Interview with Naomi Woodley on ABC AM

  • Assistant Minister for Employment

TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Government says unemployed people will be expected to accept a work-for-the-dole job if they want to continue receiving welfare benefits. The Coalition has long promised to reinstate a compulsory work programme for recipients of Newstart. The Assistant Employment Minister, Luke Hartsuyker, says the Government is still working on the details, but would like to see unemployed people take on temporary jobs like maintenance work for councils or aged care facilities. He's speaking here to AM's Naomi Woodley.

LUKE HARTSUYKER: We'll be releasing details of the implementation of work-for-the-dole in due course. There is not a start date locked in at this point in time. But currently I have been working on the ways in which we implement the programme in an efficient and effective way.

NAOMI WOODLEY: What kind of jobs would you like to see people doing, for how long, and how do you get around the problem of them taking away a valid position from someone in the employment market?

LUKE HARTSUYKER: The Government's very focused on ensuring that work-for-the-dole does not replace paid employment, but we also want to ensure that placements are as work-like as possible, and there would be placements in the traditional team environment, which we've seen a lot of in the past, where a crew of workers would build a walkway or conduct a particular project. But I'm also working with stakeholders to look at ways in which we can have people working with host not-for-profit employers - they would simply host the job seeker as part of their activity. And that might be a maintenance activity in the grounds of an aged care facility, for instance. We would not intend that work-for-the-dole participants would be involved in any way in the care of patients, for example.

NAOMI WOODLEY: They'd still have to have, I presume, though some form of police check or clearances. Isn't that a regulatory problem, even if they're not providing care, to have somebody working in a space which has vulnerable people in it, like aged-care residents.

LUKE HARTSUYKER: Look, absolutely, and they're the sort of details that I'm working through at the moment to ensure that the placements that are made are appropriate.

NAOMI WOODLEY: How much is this programme going to cost the Government. Are you going to be paying out more in, at least, in the short term?

LUKE HARTSUYKER: Look, we're currently working through the financial details of options for introducing such a plan. But the bottom line is that getting people into work is a huge benefit to our community. It's a huge financial benefit and it's a huge community benefit. Because many of the problems we see in society come as a direct result of the deprivation that occurs through lack of work.

NAOMI WOODLEY: How far would people have to travel to participate in these programmes, and if there's not one close to them are they exempt, or how do you get around that problem?

LUKE HARTSUYKER: Well, look, I'm currently working through all these types of details. Quite clearly people on benefits financially struggle to travel long distances to participate in an activity. So we would be looking to place job seekers as close to their place of residence as possible.

NAOMI WOODLEY: And what would happen to someone if they refused to take a spot in one of these programmes?

LUKE HARTSUYKER: It would be very much a case of you would be expected to do so if you would wish to receive benefits, which are funded by taxpayers who go to work every day. The very least those taxpayers can expect is that where there is a work-for-the-dole placement available for a jobseeker, that they accept it.

TONY EASTLEY: The Assistant Employment Minister, Luke Hartsuyker, speaking there to Naomi Woodley.

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