Shining a light on the deficiencies of Newstart, Jobactive, robodebt and the cashless debit card, but more to do in 2020
By Senator Rachel Siewert
I’m sure that I don’t need to tell you that it’s been a very busy year for the Greens.
The Federal election seems like a very long time ago but it was definitely a highlight for our movement here in WA and across the country with the return of all our MP’s.
Some of my Parliamentary and campaign highlights of the year were pushing the Newstart campaign as far as it has ever gone, finally getting Labor to commit to an increase to Newstart and watching the conversations around income support and the social safety net shift significantly. We also had the report of the Senate inquiry into Jobactive (which I referred to the Senate) which highlighted the inadequacies of the program and found it is not fit for purpose.
Another highlight was seeing the Government finally backtrack on robodebt. It’s been a long time putting pressure on the Government to stop this draconian program. There is still a lot of work to go but it really shows that if you are committed to working on something for the long term you can see justice.
We still don’t know what will happen to those who have paid a supposed debt ‒ we won’t stop putting the pressure on and the Senate inquiry into the debacle will report early next year.
I have done a lot of travel in my role as chair of the Community Affairs References Committee. We have been hearing from people on Newstart and Youth Allowance about what it is like to be living so close to the poverty line and those who have been impacted by the robodebt program through our Centrelink inquiry.
I have also been up in the NT with the inquiry into a bill to extend the Cashless Debit Card. We have heard from First Nations communities who have been subjected to income management for over a decade. We will continue to fight the expansion of this card and fortunately there was enough pressure that the Government didn’t bring it on for a vote in the last two weeks of sitting. It has been a privilege to work with community campaigners across the country on Newstart and the Cashless Debit Card. People who are closely impacted by these issues putting themselves on the line to get change is very inspiring.
Going up to the GARMA festival was another highlight. It’s fantastic to be up there on such beautiful country and to be a part of such important and engaging conversations about the future of this country.
Next year I will be continuing to hold the Government to account in regards to our income support system. We will get an increase to Newstart!
I look forward to working with our entire Greens WA team to get ready for the state election in 2021.
Our work in the Senate is more important than ever as we now have to hold both the Government and the Opposition accountable when it comes to climate change. They just don’t get it, you can’t be serious about addressing climate change if you aren’t committed to phasing out coal and gas exports.
I hope that everyone has a peaceful and restful December and January and is ready to go for another packed year.
I look forward to being back next year where we will kick the year off with the Invasion Day rally in the city. I hope that our members and supporters can make it down to be in solidarity with First Nations peoples in WA and be part of the movement for change and justice.