Rally attacks Newstart 'agreements'


By Shayn McCallum
and Rohan Gaiswinkler

HOBART — About 60 people attended a rally on July 26 to protest against the Newstart program, which entails the abolition of unemployment benefits after 12 months to be replaced by a compulsory "agreement" to be signed at Commonwealth Employment Service offices.

In effect, the agreement is a contract obliging the unemployed to undergo "training", after which they will be required to work in whatever area is available regardless of their wishes. Failure to meet the requirements of the scheme would result in loss of benefits.

The Australian Council of Social Services points out that, while the Newstart program will put $110 million into training schemes, in order to be effective this figure would have to be closer to $210 million. Currently, there is one training place for every four unemployed people and one job vacancy for every 27.

ACOSS also objects to the mandatory nature of the agreement. An ACOSS speaker told the rally: "It is not an agreement if you are forced to sign it". Despite the government's rhetoric, Newstart could solve nothing because the jobs simple weren't there. "Mickey Mouse short courses are not the answer to get people off the dole."

A CES representative tried unsuccessfully to convince the crowd that Newstart would open up opportunities for the 30% long-term unemployed. A well-dressed representative of the "More Jobs Party" was met with cries of derision when he told the crowd that big business could lead the way to solving unemployment.