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Welfare statement fails older unemployed.

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Welfare Statement Fails Older Unemployed Cheryl Kernot - Shadow Minister for Employment and Training

Media Statement - 14 December 2000

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The Government's delayed welfare reform statement extends its one-sided approach to mutual obligation, but offers no concrete assistance to help Australians find work

Shadow Minister for Employment, Cheryl Kernot, said thousands of mature-age jobseekers who have been the subject of reports and pilot programs under this Government have a right to expect detailed plans of action.

"Labor's 45+ Report, and now the McClure and Nelson reports, told the Government that it needed to do more to help the older unemployed. Today was its opportunity to outline how, but it chose instead to leave these people on the scrap-heap.

Ms Kernot criticised the Government's plan to further extend mutual obligation to older unemployed Australians while making no commitment to funding extra training or education.

"Mutual obligation implies that these mature-age jobseekers are unwilling to work. Nothing could be further from the truth. They have a long history of working, they want to continue to work and they require the Government to more seriously fulfil its side of the mutual obligation agreement," Ms Kernot said.

"Labor has called for reform of the Job Network to address the needs of the mature-aged unemployed, and for early intervention to prevent their unemployment.

"It does not require another consultation process to give mature-age jobseekers instant access to the Job Network, ideally prior to retrenchment. It does not require a consultation process to give mature-age jobseekers access to intensive assistance places with guaranteed training in the existing Job Network

"The Government has heard these calls but isn't prepared to back its words with the resources required to make a difference. It's another case of deliberate delay in allocating important resources, hoping that we'll all be appeased by the completion of the workforce pilot report by July next year.

"Mature-age unemployment has been a recognisable and fast growing market failure for years. This government is callous in its failure to take action and in its assumptions about the mature-aged unemployed generally. Ms Kernot was also critical of the statement's failure to address the Government's practice of setting penalty targets for jobseekers.

"Under the Government's welfare policy, the Department of Employment Workplace

Relations and Small Business demands that 60% of Job Network Breach Notifications are applied and that 75% of breaches are maintained.(Source: Centrelink Annual Report 1999-2000 p31)

"Centrelink gets a 'breaching bonus' of 5% or $6 million dollars if the organisation exceeds its quotas on performance indicators which include breaching. (Source: Senate Estimates 23 November 2000)

"And the Government's Preparing for Work Agreement is designed to save the Government $212 million over four years by applying penalties to an additional 50,000 jobseekers. (Source: Senate Estimates 24 May 2000).

"These targets are designed only to achieve savings," Ms Kernot said. "They are not designed to help people get work. Simply extending this punitive regime to other groups of unemployed people just spreads the pain and can only be seen as a further grab for cash on the part of the Government.

"The Government continues to repeat the rhetoric that welfare reform is not about cost cutting, but the extension of the current penalty regime is designed to achieve this end.

"The Howard Government is prepared to invest in roads but the unemployed are being left on a road to nowhere."

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.