AUWU demands Albanese government scrap the Points Based Activation System
Labor must not inflict this actual 'digital workhouse' on welfare recipients
The Australian Unemployed Workers' Union is deeply concerned about the incoming Points Based Activation System (PBAS) accompanying the transition to Workforce Australia, rebadged from jobactive. It is an incalculable cruelty to score those in dire economic distress based on how many hoops they can jump through, and then cut off their payments if they don't clear enough points. But that would merely describe the malevolence of the existing system.
PBAS dials this up to 11 and could more accurately be described as Centrelink presents "The Hunger Games crossed with Black Mirror". Using technology to 'gamify' starvation points (score them or lose your payment) is morally offensive to basic human decency.
Figure: Snapshot of points values, taken from official jobsearch website.
Wow that was a lot of scrolling, wasn’t it? And this is just the list of point values for the various hoops we’ll have to jump through, illustrating the obvious foreshadowing of what an unwieldy and overbearing nightmare this whole system is set to be. Bill Shorten has already correctly lamented that myGov is a “digital workhouse”, but these words ring hollow when his party is about to preside over the implementation of a brand new one in Workforce Australia’s PBAS.
We also do not trust the government one bit to make automated decisions with regard to welfare recipients. We last saw this in action when, during the Gillard government, Bill Shorten himself along with Tanya Plibersek brought in the infrastructure to surveil and punish welfare recipients with automated data-matching between Centrelink and the ATO. This paved the way for former Prime Minister and current backbench Liberal MP Scott Morrison to remove human oversight and abuse welfare recipients en masse with "robodebt" under the Abbott government.
We have similar fears of this scheme becoming another “robodebt”-style disaster.
Due to the traumatic recent history of governmental abuse of welfare recipients, our members are confused and scared by the new system. Consultation was sloppy and the input of welfare recipients with lived experience was summarily ignored. We implore the incoming Labor government to show their humanity and scrap this labyrinthine bureaucratic nightmare that would make even Kafka blush.
As it stands, this is not the design of a humane welfare system - this is the design of a digital workhouse set up to brutalise people in desperate economic need and push them out of the system and onto the street.
Quotes attributable to Advocacy Coordinator, Raquel Araya:
“The AUWU Advocacy Team is receiving a large number of reports from members telling us the system has not been properly explained to them. We are trying to get a handle on this system so that we can advise those reaching out, and we still do not have clarity from the Department on how exactly the reporting will work, how problems will be handled or resolved, and whether Centrelink has the appropriate capacity to deal with the increased call centre inquiry volume. We already deal with people being cut off their payments unfairly every day in the existing system because of automated errors as a result of shonky Employment Services Providers.
If Bill Shorten is serious about his rhetoric to end "digital workhouses", and if he is genuinely contrite about the role he played in engineering the robodebt catastrophe, he can start with the PBAS and scrap it immediately. This would demonstrate his sincerity with concrete action that will meaningfully improve our lives. ”
Media contact: media at auwu.org.au
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