Budget shake-up puts the fair in welfare


Australians believe in a fair go. A strong welfare safety net is part of our national ethos. Equally, Australians believe in having a go.

Capable, working-age Australians should never accept welfare dependency as inevitable, or a lifestyle choice: the best form of welfare is a job.

The Turnbull government’s Budget provides greater support — and expectations — for job seekers.

Welfare spending represents more than a third of the budget — more than health, education and defence combined. And taxpayers are more than happy to help their fellow Australians, but expect their money to be spent effectively and not misused.

The right to welfare comes with responsibilities. Payments should not keep going out to those gaming the system. They should not be spent on drugs. And welfare shouldn’t entrench intergenerational dependency.

The Budget tackles these difficult problems head on, and the majority of job-seekers do the right thing by actively looking for work.

However, we have identified about 100,000 people who repeatedly fail to meet their obligations, with about 40,000 appearing to game the system.

These people avoid penalties because Labor’s legislation allows penalties to be easily waived.

We’re introducing a clear and fair system of compliance. In the same way drivers lose demerit points for driving offences, job seekers will lose one point if they fail to turn up to an appointment, interview or mutual obligation activity, like Work for the Dole.

If there are four demerits in six months, there will be a rigorous assessment, followed by penalties under a “three strikes” system — one week’s payment for a first strike, a fortnightly payment for a second strike and cancellation of payments for four weeks for a third strike.

The Budget includes substantial help for disadvantaged parents to break the cycle of dependency.

We know 80 per cent of young mothers on welfare had a parent or guardian also on welfare. Without help, there is a high chance their children too will grow up without a parent working.

We are now stepping in early with support and training for parents when children are young, so they have the skills and confidence to work when their children go to school.

It’s called ParentsNext and has been successfully piloted in 10 locations. The scheme will now be compulsory for about 68,000 on parenting payments.

We owe it to taxpayers to ensure the welfare system is effective and encourages capable working-age people to work. We owe it to job-seekers to ensure they have skills and support, along with an expectation they make the most of their opportunities.