Welfare Review Press Conference
Question: So Kevin what does this new overhaul include?
Minister: What we’re concerned about is there are more than 1,000 people each week joining the Disability Support Group, that’s a large number in total it’s more than 800,000 now and we’re concerned that where people can work the best form of welfare is work, and so we want to help people to be able to stay in work wherever possible.
Question: And what will the scheme involve if it’s implemented?
Minister: We’re just waiting for advice at the moment from Patrick McClure and his group of experts which will give us some ideas about what we can do. We’ve been looking at various options, and his report will come soon and we will publish it and then take further consultation from the public.
Question: But some of it does involve the people that are already on the pension being reassessed by independent doctors?
Minister: What we want to ensure is that people who need a safety net get a safety net, and I can assure all people that need a safety net there will be one there but, by the same token, we know that if people can work that is the best thing for them individually, for their families and for the broader community.
Question: Is this a cost saving measure?
Minister: What we’re looking at is how we can keep more people in work. If they’re in work they’re likely to be earning more, they’re likely to be happier, they’re likely to contribute more to their own families and therefore to better society.
Question: What do we say to groups concerned that you’ll be targeting the most vulnerable Australians?
Minister: People who need a safety net will continue to have a safety net. People who are in need of a disability pension will continue to get the disability pension. What we want to ensure is, particularly for those who prospectively might go onto the pension if we can help them to stay in work, even part-time work, then that’s a better outcome for them.
Question: How far back would you be willing to go in terms of these reassessments, will you set a limit?
Minister: What we do know is that if people have been on the pension for more than a few years then they have likely to have deteriorated and therefore it becomes not a sensible thing to go back and try and test everybody. What we want to ensure is people who may be young for example, who may have just recently gone onto the pension, to check whether or not they need to stay on that pension or whether or not with some support they could actually be in work.
Question: Will this cost more to implement independent testing and independent assessments than it will save money?
Minister: If we went and tried to test everybody on the DSP then that would be a waste of money because most people would remain on the DSP. So we’re not aimed at the great bulk of people on the DSP it’s really looking at whether or not, as I said, particularly young people, younger people say under the age of 30, 35, who prospectively might go onto the DSP if we can keep them in work then we know that’s a better outcome for them and overall a saving for the taxpayer.
Question: When will the report into welfare be released and is it wise to be pre-empting it?
Minister: At the moment there’s an interim report from Mr McClure, we hope to release that in the next week or two. That’s in the form of a discussion paper and it sets out a whole series of questions for further consultation with the community and I hope that through that consultation we’ll be able to look at a better welfare system in the future.
Question: You said a thousand are joining, is it a thousand a week that are going on the pension?
Minister: There’s something like 2,500 people applying each week and over 1,000 people a week are being qualified for the DSP, so this is 830,000 Australians currently and about a thousand or more a week are being added to that number.
Question: What do you predict the cost blowout would be if it continued this way?
Minister: This is a cost of some $15b a year to the Australian taxpayer, if it continues under the current rate it will be close to $18b by 2016-17.
Question: Do you think this has this affected people’s Easter?
Minister: We believe in a genuine safety net for vulnerable Australians. If people are disabled and they need the disability pension they will continue to get it, if people are out of work and they need unemployment benefits they will continue to get them. We want a decent safety net but we also want to encourage people who can work to be able to get into the workforce.