Media conference following an address to the Tasmanian Council of Social Services Conference, Hobart.
QUESTION: Tough sell today Minister?
MINISTER ANDREWS: The unemployment problems in Tasmania have been long-term and require an approach that is going to get people, particularly young people, into work and that’s what we’re concentrating on and that’s why we’re looking at a whole range of measures and waiting on the report from Patrick McClure as to what we might do in the future.
QUESTION: How do you think the crowd was receptive to your views?
MINISTER ANDREWS: Look as I’ve gone around the country, including here in Tasmania, people know that some aspects of the current welfare system are not working well, it’s very complex we’ve got about 75 different payments and supplements and allowances. Mr McClure has suggested we simplify that and we’re waiting on his final recommendations.
QUESTION: What are some of the challenges, I mean I know you’ve (inaudible) but specifically the challenges facing Tasmania and with the questions and some of the things Mr Reidy mentioned too, have many challenges surfaced since this conference today?
MINISTER ANDREWS: Look I think one of the big problems in Tasmania is a disconnect between people looking for work and work. I’ve had reports from some of the areas of Tasmania where they can’t find workers, in the horticulture and agriculture sector for example, and yet we know that there is high youth unemployment in particular. So the challenge for Government is to how we connect those two groups together and that’s going to take, I believe, some investment in the future so that people are on a trajectory that goes to skills and work rather than unemployment for a long period.
QUESTION: But as was touched on in the conference why are you making people wait six months, therefore almost socially exclude them, won’t that be negatively affecting them?
MINISTER ANDREWS: Well the people that that measure is for is young people under the age of thirty and they have to be capable of working full-time that is more than 30 hours a week. They’re exempted if they have general parenting responsibilities or they have some other disability. So what we’re looking at is people who are capable of working, who are not in work and the encouragement is to go and get the training, get the skills so you will have work in the future rather than being long-term unemployed.
QUESTION: Well what if jobs aren’t in their area and they are already educated to that degree that you are saying?
MINISTER: Well people can always pick up different skills and we’re encouraging people to get a job. The best way of having a job in the long-term is to get a job in the first place and that’s what we are encouraging people to do. Get a job or get some more skills that will get you a job and get you started, get a foot in the labour market.
QUESTION: And that is regardless of how skilled they may already be?
MINISTER: Look people can come out of university with degrees that may not have the vocational skills for a particular job. So even people that might have university degrees can still learn vocational skills which can help them to get a job.
QUESTION: So when you say, to the public I suppose, get a job you’re obviously quite confident that those jobs are out there and it’s literally a case of finding them?
MINISTER: Part of our challenge is to connect jobs with people who are unemployed and this is one of the things that McClure has been looking at in terms of the future. Welfare to work obviously requires work so part of our message also is to encourage employers to look more broadly, to look at people who are unemployed, to look at people who are perhaps older or disabled and think about them for their jobs.
QUESTION: So if jobs aren’t available, for example on the North West coast, you expect people to either move down to Hobart or move to the mainland to get that job?
MINISTER: And we are encouraging people to move. In the Budget there were measures that would provide financial incentives for people to move to where jobs are, and there’s been a good take-up of that so far.
QUESTION: You mentioned earlier that Canberra isn’t responsible for everything, so what role does the Government play in supporting social sectors?
MINISTER: The social sector is very important for Australians. For those who are vulnerable it is the social service organisations, the charitable groups that provide so much support and service. And the Government’s role is to support those groups, not to tell them exactly what to do which gives them some flexibility in the way in which they do it so that they can serve local communities right across Tasmania.
QUESTION: Where does Tasmania sit on your hit list? I mean is the State itself a bit of an issue for your department, or are we tracking okay?
MINISTER: Well as the TasCOSS Official said this morning Tasmania has got more challenges than any other part of Australia. We have got higher unemployment in this state, we have got higher youth unemployment and we’ve got one of the most ageing populations in the country as well so there are particular challenges in Tasmania, but they are similar to challenges right around Australia.
QUESTION: Would you like to see the social sector in Tasmania, but also across Australia, move to a more benevolent type of funding?
MINISTER: No what we’re trying to do is to say that government support is important but if we can encourage people to be more generous, Australians are very generous, but through the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership in particular we hope that we can encourage even more charitable giving in Australia and that will help the organisations and the communities they serve
QUESTION: And just finally a new survey shows that confidence in the social sector has fallen about two per cent, do you think that has anything to do with the Government’s social welfare reforms?
MINISTER: Look I found that when I go around the country that the sector generally are supportive of reform. They know that we’ve got an overly complex system, they know that trying to navigate your way through it as a recipient can be very difficult, people get quite mixed up in trying to figure out what they’re entitled to and what they’re not so generally there’s support for reform and hopefully when the McClure recommendations come out there will be support for what Mr McClure is proposing.
QUESTION: But Minister there has been a lot of disappointment over some of these social welfare reforms which have been branded as harsh and that doesn’t sound like support to me.
MINISTER: Well as I explained this morning these are not harsh reforms. What these are doing is encouraging young people in particular who can work, who can work full-time, to either be in work or getting the training that’s going to ensure that they have a better life in the future. Thank you.