrise’s misleading program.
Demonstrators asked early morning train commuters arriving for work in the CBD to support the ethical treatment of jobseekers. Speakers mentioned the high suicide rate among jobseekers estimated to be more than 5 times the national average. They accused Channel Seven of driving jobseekers into homelessness and despair by promoting unfair welfare crackdowns.
Protestors chanted “shame, shame, shame” disrupting Seven's normal live broadcast. Sunrise hosts had to move their seats away from the windows facing Martin Place so television viewers would not see the protest.
Josie Evans gave this speech at the rally
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Channel 7’s Sunrise is a media attack dog for the federal government. Their aim is to attack the poor and turn the mainstream against us.
They shore up the idea that the poor are to blame for their own predicament. But where are the jobs? For every job there are 19 jobseekers.
And what is the government doing about the appalling situation of joblessness right now? Their policies are making things worse.
The [federal] government wants to propose a six-month waiting period for anyone applying for the Newstart Allowance, which is already $170 per week below the poverty line.
Shouldn't Sunrise be turning their spotlight on the government and on the big bosses, like Kerry Stokes, who owns Channel 7?
The government could fix the problem tomorrow by providing jobs for all or even a universal basic income, but instead they are serving up the poor to their rich mates as commodities, and pretending they are helping us.
Every time an "unemployed" person participates in a work for the dole scheme, that business rakes in money from the government, while the worker languishes below the poverty line. Every time a Jobsearch agency finds a low-paid, casual, temporary job for an unemployed person, they also scam money from the government. The businesses also get subsidies.
The predatory, incompetent, for-profit Jobsearch industry in this country receives $10 billion per year from the federal government. We at the AUWU think that money could be better spent on providing real jobs.
The youth Jobs PaTH scheme, which provides young workers with a measly $4 per hour, delivers not only free labour to companies, but also massive subsidies, and they have the option to keep the worker for only a couple of months
The rich are having a party, and the unemployed are paying for it with their sweat and humiliation. This is not fair, and the situation is getting worse, not only for the unemployed but for everybody.
Bosses have more power than they have ever had before, and work for the dole slavery and the gig economy drag down the rights and wages of every worker.
Sunrise helps create an environment where poor treatment of jobseekers is highly recommended. Where it is seen as beneficial to take 80% of welfare payments and hand it over to multibillion dollar corporations in the name of Healthy Living. Where it is seen as deserving treatment to take below poverty line payments from addicts if they fail a drug test. How is this going to help them?
This is just a way for the government to save money by stealing from the poor and providing business opportunities for new industries. In a budget press release by the government in May this year, drug testing is called a "social impact investment market".
If the government can afford hundreds of billions of dollars in welfare for the rich, such as $10 billion for negative gearing and $50 billion for submarines, to name a couple of prominent examples, then they can easily afford to create jobs for us all and adequate welfare for those who need it.
The government and mainstream media outlets like Channel 7 are helping to facilitate an underclass, when they should be providing jobs for all. We demand that media hate-speech against the unemployed stop. We demand a better deal for all.