Release type: Transcript


Interview with Chris Uhlmann on ABC Radio's AM programme


Senator the Hon Eric Abetz
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for Employment
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service
Senator for Tasmania

SUBJECT: New job-services system for 2015-2020.

CHRIS UHLMANN: The final shape of the Abbott Government’s job-placement system will be detailed today. The draft plan sparked a backlash with its demand that the unemployed apply for 40 jobs a month to qualify for the dole. It appears there’s been a rethink on that, but the final plan will expand Work for the Dole and encourage people to relocate to find jobs. Eric Abetz is the Employment Minister. Eric Abetz, do you intend to press ahead with a push to make the unemployed make 40 job applications a month?

MINISTER ABETZ: The new request for tender, which we’re announcing today, will have a requirement that job seekers pursue 20 jobs per month. We have listened to the community feedback, and whilst we are very strongly of the view that a job seeker should have as their full-time job, gaining employment, we do understand that for business it would be a burden and it might diminish the value of job applications if we have too many applications being undertaken. As a result, we’ve listened to the community and we’ve restricted it to 20.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Some might wonder how an idea like that ever sees the light of day in the first place – 40 job applications rather than 20. Is the default position of Cabinet the belief that the unemployed are jobless because they don’t want jobs?

MINISTER ABETZ: No, we have a very strong view that it should be the task of every job seeker to make it their full-time job to gain employment and that would have been seeking one job every morning and another every afternoon. So it’s not an onerous burden on the job seeker, but it could lead to less valuable job applications being made, especially in certain areas where there aren’t as many jobs available and also being a burden, especially on small business.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But when you take that idea, in combination with a plan to make those who lost their jobs under 30 wait six months for the dole, it tends to suggest the Government believes that most people who are unemployed are because they aren’t trying hard enough.

MINISTER ABETZ: No, Chris, what it shows is that this is a Government absolutely committed to wanting to do the very best for the unemployed [inaudible] data is overwhelming. If you are unemployed, the physical health, mental health, self-esteem, social interaction of that individual are all diminished and, therefore, we do the individual and their family and the community a great service by assisting them in pursuing as many job applications as possible, which means they’ll come off unemployment that much sooner.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Does this plan include funding for new services for those young people who won’t be able to get any benefits for six months as they wait for the dole?

MINISTER ABETZ: The provisions that we have in place will allow volunteers, if you like, to seek assistance from the job-service providers. But what we’re doing is targeting those that will have the most difficulty in finding employment.

CHRIS UHLMANN: But isn’t that an admission that you know your plans will cause hardship?

MINISTER ABETZ: No. What we are seeking to do is to provide and target the assistance to those that will find it more difficult to get jobs than others within the community. So, look, we are about getting as many people into jobs as possible because we know it does a wonderful thing for the individual, for their families and, of course, it turns a tax taker into a tax payer.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Are you extending Work for the Dole, and how will that work?

MINISTER ABETZ: Yes, we do seek to extend Work for the Dole to get as many people as possible into Work for the Dole, and that will be for six months and, depending on the age cohort, the under 30s will be required to do 25 hours per week and those between 30 and 50, up to 15 hours per week and that is designed, one, to get people job ready or if they have already had jobs, to keep them job ready and, of course, it also provides a purpose for their day – they do something useful, make a contribution to their society and their community which will be of lasting benefit to their community.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Isn’t extending the hours of you working for the dole cutting down the hours that you could be looking for work?

MINISTER ABETZ: There’s always a balance in these things, but we believe that 25 hours of Work for the Dole per week is not onerous and leaves more than enough time for these people to be able to make appointments, seek employment and, of course, if there is a job interview during the period of Work for the Dole, then, of course, they are excused from their Work for the Dole obligation to pursue that job interview.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Does your plan encourage young people to move to find work?

MINISTER ABETZ: Yes, the plan that we have will also allow people to access job relocation programme. And what we’ve designed is a very flexible programme with assistance for young people, for the mature age, over 50, for job relocation. We have tried to provide as much flexibility in our overall scheme to ensure that we don’t have a one-size-fits-all, that there is a flexibility which suits the job seeker, the employer and the job-service provider.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Well, you’re a Tasmanian. West and north west Tasmania have youth unemployment running at 21 per cent. Do you really want all the young people in Burnie and Devonport to leave?

MINISTER ABETZ: We want as many people as possible to get a job within Australia. I do know, for example, the north west coast example to which you point, that as we speak, we have 100 Pacific Islanders working in the agricultural sector. We know that there are many backpackers working in a range of jobs throughout the north west coast. I for one would like to see our fellow Tasmanians get those jobs and be focussed on getting those jobs, and that is what we’re going to be encouraging through this new system.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Eric Abetz, thank you.