Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

2GB Alan Jones

Program: 2GB


JONES: Scott Morrison is going to have to be the bearer of some bad tidings. I suspect he’ll be equal to the charge. I thought we’d have a word with him, he’s on the line, good morning.

MINISTER MORRISON: Good morning, Alan.

JONES: Well a new portfolio, the welfare advocates say that you are proposing changes and those changes will rob people of their money. How do you change the culture of the nation that welfare shouldn’t be an attractive option for young people after school?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I’m glad you put it like that, because of all the briefings you can imagine you receive when you become a new minister, one of the things that concerned me most was when I was told that at the end of school what happens each year is too often we see parents coming in to Centrelink with the Centrelink brochure as if it’s some sort of catalogue and the first place people go, for some, is to see what welfare they can get on to. Now Centrelink should be the last place people should be going, the first place they should be going, in our view, is to do whatever we can to get people into work. Now I have no doubt there are thousands of people across the country who have very legitimate reasons why that won’t be possible, but it is possible for all Australians to do all they can to make sure they carry as much weight as they can because if they don’t someone else is going to have to carry it for them and people with genuine disabilities, people with genuine impairments and other things of that nature, I know, genuinely want to do all they can to support themselves.

JONES: OK, simple question therefore: should a dole payment be immediately available for school leavers?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well we’ve already got some measures before the Senate that would radically change a number of that. Now there’s been a big debate about that and there’s a debate about the detail but I think the principle–

JONES: Well the common sense answer is no, isn’t it?

MINISTER MORRISON: The principle is, you want people, particularly when they’re in the situation where they say they’re still at home and things like that, to be out there and looking for a job because every benefit we pay, every dollar we pay out in welfare, has got to be paid by a taxpayer. There are a lot of advocates for people who receive benefits, but frankly we need some advocates for those who pay for the benefits, and that’s the taxpayers.

JONES: Good on you, good on you. You see, support for mobility – this is something people don’t know about – under your government, the Abbott government, has never been more generous. A job seeker can receive up to $6,000 if they move to where there is a job, $9,000 if they have kids and under 30’s who stay employed for two years receive another $6,500, but of course people say, that’s not the job I want.

MINISTER MORRISON: We’ve got to get people taking the jobs that are there and we’ve got to make sure the jobs are there also, that’s why growing the economy is important. Now you ran over a whole range of figures about where things were left in terms of the budget in particular and they’re the things we’re trying to fix.

JONES: Why is it OK, for example, for Noel Pearson, and I admire him enormously, or Garrumul Yunupingu to say “welfare kills” – they’re talking about indigenous Australians – “welfare kills”. It’s got an all pervasive power to suck the life out of individuals and we say “oh Yunupingu’s a hero, Noel Pearson’s a hero” – you say that, Tony Abbott say’s that – “oh they’re they are, out to rob people”.

MINISTER MORRISON: I think there is a big inconsistency in all that, but they are both right and Tony Abbott is right when he talk about this and I believe I’m on the right track with it also, because the thing about welfare is this; when you’re on welfare your choices are reduced, your opportunity to go and do many things that you would like to do is reduced. If you can get off welfare, if you can get yourself into work, if you can get yourself into position where you’re making choices and the government isn’t making choices for you, that’s a good thing. Welfare – you can look it up in the dictionary – it says it’s about doing what’s for people’s good. Well it’s not good for people to get trapped in welfare for a lifetime and particularly for younger people we have a real burden I think, a real task to ensure people don’t start their life out on welfare.

JONES: Now on that, young people, how do though young job seekers apply for 40 jobs a month before they can get unemployment benefit, is that a bit over the odds?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I think we’ve got to look at a lot of these things Alan and as I’ve gone through a lot of the measures over the last month you can expect that I’m seeing how some can be adjusted, some can be made to work better, because you’ve got to look at what the objective is. The objective is to get someone in to work not getting someone filling in a whole bunch of paperwork. It’s the same thing about why we want to do things in welfare reform. You talked before about some of the comparisons with ten years ago, well ten years ago the welfare bill was about $80 billion, today it is $150 billion – it’s growing at about five to six per cent, in some cases much more than that. Over 100,000 extra people went on the DSP under the Labor government – over 100,000. Now that is not sustainable.

JONES: See self-reliance is a distant memory, isn’t it? I mean the notion that someone else is responsible for us, someone else is responsible for our education, someone else is responsible for
our health, someone else is responsible for our childcare – I mean, it goes on and on. Where do we say to people -you need to be self-reliant, we need to be independent, not dependent. We’ve lost that fight.

MINISTER MORRISON: Why would you want to be dependent? I know there are a lot of people who are dependent on the system who would prefer not to be but because of the situation, and I’ll give you an example, carers – the saints of the country – people who for many years, through no fault of their own, find themselves having to, and wanting to, care for a loved one and they will go through years and years and they receive a support payment as they should and that obviously has to continue but what we have to do for carers is make sure over that period of time that they can stay connected, because there will come a day when they want to re-join the workforce and other things like that and it’s very hard for carers to do that.

JONES: They don’t get tax cuts, carers, do they? They don’t get tax cuts because they don’t get an income.

MINISTER MORRISON: Well that’s right. And there’s superannuation that’s suspended for that period of time…

JONES: So how do you win this battle? You mentioned before the figure, $150 billion, it’s $146 billion this year on welfare, $146 billion – that’s 35% of our entire budget. You mentioned the Disability Support Pension, $16 billion a year, 800,000 people claiming a pension, more than 2,000 people a week claiming a disability support pension! Surely there’s no way in the world there are 2,000 people every single week who suddenly become unable to work and disabled?

MINISTER MORRISON: And that’s why integrity measures are so important and there have been integrity measures introduced already, including the requirement to go to a government doctor to get on the DSP and not to someone else who can just sign a form and get them on to that payment.

JONES: Just make that point again, just make that point again, because you said that too quickly. So basically you’re saying that any new disability support pension applicant will have to see a Commonwealth appointed doctor – Commonwealth appointed – so you don’t doctor shop and run around until you find a medico who will sign you up for welfare.

MINISTER MORRISON: That’s right and we need to make sure there are more integrity measures and the ability to enforce those because there are people who genuinely need the DSP. Look, Australians are very generous and they want to support people who genuinely need it, but they don’t want to be taken for mugs and have other people bludge off the system. Now there are a lot of people who receive payments for a whole range of reasons, deserving people as I mentioned carers before, people on the age pension worked their whole life, payed taxes, the deal they had with the government growing up and over their working life was the generation on the aged pension today I work hard, I get a pension at the other end, that was their deal. Now for my generation Alan, when I left school, the deal changed and rightly I think. Ultimately, over a generation, and that’s the sort of timeframe you need, when I finish work, I’ve got to provide for my own retirement income and people of my generation, that’s our deal.

JONES: That said Scott, that said, currently multimillionaires can access the age pension. A couple with a $5 million home and $100,000 in case is eligible for the pension. Now we’re going to have to
address these very, very difficult issues, there are many people getting the pension who aren’t entitled to it and the people paying for that are the young people in work.

MINISTER MORRISON: Well that’s right and all taxpayers are paying for it ultimately. As I said, every dollar you pay out is a dollar the taxpayer has to fund and we need to be very conscious of that. If we’re talking about ageing, there’s been a lot of commentary lately, Joe’s talked about the child born somewhere in Australia that’s going to live to 150, there’ll be 50,000 centenarians I think by 2050.

JONES: You’re hoping to be one of them aren’t you?

MINISTER MORRISON: I’ll be well on my way by then!

JONES: Listen we’re running out of time, I want to ask you one question and a quick one, in this climate, does Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme stand up?

MINISTER MORRISON: Every measure I’m looking at Alan has to pass one test – does it improve participation in the workforce, does it get people involved. I’m having a very close look at that, the Prime Minister and I have obviously had a lot of discussions about how we take our families package forward and we’ll continue to work on that and let me just leave that there.

JONES: OK. Good on you. OK and we’ll talk again. Keep at it, it’s critical. $153 billion dollar bill, it’s got to be reduced. Good to talk to you Scott Morrison.