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Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Page: 2337

Mr HARTSUYKER (CowperDeputy Leader of the House and Assistant Minister for Employment) (20:38): I would like to thank those members who have spoken on the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Increased Employment Participation) Bill 2014. It demonstrates the passion in this place for helping Australians, especially young Australians, to move from the world of welfare to the world of work. The bill delivers on two of the government's election commitments to promote workforce participation—namely, the job commitment bonus and relocation assistance to take up a job.

As members have noted, these two measures provide significant financial support to job seekers. Under the job commitment bonus, young, unemployed Australians who meet the eligibility criteria can receive $2,500 if they get a job, stay in work and off income support for 12 months. Then should they stay in continuous work for another 12 months, a further $4,000 is available to them, making it a total of $6,500 if they get a job, stay in work and off income support for a total period of 24 months. This is a new payment and the coalition makes no apology for targeting this bonus to young Australians. The coalition understands how important it is for young people to get a job and keep it. It is at the start of our working lives that we learn the skills, attitudes and behaviours that employers value the most. That is why we are keen to reward those young Australians who make the effort to move from welfare to work. Being in work and drawing a wage is always better than being on the dole—both financially and emotionally.

The government also understands the importance of encouraging a flexible and responsive labour market. The relocation assistance to take up a job measure provides targeted assistance to help people move to where the jobs are located. This measure will ensure that the costs of moving do not prevent a person from taking up a job in a different area, especially for those who are moving to a regional area and those with families.

The amount of financial assistance available is up to $3,000 for those moving to a metropolitan area, up to $6,000 for those moving to a regional area and up to an additional $3,000 for those with dependant children. I welcome the opposition's support for this legislation. This is a step in the right direction to help job seekers. I just wish that they would support more of the government's reforms which will generate jobs, such as the abolition of the job-destroying carbon and mining taxes, and the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission. If Labor were serious about reducing unemployment in this country, this is where they should start.

I note the amendment proposed by the member for Franklin and would like to address the misconceptions raised by those members opposite. The shadow minister has been extremely quiet since the election and has barely said a word in this House or elsewhere on employment services and support for job seekers. So I welcome the opportunity to hear the member for Franklin's contribution to this debate, however, misguided it may be.

Let me speak about the two amendments proposed. Youth unemployment: firstly, it is claimed that the government is not serious about addressing the issue of youth unemployment. I would like to remind the House that it was under Labor's watch that youth unemployment rose from 9.9 per cent to 12.7 per cent. As a result of their economic mismanagement and policy failings, an additional 55,000 young Australians were left looking for work. But it was not just youth unemployment that increased. During Labor's time in office, the overall unemployment rate went from 4.4 per cent in November 2007 to 5.7 per cent in September 2013.

Indeed, it was the former Treasurer, the member for McMahon—and who can forget the member for McMahon?—who, in August last year, delivered Labor's final economic statement where it was revealed that unemployment was projected to head towards 6.25 per cent. Yet the members opposite did nothing practical. The member for Franklin reminded the House yesterday how Labor's election plan would have created more bureaucracies and red tape but no real jobs. I have heard from Job Services Australia providers that they spend up to 50 per cent of their time on administration and red tape—that is, time that should be spent assisting job seekers, especially young jobseekers, to get a job. This is Labor's legacy to young people—higher unemployment and employment service providers mired in red tape.

The job commitment bonus, on the other hand, is a tangible and significant investment by the coalition to help young, long-term unemployed Australians make a positive change in their lives. The job commitment bonus is a real incentive to young Australians to persist with work rather than welfare. The bonus is in addition to the support already available to young job seekers through Job Services Australia, Disability Employment Services and the Remote Jobs and Communities Program. The job commitment bonus is a great kick-start for a young person wanting to move off welfare and take the opportunity to build a more positive future for themselves. The bill is evidence of our commitment to young job seekers.

As to the opposition's request for a public review into the impact of the extension of the non-payment period under the relocation assistance measure, I would like to put some facts on the table. The bill will amend the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 so that the participants who leave employment without a reasonable excuse within six months of receiving a relocation payment will incur a 26-week non-payment period before becoming eligible to receive unemployment benefits again. The increase in the non-payment period reflects the level of assistance available under the relocation assistance measure. The coalition recognises the need for a safety net and so the reasonable excuse and hardship provisions will continue to apply. However, it is only fair that those people who take up the assistance and then throw in a job without a reasonable excuse should be prevented from returning to income support immediately. To keep this in perspective, I advise the House that of the 333 participants who took up assistance under the previous Move 2 Work program only four people were subject to a nonpayment period and, due to the hardship provisions, only two were ultimately required to serve a nonpayment period. Moving house is a big decision and most people can be relied on to do the right thing. However, the coalition believes it is important that a nonpayment period in keeping with the value of the benefit and that the community would expect should apply to those few job seekers who do not do the right thing.

As part of our election commitment, we promised to increase the nonpayment period to 26 weeks. This bill is consistent with our election commitment and there are no surprises here—we are doing what we said we would do. Last September, the Australian people voted for the coalition's plan to grow a strong economy that will create jobs and opportunities for all Australians. The measures in this bill will support the long-term unemployed, particularly unemployed young people, by providing incentives to stay in a job and helping to address some of the barriers they may face when trying to find work. The bill is further evidence of the coalition delivering on its election commitment to increase workforce participation and help people move from welfare to work. I welcome the support for this bill and the positive impact it will have on the lives of many young jobseekers.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Mitchell ): The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Franklin has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question is that the amendment be agreed to.

Question negatived.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question now is that the bill be read a second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.