Possible rights breach in harsh new rules
A parliamentary review overseen by an LNP member has found that a budget measure forcing young jobseekers to wait months for benefits could put them at serious risk.
There are concerns that the tough welfare reforms could actually breach Australia’s international obligations for human rights.
The proposed changes include a rule to suspend jobseekers’ payments for up to six months if they sign up while under the age of 30.
The review committee chaired by Liberal senator Dean Smith along with four Labor representatives and one from the Greens “considers that the measure is incompatible with the right to social security and the right to an adequate standard of living”, the report says.
A budget proposal to lift the age of eligibility for the Newstart allowance from 22 to 25 was found to be in breach of Australia's international obligations as well, as it did not meet the rights to equality and non-discrimination on the basis of age.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews insists that the measures are aimed at increasing the number of young people in work, telling the Human Rights Committee that they would “address youth unemployment by encouraging young people to accept jobs rather than relying on income support at risk of becoming disengaged, both socially and economically.”
But the committee says the Minister's response does not allay concerns about the effect of the waiting period.
The welfare reforms will be debated in Parliament this week, and the Government needs crossbench support for it to pass.
Family First senator Bob Day is pushing for compromise with a one-month waiting period rather than six.