CANBERRA — Welfare rights groups here hope to throw a spanner in the works of the Newstart scheme.
The scheme requires unemployed people who have been on benefits for 12 months to sign agreements which CES officers decide are reasonable. If people don't sign the agreements, they will be cut off benefits.
According to the ACT Council of Social Service, the "entire idea behind the abolition of unemployment benefit and its replacement with Job Search and Newstart is to cut down the number of unemployed people who receive social security".
ACTCOSS and welfare rights centres successfully pressured the federal government to allow appeals against Newstart agreements. People will continue to be paid while their appeal is pending.
Jobless Action and the Canberra Unemployed Workers Union are circulating a standard appeal form which will put the forced "agreements" on hold the until appeals are dealt with.
If thousands sign this appeal, says ACTCOSS, it will clog up the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. If the tribunal turns down the appeal, people can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. "The idea is to make the Newstart scheme unworkable, forcing the federal government to revoke this iniquitous piece of legislation", says ACTCOSS.
ACTCOSS advises unemployed people faced with a compulsory "agreement" to write an appeal with this wording:
"I (name) wish to appeal the decision to require me to enter this Newstart Activity Agreement. I appeal the decision on the basis that I will be forced to comply with terms and conditions prescribed by the CES and to which I 'agreed' only because I would have been denied my right to income support if I did not. I further appeal the decision to force me to comply with conditions in the Newstart Activity Agreement on the basis that the conditions are harsh and unconscionable."
Signed, dated statements, including address, should be sent to the Social Security Appeal Tribunal, PO Box 778, Canberra City 2601. Alternatively, standard appeal forms are available from ACTCOSS, phone (06) 248 7566.
A rally here on June 24 attracted about 200 people in opposition to Newstart. Further rallies are planned.