Transcript: 2GB - Sydney Live interview with Ben Fordham

15 September 2016

The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Minister for Human Services
Topics: 
Youth unemployment/welfare
E&OE

BEN FORDHAM:        
On the line from Canberra, Alan Tudge, the Minister for Human Services. Minister, good afternoon.

ALAN TUDGE:
G'day Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:        
What do you make of the comments that we read today from Ashleigh and Amy?

ALAN TUDGE:
They're completely unacceptable and I think totally against community expectations. I mean, there's a lot of people who are working hard today and they're paying taxes and some of those taxes go towards supporting those who might be down on their luck and without work and I think people have prepared to contribute to those people. But at the same time, we expect people who are receiving unemployment benefits to be looking for work, to be taking a job if one is available and that is the mutual obligation that I think ordinary citizens expect of people and these two people don't seem to be abiding by them.

BEN FORDHAM:        
I got to admit my first reaction was not one of anger but one of sorrow. I mean, when I looked at these young ladies and I looked at what they were saying, I just though how sad is this that they've formed that view at such a young age.

ALAN TUDGE:
Well, it's that as well Ben and at the end of the day it's not in anybody's interest to be on welfare. I mean, if you're on welfare for any length of time, it can actually be a real poison to you and suck the life and motivation out of an individual and, you know, the old saying is that the best form of welfare is a job is absolutely right because, as you know Ben and your listeners know, a job provides dignity, it provides structure, it provides some economic empowerment for individuals.

Whereas, unfortunately, long term, passive welfare dependence, it can be debilitating on individuals over time. So, we want to encourage young people, like these two people on the front page of The Daily Telegraph, to take any job which is available to them, even if it's not the perfect job. Take that first job that's available, do that well and then you'll be better positioned to get a greater, higher paying job down the track.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Are these figures correct that there are 580,000 Australians between 15 and 29 who fall into this category and - the NEETs category, not in employment education or training, and out of those 580,000, about 400,000 are not looking for a job?

ALAN TUDGE:
Well, this has come from an OECD report. Now, some of those people who are not looking for a job are because they're on a Disability Support Pension, for example, and therefore, there's no obligation to be looking for a job. So, we've got to be a bit careful with some of the data. Now …

BEN FORDHAM:        
[Interrupts] They also say the majority are unwilling to work.

ALAN TUDGE:
Well, the vast majority of people on unemployment benefits do want to work. They are actively searching for work and take a job when one is available. But there are too many people, unfortunately, who do not want to work and go out of their way to try to avoid the system.

Now, everything that we are doing is, on the one hand, trying to create more jobs so there's more opportunities, on the other, putting place a compliance mechanism which encourages at every, single step young people to take a job when it becomes available.

So, for example, if you're on unemployment benefits, you must be applying for jobs on a weekly basis, you must accept one, if it's within a reasonable distance, and if you're still on unemployment benefits after 12 months, then you'll be required to do Work for the Dole. So, that's the regime we've got in place.

Now, we're always looking to strengthen that, to encourage people to take those jobs when they are available because it's in their best interests as much as it is the community’s.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Alright. I know how important it is for ministers to have first-hand contact with people out in the field, people who see this stuff every day. I've got on the line Ivanka who's a mate of this program, she runs the Graceades Cottage.

It's in Mount Druitt, Minister, and what she does - and I've been there - I don't know whether you caught up with any of the publicity around that show Struggle Street on SBS last year, but it focused on the Mount Druitt community and I saw Ivanka on there.

She runs this community cottage and she was a shining light amongst a lot of darkness because she's out there helping kids, inspiring them, she's got the computer room upstairs, she's got a gym downstairs and she's all about motivating people to get out there and have a go …

ALAN TUDGE:
[Talks over] Yeah, good stuff.

BEN FORDHAM:        
… and I felt sorry for her, having seen the wonderful work she was doing and the fact that the conditions that she was doing them in were pretty poor, so my listeners very kindly undertook a $100,000-plus renovation to the Graceades Cottage to make sure that it was up to standard.

I just thought we'd just quickly have a yarn with Ivanka just to get her take on what we've heard today about these two young ladies, how normal it is or whether it's out of the ordinary. Ivanka, good afternoon.

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
Hi Ben, hello Minister.

ALAN TUDGE:
G'day.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Ivanka …

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
Hello listeners.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Good on you Ivanka. Just tell us, you've been listening to our discussion. The Minister's on the line and this is his job, he's the Minister for Human Services, tell me what your take is on this case.

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
Well, my take is - oh my god, I couldn't believe when I watched it on TV this morning when I was getting ready for work, I thought you're kidding me. Look, I've been working here 10 years as you know, I've worked with a lot of youth that had a lot of social issues, with home and themselves and we have supported them in every possible way to get work …

BEN FORDHAM:        
[Interrupts] How many of them want to and let's be fair dinkum here as well, I know that…

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
[Talks over] I'll be honest - nah, I'll be honest …

BEN FORDHAM:
… I know that you don't beat around the bush and you'll be honest, how many want it and how many have said look, I've got too many dramas going on in my life to work?

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
We've got - I'll be honest, probably 50 per cent want to, 50 per cent have dramas.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Does that sound about right Minister?

ALAN TUDGE:
Oh listen, it's hard to get a good read out of these figures but you hear this anecdotally all over the place where there's so many people who simply just don't want to work and will try to work around the system to avoid their obligations …

BEN FORDHAM:        
[Interrupts] Alright, the ones who don't want to work Ivanka, what can you do with them, what do you guys try and do or is it a case of oh well, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink?

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
Well, that happens a bit, you know, not a lot but it does happen. There are some that come in and we try to - like you met Bootcamp Productivity …

BEN FORDHAM:        
Yes.

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
… on the day and Paul Breen what he's doing with the youth of the area and, you know, I was so impressed with him taking on youth and giving them a traineeship and dealing with their issues and their home issues and being there and understanding and, you know, getting them to do the traineeship and then they do go straight into work. That was the major thing that I …

BEN FORDHAM:        
[Interrupts] Alright, let me ask you one more quick one because I know the Minister's time is valuable and yours is as well there in Mount Druitt but you don't want generational unemployment where you've got kids who are growing up in a household where that's all they've known, how big a factor is that because I wonder …

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
[Interrupts] It is a big factor.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Yeah I mean, if you're growing up in a house …

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
[Talks over] It is a big factor [inaudible] …

BEN FORDHAM:        
… if you're growing up in where mum and dad are going off to work or dad's going off to work or mum's going off to work, then that is part of your life and that's the way the world works. But if you live in a house where people don't go to work, then you think that's normal. Tell me how big that is, Ivanka.

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
It is a big factor. If they're not working - if nobody's working at a home - and I've heard them say, why should I go work? And I go to them don't you want to travel, don't you want nice clothes, don't you want things, don't you want to have money whether it - or whatever you want it for, you know, and after coming here for a while and coming out to groups and supporting, they start to study and the study might be through OTEN or online.

But I can tell you, one - just one kid I can tell you about, lost both parents by the time he was 18, had to bring his sister up from 14 years old. Did OTEN TAFE community services, did online university, now he's working in the community sector.

Yes it did change his- factor of his- rent is dearer because he is in housing but this kid has travelled now and he's now got the travel bug. You know, once they see a bit of difference in their lives and that they do keep going to work [inaudible] …

BEN FORDHAM:        
It's not a bad sell is it Minister to say to people and we know that everyone wants everything these days to say look, if you want the iPhone, if you want to go and travel, if you want to see the world and want a nice car, you've got to get off your backside. Look, Minister if you've got any interest at any stage, if you're ever in Mount Druitt and you want to go and see …

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
Come and visit us, we'll have a coffee.

BEN FORDHAM:
… what the …

ALAN TUDGE:
That sounds terrific and well done to all of your listeners as well Ben for contributing to the upkeep of that place.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Not at all …

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
[Inaudible] thank them so much because you know what, I still love it, I walk in every day and I think oh look at it. And thank you for the air con [inaudible]. I just thought oh my god…

BEN FORDHAM:        
[Laughs] No drama. Alright, well listen. Ivanka …

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
Yeah, thanks mate.

BEN FORDHAM:
… thanks for your time and Minister, thank you for yours as well and …

IVANKA PELIKAN:     
Yeah not a problem.

BEN FORDHAM:        
… if you want to meet Ivanka at any stage, Minister, just to have a look and have a look at what they're doing there just let me know and we'll put you in contact.

ALAN TUDGE:
Yep, great stuff. Thanks so much Ben.

BEN FORDHAM:        
Thanks for your time. Good on you, Alan Tudge who's the Minister for Human Services joining us from our Canberra studio in Parliament House.

(ENDS)