Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says new bonuses for job seekers are part of his big vision to turn Australia from “welfare state to opportunity society”.
Mr Abbott has outlined plans to introduce hefty cash bonuses for those on welfare and aged under 30 if they get – and keep – a job.
They would be eligible for up to $4000 if they stayed off welfare for 24 months, plus more funding if they relocated for work.
“This is part of my big ambition for our country,” Mr Abbott said during his address to the National Press Club on Tuesday.
“My ambition is for us to make the journey from welfare state to opportunity society.”
The welfare system was crucial in providing a safety net, but it was also important to eliminate “the cancer of passive welfare which has caused intergenerational welfare to become a tragic way of life,” he said.
Mr Abbott said modelling showed the cost of providing employment incentives would be offset by the reduction in welfare costs.
“For everyone who takes these up there should be a net reduction in expenditure,” he said, adding that people would not be forced into work.
“I hope that very large numbers of the 112,000 long-term unemployed will take this up, but I am not compelling people (to do so).”
Mr Abbott doubted as “highly unlikely” the possibility of employers pocketing the incentive payment by deliberately hiring then firing workers.
“I don’t make an assumption that the employers of Australia are as ruthless and as unscrupulous as that,” he said.
Mr Abbott also flagged introducing stricter penalties for jobseekers who fail to meet Centrelink requirements to look for work.
Offenders would have their benefits suspended until they complied while there could be even stricter penalties for repeat offenders.
“But I’m not intending any any significant changes to the kind of regime which was formally in place,” he said.