29 March 2022
The Streamlined Participation Requirements and Other Measures Bill consolidates legislation for existing activity requirements for people on unemployment payments. The bill also facilitates the introduction of some technical aspects of online (digital) employment services as part of the New Employment Services System commencing in July 2022.
ACOSS Position on Mutual Obligations and penalties
ACOSS has long raised grave concerns about the system of mutual obligations and payment penalties impacting people on unemployment payments, which cause widespread hardship and anxiety for people who have no other source of income. ACOSS continues to urge the Government to stop damaging aspects of the mutual obligation regime and to undertake a thorough public review of mutual obligations and penalties, which would be the first such review in a decade.
The original Streamlined Participation Bill
The original Bill, as proposed by the Government, does not remove the most punitive elements of the system, nor does it impose new requirements and penalties for people who are unemployed. The bill contained a combination of positive changes that potentially give people more control over their Employment Plans, and negative ones that reduce their income support.
ACOSS strongly opposed the negative elements.
The original Streamlined Participation Bill did not deal with other major aspects of the online employment services system, which have already been legislated, including:
- other legislation and regulation already enable the Government to use computers to make decisions about payment rates, suspensions or penalties.
- other legislation already deals with the Points-Based Activation System, which will go ahead regardless of the outcomes of the Streamlined Participation Bill.
- the bill does not directly affect how the New Employment Services will be commissioned, nor how people’s needs for support will be assessed.
Proposed amended Streamlined Participation Bill
The Government is considering amendments to the bill in response to concerns raised by ACOSS and others. Our concerns and proposals include:
- The need to amend Schedule 1 to incorporate into the Social Security Act protections for single parents and people with disability from any requirement to seek paid employment exceeding 15 hours a week (30 hours a fortnight).
- We oppose the proposed delay in people’s first income support payment (Schedule 8) and note that the Government proposes to excise this from the Bill.
- We seek legislative protections for people so that they are not financially disadvantaged by their transition into the new employment services if they are unable to meet new requirements. This includes being unable to agree to Employment Plans online or comply with the new Points Based Activation System.
- We propose that payment suspensions and other penalties (including accrual of ’demerit points’) be waived for at least a month following a person’s transfer to the New Employment Services system from the existing system.
- We seek a legislated code of digital protections for people using the new employment services, including the online (‘’digital’’) services. These would maximise the benefits of digital technology, while protecting people on unemployment payments from potential harms including automated decisionmaking (e.g. ’Robodebt’ situations), loss of privacy and lack of transparency on how decisions are made and services are provided.
- To allow a smooth transition to the new employment services system in July 2022, ACOSS supports provisions in Schedule 1 and Schedule 3 of the Bill that allow people to prepare their Job Plans online, provided the government commits to these digital protections.