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June 16, 2010

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester is calling for a broader national debate on welfare reform claiming that anyone who is fit and able, should undertake community work if they can’t find a job.

Mr Chester raised the issue during a speech in Federal Parliament where he supported the welfare safety net but said it shouldn’t be seen as a “welfare security blanket”.

“In my electorate there are sections of the community where we are faced now with a second and third generation of welfare recipients,” Mr Chester told Parliament.

“It is a major issue for us as a country when we have people who through a whole range of circumstances have now got themselves in the situation where up to three generations have never been gainfully employed and have never had the benefits that come from working in paid employment.

“For people who are on the dole it is very easy to get into lazy habits. Even in as little as two or three months people’s attitude changes to themselves and to how they view their role in our community.

“I believe we need to be creating a very positive work ethic in our community and arguing the case that if you are fit and able to work you should be working. We need to have a very close look at our welfare system and at the obligations we place on people who are receiving Newstart allowances.

“This is not a question of bashing dole bludgers or trying to engage in some sort of class warfare; this issue of passive welfare is destroying lives in my electorate. We are doing these people an absolute disservice if we wind back the mutual obligation.

“It is destroying families, and the young people growing up in these households lack the benefit of positive role models, which I think is so important to young people in our community.

“The wasted human capital associated with this issue is one area that we need to have a much closer look at. Paid employment is the way out of poverty for so many people. It is a way out of the social and economic dysfunction that occurs in some of our towns.

“The self-respect that people gain, the sense of responsibility, their work ethic and taking control of their own destiny are so important. They are lessons that government handouts will never teach people.”

Mr Chester said there were a wide range of community-based tasks that fit and able job seekers could undertake until they found ongoing employment ranging from general maintenance of community assets to assisting the elderly with outdoor tasks.

“I urge the minister to continue to engage with the Work for the Dole program to ensure that people have that opportunity to receive training and to invest in their own skills for the future and have the self-esteem and the decency of paid employment,” Mr Chester said.

“We can’t afford to have a system where some fit and able people are not making a contribution to our community but still expect to receive welfare benefits.

“They would benefit from community-based work and our towns would also benefit.”

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