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Breaches not to be taken lightly.

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Senator Jocelyn Newman

Minister for Family & Community Services

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women  

16 November 2000


Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Jocelyn Newman, today rejected claims social security penalties were harsh and unfair, saying taxpayers expected people to conform to the rules.

Senator Newman, who today addressed the ACOSS National Congress in Canberra, said breaches were not minor and should be taken seriously.

Responding to a call from ACOSS and other welfare and community groups for a complete overhaul of the social security penalty regime, Senator Newman said people needed to be reminded that breaches were not insignificant.

"Requirements on jobseekers are not onerous or complicated, with more than 85% of people managing to meet them without difficulty.

"And yet a quarter of all activity test breaches imposed last year arose because people did not tell Centrelink about their income and many were imposed because people failed to attend interviews with Centrelink or Job Network Members."

Senator Newman said Centrelink did not impose breaches unreasonably and a fair system of review and appeals was in place.

"Jobseekers who do not comply with requirements are given an opportunity to explain why and if they have a good reason, the breach recommendation is overturned.

"In 1999-2000, Centrelink officers overturned 38% of breach recommendations and less than 1% of breach decisions made by Centrelink were set aside on appeal.

"This demonstrates that there are protection mechanisms in the system for those

genuinely unable to comply with requirements."

Senator Newman said that last year just over 5,000 people, or 0.3 per cent of the unemployed population, were cut off payment and left with no income support as a result of a third breach.

"This is a very small percentage of the large number of people receiving income support, which last year was just over 1.7 million.

"The figures are lower than those used by ACOSS because they use raw figures, which do not reflect the fact that some people incur a third breach on more than one occasion in a year, and a number of third breaches are appealed and overturned either by Centrelink or through external appeals mechanisms.

"I am pleased to see that ACOSS supports a system in which people are required to meet basic rules.

"But perhaps ACOSS could explain how the Government is meant to help people into work if those people aren't prepared to turn up to appointments designed to do exactly that."

Media inquiries: Mark Polonsky (02) 6277 7560 or 0411 407 215

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