Centrelink veteran Jez Heywood has called on the Government to stop forcing the unemployed to look for work while they receive welfare payments.
The president of the Australian Unemployed Union made headlines earlier this year after becoming embroiled in an on-air row with 2GB’s Ben Fordham when the radio host was trying to find him a job.
But on Tuesday Mr Heywood gave evidence to the House of Representatives select committee on Workforce Australia Employment Services and used it to call for an end to jobseekers’ “mutual obligations”.
Workforce Australia requires unemployed workers to earn up to 100 points each month by applying for jobs, completing courses, attending job interviews and keeping appointments.
Anyone who fails to meet their target may have their jobseeker’s benefit withdrawn.
But Mr Heywood said being forced to try to find work was too stressful for the unemployed and should be stopped immediately.
Centrelink veteran Jez Heywood (pictured) has called on the Government to stop forcing unemployed people to look for work while they receive welfare payments.
He admitted to suffering a “massive” mental breakdown during his decade on welfare and was allowed to skip his mutual obligations for three months at a time on medical advice.
But Mr Heywood said even that was too stressful to bear.
“I had a massive breakdown, stayed in bed and cried for a week,” he told committee chairman and Labor MP Julian Hill.
“I got an exemption from mutual obligations – medical certificates – but that in itself was anxiety-inducing…
“Every three months I had to take the risk of someone from Centrelink with no medical experience canceling a doctor’s medical certificate.”
Centrelink eventually stopped accepting his medical certificates, he said, after declaring his condition permanent and requiring him to re-sign every fortnight.
“So now it’s a two-week cycle of anxiety about fulfilling my job search obligations and everything else and then having my biweekly meetings with them,” he said.
“And you know, it’s just that unemployment isn’t fun enough as it is. We don’t need all this other crap on top of it.
He said his best moment on benefits was when the pandemic hit Australia in 2020 and mutual obligations were suspended for six months and jobseeker payments almost doubled.
Mr Heywood was called to give evidence to the Workforce Australia Employment Services select committee (pictured) and called for an end to jobseekers’ “mutual obligations”.
He said the Covid package was a “breath of fresh air for everyone involved”.
“The relief that people felt when they were finally living above the poverty line and they didn’t have the government behind them,” he added.
“It’s made such a difference to people’s mental health.”
He claimed his employment service provider enrolled him on a barista course in Geelong, southwest of Melbourne, 125km from his home near Frankston, southeast of Melbourne.
“It was the only site where they offered a barista course,” he told the audience.
“I went online and found barista classes nearby that weren’t through Matchworks (the associated vendor). They wouldn’t… just no. Sorry.’
He said one of the few jobs he was offered was working on the Centrelink phones.
“I said, sure,” he told the hearing. “If you don’t mind taking the risk of me becoming a whistleblower.”
“I never heard back from that.”
His comments come after Mr Heywood joined the wave of social media attacking Rich List boss Tim Gurner for calling workers arrogant and saying the unemployment rate needed to rise from 40 to 50 per cent. hundred.
Heywood posted a photo of Mr Gurner taken from a Daily Mail Australia article about backlash over Mr Gurner’s comments, showing him next to a woman in front of an electric blue Porsche 911 Carrera worth of $320,000.
In a disturbing appeal to his more than 3,000 followers, Mr Heywood posted on X, formerly known as Twitter: “You have a rather distinctive blue Porsche there, Tim.
“There must not be many of them circulating in Melbourne. I wonder how much a set of tires costs for this?
Jez Heywood posted a photo of Mr Gurner from a Daily Mail Australia article showing him posing for a photo with an associate in front of a Porsche 911 Carrera worth $320,000.
The Porsche features on Ms Reid’s successful Instagram account, Her Supercar Life, who has just started her own business.
But if that fails, Porsche does not belong to Mr. Gurner – and the woman next to him is not Mr. Gurner’s wife, Amee Gurner.
The woman pictured is actually Gold Coast mother-of-three Rachael Reid, a former model and racing driver, who was pictured meeting Mr Gurner on business.
The Porsche belongs to him and the photo is featured on his Instagram account, Her Supercar Life, which has over 100,000 fans and has now spawned his own business.
A telltale sticker on the rear window of the Porsche in the photo is said to have alerted Mr Heywood – but even after being flagged down, he carried on regardless.
When it was suggested to him that the car might be a rental, he added: “Ah, damn. But there is always the insurance deductible.
But by then it was too late and his supporters were already planning ways to vandalize the Porsche.
One follower suggested it should be sprayed with brake fluid to strip the paint, while another said a bottle of coke would have the same effect on the pristine bodywork.
Others warned that it could be keyed or scratched, or that all of its tires could be removed using a lens under the valve cap.
One did some worrying research into the cost of a new Porsche tire and discovered it was $967 each, while another asked would-be vandals to only damage three tires, because “if it’s all four, the insurance will pay.”
Other followers have been identified in the extremist environmental activist group Tire Extinguishers which targets 4×4 SUVs by deflating their tires to protest carbon pollution.
One follower, however, warned Heywood that he had gone too far and advised him: “I would delete this post”, but his suggestion was ignored.
THE UNEMPLOYED UNION… IT’S NOT REALLY A UNION!
The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union was founded in 2014 but has never been a union.
The Australian Unemployed Union was founded in 2014 but is not a formal union.
It was registered as an incorporated association in 2015 and then as a non-profit charity in 2020.
Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Sally McManus has already had to clarify that the organization is neither a registered union nor a branch of the ACTU.
Its website says it aims to “protect the rights and dignity of the unemployed and reduce poverty and disadvantage”.
It is funded almost entirely by dozens of donations of less than $1,000 from supporters, and was boosted by a single donation of $39,317 in 2020/21.
His non-profit registered charity has more than $178,000 stashed in its bank account, mostly from donations and many from unemployed workers.
It has set up a toll-free “national helpline” that operates four hours a day, five days a week, fielding calls from desperate job seekers.
The AUWU says it aims to provide information resources to unemployed and welfare recipients, while fighting for their rights.
He also conducted surveys to find out what unemployed people thought about life on JobSeeker and campaigned for an increase in welfare payments.
The AUWU website states that it aims to “protect the rights and dignity of the unemployed and reduce poverty and disadvantage”.