Labor says Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reached a new low in planning to target the many people who care for the sick, disabled and elderly.
Labor families spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said the government was targeting the welfare payments, supplements and allowance that carers relied while performing incredibly important work.
That relates to the government’s broad-ranging review of welfare by former head of Mission Australia Patrick McClure.
His review hasn’t been released yet but The Australian newspaper says carers would be required to prepare for a return to work.
It says the government is concerned the current system of “set and forget” means carers could finish caring with no real skills for work. Carer payments are also rising by almost 10 per cent a year and are expected to reach $17.1 billion by 2023-24
The paper said the government was considering linking carer payments to the disability support pension.
That sparked outrage from Labor.
“Tony Abbott has reached a new low,” Ms Macklin told reporters in Melbourne.
She said Mr Abbott needed to understand that carers were working 24 hours a day, looking after the sick and disabled and elderly.
“Now Tony Abbott is saying that in addition to doing your caring role you are going to have to get ready to look for work,” she said.
Labor shadow assistant treasurer Andrew Leigh said he was worried when proposals such as this came from a government with such a poor track record of looking after the most vulnerable.
“This is a government that needs to be judged by its track record and if you’re a young person, if you’re a pensioner, if you’re somebody … with a disability, then the track record is not good at all,” he told Sky News.
The government now has the McClure discussion paper on welfare reforms and is reviewing it in light of budget changes.
The paper will then be released for public consultation.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann wasn’t commenting on specific measures.
“Whatever reforms we will pursue … will focus on making sure that our welfare system which currently draws 35 per cent of our budget… is sustainable and affordable over the medium to long term,” he told Sky News.
Nationals leader Warren Truss, acting prime minister while Mr Abbott is overseas, said the ability to provide a future safety net would be undermined if there were no constraints on spending.
Mr Truss said welfare needed to be targeted to those who needed it.
“We believe that it is important that there is an ongoing facility available to support those who can’t care for themselves,” he told reporters in Queanbeyan.
“If you keep spending money that you don’t have, then the welfare system as well will collapse.”