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The ministers leading the war on the poor

16 January 2017
Jenna Price
The Canberra Times

Cornered. The federal government has cornered our most vulnerable people.

The cascade of harm from the Centrelink automated debt notifications debacle now includes providing too little legal help for those who need it most. And the little offered them now will disappear in July.

Lined up against the disenfranchised are all the agents of the Department of Human Services, led by Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge, combined with all the outcomes of all the funding decisions made by Attorney-General George Brandis.

[...]

From this July, nearly a third of the funding for these services will disappear. There can only be suppositions as to why Brandis is continuing his slash-and-burn. But one thesis is that his ideological position opposes advocacy of any sort – and certainly advocacy funded by the state. But who will advocate for the unemployed or for those who have a disability? They have no jobs queen, no mining magnate, no oil czar to stand up for them, to lobby on their behalf.

Halfway through 2015, the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACLC) ran a census of its member organisations. More than 150,000 people were turned away in that year because the CLCs didn't have the capacity to deal with demand.

Dan Stubbs, of NACLC, says it's frustrating that yet another arm of the Commonwealth government is making the "turnaway problem" even worse.

"We will be turning away more people from July and right now we have very stretched welfare rights centres," he says.

Already this year, welfare rights centres, specialists in dealing with social security and part of the community legal centre network, have been flooded with people needing desperate help.