Welfare attacks trash basic rights

The protest outside Nick Champion's office on May 20. Photo: John McGill

A lively protest took place outside federal MP for Wakefield Nick Champion's office in Adelaide’s Northern Suburbs on May 20.

The protest was organised by Stop Income Management in Playford (SIMPla) and Single Parents Action Group (SPAG).

SIMPla was founded last year in response to the introduction of income management in Playford.

SPAG began in response to the Julia Gillard government cutting single parents' income by moving them off the single parent benefit to the lower Newstart allowance.

Champion lobbied the federal government to include the city of Playford in its income management trials and is a strong supporter of the “Live Learn Grow” program. This program forces teenage mothers in Playford to participate in training or study or face having their payments cut.

One in three teen mothers in Playford are have had their payments cut because they refuse to part with their six-month old babies to return to full time study.

Champion also refused to support a $50 a week rise to Newstart saying “the best form of welfare is a job”.

Speakers at the protest included Pas Forgione from SIMPla, Sheree Clay from SPAG, Nijole Naujokas from the South Australian Feminist Collective and Terese Edwards from the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children.

Forgione told the rally: “These so-called trials have been designed to be low-key to the point of being invisible ... our job is to do everything in our power to let the public know that the most significant welfare reform of our time is being introduced, bit by bit, to the entire country by stealth.

“After six years, there is no solid evidence at all that this policy achieves any of its stated goals.”

Clay railed against Newstart, stating that it was disgusting and shameful that it was 77% below the poverty line. It was an embarrassment for a country with one of the strongest economies in the world to have one of the lowest unemployment benefits in the OECD.

She asked how anyone could be expected to live on such a measly and inadequate amount, let alone a single parent with dependent children.

She told the protest, “The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights and the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women have expressed serious concerns that cuts to payments to single parents may be a violation of Australia’s international human rights obligations.

“In response to an urgent complaint co-signed by the Human Rights Law Centre and other welfare groups in October 2012 the UN experts requested that the Australian government explain its decision to shift tens of thousands of single parents — 90% of which are women — off parenting payments and on to Newstart, representing a decrease in weekly payments of up to $110.”

Clay also said: “According to the UN experts, this legislation represents potential violations of Australia’s human rights obligations, including the rights to social security, the right to an adequate standard of living, the prohibition of non-discrimination in the enjoyment of these rights and a number of obligations contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The Australian federal government has never replied to this letter.”

Clay said she had met with Champion and asked him why the government had not replied. He laughed and said the UN was a joke.

[To get help plan or participate in further actions contact Pas Forgione at pas.forgione@yahoo.com or Sheree Clay on 0423 041 443.]

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