When Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey told the nation that the 'age of entitlement' had ended with the 2014 federal budget in May, unemployed Australians were given a glimmer of forewarning that benefits - known as the dole here - would become tighter. Just how tight they will be has been revealed Monday.
One of the most significant welfare measures announced in the federal budget is the expansion of Work for the Dole - essentially a program where unemployed must prove job-seeking to access any payments.
In what will have come as something of a shock to job-seeking Australians - as well as the financially vulnerable - the Work for the Dole program is imposing tough new measures that are certain to cause pain in the lower socio-economic bracket here.
Welfare organizations and left-leaning political groups are reeling after the announcement on Monday that those on benefits will be forced to prove 40 job searches every month while concurrently working for up to 25 hours a week of community work.
The radical extension of the program is the meat in Mr Hockey's proposed 5.1-billion-Australian-dollar job placement sandwich - due to be served to the unemployed from next year.
In Australia welfare benefits paid by the government are known as social security payments, soon to become Work for the Dole and are administered by the Australian government agency Centrelink.
Social security benefits, including unemployment payments, can only be claimed by Australian citizens and holders of permanent residency visas.
However, under the Budget of treasurer Hockey and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Work for the Dole workers receive only Centrelink payments and travel allowance for participating in the program.
When working for the maximum number of hours, they will work for less than the minimum wage.
According to a budget analysis by the Crawford school of public policy at the Australian National University, an unmarried, unemployed 23-year-old faces an 18 percent cut in disposable income in 2016-17 as a result of the budget, the largest proportional reduction of the 13 household types analysed by the ANU.
Voicing their outrage, the Australian Greens said Monday that a 'significant number' of jobseekers will be punished and disadvantaged from any expansion of the program
"Work for the Dole is not an effective program for getting people into work and study, and is just another example of the government's ideological war against income support and social security," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services said via email.
"People will be very concerned today about whether they will be affected by this new announcement, including single parents, people with disability and older jobseekers.
"Work for the Dole will not address the fundamental barriers to employment that people are facing. Subjecting people to even tougher compliance requirements does not help deal with issues such as lack of available jobs, discrimination, a lack of training or the fact they can't afford rent, food and clothes."
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia has the lowest unemployment payments in the developed world.
The argument is that unemployment benefits have not risen, in real terms, in 20 years. They are now so low that even business groups like the Business Council of Australia think they should be raised.
Newstart recipients will be working for 10 Australian dollars an hour while Youth Allowance recipients will be working for 5 to 8 dollars an hour. The minimum wage is 16.87 dollars an hour.
Jobseekers younger than 30 would have to work 25 hours a week under the expanded program, while those between 30 and 49 will be asked to do 15 hours work a week, and those aged 50-60, 15 hours a week.
Senator Siewart said the Work for the Dole placements fail on several critical fronts including a failure to provide the specific training and support jobseekers need; little consideration for those vulnerable - financially, physically or merely unable to meet the new requirements; as well as ignoring current issues like age discrimination in a nation also beset by the growing problem of finding new careers for people over 40.
Siewart called the new plan 'nonsense.'
"If jobs aren't available, it is a nonsense to say people have to apply for at least a job a day."
The Greens called for the government to further invest in job services.
(The government must lift) "the inadequate rates of Newstart and Youth Allowance by 50 dollars per week so that job seekers are actually supported and helped back into the workforce, rather than being left in poverty," Senator Siewert concluded.