Interview with Marius Benson ABC NewsRadio

Transcript
  • Assistant Minister for Employment

E&OE TRANSCRIPT
Subject: Work for the Dole

COMPERE:

Hundreds of thousands of people now on the dole could soon be required to work as rubbish collectors, gardeners in public parks, and in aged care homes, for no pay, under federal government plans.

The government's work for the dole scheme could see people now receiving New Start payments lose their benefits if they don't carry out the unpaid work or if they refuse a job offer. Luke Hartsuyker is the Assistant Minister for Employment. He's speaking here to Marius Benson.

MARIUS BENSON:

Luke Hartsuyker, good morning.

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Good morning.

MARIUS BENSON:

Can I just clarify what are you planning? What will change and how soon?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Look, we're currently working through proposals to put in place the government's commitment that if you're not in work and you're not in serious studies that are working towards a job that you should be participating in a work for dole program of some type.

And that's something that the Government made very clear in the run up to the election campaign and we're currently looking at ways of methodically moving this policy proposal forward.

MARIUS BENSON:

I think the number I've seen reported is there are eight hundred and five thousand people on unemployment benefits at the moment. How would you expect that number to change if this has the impact you're hoping for?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, one of the things that work for the dole has the capacity to do is to give people the sort of soft skills that employers say they need. Many skills that people in work take for granted such as turning up on time every day, coming dressed presentably, and so on and so forth, some jobseekers don't have those skills and work for the dole is a great way of imparting what they call the soft skills on to people who are looking for work.

In many cases work for the dole can lead to a job by exposure to other people in the workplace. We saw in the Howard years that work for the dole was very successful in improving the placement rates for jobseekers.

That situation was allowed to deteriorate under the previous government and we're looking to use work for the dole as one of the tools in providing opportunities to get people into a job. We're committed to putting a million people into jobs and creating a million jobs over five years and two million jobs over ten years.

MARIUS BENSON:

You're talking about soft skills, and also this involves a three month appointment, this work for the dole, that you can only work for an employer for three months. Can you really do anything very useful - can you learn any useful skills, can you make a real contribution, can you do hard work, in just three months?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, I'll just reiterate the point that we are currently working through proposals to introduce work for the dole in a measured way.

A placement of around three months can be a very useful means of imparting skills for people and if we can make the placement as work-like as possible - and that's one of the things I'm very keen to achieve, is to provide a placement that provides useful skills to the jobseeker, as well as assisting the host organisation if we're able to achieve a placement perhaps with a not-for-profit host organisation - I think there are some great benefits.

And many participants in work for the dole will tell you that they have derived a great benefit from work for the dole if not a job.

MARIUS BENSON:

You mentioned not-for-profit organisations there. Who would you expect these people to be placed with for three months, because the reports today talk about them working in aged care homes, perhaps, working in public parks. Would you see them as doing jobs for councils?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Look, councils could be a possible employer and the aged care example that you give is - it is a possible location but let's make it very clear, those people wouldn't be engaged in giving care. Perhaps a work for the dole placement could be assisting the maintenance team, perhaps in painting the outside of the building, or doing an improvement in the garden, or whatever that might be.

So it's not an intention of this scheme to replace paid employment. The very clear intention is to provide an opportunity that can expose people to work-like activities with the hope of getting them into a job.

MARIUS BENSON:

How would you avoid it replacing paid employment, because if a wall needs to be painted and an aged care home, say, has to pay someone to do it, or on the other hand they've got someone who'll do it for nothing under this work for the dole scheme, that's a cheaper option. Is it not open to exploitation?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, there are a great many organisations who are prevented from doing many things that they want to do because they simply don't have the funds, and that is where we see this work for the dole hosted activity potentially working. Giving not-for-profit organisations access to additional labour which would allow them to do things that they may not otherwise be able to do.

MARIUS BENSON:

And that danger of exploitation?

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Well look, I think that the Australian taxpayer believes that if you're in receipt of benefits you should give back to the community, and I know that many jobseekers believe that too.

And I think it's reasonable to expect that a jobseeker will make every effort to get a job and that if participating in a work-like activity is a way of moving towards a job I think that they should be expected to do it and in most cases would be keen to do it.

MARIUS BENSON:

Luke Hartsuyker, thank you very much.

LUKE HARTSUYKER:     

Thanks Marius.

 

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