Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker today introduced legislation into the House of Representatives to strengthen compliance measures for job seekers.
The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Stronger Penalties for Serious Failure) Bill 2014 tightens the rules for job seekers who refuse a job or persistently fail to meet their requirements.
“The Coalition understands that most job seekers in receipt of income support do the right thing by the taxpayer," Mr Hartsuyker said.
"Most job seekers want to work and make the effort to find and keep a job.
“However, there are some job seekers who do not meet their mutual obligation requirements and abuse the system.
"This Bill will ensure that all job seekers who refuse an offer of suitable work - or fail to accept a suitable job - are required to serve the legislated eight-week non-payment period.
“Job seekers in these cases will not be permitted to have their penalty waived through participation in intensive activities.
“Some job seekers also fail to meet expectations to participate in activities designed to improve their job prospects, such as meeting with their employment service providers or participating in activities.
“Where a person is persistently and wilfully non-compliant in meeting these requirements, a non-payment penalty of eight weeks may be applied."
Under the current rules, this non-payment penalty may be waived if the job seeker agrees to participate in intensive activities.
The Bill will strengthen the rules to permit only one waiver in these areas.
In 2012-13, there were 1,718 serious failures for refusing a job, of which the penalty was waived in 68 per cent of cases.
In that same year, there were 25,286 serious failures for repeated non-compliance and, of these, the penalty was waived in 73 per cent of cases.
Of those waived, nearly one-third were for a job seeker’s second or third episode of non-compliance.
“The former Labor Government encouraged this poor behaviour by weakening the rules regarding the application of penalties for serious failures,” Mr Hartsuyker said.
“Labor undermined the integrity of the job seeker compliance system.
"The ability to continually waive the penalty means that job seekers who commit a serious failure can avoid the financial consequences of their actions, and continue to receive income support, despite their poor behaviour.
“This Bill will ensure that the existing financial penalties for more serious failures are applied more rigorously and in keeping with community expectations.”