Centrelink veteran Jez Heywood has demanded the government stop forcing the unemployed to look for a job while they receive welfare payments.
The president of the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union hit the headlines earlier this year after he was embroiled in an on-air row with 2GB’s Ben Fordham when the radio host tried to find him a job.
But on Tuesday, Mr Heywood testified before the House of Representatives select committee into Workforce Australia Employment Services and used it to call for an end to Jobseeker’s ‘mutual obligations’.
Workforce Australia requires the unemployed to earn up to 100 points each month by applying for jobs, going on courses, turning up for job interviews and keeping appointments.
Anyone failing to hit their target can have their Jobseeker payments axed.
But Mr Heywood said being forced to try to find work was too stressful for the unemployed and it should be stopped immediately.
Centrelink veteran Jez Heywood (pictured) has demanded the government stop forcing the unemployed to look for a job while they receive welfare payments
He admitted having a ‘massive’ mental breakdown during his decade on the dole and was allowed to skip his mutual obligations for three months at a time on medical advice.
But Mr Heywood said that even that was too stressful to bear.
‘I had this massive breakdown, stayed in bed and cried for a week,’ he told committee chair and Labor MP Julian Hill.
‘I got mutual obligation exemption – medical certificates – but that was anxiety-inducing in itself…
‘Every three months I had to run the risk of some Centrelink person with no medical experience overruling a doctor’s medical certificate.’
Centrelink eventually stopped accepting his medical certificates, he said, after they said his condition was permanent and put him back to signing on every fortnight.
‘So now it’s a two week anxiety cycle of meeting my obligations under the looking for jobs and everything else and then having my fortnightly meetings with them,’ he said.
‘And you know, it’s just, like, unemployment’s, like, not-fun enough as it is. We don’t need all this other s*** on top of it.’
He said his best time on the dole was when the pandemic hit Australia in 2020 and mutual obligations were put on hold for six months and Jobseeker payments almost doubled.
Mr Heywood was called to testify before the select committee into Workforce Australia Employment Services (pictured) and called for an end to Jobseeker’s ‘mutual obligations’
He said the Covid package was a ‘breath of fresh air for everybody involved’.
‘The relief that people felt when they were living above the poverty line finally, and when they didn’t have the government breathing down their necks,’ he added.
‘It made such a difference to people’s mental health.’
He claimed his employment services provider enlisted him on a barista course in Geelong, south-west of Melbourne, 125km from his home near Frankston in Melbourne’s south-east.
‘That was the only site they offered a barista course,’ he told the hearing.
‘I went on the internet and found the barista courses nearby that weren’t through Matchworks [the associated provider]. They wouldn’t do it…just, no. Sorry.’
He said one of the few jobs he had been offered was working the phones for Centrelink.
‘I said, sure,’ he told the hearing. ‘If you don’t mind running the risk that I’ll become a whistleblower.
‘I never heard anything more back from that.’
His comments come after Mr Heywood joined the social media pile-on attacking Rich List business boss Tim Gurner for calling workers arrogant and saying the unemployment rate needed to rise by 40 to 50 per cent.
Heywood posted a photograph of Mr Gurner from a Daily Mail Australia article about the backlash over Mr Gurner’s comments, showing him beside a woman in front of an electric blue Porsche 911 Carrera valued at $320,000.
In a troubling call-out to his 3000-plus followers, Mr Heywood posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: ‘Pretty distinctive blue Porsche you got there, Tim.
‘Can’t be many of them driving about Melbourne. Wonder how much a set of tyres are for it?’
Jez Heywood posted a photograph of Mr Gurner from a Daily Mail Australia article showing him posing for a photo with a business associate in front of a Porsche 911 Carrera valued at $320,000
The Porsche features on Ms Reid’s highly successful Her Supercar Life Instagram account which has just spun off its own business
But in a fail, Porsche doesn’t belong to Mr Gurner – and the woman beside him is not Mr Gurner’s wife, Amee Gurner.
The woman pictured is actually Gold Coast mum-of-three Rachael Reid, a former model and racecar driver, who was photographed meeting Mr Gurner for business.
The Porsche belongs to her and the picture features on her Instagram account, Her Supercar Life, which boasts more than 100,000 fans and has now spawned its own business.
A telltale sticker in the back window of the Porsche in the picture would have alerted Mr Heywood – but even after it was pointed out, he continued regardless.
When it was suggested the car might be a rental, he added: ‘Ah, damn. Still, there is always the insurance excess.’
But by then, it was too late and his followers were already plotting ways to vandalise the Porsche.
One follower suggesting it should be sprayed with paint-stripping brake fluid, while another said a bottle of coke would have the same effect on the pristine bodywork.
Others warned it could be keyed or scratched, or have all its tyres let down by using a lentil under the valve cap.
One ominously researched the cost of a new Porsche tyre and found it to be $967 a time, while another instructed would-be vandals to only damage three tyres because ‘if it’s all four, insurance will pay out’.
Other followers tagged in extremist environmental activist group Tyre Extinguishers who target 4×4 SUVs by deflating their tyres to protest against carbon pollution.
One follower though warned Heywood he had gone too far and advised: ‘I’d be deleting this post’, but his suggestion was ignored.
THE UNION FOR THE UNEMPLOYED … THAT’S NOT REALLY A UNION!
The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union was founded in 2014 but has never actually been a union
The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union was founded in 2014 but isn’t a formal union.
It was registered as an Incorporated Association in 2015 and then as a not-for-profit charity in 2020.
Australian Council of Trade Unions Secretary Sally McManus has previously had to clarify the organisation is neither a registered union nor an affiliate of the ACTU.
Its website says it aims to ‘protect the rights and dignity of unemployed people and to alleviate poverty and disadvantage.’
It is funded almost entirely by scores of donations of under $1,000 from supporters, and was boosted by one single donation of $39,317 in 2020/21.
His registered not-for-profit charity has more than $178,000 stashed away in its bank account, mainly from donations, and many from the unemployed
It has set up a free ‘national advocacy hotline’ which runs for four hours a day, five days a week, taking calls from desperate job seekers.
The AUWU says it aims to provide information resources for the unemployed and welfare recipients, while fighting for their rights.
It has also run surveys to canvass the opinions of the unemployed about life on JobSeeker and campaigned for a rise in the dole.
The AUWU website says it aims to ‘protect the rights and dignity of unemployed people and to alleviate poverty and disadvantage’
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk