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Youth Payments Violate Human Rights: Report

30 September 2014 at 11:53 am
Lina Caneva
The Abbott Government’s proposed changes to youth payments violate Australia’s human rights obligations, a bipartisan Parliamentary report has found.

Lina Caneva | 30 September 2014 at 11:53 am


Youth Payments Violate Human Rights: Report
30 September 2014 at 11:53 am

The Abbott Government’s proposed changes to youth payments violate Australia’s human rights obligations, a bipartisan Parliamentary report has found.

Australia’s peak community sector and youth affairs bodies have welcomed the joint the Parliamentary Committee’s finding on two of the Government’s proposed changes to youth payments.

In a report published last week, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights chaired by Liberal Senator Dean Smith, found that both the proposal to deny young people income support for six months of every year, and to lift the age of eligibility for the Newstart Allowance from 22 to 25 years, breach Australia's human rights obligations.

The Australian Council of Social Services and the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition said the report is a final indictment on the flawed legislation which should now be dismissed by the Senate.

“The Senate should today reject any compromise deal which would deprive young people of income support for any period, whether it is one or six months. As the joint committee found in its report, the Government has failed to explain how young people are expected to survive, let alone participate, with no income,” ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said.

“With estimates that more than 100,000 young people would be affected, any brokered deal would have devastating impacts on those affected."

“This measure would see the government breach its part of the mutual obligation deal. Governments have a duty to provide income support and to help people to get a job, while people who are unemployed are required to search for jobs and participate in employment programs.”

Leo Fieldgrass, National Director of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition said, “The proposed changes to income support will push young Australians into poverty and increase youth homelessness. With youth unemployment rates at sky-high levels, punishing young people for not having jobs is inconceivable.”

“The Prime Minister recently told the United Nations that Australia leads by example. By rejecting this legislation, Senators can lead by example and show how highly we value our young people and their human rights”, said Mr Fieldgrass.

“Excluding young people from eligibility for income support altogether is a breach of the government’s side of the social contract under our safety net system and a breach of international human rights law, as the joint Committee has found,” Dr Goldie said.

“We urge the Government to respect the findings of this important committee established to protect fundamental human rights. We are pleased to hear a number of cross-benchers give assurances that they won’t accept any compromise deal and we urge other Senators to do the same.”

The Federal Labor Opposition says the Parliamentary committee has embarrassed Prime Minister Tony Abbott by its unanimous finding.

“The Government-controlled and chaired Human Rights committee confirms that Mr Abbott’s cruel proposals breach article nine of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” Shadow Minister for Employment, Brendan O’Connor said.

“At a time when youth unemployment has soared to 13.4 per cent – around double the national average – now is not the time for the Government to turn its back on young Australians.”

Key Committee findings on the Budget youth measures:

  • The proposed six-month waiting period for people under 30 who were not in employment or training breaches the right to social security (Article 9, ICESCR) and the right to an adequate standard of living (Article 11, ICESCR). The Committee noted that the Government had failed to explain how young people would cope without any access to income.

  • The proposed age criteria for accessing Newstart Allowance breaches the rights to equality and non- discrimination on the basis of age.

Download the report here.

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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