Mining Magnate Andrew Forrest wants changes to welfare Source: Mines and Money
Mining Magnate Andrew Forrest wants changes to welfare. Source: Mines and Money

Saskia Edwards. Edited for online by Joshua Bristow

The Federal Government is being encouraged to remove welfare from teenagers if they are not in school, work or training in next week’s budget despite critics saying the move will force more young people into crime.

Billionaire miner Andrew Forrest is making the recommendations as he finalises a government commissioned review into Indigenous training and employment.

It has been revealed the mining magnate will recommend to the Federal Government that all Australians under 19 shouldn’t get welfare unless they are employed or in education.

At present almost 3,500 Australians are on the federal Youth Allowance payment.

Youth Affairs Network Queensland Director Siyavash Doostkhah says the measure will lure young people into crime.

“The cutting and limiting access to something that’s already below the poverty line and young people struggle to live on is just ludicrous because in reality the only thing you are putting in front of young people is a life of crime,” he said.

He also believes it is a plan for Mr Forrest to gain cheap employment.

“It’s more about how to displace more Indigenous young people, how to displace Indigenous people from communities that they are still in, in order to send in the mining companies that Mr Forrest has and then ensuring he has cheap labour in terms of young people forced to work casual jobs in mines and other associated businesses.”

Australian Youth Affairs Coalition Chairman Craig Comrie says stripping young people of their benefits could make them destitute.

“Basically we are putting young people in the situation where they could be living in poverty and putting young people at the risk of homelessness,” he said.

Mr Comrie also says there needs to be more employment for Aboriginal youths with almost 70 per cent of Indigenous people between 15 and 19 being unemployed.

“We need to be providing better jobs for them and better opportunities in the region. And if we don’t do that then Indigenous young people are just going to continue to live in poverty.”

But Queensland Council of Social Service director Mark Henley says it is important to encourage people into employment with appropriate support.

“I think anything that encourages young people to do additional education or get into the workforce is going to be an important step.”

Australian Nationak University Political Science expert Dr Gwen Gray says the move will not provide an incentive for people if there are not enough jobs.

“If more people are looking than there are job vacancies, you know tens of thousands, putting incentives in place to get people into work, will work if there are jobs but if there are not enough jobs for the number of people that want them it will not work of course,”

It is also reported part of the plan recommends school leavers should be forced to wait six months before becoming eligible for welfare.

Dr Gray says Mr Forrest’s suggestion will not have a big affect on the budget.

“It’s a drop in the bucket in terms of the total economy,” she said.

Mr Doostkhah says there needs to be a re-evaluation of training and education to coerce teenagers into the system.

“Committees should be looking at these sorts of issues, what’s happening in our education system, why is our education system failing young people and why are so many leaving education early?”

“What are we doing to reengage young people with education and where are the meaningful employment programs?” Mr Doostkhah said.