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March 25, 2020

In what is a confusing time, job seekers need clear and consistent communication about their mutual obligation requirements.

Last night government department Services Australia tweeted, “If you’re not affected by coronavirus, your mutual obligation requirements haven’t changed.”

This is contrary to the governments recent announcement that came after calls from Labor to suspend mutual obligation requirements that require physical interaction for a period of time, and that Job Plans will be adjusted to four jobs searches a month (or fewer, at provider discretion) to reflect softening labour market conditions.

While we welcome the temporary lift of mutual obligation requirements while the MyGov website buckles under pressure., it would be more realistic to extend this suspension beyond a mere one-week period.

Across the country, we have seen large queues form outside Centrelink shopfronts; myGov has crashed; and Australians are waiting hours on the phone to speak to someone at Centrelink.

We also urge the government to ensure that no one misses a payment while the system struggles to keep up.

Whatever the arrangement, the requirements must be sufficient to protect job seekers, Centrelink and job network staff.

We need to know the precise changes to mutual obligations so as to determine whether there are ongoing health risks, including an assurance that there will be of no face to face engagement that endanger people’s health.

Federal Labor understands the importance of vulnerable people maintaining connections to society in times of emergency for their mental wellbeing.

In a time where job opportunities are scarce and will certainly become more scarce over the coming weeks and months, we believe measures must be taken that can help protect our community.