Employment Secretary Tony Burke said it was too late to abandon a controversial points-based system of mutual obligation for jobseekers, insisting the concept was “fair”, but that it needed to be tweaked.
Supporters have called on the new Albanian government to scrap, or at least suspend, the ‘points-based activation system’ (Pbas), which requires job seekers to earn 100 ‘points’ through job search. employment or other activities such as study, training, hours of employment or unemployed work.
The new system, which comes into effect on July 1, replaces the much-criticized JobActive program which required job seekers to submit 20 job applications per month.
Burke said the Morrison government had finalized the contracts for the $7 billion tender ahead of the interim mode, and the Albanian government would move forward with the “more flexible” model.
“It’s actually too late not to have a point system at all,” he said.
“It’s about getting in there and making it make sense, and making sure that when all these contracts come into effect in a few weeks, we actually have a system that helps the long-term unemployed.”
Burke said Labor had agreed there were aspects of the old JobActive scheme that needed to change, but he remained concerned about the automation proposed in the new system, which raised alarm bells given the so- saying Robodebt scandal.
He said the “initial concept” of a points-based system was “right”, but he wanted to make sure anomalies were ironed out and people weren’t unfairly penalized.
“To have a more flexible system, good idea,” he said.
“Twenty applications per week being the only measure, it is the wrong way to go. So being able to account for someone getting a forklift license, driver’s license, things like that, those are valid things to consider. So this concept is good. Automated messages, it’s a disastrous path if you do it the wrong way,” he said.
“Part of what the government has designed is more punitive than doing the job. We want to make sure, and I’m going to change it over the next week, to make sure that we can have a system designed to put people to work, rather than a publicity stunt to punish people.
Burke also said the government was “working” to find out if it could increase the rate of the JobSeeker payment after the Fair Work Commission’s decision to raise the minimum wage by 5.2%.
Ahead of the election, Labor dropped an earlier pledge to review the JobSeeker rate if it forms government, which has been criticized as inadequate and remains below the poverty line.
“These decisions go to the budget. And we said during the campaign, all of these benefit payments, they’re being reassessed for what’s affordable to every budget. This time we don’t have to wait for a budget next year because there will be an October budget and an assessment will be made of those who have all the economic circumstances,” Burke said.
“I am not a member of the Expenditure Review Committee – there are others working on this issue.”