Plan to relocate unemployed 'punitive'

MOVES to force the unemployed to relocate to areas of higher work have been described by a south-west employment expert as punishment for country job seekers. 

The Commission of Audit report released to the federal government this week has recommended people aged between 22 and 30 struggling to find work be forced to travel to higher employment areas or face losing their dole payments. 

But South West Local Learning and Employment Network (LLEN) boss Toni Jenkins said the move would be “punitive” city-centric policy designed with little regard for country Victorians.

“I can’t believe it. I think there are some issues about human rights,” Ms Jenkins told The Standard. 

“In rural and regional Victoria we’re struggling to keep people anyway ... it’s bad enough that young people have to leave for study.” 

Ms Jenkins said she was sceptical the Commonwealth would implement the policy, adding that job seekers would struggle in capital cities to make rent payments on unemployment benefits. 

“Even to pay rent at market rates is $20,000 a year. If you have someone move from Koroit to Sunshine they’ve got no infrastructure or community support,” she said. 

“What we need is a more suitable funded education system, not punitive measures.”

The report has flagged massive changes including charging $15 to see a GP and forcing people earning more than $88,000 off Medicare. 

Warrnambool campus Deakin University Professor of accounting Graeme Wines said it was unlikely the Abbott government would adopt many of the recommendations.

He said similar independent reviews given to the Howard government in 1996 and the Henry Tax Review given to the Rudd government had been politically hard to implement.

“Historically we’ve had these recommendations come out of the reviews, but politically they’re very hard to adopt,” Professor Wines said.

While stopping short of suggesting which measures the government is most likely to “cherry pick” from the audit, the academic foreshadowed some hard decisions.  “If you look at the last decade, the growth in government spending has been greater than the growth in tax revenue.

“The budget has structural problems. If they do not take measures it will continue to be in deficit.”

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