Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Australians Working Together – Helping People to Move Forward – A $1.7 Billion Fair Deal

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Tony Abbott MP , Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone, and the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business the Hon Tony Abbott MP, today announced comprehensive improvements to Australia’s social support system for working age people.

Australians Working Together provides a package worth $1.7 billion over the next four years.

“The Howard Government has delivered on its promise. Australians Working Together is about strengthening and modernising Australia’s unique social safety net. It is not about cutting welfare,” Senator Vanstone said.

“This is the first step, in a long-awaited and much-needed modernisation process for our income support system. The personalised assistance that this package will provide will help people make the most of the opportunities available to them.

“Helping people to get a job is the best way to combat the problem of long-term unemployment. This package offers significant support and services to help people to help themselves.”

“The package is another key plank in the Government’s ongoing economic and social reforms,” said Tony Abbott.

“It builds on the Government’s employment assistance and mutual obligation policies that have attracted such widespread support amongst participants and the broader community,” Tony Abbott said.

Senator Vanstone said the new system would provide improved personalised assessment and service, more opportunities for training and work experience, better incentives, and reasonable requirements for people to find work, increase their earnings or contribute to their communities.

Australians Working Together extends assistance to new groups,” said Senator Vanstone. There’s more assistance for parents, including childcare. There’s increased help for mature age people to update their skills, and better assessments and more employment assistance for people with disabilities.”

“The package introduces a Working Credit and two new programmes,” Senator Vanstone said. “The Working Credit supports part-time and temporary casual work – we should reward, not penalise, people willing to take that first step back into a paid job. The Personal Support Programme will provide intensive support to people whose personal problems make finding work very difficult. The Transition to Work Programme will help parents, carers and mature age job seekers who are returning to the workforce.

“Helping people to get a job is their best way to economic independence. This package offers significant support and services to help people to help themselves,” said Tony Abbott. “Australians Working Together strengthens the Government’s employment assistance, mutual obligation and service delivery reforms and, of course, our contracted service providers.”

Intensive Assistance is being enhanced and there will be extra Job Search Training places. More Work for the Dole places are being made available and there will be greater opportunities for community work through Community Work Coordinators. New Training Credits will also be available for eligible job seekers, including mature age and indigenous job seekers, to gain work-related skills.

Employment assistance will be better linked so we can deliver the right assistance to the right people at the right time. This will involve an expanded role for providers. These changes are based on evidence of what works best.

Many indigenous people face significant disadvantage, particularly in the areas of housing, education and employment. The unemployment rate for Indigenous Australians is more than three times the rate for all Australians.

“The package meets these needs in a practical way, and provides support to improve the prospects of indigenous people and communities,” said Tony Abbott. “We will provide meaningful participation opportunities in remote areas with community participation agreements, establish Indigenous Employment Centres in areas where there are jobs available, and increase education and training opportunities for indigenous people.”

“People have different circumstances, skills, barriers and requirements, so a number of support pathways will be developed, each providing a capacity to match assistance and services to individual needs,” said Senator Vanstone. “The needs of the individual are paramount.”

“Centrelink will be the gateway to the new system. But we are asking more from Centrelink, and we are providing more money so they can get the job done,” said Senator Vanstone. “Centrelink Personal Advisers will provide a high level of service to people needing additional help to overcome personal or other barriers.”

“In December the Government said that Welfare Reform would be amongst the highest funding priorities for this Budget,” said Tony Abbott. “The Government has delivered on that promise, not with handouts, but with policies that will deliver real benefits to individual Australians, and Australia as a whole.”