Budget – New participation measures for long-term unemployed, jobless families, teen parents and people with disability, income management trials.
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DENIS WALTER: Now a study has come out that says that we need to balance our work life more, get balance, work, and play. People’s leisure time, their time to actually switch off, have a bit of time for themselves maybe for a hobby has been minimised because of the amount of extra work that they’re doing, maybe they’ve got work functions to attend to. We’re not switching off enough new research has said. But with Budget cuts trying to get the Australian Budget back in the black a lot of people are going to do it tougher this year. Now I want to hear from you if you are one of the 70,000 families who are going to cut off from benefits altogether with this year’s Budget, people who have perhaps kids in childcare will no longer be able to get a rebate on their fees. And joining me is the Federal Minister for Families, Housing and Community Services, Jenny Macklin, good afternoon.
JENNY MACKLIN: Hello Denis.
DENIS WALTER: Nice to have you on the program
JENNY MACKLIN: Very good to be with you.
DENIS WALTER: First time I think?
JENNY MACKLIN: I think it might be.
DENIS WALTER: Not the last I hope?
JENNY MACKLIN: I hope not. Just on the child care rebate that you just mentioned, the child care rebate in fact doesn’t have an income test so just to make sure people know. I know there was speculation before the Budget about that but in fact that speculation wasn’t correct and so there is no income test on the child care rebate.
DENIS WALTER: So does it stay as it was?
JENNY MACKLIN: It stays as it was.
DENIS WALTER: Okay, well that’s… there’ll be a lot parents going “phew”.
JENNY MACKLIN: I hope I can give you some more good news.
DENIS WALTER: Yes well, what are we going to do. In your role, I mean there are new approaches to the disadvantaged in certain parts of communities.
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes.
DENIS WALTER: That’s a very tough call to try and actually find a way to improve people’s lot.
JENNY MACKLIN: It is, but really necessary if you look at the unemployment rate in Broadmeadows for example which is one of the areas in Victoria that we’re going to really help. The unemployment rate in Broadmeadows alone is 10%. The unemployment rate across Victoria is only 4.6% so you can see we’ve got a lot of people in the Broadmeadows area that we really do want to provide extra support for and make sure they get the opportunities to work. I think we all know that if you have generations of welfare dependents it’s no good for the parents but it’s really very, very bad for their children. We’re also going to hone in on unemployment in Shepparton. We really want to see more opportunities provided for people in Shepparton. That too is another part of Victoria where the unemployment rate is too high.
DENIS WALTER: Is it high in particular age groups? Because (inaudible) always tells me about how out in the west of Melbourne, in Footscray particularly, that area he works around Footscray, Braybrook, Yarraville, those areas, that it’s high and it’s in particular, younger age groups.
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right, and that’s the same particularly in Broadmeadows and we’ve got some really specific initiatives that we want to put in place for young people. So for teenage parents for example, one thing we know that will really help young people in general, including teenage parents, is if they get back and finish their school education or get a vocational qualification. So we’re going to put a lot of extra effort into getting those teenage parents back engaged, getting their children ready for school, making sure that they themselves are going to finish their education and also get ready for work once their children start school.
DENIS WALTER: By the way you’re speaking, teenage parents, like a unit with a young child, I wouldn’t have thought that would be the case and I think there’s a lot of pressure here on the female, on the mother, to go back and get some education. But where’s, you’re not necessarily going to have dad around?
JENNY MACKLIN: Often it’s the case that with teenage parents, many single parents, dad unfortunately is not around. Obviously when dad is around we’ll want to engage both mum and dad, but where it’s only mum we certainly do want to provide the training opportunities, the child care support, the support to get these mothers back into finishing their education and being able to get a decent job once their children go to school.
DENIS WALTER: Doesn’t it let the father off the hook though? Because if the pressure is on the mother to fulfil certain things that the Government requires to keep getting support, what about the father?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well the rules on the dads are of course applied through the child support system. So that’s the way fathers have to continue to contribute to the upbringing of their children even if dad is not in day to day contact, they are required of course as I’m sure you know, to make a regular contribution to the cost of bringing up their children.
DENIS WALTER: But with teenage pregnancies, do we always track down who the dad is?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s really a matter for the parents themselves, sometimes, and sometimes not.
DENIS WALTER: But I still feel and I don’t want to nag on this, but I still feel that the pressure is on the mother to fulfil things, it’s not on the father?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, it’s on the person who’s receiving the benefit. So if it was the father who was receiving the parenting payment, then the requirements would be on him. It really is on the person who’s receiving the benefit.
DENIS WALTER: These areas like you mentioning Broadmeadows, here in regional Victoria …..
JENNY MACKLIN: Shepparton.
DENIS WALTER: I know we have listeners in Shepparton and there are other little pockets around the State where there are problems, is it because there have been too many young families there at a certain time, is there just not enough industry, enough employment opportunities for these kids in these areas?
JENNY MACKLIN: The fundamental reason is that the overall level of unemployment is just too high and when you think about the employment opportunities in the rest of Melbourne, I think we have to recognise that for some families, some jobless families, we’ve got two and three generations where nobody’s worked. We’ve got children growing up not seeing anyone who goes out to work every day.
DENIS WALTER: Well how does a Government fix that though?
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right, that’s exactly what we’re on about though, and it’s saying to parents who are in a family where there’s long term unemployment, you have to be engaged with Centrelink, with the job services agency, improving your skills and getting back to work. And we’re going to provide parenting support, support for families to get extra training. You’re going to have to engage with Centrelink, if you don’t you can have your payments suspended.
DENIS WALTER: Haven’t we heard…..
JENNY MACKLIN: We doing a bit of stick and carrot.
DENIS WALTER: Haven’t we heard all this sort before in various guises. It must be very hard to get these people to be, just confidence wise, someone who’s been unemployed for years and years it must be terribly difficult for them to just suddenly re-engage. Or are you concerned as a Government that there are people out there who simply want to live off the Government?
JENNY MACKLIN: We do recognise that it’s hard for people once you’ve been in a family where you have generations of living on welfare so that’s why we are really putting a lot of effort in this Budget into really breaking that cycle. We don’t want people to continue to be left behind. We want people to be participating. We’ve got unemployment coming down. The employment situation in Victoria is in general, very good, so what we want to do is get these parents, in particular, back into work so that they can show their children that you’re better off working.
DENIS WALTER: When you compare a situation like kids who’ve been brought up say in the country environment and living in somewhere like Shepparton, the limited opportunities, you can sort of accept that when you think about it. But the youngsters who are out in Broadmeadows for instance, and I don’t want to, I mean it’s a suburb that you nominated as one of the problem spots, they’re only a train ride from perhaps doing some work.
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s exactly right and that’s really why I’m emphasising how good the employment situation is in Victoria because that demonstrates there is work available. We’re changing some of the rules to really give people better incentives to work so they can keep more of what they earn as they might take up some part time employment. For example, we’ve changed the rules to make that possible both for single parents and for young people. It’s exactly as you put it. There are jobs a train ride away and we want to do everything we can to help people into those jobs.
DENIS WALTER: Jenny good to have you on the program, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Have you got enough on your plate?
JENNY MACKLIN: I enjoy it very much and if there’s one thing that I’d love to be able to achieve Denis, it is to really see this generational problem of disadvantaged turned around. So thanks for having us on the program.
DENIS WALTER: That’s a pleasure. I mentioned that people don’t have that balance with all those portfolios that you have got in your life, how do you keep a balance in your life?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well fortunately my children are grown up now and I have a wonderful partner. I love to swim, that’s my, the way I get a bit of relaxation.
DENIS WALTER: All right, thanks for being on the program.
JENNY MACKLIN: Thank you.