Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

OECD conference confirms Australia continues to lead the way

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Kevin Andrews, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Australia is leading the way with practical and effective policies to increase participation in the workforce and ensure that children and young people have the best possible start in life.

The Social Policy Ministerial Meeting at the OECD in Paris, attended by the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, and the Minister for Workplace Relations, Hon Kevin Andrews MP, confirmed that Australia continues to lead the way in a range of social and economic policy areas with our approach of ‘work first’ now being adopted by many countries.

Minister Patterson said that OECD Ministers recognised the critical importance of a strong economy in providing support for families and reducing the need for government assistance.

“It is only through a strong economy that the Howard Government has been able to make a record investment in improving the affordability of child care and fund more than 250,000 extra child care places, which has undoubtedly contributed to our record low unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent.

“I am now more determined than ever to ensure that the Australian Government continues to play its part in improving parents’ access to high quality and affordable child care.

“I will be making sure that allocated places are fully utilised and continuing to urge state and territory governments to improve their regulations so that parents have peace of mind that their children are receiving the highest quality care,” said Minister Patterson.

Minister Andrews said Australia was at the forefront of reform through its pursuit of active welfare and workforce participation. The Australian Government’s policy of mutual obligation and practical programs such as Job Network and Work for the Dole were keenly discussed throughout the two day conference.

“The Australian Government believes that having a job provides far more than financial reward alone and will continue to pursue reforms to create more jobs and higher wages so all Australians can share in the nation’s growing prosperity.

“The Howard Government is committed to a focus on ability, supporting people with disabilities to provide more opportunities to participate in the economic and social life of the wider community and achieving better outcomes for individuals,” said Minister Andrews.

Minister Patterson said: “Attending the meeting has also strengthened my commitment to exempt people, such as those who are genuinely disabled and unable to work, from any requirement to look for work.”

“Minister from other countries were very interested in Australian Government policies such as the innovative Communities for Children program which delivers services tailored to the needs of local communities by combining their own knowledge and expertise with that of non-government organisations,” said Minister Patterson.

Minister Andrews said the Australian Government will continue to pursue reforms to create more jobs and higher wages so all Australians can share in the nation’s growing prosperity – a message strongly reinforced to the OECD conference.

“If we are to succeed in improving participation in work, especially for the disadvantaged, it is imperative we sustain a globally competitive economy. Australia now has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve lower unemployment and higher workforce participation.”

“Australia risks missing this opportunity, if our social systems and institutions fail to keep pace with the evolution of the economy and the needs of all those who wish to participate,” said Minister Andrews.

The Ministers noted that many OECD countries were now either pursuing or considering introducing mutual obligation policies, which were initially rejected by Labor but have been a successful feature of the Howard Government’s approach to welfare reform for many years.