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Wednesday, 19 March 2014
Page: 1556


Senator SCULLION (Northern TerritoryMinister for Indigenous Affairs and Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (17:54): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Today I introduce the Social Security Amendment (Increased Employment Participation) Bill 2014 which provides assistance to help the long term unemployed, particularly young job seekers, to find and keep a job.

The Coalition Government is committed to building a strong and prosperous economy that creates jobs for all Australians.

We do not, however, underestimate the size of this challenge.

The Coalition has inherited an economy that is in transition and has been burdened by $123 billion in projected deficits and is heading towards $667 billion in debt unless action is taken.

The Australian public knows that the Coalition has a proven track record of growing the economy, reducing debt, getting people into jobs and off unemployment benefits.

The Coalition has been elected with a clear mandate to get our economy back on track.

The Australian public voted for our plan to achieve this by abolishing the carbon and the mining tax and removing the excessive red tape that has strangled the economy in recent years.

The Coalition understands that it is business, not Government, that creates prosperity and generates new jobs. We are committed to establishing the right policy settings to help business grow.

The Coalition also understands that it is important to our nation's future that we have as many people as possible in the workforce so that we can meet the economic and social challenges ahead.

We also recognise the damaging effects of unemployment on people. Being out of work for an extended period can erode a person's skills, confidence and sense of pride.

This in turn, can make it harder for people to find and keep a job and leads to a vicious cycle of welfare dependency.

Long-term unemployment can be especially damaging for young job seekers.

It is at the start of our working lives that we learn many of the skills that employers value the most - such as punctuality, teamwork and commitment.

This Bill includes two measures that will help to achieve these objectives - namely the Job Commitment Bonus for Young Australians and Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job.

The Government is determined to prevent young job seekers from sliding into long term welfare dependency and to reward positive, pro-work behaviours.

That is why we are investing in our young people by implementing a Job Commitment Bonus. This new payment will be available for young Australians aged 18-30, who have been unemployed for twelve months or more, and in receipt of Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance (other), and who go on to get and hold down a job.

Two bonuses will be available, one worth $2,500 when an eligible young job seeker remains in employment and off income support for 12 months and another worth $4,000 when the job seeker remains in employment and off income support for an additional 12 months, that is 24 months in total.

The Job Commitment Bonus will reward those young Australians who demonstrate a commitment to the world of work rather than the world of welfare.

The Government also recognises that for many job seekers the costs of relocating to take up a new job can be prohibitive.

That is why the Government is introducing the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job programme to provide funding to eligible job seekers to meet the costs of moving to take up a job.

This targeted programme provides financial support to job seekers who have been on Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance (other) and Parenting Payment for at least the preceding 12 months to relocate to take up employment or an apprenticeship.

Up to $6,000 will be available to support eligible job seekers who relocate to a regional area to take up a job.

Up to $3,000 will be available to support eligible job seekers who relocate to a metropolitan area from a regional area to take up a job.

This $3000 payment will also be available to eligible job seekers who relocate from a metropolitan area with higher unemployment to one with lower unemployment to take a job, for instance from Adelaide to Melbourne.

In addition families with dependent children will be provided with up to an extra $3,000, in recognition of the additional costs that can accrue when moving a family.

Under these measures, for instance, a family moving from Sydney to Wagga Wagga to take up a job could receive up to $9,000 to help meet the costs of relocating. This is $2,500 more than is available under the current arrangements.

Job seekers will be reimbursed for the costs they incur in relocating, although payment may be made in advance in cases of significant hardship.

Given the financial investment that the Government is providing, it is appropriate that we have strong measures in place to ensure job seekers who have received assistance to relocate to take up a job stay in that job rather than return to welfare.

This Bill amends the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 so that 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.

Conclusion

Together these measures are a significant investment by the Government to support the long-term unemployed, particularly our unemployed young people, to take up employment as well as boost Australia's economic activity.

The measures provide incentives for young people to stay in employment and help to address some of the barriers that the long-term unemployed face when trying to find work.

Under these measures, for instance, a young job seeker who moves to regional Australia and stays in employment for two years could receive up to $12,000 to help them make this very positive change in their life.

This compares very favourably with the financial costs to taxpayers of a young person remaining on welfare for that period and beyond.

This Government is determined to ensure that job seekers are given hope, reward and opportunity and are not abandoned to a lifetime of welfare dependence and despair.

This Bill will assist in the delivery of these programmes, which are a core component of our commitment to increase workforce participation and help people move from welfare to work so they can build a more positive future.

Debate adjourned.