Gillard pledges cash for job seekers

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced financial assistance for unemployed Australians willing to relocate for a guaranteed job.

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Unemployed people willing to move to a regional area for work will receive up to $6000 to cover relocation expenses.

Those moving to a different metropolitan area will receive up to $3000.

Initially, a re-elected Labor government will trial the measure for two years from January 1, 2011, targeting up to 2000 eligible people on unemployment benefits.

If an employee leaves within six months of relocating they would be penalised.

The proposal will cost $14.8 million over three years from 2010-2011.

Tougher rules will be introduced for jobseekers, including penalties for not attending employment service appointments.

Employers will receive a $2500 incentive to take relocated jobseekers.

Ms Gillard, who was campaigning in the Melbourne suburb of Pakenham in the marginal Labor seat of La Trobe, said the government was stepping up efforts to ensure those able to work performed productive work.

The relocation “bonuses” would enable job seekers to move from their home location to take up a job, she said.

“There are parts of the country that are experiencing rapid growth and crying out for more workers. “We want Australians to get the benefit of those opportunities.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has previously flagged a similar measure.

A re-elected Labor government would also seek to crack down on job seekers by upping compliance measures, Ms Gillard said.

If the newly unemployed missed their first appointment with Centrelink or Job Services Australia, their benefits would be suspended until they made contact.

If they missed a second consultation, benefits would be withheld even after they got in touch.

Ms Gillard said the government was driving the message home that “people who can work should work.

“We expect compliance,” she said.

Ms Gillard dismissed suggestions Labor had pinched Mr Abbott’s idea. “His track record is all talk and no action,” she said, adding the previous Howard government could have introduced the measure.

Ms Gillard said she understood people would sometimes legitimately miss appointments.

“Someone can be sick … have a family bereavement, have to attend a funeral,” she said.

“These are the ordinary circumstances of human life.”

Centrelink officers would show commonsense but job seekers should feel the same level of responsibility that other people did in their day-to-day job, Ms Gillard said.

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