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Finance Minister's JobSeeker threat to protesters

Mathias Cormann has delivered a warning to JobSeeker recipients. Images: Getty

The anti-racism rallies on the weekend attracted tens of thousands of protesters, with Finance Minister Mathias Cormann now suggesting protesters may have JobSeeker payments revoked. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dubbed the Black Lives Matter protests “completely unacceptable”, and Cormann echoed those calls on Sky News this morning, indicating that JobSeeker payments could be called into debate. 

Responding to questioning on whether protestors on JobSeeker should lose their payments, Cormann said “that is a conversation that would be worthwhile having”.

“But right now it’s up to the states to impose the rules that they inflict on everyone else,” he said. 

“If it is good enough for people to be prevented from going to funerals, to church, to sporting events, to all sorts of things, restaurants, then the rules should apply to everyone else,” Cormann said. 

“It makes absolutely no sense to have tens of thousands of people gather with potentially infected people among them, spreading the risk of the virus, putting the community at an unacceptable, unnecessary and an entirely avoidable risk.”

He added that Australians breaking the rules “should be charged” if they’re putting others at risk.

A man in his 30s who attended the protest in Melbourne has since tested positive for coronavirus

The long weekend was considered a major test for the country, as protesters rallied and holiday-makers inundated regional towns. 

Echoes of Peter Dutton, Michaelia Cash

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton made similar statements in October 2019, declaring protesters who disrupt traffic should lose income support. 

Speaking during the Extinction Rebellion protests, he said protesters should have their welfare withdrawn and be “named and shamed”. 

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash made similar statements at the time, backing the withdrawal of benefits for a “full time protester”. 

“If you do miss a job interview or you know you have a child that gets sick or you’ve got a reasonable excuse, we are able to step in, assist you to overcome that and get you back on the right track. But there still is a component of job seekers who are wilfully not actually discharging their mutual obligation,” Cash said. 

“In relation to those people, what we say is the system will help you but if you wilfully and deliberately fail to engage in mutual obligation, then you will have your payment cancelled.”

She said the taxpayer should not expect to “subsidise the protests of others”. 

“Protesting is not, and never will be, an exemption from a recipients’ mutual obligation to look for a job.”

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