The Australian government is tired of having unemployed people say they cannot take a job because it may interfere with their golf plans or dreams of becoming an actor.
The government said it plans to tighten its rules on who qualifies for unemployment benefits to encourage a growing number of jobless — including some with creative excuses to stay off the job — to go to work.
“Australia’s income support system is there as a safety net for people who genuinely cannot find a job — not as an option for those who simply refuse to work,” Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said in a statement Tuesday.
The penalty for refusing a job offer without a good excuse is eight weeks without a welfare check, but three out of four unemployed Australians who refused jobs last year managed to keep their checks. Australia’s jobless rate is 6 percent.
The Employment Department on Tuesday released a sample of reasons job hunters have given for remaining unemployed.
# A 58-year-old man was not prepared to work for three hours on Sundays because that was when he played golf.
# A 19-year-old man turned down a job “to follow his dream of becoming an actor.”
# A 26-year-old man refused a job because “he doesn’t work with chickens.”
# A 50-year-old woman declined a receptionist position because of a “bad smell” in the office.
# A 33-year-old man rejected car washing as “too difficult.”
# A 23-year-old man refused to become a driver’s assistant because he wanted to drive.
The basic unemployment benefit in Australia is 261.70 Australian dollars (about $190) a week. It’s higher for those with dependent children and in need of rent assistance.
The government wants to close a loophole that allows the unemployed to refuse jobs while continuing to collect a welfare checks, but the Senate is resisting the changes.
The opposition argues that the government already has the discretion to withhold welfare checks from people who don’t have reasonable excuses for refusing to work.
The opposition says the government’s proposed legislation would remove any discretion in cases where withholding welfare checks could lead to a jobless person becoming homeless or suffering other harm.