Media Release - McClure Report opens the door to sensible discussion about Welfare to Work policies

Jobs Australia, the national peak body for the charitable and non-profit organisations that help unemployed Australians back to work, has welcomed the Final Report of the Reference Group on Welfare Reform, headed by Patrick McClure.

According to Jobs Australia CEO, David Thompson AM, the report presents an opportunity for the Government to engage in a discussion with the community about the type of welfare system we want to have in the future.

“This is one of those areas of policy where reforms have been ad-hoc, public discussion has been highly politicised and the result is a system that is more complicated than it should be,” Mr Thompson said.

“This report is an excellent starting point for a discussion about simplifying the system and making sure the right supports are in place to get more people into work”.

“The Government should abandon piece-meal reforms, such as punitive six-month non-payment periods for job seekers under 30 years of age, so that we can have a proper discussion without the threat of more punitive measures hanging over the heads of the poor and vulnerable like the sword of Damocles”.

Mr Thompson said that although more detail was needed on many recommendations, and Government would need to be steadfast in its commitment that nobody should be worse off, the overall direction set out in the Report was right.

“Much depends on crucial details such as rates of payment and eligibility arrangements for each of the proposed payments.”

“Everybody goes through events in their life that can impact on their engagement with the labour market,” Mr Thompson said.

“Everybody deserves to have the support of an adequate safety-net if they need it, and people deserve to be genuinely supported in their path back to work”.

Mr Thompson said the recommendations for an investment approach, based on a model developed by the New Zealand Government, were particularly important.

“The investment approach is critical if we are to develop a better understanding of what support services work best, for whom and when,” Mr Thompson said.

“It goes to the heart of evidence-based policy. It means that we can try an intervention or program, see exactly how effective it is in terms of dollars saved on our future welfare bill, and start investing in programs that demonstrably work”.

Initially, truly effective welfare reform will require significant additional spending and won’t generate savings but, as the effectiveness of programs improves, savings could be expected in the longer-term.

“Trying to do this on the cheap and with a more sticks and less carrots approach won’t work,” Mr Thompson said.

Australia’s future prosperity and, crucially, the legacy we will leave our children and theirs depends on Increasing workforce participation and productivity.

“Mr McClure has provided a good framework for the detailed blueprint the government must now develop”, Mr Thompson said. “We know from past experience that getting policy and implementation details right represents a huge challenge for any government.  We’re keen to help in that process”.

Jobs Australia will consult its members before providing Government with more detailed feedback on specific recommendations and advice on implementation.

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Jobs Australia is the national peak body representing the non-profit organisations that help disadvantaged people find work.

Media contact:     Al Parmeter – 0408 417 712