Turnbull at odds with his own ministers

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Figures show thousands on family payment benefits are better off financially on welfare than at work.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is staying silent over welfare spending. Picture: Dan Peled/AAP

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has refused to say whether welfare spending needs to be reined in as figures show some Australians are better off not working.

Cabinet ministers have this morning admitted new figures showing thousands of parents on family benefits can earn more on welfare than getting a job demonstrate the need to reconsider welfare spending.

But Mr Turnbull has failed to directly address the issue.

“I agree with the principle that the welfare system should always encourage people to get into employment,” he told Neil Mitchell on 3AW radio on Friday.

“We’re dealing with people’s lives here.”

Mr Turnbull said the government needed to ensure it was providing the right level of support in a fair and compassionate way, but there must also be incentive for people to find work.

“The best form of social welfare is a job,” he said.

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appears to be at odds with Social Services Minister Christian Porter over the need to rein in welfare. Picture: Gary Ramage

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appears to be at odds with Social Services Minister Christian Porter over the need to rein in welfare. Picture: Gary RamageSource:News Corp Australia

Data published in The Australian showed the top 10 per cent of those on parenting benefits — about 43,200 people — received at least $45,032 in 2014-15.

The tax-free figure exceeds the national median overall take-home pay, when part-time workers are taken into account, of $39,841, the newspaper reported.

Speaking on Nine’s Today, cabinet minister Christopher Pyne conceded the government’s welfare offering was generous.

“We do have a generous safety net, but also, people need to be part of our society, part of our community, working and making a difference,” he said.

Mr Pyne said because of this, the government had legislation before the Senate that would “rein in welfare”.

One of the government’s first measures to change the system is a $96 million Try, Test, Learn fund for trials of intervention programs to help welfare-dependent young families.

Mr Pyne said it was designed to help families, especially single parent households, to get back into the workforce with training.

“Ninety six million, I can tell you, to try and do that, is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions of dollars that we are trying to save by having welfare reform, which the Labor Party is blocking in the Senate with the Greens,” he said.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the opposition would examine the impact of proposed changes.

He pointed to the government’s planned wind-back of paid parental leave to stop some women from “double-dipping”.

“It is a disadvantage for them being in the workforce if these cuts to paid parental leave go through,” he said.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter, who is leading the welfare changes, told The Australian depriving people the incentive to work was in no one’s interest.

“It is morally incumbent upon us in that in developing policy … and in making the welfare system fairer we look at mutual obligation and the requirement to prepare for, search for and accept work,” he said.

“We need to find better ways to ensure parents retain current, work-ready skills or develop them, even when receiving welfare so they are prepared for and able to accept work when it becomes appropriate for them to do so.”

– With AAP

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