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Peter Dutton calls for work to restore benefits


Peter Dutton has called for the controversial ‘work for benefits’ scheme to be reinstated.

With next week’s budget set to confirm that the fortnightly JobSeeker payment will only be increased for 227,000 recipients over the age of 55, the opposition leader said it was time for a broader conversation about benefit recipients.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers would not be drawn to JobSeeker’s “speculation” ahead of next Tuesday’s budget, but said being selective with JobSeeker increases would mean the most vulnerable Australians will have more difficulty finding work, additional support would to get.

Mr Dutton said the decision to raise the rate only for some recipients highlighted the wider need for the budget to “juggle” with persistently high inflation.

More broadly, he said he was concerned that there were people in the JobSeeker program who were not “legitimately looking for work” and that there was a “good case” for bringing the work back for the dole program.

“I think there’s a good case for bringing the program back and others saying to people, you’re unemployed, you can work and there’s work, so why don’t you have a job?” he told 2GB.

“And the benefit you get from a program like work for benefits means it’s an incentive for people to get off benefits and go to work, which is a better life for them.”

Mandatory under the Howard era, work for the dole business may be part of current mutual obligation requirements.

It is not necessary for a job seeker to participate in a work for dole program, or other reciprocal commitment stream, until they remain unemployed for 12 months.

Mr Dutton said taxpayers were “justifiably” angry that there were Australians who were able to work and refused to work.

“People aren’t legitimately looking for work and people aren’t applying or they’re just doing it online — and you see this feedback from employers all the time and they’re also frustrated,” he said.

“People find it very difficult to find these workers in pubs, in farms, in tourism, etc. And it’s frustrating when you have Australians who can work and refuse to work. I think Australians who are taxpayers get angry about that, and rightly so.”

Dr. Chalmers defended the government’s decision to limit a jobseeker’s pay rise to only older Australians – despite an assessment panel recommending a “substantial” increase for the entirety of “seriously inadequate” payments – Dr Chalmers said there were valid reasons .

“The Jobseeker’s Allowance already differentiates between workers who are closer to old age pension – older workers. It already pays a different rate for people over 60, which is an acknowledgment that it is more difficult to find a new job at the end of your working life.”
he told ABC Radio.

“The second point is related. All expert advice says that the group most likely to be long-term unemployed are those over 55, and that group is dominated by women. That is the most vulnerable part of the unemployed population.

“The third is that no government can meet all calls for more spending in the budget, even from people and groups whose views we welcome and respect. It is not possible to meet all calls… especially at a time when we have persistently high inflation and structural deficits.”

He said the age of 55 was the recommendation of the Women’s Economic Equality task force and the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee.

Dr. Chalmers said the government had budgeted a comprehensive cost-of-living package, including measures that are “not determined by age”.

“The overwhelming priority for the government is to alleviate this significant cost of living in a way that prioritizes the most vulnerable,” he said.

It is likely that a broader payment increase will be reconsidered in subsequent budgets.

Peter Duton

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.