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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Budget 2011 - Labor Overhauls Welfare

Julia Gillard has shown courage in attempting to overhaul the welfare system. Imagine the outcry if Tony Abbott attempted to shake up the long term unemployed, teenage mothers who have no intention of ever getting a job, or invalid pensioners who are quite capable of going out to work. These people have been living off welfare for years but no political party has been brave enough to tackle them. Until now.

The Prime Minister is hoping to break the cycle of dependence by getting them off welfare and into paid work. They will all have to meet strict work and training requirements or risk having their payments cut. They will also spend $100 million extending the controversial income management scheme to ensure welfare payments are spent on essentials. They will give generous incentives to employers to take on the long-term unemployed, older workers and people with disabilities. There will be extra training in literacy and numeracy for job seekers who have been on the dole for more than 12 months. Aged pensioners, students, disability support pensioners and single parents will also be able to work more hours before their pensions are cut. Work for the dole activities will be increased to 11 months of the year instead of six, for people who have been on the NewStart Allowance for more than two years.

The problem of young mothers living the life of Riley has finally been addressed. Teenage parents will have to return to school to finish year 12 after their child turns one, instead of six, or risk losing their parenting payment. The program will be trialled in ten disadvantaged areas from January next year. Young parents under 23 who have been unemployed for more than two years in those same ten communities will also have to plan a return to work through Centrelink or face having their welfare payments suspended. The same approach will be taken with disability pensioners under 35.

There are far too many young people in Australia who believe that Centrelink owes them a living but after today, they may have to think again.