Interview on 4BC with Ian and Loretta

Transcript
  • Assistant Minister for Employment

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
Subjects: Work for the Dole

COMPERE: 

... The Abbott Government will reintroduce mandatory work-for-the-dole, forcing jobless Australians to collect rubbish, maintain parks or volunteer in aged care homes. From July, unemployment benefits will be compulsory and anyone who turns down a job close to their home will lose the payment…

COMPERE: 

...Minister for Employment. Assistant Minister, thank you for your time this morning. Is it a bit tough to make people take jobs close to their homes, and if they don't, they'll lose their payment?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, I think most hardworking tax payers would agree that when you can't find a job, you should get help from the Government, but where there is work available, that you should be required to participate in that. It's all part of the mutual obligation idea that the Government is very strong on and that the Prime Minister has been a champion of over many years.

COMPERE: 

So exactly how will it work, what sort of jobs will you have to work for?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, the current plan is still under development and I've been working with a range of stakeholders with regards to how best to prudently implement this. But the sorts of ideas that we have in mind is that you would perhaps participate as part of a work-for-the-dole team, if you're unable to find work, you may participate as part of a work-for-the-dole team. I think that's probably the traditional way that people see work-for-the-dole operating.

But with a view to providing better training and better work experience, I'm also looking at the possibility of hosting job placements with a range of not-for-profit posts, if you like, with a view to providing a better work experience. And the aim of this is to provide people with the sorts of skills that they will need to get into the workforce.

And many employers tell me that job candidates are coming to them, through our job services agencies, who simply don't have the sorts of soft skills to take on a job. And those skills are very simple skills, such as turning up every day, coming for work in a presentable form...

COMPERE: 

So how many people don't turn up for work every day and aren't in a presentable form?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, we - any employer expects their employees to turn up every day, but regrettably, some jobseekers, when faced with the prospect of beginning a job, perhaps after a period of time, cease to turn up every day. Once the novelty, if you like...

COMPERE: 

[Laughs].

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

...of the new job wears off, and we all have days when perhaps we'd like to stay in bed, but...

COMPERE: 

Well, I felt like a bit - I felt a bit like that today, on a public holiday, I gotta tell you.

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Exactly, exactly. But as everyone in the workforce knows, your boss expects you to be there and be there you must, unless of course you have a very, very good excuse. So work-for-the-dole is a way to imparting those soft skills and imparting other skills that are useful in the workforce. I want to see this process deliver those sorts of skills that are going to make people more employable.

That's not to say, though, that we are looking to displace people who are already in work, and that's why we're moving carefully and prudently forward to put in place a system that will deliver skills, will meet our desire to have a mutual obligation, but also to provide a rewarding workplace environment for jobseekers.

COMPERE: 

So how will those skills be imparted to people who have to collect rubbish, maintain parks and volunteer in aged care?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, quite clearly, you learn on the job. And I mean, everybody learns on the job, if you move into a new workplace, you learn new things, maybe things specific to the particular employment environment that you move into, or perhaps it may be something that is of a more general nature. But in any event, you learn by doing and work-for-the-dole has proven in the past, under the former Howard Government, to be very effective at improving jobseekers' prospects of getting a job, and in many cases jobseekers report it was a very rewarding experience.

COMPERE: 

Will it be sort of three strikes and you're out, or if they don't accept being forced to do these jobs, if they don't sign up, will they automatically lose their unemployment benefits?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Look, the exact detail of the program is still under development. But the Government is very clear, that we expect you to either - if you're capable of working, to be in work, or to be in some meaningful training, that is leading to a job, or...

COMPERE: 

And how many people are likely to be affected by this?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, I'll - I'm coming to that. But the final point is, if you don't meet either of those two criteria, that you should participate in a mutual obligation activity. We're currently working through the issue of the scale of the program and certainly we'll be introducing this in a very prudent way so that we ensure that it is a success. Final details of how it will all work will be released in due course, but we're moving forward very carefully and very methodically.

COMPERE: 

When you say it'll be enforced in a prudent way, does that mean it'll be enforced in certain areas, or will every part of a - Australia be impacted?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, they're the sorts of things we're looking at now, and my thinking at this point is that we're going to introduce a range of pilot programs in certain areas and, based on the outcomes of those pilots, we will gradually expand the program over time.

COMPERE: 

But won't then people be able to move? So if you're in an area where the pilot program is and you don't want to be forced to do these sorts of menial jobs, you would just move to an area where it's not in place?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, let me say that one of the criteria that we may ultimately use is to offer work-for-the-dole placements where there are less work opportunities available. And if people were prompted to move to an area where the labour market is stronger and there are more work opportunities, then perhaps that's a good thing.

COMPERE: 

Minister, thank you for your time this morning and for explaining that.

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Pleasure.

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