Member for Page Janelle Saffin says the Rudd Government’s new welfare compliance system will be good news for job seekers in Page.

The Government has introduced legislation to give effect to measures announced in this year’s Budget, to introduce a fairer job seeker compliance system from July 1, 2009.

Ms Saffin said the current penalty system, introduced by the previous Coalition Government, often hurts the most vulnerable job seekers.

“Figures show that 15 per cent of those who have payments cuts for eight weeks have a mental illness, and another five per cent have unstable housing,” she said.

“These are the ones we know of for sure, but my local experience tells me that the figures would be higher.

“In the last financial year a total of 321 people in Page had their payments cut for eight weeks, an increase of 92 per cent on the previous year.

“But the Howard Government’s punitive system didn’t work because there was no improvement in attendance at job network interviews, job search training or Customised Assistance.”

“The primary goal should not be about punishment, but about helping people secure work.”

Ms Saffin said the Rudd Government would introduce a more effective welfare compliance system that included a ‘No Show, No Pay’ penalty.

“Just like a job, if a job seeker fails to turn up for a required activity, without a reasonable excuse, they will lose a day’s pay,” she said.

“For those who wilfully and persistently refuse to comply or to look for work, there will be an eight-week penalty period, but under the Rudd Government’s system a job seeker can have the payment reinstated if they agree to undertake a compliance activity.

“It’s about restoring the balance between participation and penalty.”

Local job seeker Sean Hopkins says it’s too simple to get breached under the current system regardless of the reasons you have for not being able to attend.

“It’s fairer to have a system where you just lose a day’s pay, instead of eight weeks of payments,” he said.

“If I was cut off for eight weeks I wouldn’t eat.”