Media Release by The Hon Christian Porter MP

Labor wrong on volunteers

The Turnbull Government’s welfare reforms will help people over 55 into work.

Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, rejected claims by Labor’s Brendan O’Connor and Ed Husic that the reforms would see volunteer groups lose volunteers.

“Currently, unemployed people aged 55 to 59 are not actually required to engage in job preparation or job search, if they decide instead to meet mutual obligation requirements through volunteering alone,” Minister Porter said.

“If Labor fail to support these reforms they are willingly consigning older job seekers over 55 to a life on welfare until they transition to the Age Pension.

“Studies show job seekers are 13 times more likely to find work when they are actively seeking it and the OECD specifically recommended mutual obligation requirements for mature age job seekers be consistent with other age groups. It is no longer in line with community standards for the welfare system to not make real efforts to help Australians between 55 and 59 prepare for and search for work.

“The Government’s reforms will require this group to undertake 30 hours of activity a fortnight. Recognising that volunteering can build skills to assist in the search for work, half of this required activity can be met by volunteering, but half of the activity must be dedicated to the preparation for, and search for, work.

“Only 7,500 out of the approximately 40,000 people on Newstart aged between 55 and 59 currently undertake only volunteering activities to meet all their mutual obligations. And nothing in our reform package prevents those people continuing to volunteer.

“The Turnbull Government is also supporting older workers in the search for work with measures such as the $110 million Mature Age Re-skilling Package announced in the last Budget to help older job seekers increase and diversify their skills.

“In claiming a negative impact on volunteering, Labor conveniently ignores the fact that our reforms will also require about 45,000 job seekers aged over 60 to undertake 10 hours activity requirement per fortnight – all of which can be met through volunteering – providing a boost to the volunteering sector by providing a net increase of up to 337,000 volunteering hours per fortnight. So how can the reform be considered to be a disadvantaging volunteering groups when it could provide 337,000 hours more volunteering a fortnight?

“There’s no doubt that many mature-age job seekers want to, and can, contribute to the community both through paid work and volunteering.

“They should be encouraged and assisted in this endeavour, as the Turnbull Government is doing.”