The Government has dismissed reports that the work-for-the-dole scheme was being axed in the May budget.
Fairfax Media reports the expenditure review committee has discussed ending the program, introduced by Mr Abbott in 1998 when he was a junior minister in the Howard government.
But a key group of backbenchers is lobbying Treasurer Scott Morrison to keep the program, saying that axing it would infuriate many conservative voters.
A spokesperson for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash also squashed talk it would be axed, stating, “work for the dole is a key component of the government’s mutual obligation regime. The government has no plans to abolish the program.”
The scheme was discussed during a budget meeting with Treasurer Scott Morrison last week, but a final decision had not been made.
One of the MPs lobbying for the policy, Bowman’s Andrew Laming, told Fairfax Media it should not be dumped as it was a “signature Liberal Party policy.”
Mr Laming said was a “big supporter of work for the dole” as it “provides an absolutely vital foundation … for work-ready job seekers in this country.”
“Without it, it is very hard for other arrangements like the newly conceived PaTH program to fill that gap,” he said.
“The loss of work for the dole would lead to 150,000 young Australians having to front up to futile job interviews to meet their activity requirements, which does little to get them a job.
“It’s actually in the nation’s interest to have a pool of people with experience. a strong resume and supervisor references to give them a shot at a slice of pie.”
With the May 9 budget fast approaching, the Turnbull government continues to look for savings with the fate of a of big-ticket budget items – including a possible cut to the capital gains tax discount – yet to be addressed.
However, the work-for-the-dole scheme’s capacity has previously been cut, with last year’s budget diverting $500 million over four years, in favour of the PaTH program. It retained $648.5 million in funding.
The program was described by another Liberal MP as a “hopeless program”, after a government-commissioned review found the scheme improved a persons likelihood to find employment by just two per cent.
A spokesperson for Employment Minister Michaelia Cash squashed talk it would be axed, stating, “work for the dole is a key component of the government’s mutual obligation regime. The government has no plans to abolish the program.”
The work for the dole program requires unemployed people to conduct tasks such as cleaning and other menial tasks in exchange for access to welfare payments.
From January to September 2016, 86,309 Australians participated in the program, including 36,544 people under the age of 30, while 49,765 were over 30.