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JobMaker youth subsidy go ahead after older worker protections knocked out

National

The JobMaker scheme giving employers cash to hire young workers has passed through federal parliament, after One Nation backed away from supporting a move to disqualify businesses which sacked older staff in order to get the payment.

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The Morrison Government bill passed the senate on Wednesday evening, with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation abandoning support for protections added to the legislation – despite supporting them a day earlier.

The program gives employers $200 a week for employing a jobless person under 30 and $100 for hiring those aged 30 to 35, prompting concerns that older workers might be sacked in order for employers to gain the subsidy to hire younger staff.

The safeguards would have disqualified employers found to have do.

But the government opposed changing the bill to add extra protections, arguing existing laws gave workers the chance to contest sackings.

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts said Treasurer Josh Frydenberg had presented the minor party with unemployment data for people under and over 35.

“When we get new data we have the courage and the integrity to change our position,” he said.

Roberts said 10.4 per cent of people under 35 were jobless, while four per cent of Australians over that age were unemployed.

“Two figures changed my mind because I care about young people and older people,” he said.

Hanson said she changed her mind after meeting with Frydenberg on Wednesday afternoon, saying she had been misled by the opposition over the extent of workplace protections.

“I’m quite happy with the information I have received from the treasurer who has legal advice … not this bits and pieces (from Labor),” she said.

“Our votes are always based on what we believe is right.”

Hanson had earlier told parliament the JobMaker scheme had “too many flaws” and “has not been properly thought through”.

Frydenberg today said employers would need to show increased head count and payroll costs to be eligible.

“What we know with this particular program is that the Fair Work Act and its provisions will continue to apply, for example like unfair dismissal,” he said.

“There are many protections that are in place.”

But unfair dismissal claims can’t be lodged by workers who have been with an employer for less than a year.

Labor and the Greens accused Senator Hanson of selling out older Australians.

“One Nation pretend to be the party of the battlers and yet they turn around and vote with the government to do over workers’ rights around this country,” Greens senator Nick McKim told parliament.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there were other supports already available for older workers.

He also insisted workers would be protected through the $4 billion plan.

“This leader of the opposition is so desperate, leading a party so divided, that he will use the fears and concerns of Australians in a pandemic to butter up support on his own backbench,” he said.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesperson Jenny Lambert doesn’t expect companies to significantly change their teams because of the program.

“The idea that an employer would cut back on their experienced workforce to take on somebody who’s been unemployed and bring them into the business for the sake of $100 or $200 a week is highly unlikely except in very marginal situations,” she said.

-with AAP

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