Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Australians Have Their Say on Welfare Reform

I am pleased to release the report on the community consultations on Australians Working Together (AWT). The Government has placed a strong emphasis on the importance of consultation with the community and the sector.

I want to thank the many people who generously contributed to the consultations. This interaction has played a key role in ensuring AWT’s success and acceptance.

The report, Listening to the Community, highlights the support Australians have for the key concepts of AWT. It identifies some of the important issues the community wants addressed as part of the ongoing process of welfare reform.

The consultations involved thousands of people right across the country, ranging from community forums to meetings directly with welfare organisations.

The high turnout to the consultations shows that Australians have recognised the importance of the Howard Government’s AWT initiative as a first step in modernising our welfare system.

This Government has shown it is prepared to listen and to make the upfront investments needed for reform. Australians have told its Government that they don’t want a passive welfare system, instead they want personalised help to get back to work and to be more involved in the community.

The first stage of welfare reform will have its legislation introduced into Parliament in the Budget Session.

While the welfare reform agenda is progressing well, consultations showed that it is prudent to make minor changes to some of the implementation dates. In particular, the Working Credit will now start in April 2003. This will give people affected by the initiative more time to understand the changes.

Some other changes resulting from the consultation process are:

  • better integration of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership with departmental initiatives being undertaken on triple bottom line (economic, social and environmental) reporting, the organisation of disability employer forums and the re-examination of the Employer Incentive Strategies aimed at helping people with disabilities get into the paid workforce; and
  • adjustments to the timing of the evaluation of AWT to capture the full impact of measures after introduction to allow for more community input.

The report and the update on AWT implementation show that the Howard Government has listened and acted on the community’s comments.

We are a government that is keen to involve the community and will continue to do so to make sure we build what all Australians want – a stronger, modern and fairer welfare system.

Copies of the report are available at Together website or telephone 1800 050 020. People with a hearing or speech impairment can call the telephone typewriter (TTY) on 1800 055 001.

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