Subject: Work for the dole
JOHN LAWS: We had a caller yesterday that sparked a discussion on the Work for the Dole Scheme which has become a pretty hot topic of conversation again today. We know a lot of these callers are struggling due to restrictions of living in regional areas. We were talking about it earlier and I think it’s a really good point. Joining me on the line is the Minister for Employment, Senator Eric Abetz. Senator, good morning and thank you for giving us some of your time.
MINISTER ABETZ: Good morning, good to be on the program.
JOHN LAWS: Thank you very much. I understand that under the current rules, jobseekers have to apply for at least 20 jobs a month to be eligible for the dole, is that correct?
MINISTER ABETZ: Yes, that is the current standard that has been in play now for a number of years all through the Labor Government and continuing under us.
JOHN LAWS: Okay, to me it seems a bit unreasonable for people who are living in small country towns.
MINISTER ABETZ: Well, what we’re asking people to do is to look past the small country town and, you know, not inundate the local baker or the local pub with applications but to look further afield. There was - part of the quid pro quo is that if you expect the Australian taxpayer to provide you with money on a day to day basis, it’s fair enough that the taxpayer asks of you, the recipient of that money, are you looking at as far afield as possible to gain employment and that is where getting onto the internet, where applying for jobs outside of your immediate area is part and parcel of it, trying to get our fellow Australians into employment.
JOHN LAWS: Yeah but 20 jobs a month, that’s quite a lot.
MINISTER ABETZ: Look, 20…
JOHN LAWS: Five a week is one every day.
MINISTER ABETZ: That’s right and if you are unemployed, not doing anything, genuinely looking for work, asking for somebody to look for a job, one per day, I don’t think is too onerous. Indeed, at one stage the Government was thinking it should be double that number but we realised that that would be a terrible burden, especially on small businesses and in the country town scenario that you quite rightly point to but we believe the 20 job applications per month, which was what it was under Labor, continues to be under us, I think is a fair ask by the Australian taxpayer as those that are the beneficiary of the taxpayer fund on the basis that people are unemployed.
JOHN LAWS: Okay, Senator, can I ask you this. It seems to be a habit of people in government when we ask a question, we frequently get the answer, that you’ve now given me twice well, it was like that under the Labor Government but the Labor Government isn’t there anymore. Why do we keep going back to what was happening in the past when it’s not happening now?
MINISTER ABETZ: Well, John, look a valid point but what I didn’t want your listeners to be under the misapprehension that somehow things have changed in recent times. It has been this way for a while and if both sides of politics, having looked at this issue, done their research and considered the matter in detail, and there’s a bipartisan approach on the number of job applications then chances are this is something that is above politics, it is something that the community has come to a landing on which is – if I might suggest, not all that controversial.
JOHN LAWS: No. Well I agree and it’s got to be something that is above politics because it is the best – I’ve said it for years, the best thing you can give a man is a job and the more jobs we can give to people the better.
MINISTER ABETZ: John, you are absolutely right. A job is not only a ticket for an income, it also has huge social benefits…
JOHN LAWS: Huge.
MINISTER ABETZ: …the studies tell me that people’s mental health, physical health, their self-esteem, their social interaction are all enhanced if they’ve got employment and everybody in the household is similarly enhanced if there is somebody in that household that is in gainful employment and that is why we at the Government, continue to say the economy is the number one factor for us as a government because getting the economy right will mean that we have more jobs, therefore less people unemployed and whilst there’s the economic benefit of changing a tax-taker into a taxpayer, from my perspective what is even more important, the social dividends that flow from getting somebody off welfare and into gainful employment.
JOHN LAWS: I agree with you absolutely but you would be more aware that I am but you’d certainly be as aware as I am that there are many households where the entire household is on the dole.
MINISTER ABETZ: John, circumstances where the whole household is on the dole and indeed there are regrettably areas where there are – is intergenerational welfare dependency that is where you regrettably have all sorts of health issues, interactions with law enforcement agencies etcetera and that is why it is such an important social imperative for the Government to try to drive the economy to create jobs and then also encourage people to move off welfare and into employment and that is why we as a government are introducing a number of carrot and stick measures to encourage people into employment but also to say to them, you have a responsibility not only to society at large but to yourself and to your children and the people in your household to move off welfare into employment if at all possible.
JOHN LAWS: Yeah. I agree with you about the effect it can have on lives and the effect it can have on character too. I mean, it doesn’t do your character a whole lot of good if you’re living in a house where everybody is taking money from the Government and more than likely laughing about it.
MINISTER ABETZ: John, the issues are multitudinous, it’s the economic, it’s the social, it’s the personal character, it’s the motivation, what you pass on to the next generation, all those factors make it so important that we as a government don’t get side-tracked with the peripheral issues but concentrate on fixing the economy, getting the Australian economy humming and today I’m here in Tasmania, my home state, announcing some scholarships at the Costa berry farm where they have invested in Tasmania creating hundreds of new jobs for Tasmanians and now they’re going to provide scholarships to help up-skill people. That is what I as Minister for Employment love celebrating these new opportunities and that is where our free trade agreements are going to help the agricultural sector to help create jobs, help create scholarships and that’s what I spent my day doing and I would encourage every Australian to have a look at all the job opportunities that are available and avail themselves of them as quickly as they possibly can.
JOHN LAWS: Okay. It’s been good to talk to you Senator. I hope you have a lovely time in that beautiful Tassie. Gosh, it’s a pretty place.
MINISTER ABETZ: It’s a wonderful place and I always enjoy it when I’m at home. Thank you very much.
JOHN LAWS: Tell me, what’s the weather like there at the moment?
MINISTER ABETZ: Look, it’s a nice blue sky. It would be fair to say it was a bit of a chilly morning but the sun is shining and it’s warming up and there’s no frost on the ground and it’s going to be a very good launch of the scholarship system in fact my advisor’s just showing me that it’s eight degrees, a balmy eight degrees in Northern Tasmania today [laughs].
JOHN LAWS: [Laughs] Okay. Well, enjoy your time there and Senator, I appreciate you giving me some of that time to talk to us this morning.
MINISTER ABETZ: Thanks for the opportunity John.
JOHN LAWS: Okay. Bye Senator, bye. Well, there you’ve got it, he makes sense but he should he’s had plenty of practice.