SUBJECTS: Work for the Dole
LYNDAL CURTIS: Eric Abetz, welcome to Capital Hill. If I could ask you first, what evidence is there that the Work for the Dole scheme helps people find jobs?
MINISTER ABETZ: Work for the Dole is fundamentally good for the individual. We know that if people are actively engaged in doing some useful task during that day, that their mental health; their physical health, their self-esteem, their social interactions, are all enhanced and improved.
Further, it does indicate to potential employers that you have got somebody who has engaged in Work for the Dole and has a work ethic, that they get up of a morning to undertake a task during the course of the day.
So Work for the Dole, it’s not only about enhancing employment opportunities, it’s also about mutual obligation.
LYNDAL CURTIS: But if you’re say 48 or 49, you’ve lost your job… you’re struggling to find another job, you already have a work history. Does Work for the Dole actually do not very much in terms of showing your work ethic, which you could have already shown by your previous employment history?
MINISTER ABETZ: Maintaining somebody in the work ethic and the work lifestyle is fundamentally important, not only for that individual and his or her family but also for the community at large. It helps them to maintain and be job-ready in their daily life activities.
LYNDAL CURTIS: What then, does having to apply for 40 jobs a month—that’s 480 a year—do for your confidence if you keep getting knocked back from those jobs?
MINISTER ABETZ: Well, I could ask the other way around. What does it do a person’s self-esteem, physical and mental health if we as a society were to say to them ‘poor you, you don’t have employment and we won’t require you to look for employment.’
LYNDAL CURTIS: But 40 jobs a month. That’s two jobs a day per working week you have to apply for.
MINISTER ABETZ: That’s right. One in the morning. One in the afternoon. I don’t think that is too much to ask and I might say that is for most job seekers. There will be exemptions in certain circumstances. But in general terms 20 working days in a month, asking somebody to seek a job in the morning and one in the afternoon is not too much to ask.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Do you have to apply for jobs you are skilled and qualified for or do you just have to meet a target? Can you apply for anything at all?
MINISTER ABETZ: We would invite people to apply for any possible job that they think that they can undertake.
LYNDAL CURTIS: But is that a requirement? Could you just be shooting out job applications just to meet target? Jobs for which you’re not qualified at all?
MINISTER ABETZ: Well that is where the job service provider will come in to assist the job seeker to properly target their job applications. It stands to reason that not everybody will be able to apply to be a rocket scientist and as a result we would seek to have them properly targeted in seeking employment.
But there are a lot of employment opportunities as we speak in our community, that are being undertaken by backpackers and 457 visa holders and we would like to see…
LYNDAL CURTIS: But the Government lets those 457 visa holders in. If you thought Australians are there who could do the jobs, why don’t you stop agreeing to the 457 visa applications?
MINISTER ABETZ: Well, this is where we have circumstances for example, in Melbourne, as we speak, there appears to be a shortage of bricklayers. Now it seems to me that that is something that we as a nation shouldn’t have and that is where we are trying to enhance the employment requirements to ensure that people do apply for jobs that are available. What we are seeing, regrettably, especially with backpackers, that they are taking jobs that our fellow Australians are saying, ‘Well I don’t actually want to do that job, I prefer welfare’.
LYNDAL CURTIS: What do you do, say, if you’re a young person, in a state like yours in Tasmania, where there are very many areas of high youth unemployment? You say if you can’t find a job in your own area, you should move. But in Tasmania you’re only moving to another area of high youth unemployment. If you’ve got to apply for 40 jobs a month, isn’t that basically a hopeless task?
MINISTER ABETZ: Well, we wouldn’t encourage people to think of it as hopeless task. It might be a difficult task, but there’s where we would encourage the job seeker to meet that challenge and to try even harder rather than saying ‘impossible’, ‘difficult’, ‘don’t bother trying’. We say it might be difficult but it is worthwhile trying and we will seek to assist in that regard.
And people that are in high unemployment areas as we speak, we are encouraging them to look further afield…
LYNDAL CURTIS: This new system is coming into effect in July next year, what period of time will you sit back and review it to make sure it is delivering people into jobs?
MINISTER ABETZ: First of all today, we have announced the draft request for tender and we will get feedback in relation to the new job services scheme. But as a Government, we will continually monitor and tighten wing nuts where and as we need to because at the end of the day, this isn’t about government ideology or anything else. It’s all about the practical delivery of services to job seekers to match them up with employment opportunities because we know the overwhelming good that will do for the individual and our economy.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Eric Abetz, thank you very much for your time.