Employment minister says it’s ‘too late’ to abandon Coalition’s points-based jobseeker payment system

The employment minister, Tony Burke, says it is too late to scrap a controversial points-based mutual obligation system for jobseekers, insisting the concept is “right”, but needs tweaking.

Advocates have been calling on the new Albanese government to scrap, or at least pause, the the “points-based activation system” (Pbas), which requires jobseekers to earn 100 “points” through job search or other activities including study, training, hours of employment or work for the dole.

The new system, which starts 1 mes de julio, replaces the heavily criticised JobActive program that required jobseekers to lodge 20 job applications a month.

Burke said that the Morrison government had finalised contracts for the $7bn tender before caretaker mode, and that the Albanese government would be going ahead with the “more flexible” model.

“It’s actually too late to not have a points system at all," él dijo.

“It’s about getting inside it and making it logical, and making sure that when all these contracts take effect in a couple of weeks’ time, we’ve actually got a system that helps long-term unemployed people.”

Burke said that Labor had agreed that there were aspects of the old JobActive program that needed to change, but he remained concerned about proposed automation in the new system, which rang “alarm bells” given the so-called 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 penalised.

“To have a more flexible system, good idea," él dijo.

“Twenty applications a week being the only measure is the wrong way to go about things. Entonces, being able to take into account if someone’s getting a forklift licence, a driver’s licence, things like that, they are valid things to take into account. So that concept’s fine. The automated messages, it’s a disastrous way to go if you do that the wrong way," él dijo.

“What the government’s designed, some of it’s more punitive than actually getting the job done. We want to make sure, and I’ll be changing it over the course of the next week, to make sure that we can have a system that’s designed to get people into work, rather than some media stunt to punish people.”

Burke also said the government was “working through” whether it could lift the rate of the JobSeeker payment after the Fair Work Commission decision to lift the minimum wage by 5.2%.

Before the election, Labor ditched a previous commitment to review the JobSeeker rate if it formed government, which has been criticised as inadequate and remains below the poverty line.

“Those decisions go to the budget. And we said during the campaign, all of those benefit payments, they get reassessed for what’s affordable every budget. This time we don’t have to wait for a budget next year, because there’ll be an October budget and an assessment will be made of those with the full economic circumstances,” Burke said.

“I’m not a member of the Expenditure Review Committee – there’s others working through that issue.”

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