The Coalition has backed away from a tough measure that would have forced job seekers to submit 40 applications per month in order to continue receiving welfare support.
Welfare groups had heavily criticised the measure, with one grassroots activist creating an app allowing members of the public to spam MPs with job requests in protest.
Yet in an interview on the ABC’s AM program, Minister for Employment Eric Abetz continually pointed to the burden the measures would have put on businesses as the reason for dropping the requirement.
“We have listened to the community feedback and whilst we are very strongly of the view that a job seeker should have as their full-time job, gaining employment, we do understand that for business it would be a burden and it might diminish the value of job applications if we have too many applications being undertaken,” Abetz said.
In July, Abetz defended the 40-application benchmark saying job seekers would only have to apply for one job in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Job seekers receiving welfare are already required to apply for 20 jobs per month, a requirement that will continue with the abandonment of Abetz’s tougher test.
Bowz Chapman, whose experiences with unemployment led him to create the satirical Dole Bludger App, told New Matilda life on Newstart was tough enough and that the lack of opportunity was keeping people out of the workforce.
“The money you get on Newstart, the amount is so small, it’s disheartening in itself,” he said.
“I have a uni degree, but I was applying for jobs against 500 other people, probably two-thirds of whom were better qualified than me. There just weren’t that many jobs out there in my field.”
Social service and business groups have repeatedly called on the government to increase Newstart payments.
While the decision to drop the 40-application requirement will provide some relief for welfare support groups, the Coalition is forging ahead with other punitive initiatives, including an expansion of work for the dole programs.
The Coalition is also sticking with perhaps the most controversial element of their welfare shake-up, which will see under 30s forced to endure a six month lock-out before they can access Newstart payments.
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews was recently sprung for lying about a similar scheme in New Zealand, which he had used to defend the Coalition’s plan.
After being asked by Labor to investigate the scheme, the Parliamentary Library reported it did not exist.
In September, the Senate rejected another tough measure which would have ended ‘waivers’ allowing suspended welfare payments to be renewed once the job seeker took steps to find work.
A Senate Committee heard the changes would be counter-productive, make it harder for the unemployed to return to the workforce, and increase homelessness.
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