BEING paid to do nothing was just as damaging for the long-term unemployed as indigenous leader Noel Pearson claimed it was for Aboriginal communities, federal Employment Services Minister Tony Abbott has claimed.
Mr Abbott, who is spearheading a tough Government approach to replace a culture of welfare with a culture of work, said experience over the past couple of decades had shown it was easy for governments to spend money in ways which made the problem of welfare dependency among the unemployed worse.
"You only have to listen to Noel Pearson talking about how welfare has damaged Aboriginal communities, Mr Abbott said. "Human nature is no different whether we're talking about black people or white people. For historical reasons, I suppose Aboriginal communities are more prone to the problem but sit-down money is just as destructive for white people as for black people."
Mr Abbott said that to leave the long-term jobless on welfare was
"cruelty. It's cruelty masquerading as compassion ... it's basically saying 'you're no longer a functioning citizen in a community which cares for you; you've become a statistic'," he said.
The Minister rejected suggestions that by enforcing the requirements of its Mutual Obligation scheme that long-term Newstart beneficiaries undertake structured activity as a condition of staying on benefits, the Government was punishing them for not having a job.
However, he warned that people who have not complied with their Mutual Obligation requirements or who go on Work for the Dole and do not perform satisfactorily already were being breached.
"They are having their benefits reduced by 18% for 26 weeks as a first offence," he said.