2GB with Steve Price

Subject/s: Jobactive, mutual obligation

STEVE PRICE: Now, Newstart is to help you get through that period between loss of a job and starting a new one, or if you’ve just left study or university you use it until you can find yourself full‑time employment. But a lot of people try and scam the system. There’s some figures out today show that more than 2.3 million payment suspensions of Newstart in a 12 month period. That seems like a hell of a lot. The Minister in charge of this area is Michaelia Cash. Pleased to say she’s on the line. Minister, good morning.

MINISTER CASH: Good morning Steve, good morning to your listeners.

STEVE PRICE: This is a tightening up, is it, of the way that Newstart is used?

MINISTER CASH: Well, what the figures actually show is that the system is, by and large, working because when the majority of people have their payments suspended, the overwhelming majority, they re‑engage with the program. The program is designed to get you off welfare and into work and the majority of people, while, yes, they may miss an appointment here and there, they actively re‑engage and ultimately move through Newstart within about 12 months.

STEVE PRICE: How is it supposed to work, given ‑ just take an example I lose my job tomorrow, just ‑ highly likely probably ‑ and I ‑ I then need to apply for Newstart, how actively do I then need to look for a new job?

MINISTER CASH: Okay, so if you’re in receipt of a welfare payment, you will have, what we call, a mutual obligation requirement. In other words, you are receiving something from the government and, in return, you’re doing something for government. And in this regard it’s all about ensuring that, as an unemployed person, you’re either actively looking for work because we want you back in work or, alternatively, you’re participating in an activity that will help you into employment. That’s what your mutual obligation is all about. Everything we can do as a government, we will do to get you off welfare and back into work and that’s what your mutual obligation is all about.

STEVE PRICE: And that obligation requires me, does it, to apply for a certain number of jobs, and who keeps track of that?

MINISTER CASH: Yep. Okay. So you’ll work with a Jobactive provider, that’s what they’re called, and your mutual obligation is actually determined by, for example, your age and assessment of your work capacity, you know, whether or not you are the primary carer for children or even for your parents. So it really does depend on your individual circumstances. We want to work with you as an individual to get your job plan right for you, because if we can actually take into account your circumstances we can empower you to meet all of your requirements. And in the event that you don’t, we can work out what went wrong, re‑engage you with the system and continue to work with you to get you off welfare.

STEVE PRICE: You’ve been in this portfolio a little while now. Are you confident and happy that these job active providers, as they’re called, which is the privatised arm of what used to be the dole office, are that they’re not just ticking and flicking people looking for work?

MINISTER CASH: Oh, Steve, the system is designed so that Jobactive providers receive outcome payments at certain milestones. So you can’t just place someone in employment and walk away. You get an outcome payment at four weeks, 12 weeks and 26 weeks. So this is all about ensuring that people are in appropriate jobs with the appropriate skills, and you get the outcome payments depending on how long that person remains in the job. I’m a big believer that you need to incentivise Jobactive providers to ensure people are getting sustainable employment. A placement itself, that doesn’t get a person into sustainable employment. We need to focus on sustainable employment.

STEVE PRICE: We’ve got more Australians actively in work than ever before in our history currently. We’ve got a relatively low unemployment rate. Every time I raise this issue, Minister, I get calls from people in particularly regional Australia saying, “We can’t find workers.”

MINISTER CASH: Absolutely. I mean, Steve, the jobs are out there. You know, I was speaking to some people from Kalgoorlie the other day. You know, if you want a job in the mining industry, put your hand up, you can move to Kalgoorlie. We had a jobs fair in Townsville around two weeks ago. George Christensen and our fantastic new Member for Herbert, Phil Thompson, there were just under a thousand jobs on offer at that jobs fair. The purpose of a jobs fair is actually to connect local people who are looking for jobs with the local employers who have those jobs. So, you know, the jobs are there. They may not necessarily be exactly where you want it to be but for people who really do want to get a job, the ability to do that is there.

STEVE PRICE: I’m going to take plenty of calls, just a quick one for you, if you don’t mind. Barbara, go ahead.

BARBARA: Hi, Michaelia, how are you?

MINISTER CASH: Fantastic, Barbara, how you going?

BARBARA: I’m good. Michaelia, I’ve just turned 65. When you turn 65, you get no help whatsoever from any provider. I look for a job every single day, have done for the last three years. I get no response from any employer from my applications, and I try my hardest to get a job. You want us to work till we’re 70 but I cannot get a job. Even those over 50 I speak to cannot get a job.

MINISTER CASH: Barbara, absolutely we need to ‑ if you want to work, we, as a government, need to ensure that we can find a job for you. What I will do is, offline we’ll take your details and we’ll get someone to contact you and have a chat.

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