THE Cape York leader Noel Pearson, who has been calling on the federal government to ditch the dole for Aborigines aged under 21 for at least three years, has finally found a prospective prime minister who agrees with the idea.
Tony Abbott yesterday lauded Mr Pearson as ”a contemporary Australian public prophet” and said his ideas on moving indigenous people from welfare to work would be adapted for dealing with youth unemployment.
”Young people should be presented with two options: you either earn or learn,” Mr Pearson, the director of the Cape York Institute, once told a Cairns business forum.
The institute has used a line drawing of a ”welfare pedestal” and a staircase to describe the policy idea that the Opposition Leader has now adopted.
The ”welfare pedestal” includes Newstart allowance, family tax benefits, parenting payments and the work-for-the-dole Community Development Employment Projects scheme.
The staircase symbolises the climb which people can make to material gain. An Institute paper, From Hand Out to Hand Up, explains that the pedestal – which is positioned higher than the first step on the staircase in the drawing – is the place where more money than ”the starting price of real work in the real economy” is available.
Welfare recipients are unlikely to want to jump off the pedestal and start climbing the staircase by accepting a low-paid apprenticeship or job.
”We need maximum hassle, maximum push for people to get up and take jobs. If you add the family tax benefit to work-for-the-dole, then it’s not worth getting a job,” Mr Pearson told the Cairns gathering two years ago.
The hourly rate at which young Aborigines are paid working for the dole is high compared with pay for apprentices and junior employees, he said.
”They can say the white boss is too harsh, they don’t like getting the shit jobs, so they leave and go back to welfare where they will remain until kingdom come.”
According to the institute paper, family welfare payments should have conditions attached to them because of the relatively high rate of teenage pregnancies.