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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10150

Senator CASH (Western AustraliaMinister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Employment and Minister for Women) (18:27): How about I take us chronologically through from the start to the end and it might end up making some more sense. All jobseekers commence in the personal responsibility phase. Every failure, as we have stated, by a jobseeker to meet their requirement will result in payment suspension until re-engagement and accrual of a demerit, but no actual loss of income support payments whilst in that phase. That's the first phase.

You're right, we then move to the second phase. If a jobseeker accrues four demerits within the six months, they move into the intensive compliance phase, where they will face stronger penalties, as we've explained, beginning with the loss of half their fortnightly payments, which is the one for the first failure, moving through to all of their fortnightly payment for the second failure. Then, you are right, their payment will be cancelled for four weeks for their third failure.

As I've also said, to ensure that genuine jobseekers don't enter that compliance phase, they will be worked with by the job provider along the way. Once a jobseeker is in the three-strikes phase, they can still avoid any penalties by meeting all of their requirements—this is, those who remain fully compliant for three months will return to the demerits phase, with the demerits reset to zero. This is obviously all about providing a strong incentive for jobseekers to change their behaviour and start to comply.

Jobseekers in either phase who refuse an offer of suitable work or who fail to start in a suitable job without a valid reason will have their payment cancelled for four weeks. Again, this penalty is identical to that imposed on jobseekers who have reached three strikes and it recognises the seriousness of refusing work and the importance of reducing reliance on welfare, wherever possible. Again, we're building in safeguards along the way. Before any loss of payment or cancellation, the jobseeker will get to discuss the failure with DHS. If DHS determines that the jobseeker had a good reason for their actions, no penalty will apply. Again: we are building in safeguards along the way so that you are ultimately targeting those who are wilfully noncompliant as opposed to those who have made a genuine mistake or have a genuine excuse.