ABC24 – Capital Hill with Lyndal Curtis

LYNDAL CURTIS: (inaudible) whether you thought it worked, the New Zealand model worked to move people off welfare and into long term employment?

MINISTER ANDREWS: It does I had discussions a few weeks ago with a number of Ministers in New Zealand, including the Finance Minister, and they believe that their system is actually getting much better results than the sort of system we have in Australia, and that’s because they can tailor their approach to various cohorts of individuals and make an upfront investment in getting them into work.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Both you and Patrick McClure, who is doing a report for you on welfare reform, spoke about a smaller number of payments do they have a very few payments in New Zealand or is that specifically a model you’d like to see in Australia?

MINISTER ANDREWS: They have fewer payments in New Zealand, they have a much more simple system than the complexity of our system here in Australia and one of the things which I’ve asked Patrick McClure and the reference group to look at is can we simplify the system into a smaller number of payments. The reality in Australia at the moment is we’ve got, if you take payments and supplements and allowances we’ve virtually got dozens of them and it is a very complex system that has been built up by ad-hoc decisions over decades.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Can I ask you about what you see as the underpinnings of welfare; Joe Hockey gave a speech last night where he said welfare is too broadly available to too many people. What should qualify someone to get the government welfare payment?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Well our belief is that the best form of welfare is a job, so where people are capable of working we should be encouraging them to get a job. Obviously we should also provide a safety net where for whatever reason people are incapable of working so disability pensions, provisions for carers or parents things like that, are a feature of our welfare system and will be into the future.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Do you accept that the welfare system was broadened under the Howard Government, that payments went to people who perhaps didn’t need them?

MINISTER ANDREWS: There was certainly an expansion under the Howard Government and of course we lived in very different economic times then to what we do now, and we’ve got to look not only at the financial mess that we’ve inherited but we’ve also got to look at this major shift in the demography in the population. The fact that we’ve got an ageing population which means a larger number of older dependants and shrinkage in the growth of the workforce, and these are challenges that we have in Australia and will have for the next couple of decades.

LYNDAL CURTIS: You say the McClure report will be released soon; Mr McClure told the ACOSS conference that it would be aimed at being implemented over a period of time. When would you like to take the first steps to change the system?

MINISTER ANDREWS: Well I’ll wait until we get the report from Patrick McClure; it will be released as you said soon. There will be a period that will enable consultation with the broader community and then hopefully by September or October of this year we’ll have a final report from Mr McClure. Then of course the Government will consider it, but as he said this is looking at the medium to the long term structure of the welfare system in Australia and that’s why we’ve separated this process from any decisions we made in the budget this year.

LYNDAL CURTIS: If I can go to the changes you announced in the budget to Newstart and Youth Allowance for people under 30, there is a system of emergency payments for people who are neither working nor learning and are cut off payments. How will that system work, will those emergency payments be funnelled purely through charities?

MINISTER ANDREWS: There’s an emergency relief system that operates at the present time for people in necessitous circumstances and that will continue to operate. So organisations like the Salvation Army, for example, are big providers of emergency relief and they will continue to do that into the future.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Will it be possible for people to be not getting any sort of government support for months? I think the department told estimates up to 11 months.

MINISTER ANDREWS: Well, you’ve got to look at what this is aimed at; this is aimed at young people under 30 who are capable of working more than 30 hours a week. In other words people who can work six hours a day which is virtually full-time work. And what we’re saying is if you’re not in a job, and you’re capable of being in a job full time, then you should be training to get a job if you haven’t got one and so the easiest way to avoid any penalty if you haven’t got a job is actually to be doing some training which will get you a job in the future. We think that’s entirely reasonable for young people….

LYNDAL CURTIS: Is that entirely reasonable when youth unemployment is at 12 per cent?

MINISTER ANDREWS; Well it’s reasonable given the other measures that the government is taking. So there’s Youth Allowance available to young people, there are other schemes of help such as Austudy and ABSTUDY, there’s an expansion of the FEE-HELP system for more courses in the future. So there’s a range of incentives and range of assistances that the government is providing for young people, all we are saying in return is that if you are capable of working then we expect you to be either working or training.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Is it possible though that some young people might get stuck on a fairly endless cycle of doing training after training that doesn’t lead to a job and it becomes the academic equivalent of (inaudible)?

MINISTER ANDREWS: And that’s been a concern of ours that people should not do training for trainings sake people should be doing training which is actually going to lead to some vocational outcome, some job for them in the future. So we’re not in favour of people just relentlessly going through training programs, what we want is young people doing training that will get them a job. And we know that getting a job is the best step to getting another job, most people don’t stay in the one job forever they get that, they get some experience and then they move on usually to a to a better job and a better paying job.

LYNDAL CURTIS: Kevin Andrews, thank you very much for your time.

MINISTER ANDREWS: My pleasure Lyndal.