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Transcript of interview with Jon Faine: ABC 774: 13 June 2014: Abbott Government breaks mutual obligation compact with young jobseekers

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SUBJECT: Abbott Government breaks mutual obligation compact with young jobseekers.

JON FAINE: Brendan O’Connor has called in on the talkback, Shadow Minister for Employment from the Federal Opposition. Mr O’Connor good morning to you.


FAINE: You’re very welcome on the talkback.

O’CONNOR: I’m happy to respond to the woman who rang in about the incidents of looking for work for young people.

FAINE: 40 interviews a month.

O’CONNOR: Yes, it is indeed 40 a month. And I think people should be looking for work and that was I think the thrust of the story in The Age today. The core element of the story is that this will be the death of mutual obligation because indeed previous Labor and Liberal Governments have always said that you get a

modest income, only if you look for work. And that’s, I think, quite reasonable. But this is for people that have to spend six months without any income at all, and yet are still obliged to fill out certain activities. We would say that is tearing up the compact between the Government and jobseekers to remove any income for that period. And I think that is the most significant part of the policy.

FAINE: Well, what is so hard for any tech savvy kid to sit and go click 40 times. To send their CV out 40 times would take about two minutes -

O’CONNOR: I don’t have any problem about people having to look for work. In fact I think people should lose income, have income suspended, if they don’t look for work. But the point here is there is no income whatsoever. So this mutual obligation - that is you have to do training, you have to look for work, you have to attend interviews and if you do so you receive a very modest income - has been torn up by this Government because now it’s saying you’re obliged to do this for six months and we won’t provide you with any support. That means you might end up homeless, you might end up doing even worse things to yourself. And the fact is that is a compact that’s been torn up by this Government.

Now, the Howard Government had mutual obligation, the Keating Government had mutual obligation, indeed the Rudd-Gillard Governments had mutual obligation. This is the first time we’ve had a government in recent memory saying that you have all these obligations and yet we won’t give you a red cent.

FAINE: Ok. I think to me the bigger issue - I don’t have a problem with an unemployed under 25 year old sending 40 CVs in a month.

O’CONNOR: I agree. They can do that in less time than it takes to say it, Brendan O’Connor.

O’CONNOR: Some can and some can’t -

FAINE: Well I agree not all of them can. There are people with problems and they need to be assisted. But to me the bigger issue is, ok that’s 240 job applications over six months, but we’ve got 10 per cent unemployment now. And higher for youth unemployment.

O’CONNOR: Well it’s 13.1 per cent youth unemployment.

FAINE: We’ve got 10 per cent unemployment in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. That’s across the board.


FAINE: Youth unemployment in Melbourne’s northern suburbs is probably officially around 30 per cent unofficially probably up around 50 per cent. To me, the real issue is not that you’re forcing them to do this that or the other, it’s what the hell are these kids going to be trained to do and what jobs will they have that they can eventually pick up?

O’CONNOR: I don’t disagree with you. There has to be better thinking about the way we respond to the problems for young people not getting work. The labour market has changed. Entering the labour market is much more difficult for young people. Employers are looking for different skills and they want them to be work-ready. So there’s a whole debate to be had there, but whilst that’s going on, I think to remove for every job seeker under the age of 30 any income whatsoever and yet still compel them to fulfil obligations, is the tearing up of the compact that Labor and Liberal governments have had for 20 years or more.

FAINE: And if you’re going to put these people, and push them into training courses, some of which as we’ve learnt this week, are nothing other than just rip offs and rorts - $12,000 of a HECS-style debt for a free laptop loaded with some software that’s supposedly training you in management. That is just rubbish. And that’s what we’ve heard from one family this week. If you’re going to put people through training courses, well there has to be the prospect of a career and a job at the end of it?

O’CONNOR: Of course. The skills that are being acquired have to match the demand in the labour market.

FAINE: And we’re not even doing that. Instead, wages - well, we’re stripping out penalty rates, we’re stripping out minimum wages. And saying, well you can all go and - what was it? Pick fruit or be charity collectors on the streets or something. That is hardly a satisfying career to prepare for -

O’CONNOR: Well picking fruit’s not going to sustain someone for a year or to look after a family. I mean, that’s the point here. When we talk about young people in terms of this condition, it’s under 30. There are people who of course have been living independently for a very long time, and it will just come back on their families. If indeed their families can look after them. Now I’m really concerned - and of course it will mean that other services ultimately will be relied upon and they will be going backwards in terms of their prospects. So they

- I don’t think that it is even an economically sensible proposition and the social damage I think it’s yet to be fully understood. But I think it’s a real problem.

So again I think of course people should be looking for work and I don’t mind having activities and complying people. But to have not any support whatsoever, to tear away the entire social safety net is a bridge too far.

FAINE: Thank you for calling in.

O’CONNOR: Thanks John.