A welfare bill is expected to be debated in the Senate on Thursday.
A welfare bill is expected to be debated in the Senate on Thursday.

Labor urges crossbenchers to reject welfare wait

LABOR has urged the Senate crossbench to reject an Abbott government bill to force young unemployed people to wait a month before receiving dole payments.

The government's previous attempt to impose a waiting period of six months for under-30s to get the dole was rejected by Labor, the Greens and other crossbenchers.

The revised target - to apply to 24-year-olds and younger - is yet to be tested in the Senate but is expected to be debated on Thursday.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the unemployment rate for 15 to 19-year-olds is 19.3%, and about 13% for 15 to 24-year-olds.

A committee report on the bill was released on Tuesday night and acknowledged the changes would have an adverse impact on young people searching for a job, particularly those with mental health issues.

However, the report also said the committee was satisfied exemptions from the measure - including for homeless people, pregnant women and young parents - would help ensure more young people were exempted from the waiting period.

The government-dominated committee recommended passage of the bill with no changes, but both Labor and the Greens issued dissenting reports urging that the measure not be passed without major changes.

Labor's social services spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, called on the crossbench on Wednesday to reject the bill, saying the government was "knowingly pushing young people into poverty".

Ms Macklin said changes to the eligibility criteria for Newstart under the bill could mean some jobseekers were moved to the lower Youth Allowance, effectively cutting their welfare benefits by up to $48 a week.

Debate on the bill was delayed on Wednesday.


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