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Thursday, 24 May 2001
Page: 27038

Mr PROSSER (3:11 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business. Can the minister inform the House how Work for the Dole is being expanded as part of the Australians Working Together package? How will these changes help people find jobs sooner, and are there any alternative policies?

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Lyons is warned.

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business) — I thank the member for Forrest for his question. I can inform the House that Work for the Dole is one of the signature programs and significant successes of the Howard government. Work for the Dole participants have a 76 per cent better chance of being off benefit and into work three months after leaving the program than do other job seekers. Thanks to the budget changes, all job seekers under 40 who have been on benefit for six months and are not already in a support program will be required to do more than simply look for work. If they do not choose another form of activity, they will be required to work for the dole. Theses changes are based on this government's fundamental understanding that the best preparation for work is work itself. They are based on our fundamental understanding that anything which encourages passivity and defeatism among job seekers is cruelty masquerading as compassion.

We may never be able to abolish unemployment entirely, but we can abolish having nothing to do as a semipermanent way of life for hundreds of thousands of Australians. Thanks to this budget, there will be nearly 250,000 Work for the Dole and funded community work places over the next four years. Everyone knows where this government stands on Work for the Dole, but these days no-one knows where Labor stands on anything. The opposition's first response to Work for the Dole was to describe it as almost evil. If that is no longer the case, the Leader of the Opposition should specify exactly what Labor's position is tonight. The Australian people are no longer interested in hearing the Leader of the Opposition's opinion; they want to know what his policies are. They want the prince of prolix to stop waffling and start working. That means that when he stands up tonight he has to give clear, costed current commitments about what he will do on these employment service policies.

I wonder what excuse the Leader of the Opposition is going to come up with tonight for failing to come clean on his policies. Will it be, `The dog ate my homework'; will it be, `I left the credit card in the pocket of my other pants'; will it be `I've got a headache'? If the Leader of the Opposition cannot come clean tonight and say exactly where he stands and what he will do, he will go down in history as the worst opposition leader since Arthur Calwell.