Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash thinks she’s got the plan to get young unemployed people into work. But Jon Faine has some suggestions of his own.
In this week’s budget, the Coalition announced a $751 million, three-point strategy called Youth Jobs PaTH, one of a number of changes to welfare and employment services. While praised as an improvement to Work for the Dole, the plan has drawn criticism thanks to its focus on internships, of which 30,000 will be offered per year. Businesses will be given $1,000 to take an intern on for up to 12 weeks, while under 25s who accept one will get an extra $100 on top of their dole payments.
Given the internships could last up to 25 hours a week, that means as little as $4 extra per hour for those who go into the program.
While the government hasn’t been pleased with the quizzical response to the package so far, Cash made a bright start on ABC radio this morning, in a chat with Jon Faine.
“This is a three stage process, it’s very exciting,” she said. And the Minister certainly did sound excited.
The host, less so. Jon declined to Faine enthusiasm.
As Cash made her general pitch – “real life experience”, “employability skills” – he interrupted her, encouraging a more specific response. But efforts one, two, and three didn’t prove a charm.
“For the fourth time Minister, how does it work,” the host probed drolly.
Two minutes in and no one seemed too happy with how things were going.
Importantly, Cash went on to say the first stage of the program, which involves “basic skills” training, would be compulsory for those on welfare in their first five months, opening the possibility those who dodge it will have their payments docked. She said this phase would help under 25s develop “soft skills” like ‘working in a team’, ‘communication’ and ‘punctuality’.
Faine was now thoroughly fed-up. Helpful guy that he is, the host added his own suggestion as to the kind of training Cash’s program could include.
“You might teach people how to directly answer questions when they’re asked the first time instead of the fifth time,” he said.
Before Cash could take the bait he moved, pushing the Minister on what would happen to those who did not attend this ‘soft skills’ training. Would they be pushed off their payments?
With Faine now offering policy tips, and the interview speeding off the rails, Cash also decided to swap roles, putting a question of her own to the ABC host.
“Why do you focus on the negatives, Jon? Seriously, you’re focusing on the negatives.”
The chiding didn’t stop him, and the interview ploughed on from a tad bit tense to downright absurd. Faine suggested the government wouldn’t be able to regulate the program any better than it had 457 visas, 7-Eleven, or vocational education.
Faine: “It’s those geniuses who put this scheme together! It is so capable of being rorted, so obviously being turned into the sort of 7-Eleven rort that it beggars belief it is thought to be genuine job creating policy.”
Cash: “Ahhhhh, ab-so-lute-ly, fun-da-mentally, incorrect.”
Faine: “Which bit?”
Cash: “Everything you have just said.”
More interruptions followed, as Cash remained determined to stretch the word “aaaaab-so-lootley” to its greatest possible length at every available opportunity.
“Apart from yourself and Ged Kearney, everyone else has given this the thumbs up,” the Minister gloated.
“Whether I give it a thumbs up or thumbs down is irrelevant and I’m not doing anything. I’m asking you question about how it works, that is my role, that is the job, that someone does in this position regardless of their personal views,” Faine shot back.
So loud had Cash’s laughter grown, it was hard to hear the end of Faine’s defence.
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