Yesterday the United Nations released a letter to the Australian Government asking them to explain their welfare cuts.
UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights and the working group on discrimination against women are warning the cuts could have a detrimental effect on the human rights of up to 100,000 Australians, and could be contrary to some of Australia’s international obligations.
Last year, New Zealand was also warned that the National Government’s welfare reforms amount to discrimination. The UN committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said that the last round of welfare changes were inconsistent with international obligations and that the Government should reconsider work tests for single parents with children over five.
The Minister said she would consider the committee’s recommendations but clearly decided her view was more valid than that of the panel of international human rights experts, because nothing changed.
The next wave of welfare reforms, about to be reported back from select committee, raised several more breaches of human rights. Enforcing a ‘social obligation’ on beneficiary families is discrimination on the basis of employment and family status, and as I have written previously breaches UNCROC multiple times.
Further, the drug testing in the proposal is potentially inconsistent with the right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure and the right to refuse medical treatment. I also have grave concerns about whether the changes will also be inconsistent with the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.
The Australian example should be a warning to New Zealand.