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Move town for the dole, diet for the dole, medicate for the dole.

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Media Release

Penny Wong Labor Senator for South Australia Shadow Minister for Employment and Workforce Participation, Corporate Governance and Responsibility

Monday 21 November, 2005


The Senate inquiry into the Howard Government's welfare changes has heard that as a result of the changes there will be no legislative safeguard to prevent jobseekers from having to move towns, diet or take medication in order to keep getting income support.

The legislation removes existing restrictions on what the Government can demand of someone on the dole.

Government officials could not provide any real guarantee that as a result of these extreme changes, jobseekers would not be required to take medication, diet or move house if it was considered that these things would improve their job prospects.

"If the Government decided that someone would have a better chance of getting a job by losing weight, under these extreme new powers the Government could demand just that," Shadow Employment Minister Penny Wong said.

"Similarly, if the Government thought a person with a disability had better job prospects in a different town, they could be required to move.

"This is an extreme and unnecessary extension of Government power. Laws usually have safeguards to protect people from Government interference in their personal lives."

In response, Government officials made a vague assertion that people would be protected by the gist of the Social Security Act. But they could not substantiate this assertion in any way.

It has also became clear that the Prime Minister's guarantee that single parents would not have to take jobs that resulted in low financial gain, once childcare had been paid for, was worthless. No such guarantee is in the legislation.

"Too many features of these welfare changes are not included in legislation. Guidelines can be changed at will without reference to the parliament and provide little protection for vulnerable Australians."

The department also indicated that single parents who were victims of domestic violence would have to seek to be exempted from obligations every four months.

"It is appalling that victims of domestic violence have to beg for a fair go under this Bill."

For further information: John Olenich 0408 841 850