Helping more Australians get back into work
The Australian Government secured passage of the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Job Seeker Compliance) Bill 2011 through the Parliament last night.
These new laws deliver on the Australian Government’s election commitment to introduce tighter measures that will mean more unemployed people are actively involved in seeking work.
Minister for Employment Participation Kate Ellis said that the Australian economy is strong, with an unemployment rate of less than 5 per cent and more than 750 000 jobs being created since Labor came to government in 2007.
“Yet, there still remain too many Australians, who are capable of work but continue to rely on unemployment benefits for the long term - trapped in a cycle of welfare dependency,” Ms Ellis said.
“The reality is that with such a low unemployment rate and employers crying out for labour – there are new opportunities for people to find work.”
These reforms introduce suspension of income support payments for job seekers following a failure to attend an appointment or participation activity with the employment services provider.
If job seekers then agree to reengage as required, then the payment will be restored in full. If the person fails to reengage and does not have a reasonable excuse for missing their appointments, then there will be a penalty deducted from their next payment.
Ms Ellis said that the Australian Government was committed to improving the welfare system to make sure that all job seekers are genuine in their efforts to look for work.
“This Bill is about placing a set of expectations on jobseekers – that in return for the support, the Australian Government will give them help to find employment, that they will meet their responsibilities and show up at appointments.”
“A strengthening of the compliance system will mean that more job seekers are actively engaging in work experience activities, in training and in participation programs, so that they can find and keep a decent job,” Ms Ellis said.
These new laws are an important part of the Australian Government’s workforce participation agenda and complement the significant investment in employment services contained in the 2011-12 Budget.
The Budget included $49.8 million to improve and streamline the compliance system and provide targeted assistance to vulnerable job seekers and those who are most at risk of non-compliance or disengagement with the system.
“Giving unemployed Australians the support they need to find a job is critical to achieving a high workforce participation rate and ensuring Australia’s future economic prosperity,” Ms Ellis said.
“All Australians on income support should have the opportunity to work, but with opportunity comes responsibility and these new laws will make sure that job seekers are meeting those responsibilities.”