MP Kevin Andrews’ claims about a one month waiting period in New Zealand’s Welfare System has been questioned by the Parliamentary Library. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has been accused of peddling misinformation about the New Zealand welfare system in his push to restrict dole payments to the young.
Mr Andrews is negotiating with Clive Palmer and crossbench senators and his strongest pitch for their support is that the New Zealand government imposes a mandatory one-month waiting period on anyone claiming that country’s equivalent of the dole.
In June, he said: “In New Zealand, everybody who is seeking to get welfare payments, the dole equivalent, has a one-month waiting period.”
But research by the independent Parliamentary Library has confirmed no such waiting period exists in New Zealand.
“We have been unable to find a waiting period that matches the description Minister Andrews has given previously,” the library said in response to inquiries by the office of Labor’s families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin.
The library asked the Department of Social Services for an explanation and it responded that there was a 20-day period to complete “pre-benefits activities” in New Zealand, “thereby having the effect of a waiting period for applicants”.
But the library responded: “I would hold that this is not really the same as a waiting period as most people would easily be able to meet these requirements within the 20 days allowed.”
It also found the pre-benefits requirements did not amend start dates and “an eligible recipient may receive back pay for most of this period” anyway.
The library identified a two-week “stand down period” in New Zealand but it did not apply to people with dependent children or anyone coming off a low income.
“There doesn’t appear to be [a] formal one-month waiting period that applies to the main unemployment benefit payment in New Zealand,” the library said.
Ms Macklin said Mr Andrews had “fabricated” the New Zealand rule to justify his “radical proposal” on young unemployed. “Kevin Andrews appears to have made it up,” she said.
“It is absolutely appalling that the government would deliberately spread false information to try and justify a radical withdrawal of all support to young people on Newstart.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Andrews said: “During his visit to New Zealand, government officials there referred to the 20-working day pre-activity test for some applicants as a month-long wait for benefits.
“The Minister is aware, in some circumstances, these benefits can be back paid.”
Mr Andrews was believed to be willing to abandon his proposed six-month wait for Newstart to 28 days and one report earlier this month suggested that was because “New Zealand has had success with its one-month waiting period”.
Mr Palmer’s public position was that he was against any restriction on access to Newstart. “If we support those things, we have got to say are we in favour of increased youth suicide or are we in favour of increased crime,” he said earlier this month.