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Govt announces dole crackdown -

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Govt announces dole crackdown

Reporter: Greg Jennett

MAXINE MCKEW: The scope of the Howard Government's push to get people off welfare and into work is
continuing to expand. As well as single parents and people on disability pensions, it's now emerged
the budget will crack down on suspected dole rorters. The Government believes up to 25,000 of the
country's long-term unemployed may not be genuine in their efforts to find jobs. It wants to put
private job agencies in charge of finding who they are, and then cutting off their dole
payments. From Canberra, Greg Jennett reports.

GREG JENNETT: The unemployment rate is the lowest in 20 years, but somehow not low enough to shrink
the ranks of the long-term jobless. Convinced up to a quarter of those on the dole for a year or
longer might not be trying to get a job, the government's preparing another crackdown.

PETER DUTTON, WORKFORCE PARTICIPATION MINISTER: We will not accept a position where people are
offered jobs, where people are offered taxpayer assistance to find jobs, and then fail to take up
those jobs.

GREG JENNETT: The budget's expected to thrust the Job Network employment agencies into the front
line, giving them power to double work-for-the dole hours or suspend unemployment payments for
those deemed to be avoiding work. It's a plan to sideline Centrelink, which until now has been the
only one responsible for punishment.

SENATOR PENNY WONG, LABOR EMPLOYMENT SPOKESWOMAN: This is another example of the Howard Government
passing the buck. The Howard government is shirking its responsibilities to ensure dole recipients
meet their obligations by handballing compliance with the system to the private sector Job Network
providers.

GREG JENNETT: The Salvation Army's Employment Plus doesn't want the extra power.

JOHN DALZIEL, SALVATION ARMY EMPLOYMENT PLUS: It is something in which we then become, if you like,
the policeman.

GREG JENNETT: Compassion and patience, he says, is the way to work with clients.

JOHN DALZIEL: The right approach is the positive one. We're always going to be uncomfortable having
to punish people.

GREG JENNETT: Job agencies already report thousands of people to the government each year for lack
of effort, but upon investigation, Centrelink only suspends dole payments in 15 per cent of cases.

MICHAEL RAPER, WELFARE RIGHTS NETWORK: I have a real fear that if they had that power it would, in
fact, lead to a big blowout in the number of people who get their payments suspended.

GREG JENNETT: On top of internal Liberal divisions over IVF, the outcry on the unemployment changes
won't have escaped John Howard's attention on his return to the country this evening. As the
government absorbs pre-emptive strikes on its budget, in the Labor Party, there's been another
outbreak of self-analysis. Frustrated by the party's plight at the federal level, Labor elders have
drafted a set of recommendations calling for changes to structure, an end to factional infighting,
as well as policy boldness, courage and risk-taking before the next election. The plan, backed by
President Carmen Lawrence and 14 others, has been distributed to federal frontbenchers for comment.
Greg Jennett, Lateline.