TONY Abbott has had a Sarah Palin moment by considering banning the dole for under-30s, a union boss has quipped, while Kevin Rudd has attacked the idea as policy on the run.
The Opposition Leader has kick-started a debate on banning unemployment benefits, arguing it would encourage young people to move to take up jobs.
But Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes said people under 30 would not automatically find work in the resources sector under any such scheme.
“This is crass politics at its worst, the type of thing that was typical of Pauline Hanson,” Mr Howes told Sky News.
“It’s one of Tony Abbott’s Sarah Palin moments.”
The Prime Minister told Sky that “what we have … from Mr Abbott is once again policy making on the run”.
“I just think it’s time Mr Abbott had some sort of work on these sorts of questions.”
Mr Abbott first made the controversial remarks during a two-hour meeting with about 15 senior resources industry leaders in Perth on Monday night.
“I had a very free ranging discussion with people who were complaining bitterly about the difficulty of getting people to work,” Mr Abbott told ABC Radio today.
“And we were canvassing about whether changes to the social security system might help to create more incentives to work.”
A spokeswoman for the Opposition Leader said he had posed the question but that did not mean the approach was Coalition policy.
Mr Abbott said he thought Australians did not like a welfare system that provided the dole in areas where employers needed unskilled labour.
It was important that “where work exists people should be given a range of incentives to take that work up”.
“I did notice my friend Warren Mundine suggesting some time ago that in areas where unskilled labour is in demand that the dole shouldn’t be paid, and I think that’s the sort of measure we should be debating in this country,” he said.
“There has got to be a system which encourages people to take up work where that work is available and certainly the idea of having people on the dole where there is relatively unskilled work freely available, I think the Australian public don’t like that idea very much.”
Six of the meeting attendees confirmed yesterday that Mr Abbott had raised the idea of banning welfare payments for young people to encourage them to fill the thousands of jobs emerging in states such as Western Australia and Queensland.
Mr Abbott’s views echo comments he made as employment services minister in 2000 when he announced that people on the dole in South Australia’s Riverland would be required to seek fruit harvest work before receiving benefits.