Transcript by Hon Kevin Andrews MP

2G Breakfast with Chris Smith

Program: 2GB Breakfast


CHRIS SMITH: One of the more impressive aspects of the Abbott Government’s first budget was the changes to unemployment benefits. Their philosophy is for Australia to be a work ready nation not a welfare nation which I think it’s fair to say we’ve almost become. They want young people either working or in education and training. Now the belief is some people have been relying on benefits for too long, if you give people an inch they will take a mile and the Treasurer made the point that the age of entitlement is over. It’s time for us all to tighten our belts and it’s all on the back of empty promises from Labor who threw money around as bribes before the election.

Kevin Andrews is the Minister for Social Services and he’s on the line right now. Minister good morning.

MINISTER: Good morning Chris.

CHRIS SMITH: The figures reported today, I made mention of them about 30 minutes ago, they are quite alarming. There were 734,866 people on Newstart or Youth Allowance, the junior version, in April. But why do more than 50 per cent of them not have to look for work because of job search exemptions, we’re giving them all the opportunity they need to not try and find a job.

MINISTER: That’s true Chris, there’s been, I think, a fairly slack attitude taken in the past to say to young people in particular who are capable of working give you all sorts of excuses not to go out and get a job and we’re saying to them now essentially you should get a job, if you’re not in a job then we’ll give you some assistance to get into training so you’ve got the skills for a job in the future.

CHRIS SMITH: You’ve got 74,042 exempt because they had a doctor’s certificate, you know it’s the same with the Disability Support Pension, don’t we need a tougher system of medical certificates to ensure that legitimate Disability Support Pension recipients and those who are not working are able to get their payments but at the same time get those who can work and get those who are able bodied back into contributing to the country.

MINISTER: And that’s the approach we’re taking, for people under 30 there’s a new earn or learn approach. There are some exemptions; if people aren’t capable of working more than 30 hours a week, if they’re principle carers of children or they’re somebody on disability employment services there are exemptions, but where a person is essentially able bodied, able to work more than 30 hours then our attitude is that the best thing for that person and indeed for the whole community is they’re either working or getting the skills to get a job in the future.

CHRIS SMITH: But Minister why don’t we have a situation where after a year you’ve got to change the doctor or get two doctor’s certificates? Because obviously there are some, and there are minimal numbers no doubt, there are some doctors who have a very very generous, I guess, working and social relationship with some of their patients and they tend to get certificates fairly easily. Don’t we need to tighten that up and why under 30, why don’t you scrutinise those under 50?

MINISTER: Well firstly for the Disability Support Pension there has been a tightening, and to be fair to the previous Government they narrowed the impairment tables they brought them more up to date and that did lead to a reduction of people going onto the DSP. There have also been improvements in terms of not just the local doctor making assessments but a team of people looking at the capacity of the individual to work. So there have been some changes there but we’re going to continue to monitor that because with 830,000 people on the DSP it’s far too many for the population of Australia.

CHRIS SMITH: There’s a story in the Herald today that 80 per cent of people on Newstart in Sydney’s inner west could not afford dental care, half of them can’t buy new clothes, 40 per cent can’t afford medicines, what’s your reaction to that?

MINISTER: Well Newstart as the name suggests is not meant to be a permanent payment. Newstart is actually a payment for a person who is out of work with the view of getting back into work and the reality is that about 50 per cent of people who go on Newstart get a job within six months. So what we need to do is to concentrate especially on that group that don’t get back within six months usually because of some reason such as a lack of skills, for example, and make sure that we have a better provision for them so they can get back into work. Newstart is not a high payment, I acknowledge that I wouldn’t want to live on it for very long at all but it’s not meant to be a long-term welfare benefit.

CHRIS SMITH: And what we don’t want is to have other young people, once we put pressure on them, out of work and trying to find other ways of supplementing their lifestyle and that can lead to crime and possibly a life of crime.

MINISTER: That’s true the best thing that a young person can do is to get into a course and get the training and skills which will get them a job and to take a job frankly. I remember the first job I took wasn’t the ideal job, it wasn’t the job I wanted but by getting that job, getting a few more skills, being seen as responsible in the workplace then you get another job and that’s been the way for a long time but we’ve got to encourage that attitude again.

CHRIS SMITH: Yeah we’ve got to encourage that attitude, thank you. You’ve got a hell of a job on your hands; I don’t fancy it but anyway good luck, thank you Minister.

MINISTER: Thank you Chris good to talk to you.