Newstart, Earn or Learn, Disability Support Pension
RAY HADLEY: As I mentioned earlier people who are fit to work have been relying on Centrelink for the past 23 years we’re told by News Limited today. The Daily Telegraph reports that 88 people in NSW have been on Newstart since it was introduced in 1991. Official Records don’t date back any further meaning there’s no indication as to how long some people have been on welfare benefits. Singles on Newstart are paid $510.50 a fortnight, now the purpose of the payment is to help support people, quote, while they look for a job. There are currently 213,000 on some form of benefit in NSW, an unemployment benefit, the dole. In the Budget the Federal Government announced it would make unemployed people under 30 wait for six months before receiving Newstart.
The Federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews joins me on the line. Minister good morning to you.
MINISTER ANDREWS: Good morning Ray and congratulations on your decade at the top.
RAY HADLEY: Thank you very much, it’s most appreciated. Now I’ll just tell you this story and you know I repeat it anecdotally on air all the time, I was ready for work about the time of the Whitlam Government. Back then you had to be over 21 and married to get any form of benefit if you’re unemployed, the rules changed. I’ve now got people, not that I socialise with but people I know at a distance who I knew back then, who have basically been unemployed and they are approaching 60 as I am. Their children have been unemployed and I figure that their grandchildren may have been unemployed we’re talking about you know second and third generation unemployment. Is there any statistic to back that up, you know that there are long-term unemployed apart from what was published today?
MINISTER ANDREWS: Yes there are Ray, the reality is, as you point out, there is intergenerational unemployment and often intergenerational poverty that goes with that and that’s why we are trying to take some measures to tighten the way in which people can get onto Newstart or unemployment benefits, and particularly to aim them at young people so we cut this cycle of intergenerational unemployment.
RAY HADLEY: Given that Newstart is supposed to be an interim measure while you get a job, can there be any explanation how someone can be on it for 23 years or longer?
MINISTER ANDREWS: The only explanation is that the system has failed because Newstart by definition means that a person is fit to be able to work. If they weren’t fit to be able to work then they would qualify for something like the Disability Support Pension, but if they’re on Newstart and remain on Newstart they are by definition capable of working.
RAY HADLEY: So given that we’ve now identified them and given they’ve now been unemployed for 23 years how do you wean them off the public purse and get them back in the workforce in any way, shape or form?
MINISTER ANDREWS: That’s very difficult because we know from all the research and all the anecdotal evidence is the longer a person is out of the workforce, the longer they’re disconnected from work then it becomes so much more difficult to get them back in. They tend to lose skills, they tend to lose confidence, they don’t have the psychological outlook that you need for someone to get into work and it becomes difficult. So that’s why, while this is a problem, our effort is really at the other end and that is to make sure that young people in particular don’t ever get into this situation in the future.
RAY HADLEY: Hence you’ve introduced this six month wait for people under 30 before they receive Newstart. How will that specifically work, how will that be operational?
MINISTER ANDREWS: Well what we’re saying is if you are capable of working, and there are some exemptions, you have to be a capable of working essentially full-time because it is somebody who can work 30 hours a week or more, which is six hours a day, so it’s virtually someone capable of working full-time and you’re under 30 then we have an expectation that if you’re not in a job then you should be getting the skills, you should be getting the training that will get you into a job. So if you come out of school or university, you haven’t done any work, then you won’t be able to automatically go onto Newstart you’ll have to wait for a period of six months. But if you want to avoid that then there’s one simple pathway to do that and that is to get into a training or a skills program and you’ll get the assistance that you’d normally get through things like Youth Allowance or Austudy to do that.
RAY HADLEY: Do you think it will go through the Senate?
MINISTER ANDREWS: Look I hope so Ray because this is a very practical, sensible measure to ensure that we don’t have the problem the papers have identified this morning of people who’ve been on unemployment benefits for years, and in some cases decades. It’s not good for them, it’s not good for their communities, it’s bad for their families because it then can set up this cycle of intergenerational unemployment and it’s certainly not good for the economy.
RAY HADLEY: Okay to another issue. State of Origin number two comes up June 18 do you think anyone from the front bench will be asking Clive Palmer out for a feed?
MINISTER ANDREWS: I love your humour Ray…
RAY HADLEY: The answer would be none.
MINISTER ANDREWS: Now being a Victorian I have to confess I have probably a little less interest in the State of Origin than maybe someone from New South Wales or Queensland.
RAY HADLEY: If you have no interest then you fall into line with Malcolm Turnbull because he has no interest either because he went to the first one for a feed with Clive who should also be watching it because he is a Queenslander.
MINISTER ANDREWS: Yes well let’s hope they’re both watching, I hope that they’re supporting their respective sides. You know if Victoria ever got into State of Origin, but we’re a little way from that I suspect.
RAY HADLEY: I suspect you might be. On a more serious issue, I’ve spoken extensively for about two days about Clive Palmer’s comments regarding, and I know the Prime Minister would prefer people not to talk about it; I’m talking about from his side of politics, this really despicable attack on Peta Credlin. Now we’re all capable of doing the wrong thing, me more than most, but when we obviously do the wrong thing the next step is to repair the damage, apologise publicly and personally to the person you’ve damaged. Now this woman has been vilified in the most atrocious terms by Palmer using Parliamentary Privilege. He had an opportunity yesterday to review that and to rectify it by apologising, he hasn’t done that. Now is there anyway anyone can get through his thick skull that what he said was incorrect, it was unnecessary and was really, really poor form?
MINISTER ANDREWS; Well I agree Ray; his comments were totally out of line. After he made that he went out and then compounded it by what he said later on instead of apologising. Look there are times when all of us say things which, maybe we didn’t mean to say or it just slipped out, but when that happens the best effort is to then appreciate the mistake you’ve made and the hurt that you’ve caused. I mean, you know, it has been on the public record for some time now that Peta Credlin has tried to have a child and has been unable to do, so this is particularly hurtful for her in those circumstances. I think there has been pretty much universal condemnation of Mr Palmer in relation to this and I think he should be big enough to apologise.
RAY HADLEY: Well he’s certainly big enough, but whether he’s big enough to apologise is entirely a matter for him, but I despair. What happened, one of my listeners, because I said we need the people of Fairfax to take account of this and what I did just a short time ago was go through the fact that he was beaten by 12,500 primary votes by the Liberal National Party Candidate but still somehow got home on preferences, it’s inexplicable.
MINISTER ANDREWS: Yes well that’s, you know, the political system as you can see in Canberra at the moment throws up some interesting results.
RAY HADLEY: Okay good luck in the Senate with this. I think it’s long overdue refinements to what has become just an out of proportion welfare state that we have in Australia.
MINISTER ANDREWS: We’ll press on with it and hopefully the Senators will see sense.
RAY HADLEY: Okay thank you Mr Andrews.
MINISTER ANDREWS: Thanks Ray.
RAY HADLEY: That’s Federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews.