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Tony Abbott Tried to Ban People Under 30 From Receiving Centrelink

New documents reveal the former Prime Minister wanted to ban all young people from welfare services back in 2014.

by Katherine Gillespie
28 January 2018, 10:52pm

Tony Abbott in 2014. Via Shutterstock

Remember the 2014 budget? Bit of a nasty one. Quite a lot of backlash. It was a weird time: Tony Abbott was Prime Minister, Joe Hockey was Treasurer, and Mathias Cormann was Finance Minister. Cuts to Newstart, Medicare, and the ABC all featured prominently. University courses were to be largely deregulated, and the interest rates on HECS debts increased. Tens of thousands of people protested on the streets; I personally threatened to move to New Zealand via a popular Facebook status, and ultimately many of the proposed reforms were watered down by the Federal Government.

According to a new report from the ABC, though, the 2014 budget could have been even worse for young people: confidential documents reveal that Tony Abbott pushed hard to cut welfare for all people under the age of 30. This actually doesn’t seem super crazy—when Joe Hockey presented the budget to parliament, he literally prefaced it by saying “The age of entitlement is over.” The whole thing was designed to appease the boomers. Still, the thought of restricting an entire generation’s access to basic welfare services is somewhat confronting. Especially as the documents reveal Abbott’s proposal was under serious consideration.

According to the ABC, Abbott, Hockey, and Corman formally requested that then-Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews investigate the possibility of banning “job snobs” (yep, that’s the term used!) from receiving Centrelink support payments. According to the Brotherhood of St Laurence, youth unemployment was hovering around 12.4 percent at the time—and was on the rise. For the record, the highest rates of youth unemployment were actually found in small towns and rural areas, rather than capital cities filled with snobby millennials with arts degrees.

Andrews, a close ally of Abbott, was then forced into the uncomfortable position of trying to explain why cutting welfare to all people under the age of 30 might induce public backlash. He presented the Prime Minister with three different options to implement the police: either cutting welfare for under-30s altogether, cutting welfare for under-30s who lived in areas with “more job opportunities”, or cutting welfare for under-30s with “no work history”. Ultimately, though, the plan was scrapped altogether—it would appear that Andrews was able to persuade the other ministers that it might not be particularly effective or popular with voters.

"This is a fundamental change to Australia's universal social security system … it is not clear that there is a strong evidence base for this approach," he wrote in a letter drafted to Abbott as well as then-Employment Minister Eric Abetz.

"Young people in financial hardship could experience homelessness, be driven to crime and other antisocial behaviour, family breakdown and possible criminal flow-on resulting from removing the social security safety net."

Hmm, ya think?

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