Job seekers in two states are now trialling the updated online Jobactive platform as part of the biggest overhaul of the unemployment sector in two decades.
But the federal government is still facing calls to increase the Newstart unemployment payment, which hasn’t risen past inflation since the mid-1990s.
The coalition wants the new online platform to make the unemployment system easier for everyone to use.
“The trials currently taking place will shape the massive reforms to one of the government’s biggest spending items,” Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said.
“The new model will provide better services for those who most need it – disadvantaged job seekers.
“It will also work better for employers by providing them with a one-stop-shop to search and access candidates.”
A scathing report last year found Jobactive was out-dated, not fit for purpose and was “causing pain for some job seekers and employers”.
Combined with a Newstart payment that puts recipients well below the poverty line, the coalition has been fielding calls from inside its own ranks to improve conditions for people looking for work.
Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce last week called for Newstart – which pays about $40 a day – to be increased in regional areas.
“If someone’s on Newstart in a town like Woolbrook, it’s going to cost you $50 to go to Tamworth to do the groceries or go to a job interview,” he told The Australian.
Former prime minister John Howard, the Business Council of Australia, economists from Deloitte and KPMG, Resources Minister Matt Canavan and a collection of unions and social groups have all called for Newstart to be increased.
Reports have shown increasing the rate by $75 a week would create jobs and boost consumer spending, which has been weakening since last year.
But Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the government is focused on getting more people into jobs.
To do that the system is being modernised so job seekers have more flexible options, better tailored to their individual circumstances.
Senator Cash says the savings from moving Jobactive online will be reinvested in targeted face-to-face services for people who need extra help.
“Our new approach to mutual obligation will also encourage job seekers to take active steps to improve their employment prospects earlier than under the current framework,” she said.
The coalition’s approach to job seekers has been already heavily criticised after it wrongly issued robodebts to former Centrelink clients, a young man died on a Work-For-The-Dole site, and mums on the ParentsNext program said it made their lives significantly harder.
The new Jobactive platform is being trialled in Adelaide and the mid-North Coast in NSW from July until 2022, when it will be rolled out nationally.