Dealing with Centrelink as a recipient of social services and payments is a deeply demoralising experience. It stigmatises a big section of the Australian community, who are mostly invisible and under-valued, and almost entirely unrepresented in public life.
About 750,000 Australians, or 4.5%, are unemployed and receive the NewStart Allowance. Another 750,000 are searching for work but do not appear in the unemployment figures if they work one hour per fortnight or more. This is 9% of the Australian workforce.
There are another 1.5 million Australians, a further 9%, who have stopped looking for work because the search is deflating and the experience of dealing with employment services agencies is dehumanising. Most of these are people over the age of 50. Very few employers are willing to take on workers over 50.
Three million Australians, or 18% of the workforce, are out of work or significantly under-employed. This is a large bloc of people. In theory, we should have a strong voice in national affairs, demanding better treatment from Centrelink and employment services, and employment for all.
Our key problem is the lack of an organised voice for users of Centrelink and people seeking work. We need to speak for ourselves and our issues. Without our own voice, we are ignored by politicians and public servants, and treated like numbers by Centrelink and JobNetwork agencies.
Until the 3 million Australians who are jobseekers and users of Centrelink can find a collective voice, we will continue to be ignored and treated like nobodies.
The Centrelink and Employment Division of The Sensible Centre has one goal – to involve tens of thousands of people across our continent in electing a bloc of MPs to parliaments who will insist upon changing the culture for people in receipt of benefits and securing employment for all.
To achieve this goal, we will create a political movement of people who are users of Centrelink and employment services, positioned in the Sensible Centre of Australian life. We will:
1. Develop a movement of people who can speak for ourselves and our issues;
2. Develop a policy agenda for change;
3. Participate in national public discussion to promote and build support for change;
4. Build the leadership and organisational capacity of participants;
5. Work to elect its selected candidates to parliaments and councils across Australia; and
6. Develop IT, business and social media tools to assist the movement achieve its goals.
To Express your Interest in participating in the Division, go to this form.
For a full outline of this place of Divisions in The Sensible Centre, see our Two Year Plan here.