Labor announce plans to overhaul ‘wasteful’ dole system if elected

Labor plan to overhaul the current dole system if they are elected into government in May. Source: Getty.

There is a federal election looming which means the major parties will soon be pulling out the big guns in order to try and secure a win come polling day.

Labor announced one such plan on Tuesday, revealing they intend to overhaul the current dole system by reducing the number of job applications required by those on Newstart in order to receive their fortnightly payments.

Opposition Employment Services spokeswoman Terri Butler spoke to 3AW’s Heidi Murphy about the party’s plans to reform the current Jobactive programme – the government’s employment service designed to help Aussies find work – if Labor is elected in May.

“We learned at the end of last year there was about 5,000 people in the system who’ve had seven or so jobs in the past three years and every time they’ve got one of those seven jobs, a fee has been paid from the public purse to the employment services provider,” Butler said. “So that’s wasteful.

“But it also means people aren’t getting into meaningful work, they’re getting into short term jobs and dropping straight out and ending back up on benefits.”

Currently mutual obligations requirements require Newstart claimants to meet with a Jobactive provider, agree to a job plan and be actively seeking work by applying for a certain number of jobs each month. Although the obligations differ for those over the age of 55.

However, Labor intends to slash the required amount of job applications, with Butler saying the current reporting model “isn’t getting to the root causes of people’s unemployment”, suggesting it is more of a “box-ticking exercise” at present. Instead, job seeker obligations would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

“What I’m talking about is less frequent reporting, fewer boxes and actually having information that demonstrates that someone’s met their mutual obligation,” she added. “I want people to get off the dole sooner, I want people to get out of the revolving door.”

Butler said Labor’s plans would reduce administrative burdens, as well as reducing the waste of taxpayers money, however presenter Murphy stated that it sounded like “reducing mutual obligations”

Butler added: “People pay taxes to the commonwealth, they expect their taxes to be spent well. 

Read more: Labor consider increasing ‘insultingly’ low dole if they win federal election.

Just last month, Sydney’s Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne introduced a motion at the ALP’s national conference in Adelaide to raise the “insultingly low” jobseekers welfare payment by $75 a week.

Byrne penned an opinion piece for The Guardian ahead of the event in which he called for an “incoming Labor government” to hike up the current dole rate, arguing that unemployed Aussies are now among the poorest people in the developed world.

“For a quarter of a century while Australia has experienced uninterrupted economic growth, our lowest paid citizens have gone without any real increase in their incomes,” he wrote. “With Labor seemingly on the precipice of coming into government, it’s time once again for our party to act and ensure that the poorest Australians are treated with the dignity and respect.”

Shorten previously promised to assess the adequacy of Newstart if he is elected as the next Australian prime minister in May 2019, when the federal election is expected to take place, however Byrne says the government needs to go further and “review the rate of Newstart in the first term of government”, also describing the Coalitions recent hike of $2.20 as “insultingly small”.

What are your thoughts on this story? Have you ever been on Newstart? Do you think the reporting requirements need to be reconsidered?

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