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Friday, 28 November 1986
Page: 4032

(Question No. 4599)

Mr Reith asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 18 September 1986:

(1) What estimated number of people will receive unemployment benefits for more than (a) 1 week, (b) 2 weeks, (c) 3 weeks, (d) 6 weeks and (e) 12 weeks in 1986-87.

(2) What International Labour Organisation and UN conventions would prohibit the introduction of a compulsory work for the dole scheme in Australia.

Mr Howe —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Estimates of outlays on unemployment benefits in 1986-87 are based on an estimated average of 595,000 unemployment beneficiaries over the year (see Budget Paper (No. 1), page 152). Estimates of the durations for which these beneficiaries will be paid are not available.

My Department does, however, collect data on durations for which beneficiaries at a given date had been receiving benefit up to that date. The following table summarises the information from the latest survey (23 May 1986) by those duration categories closest to those nominated by the honourable member.

Duration of Benefit

Number of


Over 1 week ...


Over 3 weeks ...


Over 7 weeks ...


Over 13 weeks ...


(2) Australia is a party to 3 international treaties which prohibit the use of compulsory labour and which impinge on the introduction of a compulsory ``work for the dole'' scheme in Australia:

International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 29, Forced Labour, 1930;

ILO Convention No. 105, Abolition of Forced Labour, 1957; and

United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966.

These instruments specifically prohibit the use of labour which is exacted from persons under threat of penalty and for which these persons have not voluntarily offered themselves. A penalty need not be in the form of penal sanctions but might take the form of a loss of rights or privileges.

The introduction of a universal scheme which made receipt of unemployment benefits conditional upon performance of unpaid work may contravene one or more of these Instruments. However, the question of whether a particular scheme would or would not contravene them, taken together, would depend on the precise nature and conditions of the scheme.