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Howard lets the lion out of the bag: 'work for your pension is on the way'

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Howard Lets The Lion Out Of The Bag

'Work For Your Pension Is On The Way'

Wayne Swan - Shadow Minister for Family and Community Services

Media Statement - 26 July 2000

Comments today from John Howard on ABC radio confirm the Government is set to pursue a radical welfare agenda that will see single parents and perhaps disability pensioners compelled to work for their benefits.

The following exchange on ABC's World Today confirmed the Prime Minister is unable to continue to hide his government's agenda for much longer:

Reporter: "Could voluntary work be a precondition to continuing to get a pension?" ●

Howard: "Well, I am not saying that at this stage." ●

It is now becoming clear that under the veil of a 'participation' framework the Government will require single parents and disability pensioners to participate in activities or risk losing benefits.

There should be no mistake - the Government's expansion of mutual obligation has more to do with cost-cutting rather than finding real solutions to help people make the transition into work.

Government figures confirm that welfare savings from mutual obligation result from imposing breach penalties rather than actually helping people move from welfare to work sooner.

In cutting essential labour market training, childcare, and other support services the Government has left too many Australians in a room with no doors.

It is now desperate to contain the welfare blowout that is the result.

What is really needed are policies to help people make the transition from welfare into work. Policies Labor has suggested like earned income tax credits; more affordable childcare; and better training that will narrow the skill gap between what jobseekers can offer and what employers want.

Clearly, this is not what the Government is interested in. It has long been of the view that there is some political advantage in demonising welfare recipients. Having begun with the unemployed, it is now seeking new targets.

Prejudice might be fun politics for Mr Howard, but it has always been a poor basis for policy development, and is no substitute for real and lasting welfare reform.

If the government's response to the welfare review simply contains more compulsion minus any essential capacity-building initiatives, it will also have shown itself to be at least 10 years behind the play on welfare reform.

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