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Vinnies calls Govt welfare reform a 'poisoned chalice'

The Acting head of the St Vincent de Paul Society has labelled the Government's Australians Working Together Bill a "poisoned chalice" because it "fails to address the problems of the poorest and most disadvantaged in Australia".

Vinnies' National Council Acting President John Meehan sent a letter to all Federal Parliamentarians in which he said that while the Bill contains "some much needed elements", it "should not be passed in its current form".

The Goverment is promoting its Australians Working Together package as an improvement in assistance available to Australians looking for work. It says extra help will be provided for parents, mature age people, Indigenous Australians and people with disabilities.

Taking account of their individual circumstances, the Government says, working-age people receiving income support payments will be required to take up opportunities available to "help them become job-ready and better able to take part in Australia's' economic and community life".

But Vinnies' Peter Meehan said the penalties for failure to comply with the requirements are unreasonable. He said the 18% reduction in welfare payments for six months for not attending an interview is "unbearable".

"I ask you to consider how you would feel if you lost 18% of your income for six months for failure to attend a parliamentary debate or meeting?" he said. "For someone on $100,000 per year this is a fine of $9,000."

He called on parliamentarians to either amend the breaching elements of the Bill in accordance with the Pearce Report and Ombudsman's recommendations. As an alternative, he suggested splitting the Bill or rejecting is until the breaching elements are addressed.


St Vincent de Paul Society | Media releases | Letter to Parliamentarians from Acting President, SVDP National Council
Australians Working Together website
Dept of Family and Community ServicesAustralians Working Together | Welfare Reform: Background Information
Breaches and the Family and Community Services Legislation Amendment (Australians Working Together and other 2001 Budget Measures) Bill 2002 (Australian Council of Social Services)

14 Nov 2002