ARE you young and unemployed? Take up fruit picking in Tasmania, says Employment Minister Eric Abetz as he defended unpopular changes to Newstart that would force people under the age of 30 to wait six months before receiving any unemployment benefits.
The government is facing a tough time convincing the Parliament to support the measure, with both Labor and the Greens signalling they are opposed.
On Monday, Senator Abetz said young people who were able to work had no right to rely on their fellow Australians to subsidise them.
Instead, they should be prepared to take on any task, as he did in university when he did a bread delivery run, drove a taxi and worked on a chicken farm.
''The sad thing is in my home state of Tasmania over 90 per cent of fruit pickers come from overseas,'' he told ABC radio.
''If people can come from overseas to pick the fruit in Tasmania, one wonders why potentially young unemployed Tasmanians couldn't do the same task.''
In addition to fruit-picking, a popular income supplement for backpackers the world over, Senator Abetz said young Tasmanians could take up other seasonal jobs or work on a dairy farm.
''There is no right to demand from your fellow Australians that just because you don't want to do a bread delivery or a taxi run or a stint as a farmhand that you should therefore be able to rely on your fellow Australian to subsidise you,'' he said.
Senator Abetz, who is the government leader in the Senate, said the government would try to find "common ground" with opposition members and crossbenchers who were hostile to many of the government's budget measures.
He said it was imperative that the Parliament passed the budget.
''Everybody seeks to posture at the beginning of negotiations that might need to take place and I'll listen very carefully to all the suggestions that are made,'' he said.
''I'm sure that when confronted with the details and the fact that we are simply borrowing to pay the interest I think that most senators will acknowledge that that is unsustainable.''
Senator Abetz also took a swipe at Greens Leader Christine Milne, labelling her "two-faced" after she said Prime Minister Tony Abbott had neither the skills nor the personality to be able to negotiate with senators.
Senator Abetz said "When it comes to extreme policy positions I think everybody accepts that the Greens have the mortgage on that in our Australian parliament," he said.
''I just find it somewhat bemusing that she believes that she somehow is the negotiator and the compromiser when it is always the extreme Green way or nothing at all.
''The commentary from Senator Milne... I'll be polite and just call it somewhat two-faced.''
Meanwhile, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has rejected suggestions Labor is taking a ''wrecking approach'' to the government's budget.
Mr Bowen said on Monday that Labor would fight changes such as the co-payment as a matter of principle but won't oppose the deficit levy.
''We're not taking a wrecking approach, we are taking a case by case approach, but it is being informed by our values and principles,'' he told ABC radio.
''We'll be as constructive as we can be.''