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Thursday, 21 October 2010
Page: 1067


Ms KATE ELLIS (Minister for Employment Participation and Childcare and Minister for the Status of Women) (9:17 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Connecting People with Jobs) Bill 2010 that I now introduce will honour the government’s election commitment ‘Connecting People with Jobs’ to provide 2,000 places for long-term unemployed job seekers living in areas with high unemployment rates to be assisted to relocate and take up a full-time job.

We understand the dignity and purpose that comes with employment. The Prime Minister has outlined her own deeply held view that we must end the corrosive impact and the aimlessness of unnecessarily prolonged welfare and bring more Australians into mainstream economic and social life.

That is why this government has done everything within its power to tackle unemployment during our time in office and through difficult worldwide economic circumstances. We took quick and decisive action when the global financial crisis hit. While 16 million jobs have been lost in other advanced economies, Australia has created more than 300,000 jobs since the global financial crisis began almost two years ago.

We have strengthened Australia’s employment services, with the creation of Jobs Services Australia and Disability Employment Services, in order to provide unemployed Australians with the opportunity to train and the opportunity to work.

The results of these actions can be seen in the fact that unemployment in Australia is 5.1 per cent, almost half that of the United States.

Since Jobs Services Australia has been operating, I am proud that more than 400,000 Australians have been placed into jobs. Of these, 33 per cent were jobs for the most disadvantaged job seekers.

We have also uncapped employment services for the first time for people with disability. But of course we remain active and vigilant.

Whilst the national unemployment rate currently sits at 5.1 per cent, down from 5.7 per cent a year ago, the truth is that the employment situation across Australia varies greatly.

In this modern age, there is a need for greater labour mobility, and relocating parts of the workforce to meet employers’ demand is an effective method of achieving this. The Connecting People with Jobs trial will enhance the flexibility of the labour market by encouraging additional relocation activity, and helping to better match labour supply with demand.

The funds for relocation will provide job seekers with assistance for things such as:

  • airfares,
  • removalists,
  • temporary accommodation and
  • post-placement support and mentoring.

This trial will get people off income support and into sustainable jobs.

This relocation assistance trial will help connect job seekers with jobs in other parts of Australia. Job seekers who relocate to take up an ongoing full-time position or apprenticeship will be reimbursed up to $9,000 for relocation expenses.

The trial is targeted at the long-term unemployed—those who have been out of work for 12 months or more. Job seekers will be eligible for reimbursement of up to $3,000 for relocating to a metropolitan area, or $6,000 for a regional area. They will be eligible for an additional $3,000 if they are relocating with dependent children.

Relocation often has high costs, especially when it involves moving interstate or even across the country. These job seekers have sought employment in their current location for at least 12 months, but they may lack the resources to move to broaden their employment options. That is why in August the Prime Minister announced the relocation trial as part of ‘Modernising of Australia’s Welfare System’, helping the long-term unemployed overcome costs to take up meaningful work in a new location.

As part of Labor’s election commitment, employers will also be eligible for a wage subsidy of $2,500 to create an incentive to employ these job seekers. This is in recognition of the additional support and assistance that individuals will need in the early stages of their employment in a new location.

Job seeker compliance

While we will encourage the long-term unemployed to relocate for work, this bill will also create an incentive for individuals to stay in their new location, and keep them in sustainable employment. Where job seekers have received additional support through the Connecting People with Jobs trial, this bill will extend the non-payment period penalty that may apply for leaving a job.

This bill, the Social Security Amendment (Connecting People with Jobs) Bill 2010, amends the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 to extend to 12 weeks the period of non-payment of income support should a relocating job seeker voluntarily leave their job within the first six months.

Should a job seeker leave a job due to misconduct, they will also be subject to this compliance measure.

Previously a job seeker was subject to an eight week non-payment period. Under this measure, where supported by the Connecting People with Jobs trial, they may be subject to a 12 week non-payment period.

While job seeker compliance is important, Centrelink will also have the discretion to reduce or not impose this 12 week unemployment non-payment period on a case by case basis, such as when it would place a vulnerable job seeker in great financial hardship.

Conclusion

We know long-term unemployed people are particularly vulnerable in the current economic environment.

We know there are businesses and industries out there experiencing labour shortages in parts of the country.

We know some of our long-term unemployed live in areas with very limited job prospects.

This legislation will assist the long-term unemployed find sustainable work.

It will provide employers with the workers they need to grow their businesses.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Chester) adjourned.