On July 23, 2014 the St Vincent de Paul Society made a submission to the Inquiry into Social Security Legislation Amendment, also known as the ‘Stronger Penalties for Non-Compliance Bill’.
The Society strongly opposed the Bill, which removes the discretion to continue to pay jobseekers who have refused “suitable work” their social security income. This discretion currently exists where those jobseekers are willing to reengage with job-seeking, unable to reengage with job-seeking, or are living in severe financial hardship.
In the Society’s view, this move inappropriately individualises what is a structural, labour market issue in Australia today. It also explicitly removes money from people who are experiencing severe financial hardship, which will by definition result in even more extreme poverty for some of Australia’s poorest citizens. It seeks to “punish” those who the government sees as morally unworthy, instead of seeking to engage in a meaningful way people who are the most socially excluded
Outcome of the Inquiry
The Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee tabled its report on the Stronger Penalties for Serious- Failures Bill on August 27th, 2014.
The vast majority of submissions and oral evidence to the Inquiry opposed the Bill. However, much to the disappointment of the St Vincent de Paul Society, the majority Report concluded that the Bill was proportional and reasonable.
The Society maintains that the suggested system of removing payments from people receiving income support is highly punitive and will have counterproductive effects.