No Backdown Andrews Tells NFP Sector
12 June 2014 at 11:50 am
Federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has fronted the ACOSS National Conference defending the recent Federal Budget, saying that Australia can deny the current social and economic challenges or face up to them.
Andrews said there was three interrelated challenges facing Australia that explained why the Government had made its decisions, including increasing the retirement age and the changes to Newstart for people aged under 30, in the recent Budget.
He said the first challenge was the national economy facing a major transition as the mining and resources booms moves from a construction phase to a production phase.
He said the second was the ageing population and the third, Australia's shrinking workforce.
Andrews said these were the reasons why the Government planned to raise the retirement age.
"It's also why we have looked at young people, those under 30s that if you are not in a job you should be training to get a job," he said.
"In the context of ageing population and shrinking workforce… it makes sense to say to young people, if you are not in a job you should be in training…
"We can deny the challenges if we like or we can face them."
Andrews said the three challenges were also why the Government was reviewing the welfare system.
He explained that one model that he was looking very closely at was New Zealand's welfare system model, which was based on a social investment model.
He said this preferred model would allow the Government to look at the empirical data upfront, make appropriate decisions and working on a "trajectory towards employment over a trajectory towards welfare".
"It's why I am attracted to it, give us better information and enables us to do a better job for the young people of Australia," he said.
Andrews told the audience of leaders and frontline workers in the Not for Profit sector that he had received the discussion paper into the Government’s review of the welfare system but he would not be releasing it until the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott returned to Australia.
However he said the full report would not be released until September or October.
He said as part of the Government's new approach to the welfare system, the Government was planning to increase the single contracts between community services and the Department of Social Services to five-year agreements opposed to one or two years.
"We 're also looking to measure outcomes instead of inputs," Andrews said.
As part of that plan, Andrews said he would be setting up an expert panel, drawn on from scholars and practitioners to investigate how the Government can place much more emphasis on intervention.
Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten followed Minister Andrew's speech telling the delegates to the ACOSS National Conference that the Federal Budget was a national embarrassment.
"It is a national disgrace to fairness," Shorten said.
"Labor and I reject the cynicism that divides Australia into the so-called lifters: successful businessmen, Coalition Ministers, conservative media commentators, and the leaners: the disabled, the disabled pensioners, the people going to the doctor, the fixed-income pensioners and families with children between six and 16 receiving modest payments,” he told the Conference.