Letter to the Editor - Job's Australia CEO Published in the Canberra Times

Cowan's Slippery Slope

It's a slippery slope when we equate the livelihood of unemployed people with moral worth, which is the premise of Simon Cowan's opinion piece "Newstart mixes morals and money" (Forum, January 27, p.31).

In reflecting on the mounting pressure to raise the rate of Newstart, Cowan generalises on the moral worth of long-term unemployed people and suggests the only way to achieve this is to make the mutual obligation component more onerous.

He doesn't propose this to address the issues relating to entrenched unemployment and disadvantage but rather as a way for the public to countenance a greater investment in these purportedly morally unworthy people, equating to a keenness from the public to punish people for being disadvantaged.

Our members, being not-for-profit employment services providers, regularly relay stories of disadvantage among job seekers and barriers to employment.

They support job seekers who have experienced trauma, inter-generational abuse and have had far less opportunities than most. One in four people on Newstart experiences a disability or mental illness.

ACOSS has said Australia has the lowest rate of unemployment payments in the OECD.

Cowan's proposal does not support what works or what's right. It only offers a populist, transactional and punitive solution which plays to tawdry politics, denigrates the public as unempathetic and perpetuates disadvantage.

Debra Cerasa, CEO, Jobs Australia