BEN FORDHAM: The Federal Government is launching a $263 million program to try to end the cycle of teen pregnancy, and they’re targeting welfare hotspots. The ParentsNext program will give those on parenting payments intensive training and guidance to help them get a job. The program will be compulsory for eligible parents inside 20 designated intervention zones, six of which are in New South Wales - Sydney, Dubbo, Tamworth, the Mid Coast, the Mid North Coast and Orange. The multimillion dollar scheme means that 68,000 young parents will receive extra support. So will this stop the cycle of teen pregnancy and welfare dependence in some of these struggling areas? Michaelia Cash is the federal Minister for Employment and the Minister for Women, and she joins us on the line. Michaelia Cash, good afternoon.
MINISTER CASH: Good afternoon, Ben, and good afternoon to your listeners.
BEN FORDHAM: I believe you’re joining us from Rockhampton. How’s Rocky?
MINISTER CASH: I am where we launched the $263 million investment today, as you’ve said, in relation to our ParentsNext program.
BEN FORDHAM: Okay. It’ll be compulsory for eligible parents inside these 20 intervention zones. I’m fascinated as to who the eligible parents are?
MINISTER CASH: Yeah, okay, so there’s actually two streams to the program. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to have a national rollout of ParentsNext, and there are some compulsory participants there because – so your listeners understand – this is all about preparing young parents who have to go back into the workforce, to ensure that they have the necessary skills. It’s all about a pathway to employment rather than a pathway to welfare dependency. So, in relation to the national rollout of ParentsNext, compulsory participants - there’s three groups: early school leavers aged under 22 who haven’t completed year 12 but their youngest child is at least one year of age. We’re now going to work with you to ensure that when you do have to look for work you’ve got those skills. If you’re a person, regardless of age, who has been assessed as highly disadvantaged and your youngest child is at least three, or, alternatively, if you’re in a jobless family and you have a youngest child aged five …
BEN FORDHAM: Alright. So if it’s for people who have already got babies, how are you going to stop the cycle of teen pregnancy if they’ve already had the babies?
MINISTER CASH: Look, and this is all about breaking this cycle of intergenerational welfare, I’ve spoken to so many young parents who have embraced this program and said that it has absolutely changed their lives, and what they love more than anything is it’s given them the confidence that they need that they can get into the workforce or, alternatively, for some it’s all about finishing year 12 and going on and getting some form of higher education. But the feedback is this: yes, they have kids and guess what? They are now positive role models to those kids. Their kids see mum or dad getting out of bed every day, going off to study, going off to work, and it’s all about breaking the cycle of intergenerational welfare.
BEN FORDHAM: You do see some of those cases, don’t you, and there are hotspots. We can’t ignore it. I know, for example, when I spend a lot of time on the Central Coast of New South Wales, and that’s usually the time that I’d go to a shopping centre because I’m too busy when I’m working to go and do shopping, so if I go to the shopping centre I notice it there. I see a lot of teen mums and some teen couples pushing around babies in prams. So you want to try and get to those people, encourage them into work, but also to spread a message for the next generation.
MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. And it’s all about saying to them, "You know, this is a Government, we’re a Coalition Government, we do not want to see you on a pathway to welfare dependency." Nobody wants to see, in particular, a young person relying on welfare for the rest of your life. So, as a Government, we are making what we consider to be a positive investment in our parents to ensure that, as I said, hey, when you’ve got to go and get work you’re on a pathway to employment, and the Government has invested in you so you have the necessary skills.
BEN FORDHAM: Look, I would give advice to people – Minister, I don’t know whether you’d give the same advice in your role – but the advice I would be giving to people, and it’s pretty simple: don’t have kids until you can afford them.
MINISTER CASH: Look, again, we can all give advice. I’m 46 and I don’t have children, so perhaps I shouldn’t be giving advice. But what I would say to people is don’t ever look down the barrel of welfare dependency. There are some fabulous Government programs that can assist you, whether you’re a parent on Parenting Payment, let’s help you with ParentsNext. If you’re a youth and you’re looking down the barrel of welfare dependency, we have, as you know, our fantastic in excess of $760 million investment in our PaTH program – all about preparing our youth, getting them ready, giving them a go, getting them a job. If you’re a mature aged person, in this Budget there are some fantastic new programs for you. What we are all about are pathways to employment, not a pathway to welfare dependency.
BEN FORDHAM: Well done. It’s called ParentsNext. Michaelia Cash …
MINISTER CASH: ParentsNext. Go online; have a look at it.
BEN FORDHAM: And you opened it today, or announced it or launched it today, in Rockhampton. Now, Minister, before I let you go …
MINISTER CASH: Okay.
BEN FORDHAM: You know you’re not going to get off the hook too easily.
MINISTER CASH: I know, and I’m not about to sing a song for you. I promised you if I was going to sing a song, we had to be next to one another, live in the station, okay?
BEN FORDHAM: What would you sing?
MINISTER CASH: [Laughs] Well, now you’ve really - did I say last time it was Gloria Gaynor’s …
BEN FORDHAM: Let me just recap for people. The last time you were on the program, I revealed to people that you were a karaoke afficionado. And I said next time you’re in Sydney will you come in the studio and sing some karaoke with me.
MINISTER CASH: [Indistinct] [laughs].
BEN FORDHAM: Are you telling me that you have not been in the city of Sydney since?
MINISTER CASH: I promise you I have been to Sydney, and I have to say I do apologise. I know. I haven’t actually come in to see you, but I promise you next time I will come in and say hi to you.
BEN FORDHAM: I will hold you to it. Talk to you soon.
MINISTER CASH: Good. Thanks Ben.
BEN FORDHAM: Michaelia Cash, the federal Minister for Employment.