Media Conference announcing changes to the DSP – Friday, 12 December

Minister: Ladies and gentlemen, as of today there will be new arrangements put into place relating to claimants for the Disability Support Pension. From the 1st of January next year anybody who is seeking to get the DSP, their assessment will be made by a Commonwealth doctor rather that their own local doctor. This will lead to more efficiency and consistency, and granting of the DSP into the future. This is part of ongoing reform of welfare we are already assessing people under the age of 35, to see if they are capable of doing some work and being involved in a program support whether or not that I is full time work, work experience or work for the dole we have founds from that that about half the people assessed from that criteria are capable of engaging in some sort of activity. Before Christmas I expect to see the report from Mr McClure about welfare reform and that will be ab ongoing process that the Government will consider over the next year and we look forward to implementing recommendations Mr McClure is putting forward probably over the next 3 or 4 years in Australia so that we have a welfare system that serves this country, a system that encourages people into work. We believe that having a job is meaningful for people. It’s important for them and their families, for a better income and life for them and obviously better for the taxpayer as well. This is part of the ongoing welfare reform that the Government is engaged in.

Q: So just to clarify Minister, you expect that this change will happen fairly soon?

Minister: We will start the change from the beginning of January. There will be a transitional period and we hope to have the changes happening fully by July next year.

Q: if people have disabilities and you’re asking them to enter the workforce, will you have assistance available to help them find a job that is suitable for them?

Minister: There are already programs, the program of support for example if someone is capable of working at least 8 hours a week, that program of support is to help them get the experience, to work for the dole, to take an internship and to take a job if they can take a job, so there is a variety of mechanisms there and in addition to that the whole network of services through the job network and that’s aimed at people getting into work.

Q: And you believe those services are sufficient, are costed and funded to help those people into work?

Minister: Indeed the Government has just been through a tender process for the Job Network, in which we’ve looked at all of those services. We’ve rejigged it so that to try and get people into work more quickly We’ll also get emphasis to those who perhaps find it more difficult to get into work.

Q: The Press Council has made an adverse finding against The Daily Telegraph which claimed many NSW DSP pensioners were slackers, do you think the newspaper was irresponsible for reporting that in May?

Minister: Look I leave commentary to Newspapers. What I am about is the policy and the policy I have announced today is one in which we believe will encourage more people into work and that there is consistency and accuracy in the terms of which claims have come forward because we are getting more than 2,000 claims a week for the DSP and it’s important that people who are on the DSP deserve to be on the DSP equally people who can work are encouraged to work.

Q: But surely commentary shapes the public perception of your policy so isn’t it appropriate that you see if it’s appropriate or not?

Minister: I don’t get into commentary that is a job for various media. Over the years there has been commentary I agree with and disagree with, that’s not my job. My job is to make policy and to look to what we can do to ensure people in Australia have the standard of living they want now and into the future.

Q: So how many people to you think are not working that could perhaps be working.

Minister: We can take some indication from what we’ve been doing with the under 35’s. To date we’ve taken about 16,000 people and about half of them , 8000, are now on a program of support which is encouraging them to be in work experience or work for the dole, to be in a job, so there’s a reasonable number of that under 35 cohort. As you are dealing with older people who have been on the DSP for a longer period of time, the reality is for most of them their condition has deteriorated and that’s why we’re not concentrating on them we are concentrating on that group because we can be of most benefit to them.

Q: Just on Peta Credlin is there a bit of a rift between her and Julie Bishop?

Minister: Look I don’t think there’s a rift, I think there’s a lot of mischief making going on at the moment. Let me be blunt about this, we are not changing leader, we are not changing Treasurer and we are not changing the Chief of Staff our task is to get back to the job the people of Australia elected us to do and that is to fix up the enormous mess that we’ve inherited from the Labor party, the debt and the deficit. Unfortunately the Labor Party made the mess and they are standing in the way of us fixing the mess. That’s our task and that’s what we are getting back to doing.

Q: The Prime Minister has this morning asked if the attacks on Peta Credlin are based on her gender. Is this hypocritical considering his previous comments on the gender card?

Minister: I think what the Prime Minister was saying this morning was that Peta Credlin was doing a fantastic job. She’s doing a bloody good job in difficult circumstances it’s one of the most difficult jobs in the country it’s been a pleasure working with Peta Credlin and I’ll continue to do so and that’s what all my colleagues will do and it’s not our job to be commenting on personalities and alike . Our job is to implement policies and programs that benefit the people of Australia and that’s what I’m doing through this announcement today and that’s what all my colleagues will be doing.

Q: Do you think the attacks on Peta Credlin are in fact attacks on the way Tony Abbott is running his office?

Minister: I think there’s a lot of commentary going on at this time. As I’ve said in reply to your questions today, we’re not in the game of commentary, we’re here to make policy and implement programs for the benefit of the Australian people. There are commentators and they can make their commentry that is not our job and I’m not going to involved in that and that should be the way a Government approaches these things.

Q: Do you think the attacks of the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff are based on gender?

Minister: Look I’ve read a whole lot of things and I’m not going to comment on them, except to say what I’ve said Peta Credlin has got a tough job, she’s doing a great job she’s been integral to the election of this government she’s been integral to this Government since the election and she will continue to be so . Our task is to work together and do what the Australian people elected us to do not get diverted by personalities, just stick to policy and programs and that’s what I am announcing this morning and that’s what we all should be doing.

Q: Should there be more women in Cabinet?

Minister: There are changes over time in political parties, this is a very experienced government a group of people who have worked closely as a team in opposition and because of that discipline and unity in opposition that in part why we were elected to be the Government and it’s that same unity and discipline that will ensure we not only get on with the job but the Australian people will be prepared to place their confidence in us again at the next election so that we have the 2 or 3 terms we need tom properly fix up the mess that we’ve inherited.