Government report finds plan to deprive young people of income support breaches human rights

Australia’s peak community sector and youth affairs bodies have welcomed a joint bipartisan parliamentary committee finding that two of the Government’s proposed changes to youth payments are incompatible with Australia’s human rights obligations.

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 along participate, with no income”, said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“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.

Dr Goldie said, “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.”

“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,” Dr Goldie concluded.

Media Contacts:
Fernando de Freitas (ACOSS) – 0419 626 155
Leo Fieldgrass (AYAC) – 0450 427 584

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 report:
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights Examination of legislation in accordance with the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011Bills.