Browsing articles in "Interview Transcripts"
Feb 18, 2004

Doorstop Interview: FOI Documents exposing Job Network fiasco

Transcript of Doorstop Interview: Parliament House, Canberra

FOI Documents exposing Job Network fiasco

Wednesday 18 February 2004

ALBANESE:  Today we see the latest example of why the Howard Government has a reputation for being mean and tricky. The Job Network administration has been a fiasco. What we know from documents obtained under Freedom of Information by the Opposition is that prior to the new system coming in on July 1 the government was telling providers that there’d be some 900,000 people participating in the Job Network, we know that the real figure was around 500,000.

We know that the IT system which the Government said would be world’s best was, in the words of these documents, up and running for only two or three days in eleven weeks. Or some 5 per cent of the time it was operating.

We know that when the bail out occurred of Job Network just eleven days into July, some $30 million, and then on August 22 some $670 million per year for three years or 2.1 billion guaranteed to providers. The minister didn’t accept that it was the Government’s system that was to blame. He tried to blame the unemployed.

He spoke about “shaking the tree”, he spoke about how 84,000 people would be taken of benefit saving the Government some $1 billion. But now these documents from the Government have belled the cat. The Minister this morning on AM said that he couldn’t quantify how many people hadn’t fulfilled their obligations. What we know from these documents is that in the period from April to the 5th of September only 286 people were breached.

So we know that the Government had to prop up the Job Network simply because its modelling for how many people would participate in it was wrong. We know that rather than concede its mistake they attempted to blame the unemployed when it was in fact the system that was to blame. And we know further that since then the Government’s still unclear about how many people should be in the system and has sort to distort social policy in order to prop up the system by making changes including pushing more disabled people into the Job Network and more mature age people into the Job Network.

The Labor Party supports giving assistance to the unemployed, including the disabled and mature age workers, but what we believe is that their needs should be driving the policy not the need to prop up what is an incredibly flawed system.

The Minister has refused to release any documents from his own Department outlining this sad and sorry tale and he should come clean immediately if we’re going to have open and accountable government. These documents suggest that some of the most disadvantaged people in Australia are missing out on getting employment services assistance that they should get. And it’s about time the Government conceded the problems with the system and set about fixing it.

JOURNALIST: What kind of effect is it having on people (inaudible)?

ALBANESE: Well the effect that it’s having is that they’re being told by the Government from the top down that some how they’re not fulfilling their obligations, that some how they’re to blame for the incredible frustration which they’re feeling with the Job Network system. They’ve experienced the problems. They’re people who’ve been sent letters to wrong addresses because of the IT system. They’re people who because of the maladministration have been sent, we have the example of the Tasmanian young man sent to work in an escort agency. There are practical effects on the unemployed due to the Government’s maladministration and unemployed people are feeling it every day. And in spite of the fact that you have had substantial employment growth you still have today more people on unemployment benefits for more than 12 months, more long term unemployed today than there was in March 1996. And that’s a disgrace. That’s because the system isn’t looking after those people who most need assistance.

END

 

Feb 18, 2004

PM – Albanese claims Government ignored concerns of its own departments

PM – Albanese claims Government ignored concerns of its own departments

Wednesday 18 February 2004

MARK COLVIN: The Federal Government has defended its privatised employment agency system, Job Network, against Opposition claims that the Government ignored the concerns of its own departments.

Labor says internal government documents show the Job Network has been plagued by serious problems since last July. It claims the need to prop up the Job Network is now distorting other areas of social policy.

But the Government says that with unemployment falling, and the cost of helping jobseekers into work about one third that of the old Commonwealth Employment Service, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor has long been claiming the Job Network is in trouble. Now it says it has the proof from within the Government itself.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

And Job Network three and the lead up to its implementation on July 1 is a sorry and sordid tale of deception, incompetence and malice against the unemployed. The Government misled providers, the Government vilified job seekers and the Government deceived the community.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The opposition’s Employment Services spokesman Anthony Albanese says documents obtained under freedom of information from Centrelink and the Department of Family and Community Services, key to the operation of the Job Network, show they, along with the industry, were ringing alarm bells, but that the Minister, Mal Brough, wasn’t listening.

Mr Albanese says it’s unfortunate the minister’s own department has refused all his FOI requests. Labor blames the Governemnt for the financial crisis that engulfed the Job Network, accusing Mr Brough of failing to heed myriad warnings and the concerns and advice coming from government agencies.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

Does the Minister recall telling Parliament on the 18th of June 2003 that the Job Network was based upon 720,000 job seekers? Does the Minister also recall telling the Canberra Times on the 23rd of August last year that more than 900,000 interviews had been conducted.

Minister, on what number of Job Network customers were the contracts for Job Network three based?

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Minister, Mal Brough, is standing by his numbers.

MAL BROUGH: I brought with me the request for tender, which is the document presented in September of 2002, to people looking or businesses looking to tender for Job Network. In that document those figures are 780,000 job seekers.

This document was then put out, a public document to everyone that did tender, so that they could make a decision upon whether or not to take up those offers of contract. This figure was 720,000 job seekers. In other words, that was the potential for the market.

Why a reduction, Mr Speaker? Simply because unemployment had come down, something that this Government actually applauds.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor argues the government is using single parents, mature age workers and people with disabilities to boost the numbers going through the doors of job agencies and prop up a flawed system.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

Is the Minister aware that a minute from Centrelink to FACS (Department of Family and Community Services), dated 25th of July and obtained under freedom of information, stated: "I think we need to bring out the fact that there are only perhaps 500,000 customers who can be compelled to come in. The rest are either beneficiaries or exempt from the activities test or non beneficiaries."

Minister, didn’t the Government have to bail out the Job Network because the Government based the tender round on the wrong number of Job Network customers?

MAL BROUGH: If you think that single parents shouldn’t be assisted then say so. If you think people with disabilities shouldn’t be assisted then say so. These are people who cannot be compelled to come in to have interviews, but who we believe, this side of the House, the Government, have a need to be assisted so that they can reach their potential in society.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Anthony Albanese says the problem is that up to 200,000 people are virtual participants, not actually engaged in the Job Network.

But Mal Brough says no matter which way you look at it, the Job Network is working, more efficiently helping people back into work, at one third of the cost of the old Commonwealth Employment Scheme.

MAL BROUGH: We’ve seen this tired old story many times before. A public provider driving down outcomes and driving up costs, giving your money back to the unions, not helping unemployed Australians, no wonder unemployment peaked at over one million under the Labor Party.

MARK COLVIN: The Minister for Employment Services Mal Brough, ending Alexandra Kirk’s report.

 

Feb 18, 2004

Doorstop Interview: FOI Documents exposing Job Network fiasco

Transcript of Doorstop Interview: Parliament House, Canberra

FOI Documents exposing Job Network fiasco

Wednesday 18 February 2004

ALBANESE:  Today we see the latest example of why the Howard Government has a reputation for being mean and tricky. The Job Network administration has been a fiasco. What we know from documents obtained under Freedom of Information by the Opposition is that prior to the new system coming in on July 1 the government was telling providers that there’d be some 900,000 people participating in the Job Network, we know that the real figure was around 500,000.

We know that the IT system which the Government said would be world’s best was, in the words of these documents, up and running for only two or three days in eleven weeks. Or some 5 per cent of the time it was operating.

We know that when the bail out occurred of Job Network just eleven days into July, some $30 million, and then on August 22 some $670 million per year for three years or 2.1 billion guaranteed to providers. The minister didn’t accept that it was the Government’s system that was to blame. He tried to blame the unemployed.

He spoke about “shaking the tree”, he spoke about how 84,000 people would be taken of benefit saving the Government some $1 billion. But now these documents from the Government have belled the cat. The Minister this morning on AM said that he couldn’t quantify how many people hadn’t fulfilled their obligations. What we know from these documents is that in the period from April to the 5th of September only 286 people were breached.

So we know that the Government had to prop up the Job Network simply because its modelling for how many people would participate in it was wrong. We know that rather than concede its mistake they attempted to blame the unemployed when it was in fact the system that was to blame. And we know further that since then the Government’s still unclear about how many people should be in the system and has sort to distort social policy in order to prop up the system by making changes including pushing more disabled people into the Job Network and more mature age people into the Job Network.

The Labor Party supports giving assistance to the unemployed, including the disabled and mature age workers, but what we believe is that their needs should be driving the policy not the need to prop up what is an incredibly flawed system.

The Minister has refused to release any documents from his own Department outlining this sad and sorry tale and he should come clean immediately if we’re going to have open and accountable government. These documents suggest that some of the most disadvantaged people in Australia are missing out on getting employment services assistance that they should get. And it’s about time the Government conceded the problems with the system and set about fixing it.

JOURNALIST: What kind of effect is it having on people (inaudible)?

ALBANESE: Well the effect that it’s having is that they’re being told by the Government from the top down that some how they’re not fulfilling their obligations, that some how they’re to blame for the incredible frustration which they’re feeling with the Job Network system. They’ve experienced the problems. They’re people who’ve been sent letters to wrong addresses because of the IT system. They’re people who because of the maladministration have been sent, we have the example of the Tasmanian young man sent to work in an escort agency. There are practical effects on the unemployed due to the Government’s maladministration and unemployed people are feeling it every day. And in spite of the fact that you have had substantial employment growth you still have today more people on unemployment benefits for more than 12 months, more long term unemployed today than there was in March 1996. And that’s a disgrace. That’s because the system isn’t looking after those people who most need assistance.

END

 

Feb 18, 2004

Breakfast: Job Network

BREAKFAST – Job Network

Wednesday 18 February 2004

TONY EASTLEY: The federal opposition claims that the government has misled the Australian people and wrongly blamed the unemployed for problems with its privatised Job Network. Labor says internal government documents, obtained under freedom of information, show that the government overstated the number of job seekers expected to turn up to employment providers by as much as 400,000 and, it says, the documents also reveal structural problems in the system that need urgent attention, but the government says Labor is wrong and it has nothing to apologise for.

Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Labor’s Anthony Albanese says the Department of Family and Community Services and the welfare delivery agency, Centrelink, have complied with his FOI request, revealing they were ringing the alarm bells last year.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

They said prior to the introduction of Job Network III on 1 July, 900,000 people would be in the system—we now know that there were only 500,000.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In his sights is Employment Services Minister, Mal Brough.

MAL BROUGH: The figures that he quotes, I don’t know quite frankly where he gets them from because the documentation that was provided to those people who tendered for Job Network … accepting those contracts that were expected—720,000 jobs seekers; as of last Friday, there were 794,518 people that were registered to go onto Job Network.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And industry sources told AM the real figure is closer to 500,000 than 700,000. He says the difference is made up of those whose names are registered on the job-matching database but don’t receive any more assistance than that, plus those who are sick, studying or working part time and, therefore, not compelled to go to the Job Network.

Anthony Albanese says while the government’s own departments were pointing out flaws in the system, the unemployed were being blamed for the government’s mistakes with other welfare beneficiaries, such as people with disabilities and mature-age workers, brought in to bolster the numbers going into job agencies.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

Well, the government should concede and actually be honest with the Australian people, it should be honest with Job Network providers, and fess up to the mistakes that were made. It should stop vilifying the unemployed and it should make structural changes to the Job Network so that Job Network providers can have some certainty but also so that job seekers can actually get the assistance that they need.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Anthony Albanese says he is using the government’s own figures and is standing by them while the minister still maintains the system found unemployed people who shouldn’t have been claiming benefits.

MAL BROUGH: Clearly that’s been a very important part of this. I think that’s why we are getting more people through the door because they understand—the job seekers and the job network members—that the government is serious about compliance. We are serious about trying to help people, and if they don’t want to be helped then they have no right to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So how many people do you think are on unemployment benefits and shouldn’t be?

MAL BROUGH: There is no point is actually trying to hazard a guess at that because it is only speculation.

TONY EASTLEY: Federal Employment Services Minister, Mal Brough, speaking to Alexandra Kirk.

 

Jan 30, 2004

7.30 Report – ALP National Conference 2004

7.30 Report – ALP National Conference 2004: delegates debate immigration policy

Friday 30 January 2004

KERRY O’BRIEN: Mark Latham’s honeymoon as the new Labor leader continued today, with overwhelmingly positive exposure of his speech to the ALP national conference in almost every daily newspaper.

The new leader also comfortably survived a passionate argument over refugee and asylum seeker policy that saw the policy platform he embraced heavily criticised by the group known as Labor for Refugees.

Given the almost dream run Labor’s new leader has enjoyed, it’s no surprise that the Prime Minister, too, has been stung to attack his latest Labor opponent.

But as political editor Michael Brissenden reports, the party has now rallied around the man they believe is their best chance for victory at the next election.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Labor faithful, the comrades – and yes, some do still use the term – can hardly believe it.

MARK LATHAM, ALP LEADER: Well, thanks to Julia, Craig, and all the comrades here today —

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: In just a few months, Mark Latham, the man some of them had believed was simply too unpredictable and erratic for the leadership has transformed their political fortunes.

GEOFF GALLOP GALLOP, WA PREMIER: I think that was a very, very comprehensive political speech and Mark set out a very clear direction for Labor.

STEVE BRACKS, VICTORIAN PREMIER: I thought it was outstanding and I think it has set the tone really for what is going to be a very heavily contested election.

REPORTER: Do you think Labor is back in the race?

BOB CARR, NSW PREMIER: Absolutely.

Labor is back in the race.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: If the mood after the leader’s speech yesterday was ebullient, it’s now positively effervescent.

Mark Latham is said to be reasonably happy with the coverage.

He should be.

He’ll probably never get press this good again.

If Labor’s finding it hard adjusting to the change of circumstances, there’s a few players on the other side who’ve been taken somewhat off guard as well.

The Prime Minister says he’s not rattled but the Government appears to be paying a lot more attention than it used to the inner workings of the Opposition and the policy positions put by its new leader.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER, ON RADIO: I read the speech and there were a lot of glib generalisations in it, but when you get to detail this man is very sloppy with the truth.

In his speech yesterday —

INTERVIEWER: Sorry, he’s sloppy with the truth?

JOHN HOWARD Sloppy, sloppy.

In other words, he didn’t tell it as it is.

DR CARMEN LAWRENCE, ALP PRESIDENT: Well, that’s rich coming from John Howard.

He should look in a mirror some day.

Really, that’s amazing.

MARK LATHAM: If you live long enough you’ll hear everything.

Getting a lecture from John Howard about truth in public life.

Goodness gracious, what next?

I understand he has had a bad hair day … problem with the ear piece and all that, so that can happen, and we’ll excuse him on this occasion.

REPORTER: Do you think the PM is rattled?

MARK LATHAM: John Howard is a very tough and experienced competitor.

I would never be so bold to make such a claim.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Mark Latham’s momentum has been propelled with a calculated and carefully crafted new vision heavily reliant on the rhetoric of generational change.

It also helps that his own personal history is a Labor fairytale, a deep well for a party with an emotive need to remain faithful to its roots.

John Howard, though, says there’s nothing unique in the Latham experience and he says he’s been selective about his past.

JOHN HOWARD ON RADIO: Whenever there’s anything embarrassing about what he’s said in the past, such as his attacks on George Bush or his attacks on female journalists, he says this election is about the future.

Yet when it suits him he likes to talk a lot about aspects of his own past.

Now, I don’t mind him doing that.

He’s not the only person in Australia who started in a housing commission home.

He’s not the only person in Australia who has ended up better than he was financially and in an achievement sense.

INTERVIEWER: But he’s promoting himself as a battler made good, isn’t he?

JOHN HOWARD: I know.

But he’s entitled to promote himself in any way he wants to but he can’t be selective about the past.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But in politics, as John Howard knows well, often the past is rewritten to suit the times.

So far history is treating Mark Latham relatively well, but it hasn’t all gone his way here today.

ALP conferences over the past few years have become relatively stage managed affairs, but they do offer a rare public insight into the continuous internal struggle over policy formation, and there’s no struggle bigger at the moment than over the policy on refugees and asylum.

The policy already put forward by the new leader maintains mandatory detention but puts the onus on the Government to prove that the asylum seeker’s country of origin is safe enough to return to if their asylum applications are rejected.

It also brings in tougher penalties for people smugglers.

A victory for the policy was always assured, but this afternoon’s debate provided some of the few outbursts of passion that used to be the hallmark of what Labor likes to call its democratic process.

STEPHEN SMITH, SHADOW IMMIGRATION MINISTER: Do you want to excise Christmas Island … yes or no?

Do you want a system, sensibly, of temporary protection visas … yes or no?

Do you want a system of mandatory detention … yes, or no?

DR CARMEN LAWRENCE: What is proposed in this platform is far too close to John Howard’s policy for comfort.

BOB CARR, NSW PREMIER: Delegates, you cannot combat people smuggling without recognising the reality of the need, in some circumstances, for mandatory detention.

And that’s the position that the Blair Government has reached.

LINDSAY TANNER, SHADOW COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: Racism is a word that is perhaps too easily bandied around in public debate these days.

I concede that.

But in spite of that, we should never forget what it means.

It goes to the very core, the very essence, of an individual’s being.

It’s right at the heart of people’s human rights and, dare I say it, it is right at the heart of opportunity for all.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW EMPLOYMENT MINISTER:  

Does any delegate here believe that we would have had the rhetoric from the Government if they were Irish Catholics coming here on boats?

No.

It’s because they’re Muslims.

That is why we have had this debate.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The vote to support the Latham policy was won comfortably.

Mark Latham is having a good run.

He should soak it up because as anyone in politics knows, fortune can be a fickle thing.

MARK LATHAM: We have a very good policy, strong on border protection and a fairer treatment of genuine refugees.

So I’m very happy with the result.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Winning over the party is an important first step, but after all, he is still only the Leader of the Opposition.

 

Jan 30, 2004

7.30 Report – ALP National Conference 2004

7.30 Report – ALP National Conference 2004: delegates debate immigration policy

Friday 30 January 2004

KERRY O’BRIEN: Mark Latham’s honeymoon as the new Labor leader continued today, with overwhelmingly positive exposure of his speech to the ALP national conference in almost every daily newspaper.

The new leader also comfortably survived a passionate argument over refugee and asylum seeker policy that saw the policy platform he embraced heavily criticised by the group known as Labor for Refugees.

Given the almost dream run Labor’s new leader has enjoyed, it’s no surprise that the Prime Minister, too, has been stung to attack his latest Labor opponent.

But as political editor Michael Brissenden reports, the party has now rallied around the man they believe is their best chance for victory at the next election.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Labor faithful, the comrades – and yes, some do still use the term – can hardly believe it.

MARK LATHAM, ALP LEADER: Well, thanks to Julia, Craig, and all the comrades here today —

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: In just a few months, Mark Latham, the man some of them had believed was simply too unpredictable and erratic for the leadership has transformed their political fortunes.

GEOFF GALLOP GALLOP, WA PREMIER: I think that was a very, very comprehensive political speech and Mark set out a very clear direction for Labor.

STEVE BRACKS, VICTORIAN PREMIER: I thought it was outstanding and I think it has set the tone really for what is going to be a very heavily contested election.

REPORTER: Do you think Labor is back in the race?

BOB CARR, NSW PREMIER: Absolutely.

Labor is back in the race.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: If the mood after the leader’s speech yesterday was ebullient, it’s now positively effervescent.

Mark Latham is said to be reasonably happy with the coverage.

He should be.

He’ll probably never get press this good again.

If Labor’s finding it hard adjusting to the change of circumstances, there’s a few players on the other side who’ve been taken somewhat off guard as well.

The Prime Minister says he’s not rattled but the Government appears to be paying a lot more attention than it used to the inner workings of the Opposition and the policy positions put by its new leader.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER, ON RADIO: I read the speech and there were a lot of glib generalisations in it, but when you get to detail this man is very sloppy with the truth.

In his speech yesterday —

INTERVIEWER: Sorry, he’s sloppy with the truth?

JOHN HOWARD Sloppy, sloppy.

In other words, he didn’t tell it as it is.

DR CARMEN LAWRENCE, ALP PRESIDENT: Well, that’s rich coming from John Howard.

He should look in a mirror some day.

Really, that’s amazing.

MARK LATHAM: If you live long enough you’ll hear everything.

Getting a lecture from John Howard about truth in public life.

Goodness gracious, what next?

I understand he has had a bad hair day … problem with the ear piece and all that, so that can happen, and we’ll excuse him on this occasion.

REPORTER: Do you think the PM is rattled?

MARK LATHAM: John Howard is a very tough and experienced competitor.

I would never be so bold to make such a claim.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Mark Latham’s momentum has been propelled with a calculated and carefully crafted new vision heavily reliant on the rhetoric of generational change.

It also helps that his own personal history is a Labor fairytale, a deep well for a party with an emotive need to remain faithful to its roots.

John Howard, though, says there’s nothing unique in the Latham experience and he says he’s been selective about his past.

JOHN HOWARD ON RADIO: Whenever there’s anything embarrassing about what he’s said in the past, such as his attacks on George Bush or his attacks on female journalists, he says this election is about the future.

Yet when it suits him he likes to talk a lot about aspects of his own past.

Now, I don’t mind him doing that.

He’s not the only person in Australia who started in a housing commission home.

He’s not the only person in Australia who has ended up better than he was financially and in an achievement sense.

INTERVIEWER: But he’s promoting himself as a battler made good, isn’t he?

JOHN HOWARD: I know.

But he’s entitled to promote himself in any way he wants to but he can’t be selective about the past.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But in politics, as John Howard knows well, often the past is rewritten to suit the times.

So far history is treating Mark Latham relatively well, but it hasn’t all gone his way here today.

ALP conferences over the past few years have become relatively stage managed affairs, but they do offer a rare public insight into the continuous internal struggle over policy formation, and there’s no struggle bigger at the moment than over the policy on refugees and asylum.

The policy already put forward by the new leader maintains mandatory detention but puts the onus on the Government to prove that the asylum seeker’s country of origin is safe enough to return to if their asylum applications are rejected.

It also brings in tougher penalties for people smugglers.

A victory for the policy was always assured, but this afternoon’s debate provided some of the few outbursts of passion that used to be the hallmark of what Labor likes to call its democratic process.

STEPHEN SMITH, SHADOW IMMIGRATION MINISTER: Do you want to excise Christmas Island … yes or no?

Do you want a system, sensibly, of temporary protection visas … yes or no?

Do you want a system of mandatory detention … yes, or no?

DR CARMEN LAWRENCE: What is proposed in this platform is far too close to John Howard’s policy for comfort.

BOB CARR, NSW PREMIER: Delegates, you cannot combat people smuggling without recognising the reality of the need, in some circumstances, for mandatory detention.

And that’s the position that the Blair Government has reached.

LINDSAY TANNER, SHADOW COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER: Racism is a word that is perhaps too easily bandied around in public debate these days.

I concede that.

But in spite of that, we should never forget what it means.

It goes to the very core, the very essence, of an individual’s being.

It’s right at the heart of people’s human rights and, dare I say it, it is right at the heart of opportunity for all.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, SHADOW EMPLOYMENT MINISTER:  

Does any delegate here believe that we would have had the rhetoric from the Government if they were Irish Catholics coming here on boats?

No.

It’s because they’re Muslims.

That is why we have had this debate.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The vote to support the Latham policy was won comfortably.

Mark Latham is having a good run.

He should soak it up because as anyone in politics knows, fortune can be a fickle thing.

MARK LATHAM: We have a very good policy, strong on border protection and a fairer treatment of genuine refugees.

So I’m very happy with the result.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Winning over the party is an important first step, but after all, he is still only the Leader of the Opposition.

 

Oct 9, 2003

Transcript of Doorstop Interview: Job Network IT system, Centrelink, Medicare, G

Transcript of Doorstop Interview: Job Network IT system, Centrelink, Medicare, George Bush visit

9 October 2003

Albanese: Yesterday we asked the new Minister for Family and Community Services in the Senate, Kay Patterson about the $47 million dollar blow out in Centrelink’s budget. More than half of that is directly attributable to the blow out in the cost of administering the new IT system for the Job Network. Given that Centrelink staff payments account for 70% of its budget in order to cover this cost unless more money is put into Centrelink then what it will mean inevitably is hundreds of jobs will be lost.

The IT system in the new Job Network has been an absolute disaster. It has cost $60 million to implement at least and now we find an extra $20 million in Centrelink staff overtime as they try and fix the problems that have been there in the system.

We know this is an IT system that’s job matched a Tasmanian man with a job in an escort agency, that’s job matched a 56 year old arthritic Ballarat woman with a job as a combat medic. We now know that it is leading to massive budget blowouts and we know that will mean job losses.

The real tragedy is that because of the maladministration by Mal Brough of the new system, people who have been working hard assisting people who are on social security will find themselves on welfare.

Journalist: Can I ask you on another matter, the AMA are coming to town today. Apparently they are going to hit Tony Abbott up for the taxpayers to meet all costs for medical negligence payouts. Is that appropriate?

Albanese: I think what is appropriate is that Labor has a plan to fix Medicare. What is very clear is that the new Minister doesn’t. It’s an ad-hoc approach by the Minister and as for any detail I think that should be directed to Julia Gillard.

Journalist: Doctors apparently are not placated by the concessions given to them last Friday and more are threatening to resign. Do you think that Tony Abbott should take the kind of industrial approach he took when he had his former Ministry?

Albanese: What we know is that there is massive problems with Medicare. We know that the Government has presided over that. We know that the Government doesn’t believe in Medicare. The Australian people will see the contrast that’s there between Tony Abbott’s new soft and cuddly approach to the AMA and his approach to trade unionists who earn a hell of a lot less than Doctors.

Journalist: Would you consider joining Harry Quick’s protest against George Bush when he is addressing Parliament?

Albanese: No I certainly wouldn’t. I don’t believe it’s appropriate. I disagree very strongly with everything that George Bush stands for. I disagree with the way he was elected.

But I think that the Australian people have a right to expect their politicians to treat other leaders of Nations, be they the President of the United States or the President of China, which also has many policies that I disagree with, with respect. And I believe there are many ways and opportunities to put forward different points of view.

I certainly intend to continue to put forward my difference of view with the United States. I think that Condoleezza Rice’s statement overnight were quite extraordinary, saying that there is now no disagreement as to whether the intervention in Iraq was a good thing or not. I believe that it’s appropriate that we combat those issues in a mature way, rather than in a way, which I think frankly, is more suited to student politics than the Parliament of Australia.

END

 

Oct 9, 2003

Transcript of Doorstop Interview: Job Network IT system, Centrelink, Medicare, G

Transcript of Doorstop Interview: Job Network IT system, Centrelink, Medicare, George Bush visit

9 October 2003

Albanese: Yesterday we asked the new Minister for Family and Community Services in the Senate, Kay Patterson about the $47 million dollar blow out in Centrelink’s budget. More than half of that is directly attributable to the blow out in the cost of administering the new IT system for the Job Network. Given that Centrelink staff payments account for 70% of its budget in order to cover this cost unless more money is put into Centrelink then what it will mean inevitably is hundreds of jobs will be lost.

The IT system in the new Job Network has been an absolute disaster. It has cost $60 million to implement at least and now we find an extra $20 million in Centrelink staff overtime as they try and fix the problems that have been there in the system.

We know this is an IT system that’s job matched a Tasmanian man with a job in an escort agency, that’s job matched a 56 year old arthritic Ballarat woman with a job as a combat medic. We now know that it is leading to massive budget blowouts and we know that will mean job losses.

The real tragedy is that because of the maladministration by Mal Brough of the new system, people who have been working hard assisting people who are on social security will find themselves on welfare.

Journalist: Can I ask you on another matter, the AMA are coming to town today. Apparently they are going to hit Tony Abbott up for the taxpayers to meet all costs for medical negligence payouts. Is that appropriate?

Albanese: I think what is appropriate is that Labor has a plan to fix Medicare. What is very clear is that the new Minister doesn’t. It’s an ad-hoc approach by the Minister and as for any detail I think that should be directed to Julia Gillard.

Journalist: Doctors apparently are not placated by the concessions given to them last Friday and more are threatening to resign. Do you think that Tony Abbott should take the kind of industrial approach he took when he had his former Ministry?

Albanese: What we know is that there is massive problems with Medicare. We know that the Government has presided over that. We know that the Government doesn’t believe in Medicare. The Australian people will see the contrast that’s there between Tony Abbott’s new soft and cuddly approach to the AMA and his approach to trade unionists who earn a hell of a lot less than Doctors.

Journalist: Would you consider joining Harry Quick’s protest against George Bush when he is addressing Parliament?

Albanese: No I certainly wouldn’t. I don’t believe it’s appropriate. I disagree very strongly with everything that George Bush stands for. I disagree with the way he was elected.

But I think that the Australian people have a right to expect their politicians to treat other leaders of Nations, be they the President of the United States or the President of China, which also has many policies that I disagree with, with respect. And I believe there are many ways and opportunities to put forward different points of view.

I certainly intend to continue to put forward my difference of view with the United States. I think that Condoleezza Rice’s statement overnight were quite extraordinary, saying that there is now no disagreement as to whether the intervention in Iraq was a good thing or not. I believe that it’s appropriate that we combat those issues in a mature way, rather than in a way, which I think frankly, is more suited to student politics than the Parliament of Australia.

END

 

Sep 26, 2003

The World Today: Employment Programs

THE WORLD TODAY – Employment Programs

Friday, 26 September 2003

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Under new rules which came into effect this week, Australians on the dole who don’t attend job interviews or training, could have their benefits cut or reduced within two weeks. Federal Employment Minister, Tony Abbott, says the new rules underline the obligations required of job seekers and, he says, it’s impossible to be fair without also being firm. But the ALP and the Australian Democrats says that Tony Abbott is just blaming the unemployed and that it’s the government’s Job Network scheme that’s letting job seekers down.

From Canberra, chief political correspondent, Catherine McGrath.

TONY ABBOTT: …essentially a system which was very slow and was not always noticed by job seekers who hadn’t turned up for interviews or employment programs or Work for the Dole will be replaced by a system whereby if you don’t turn up and you haven’t got a decent excuse your payments will be stopped.

CATHERINE McGRATH: And he says the focus is on speed—getting the penalties to apply quickly.

TONY ABBOTT: It’s a much faster system of consequences for people who don’t take advantage of the opportunities they have got.

CATHERINE McGRATH: But this is where the real dispute is with the ALP and the Democrats. They say that it’s the Job Network system—the privatised employment agents who are responsible for tracking the job seekers, organising their interviews and putting them on to Work for the Dole or training opportunities—that are to blame.

Opposition employment services spokesman, Anthony Albanese

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

This is, once again, an attempt by the government to blame the unemployed for the problems that are there, of its own making, in the Job Network. The government has been forced to bail out the Job Network to the tune of $2.1 billion. And earlier on they have been saying that 60,000 people had already been breached. The fact is that Centrelink executive minutes—leaked to the opposition—of 8 September, show that that figure was 3,000 and that they had been exaggerating the number of people who hadn’t been fulfilling their obligations by 20 times. It’s about time the government took responsibility for the failings in the system rather than just blame the unemployed.

CATHERINE McGRATH: And Democrats Senator John Cherry agrees.

JOHN CHERRY: Look, I think the minister is trying to cover up for the absolute flaws in the Job Network system itself. There is too much reliance in Job Network on computer-generated appointment times, and as a result when you do things by computer you forget to take into account the reasonable excuses that unemployed people often have for not (sic) missing interviews. [inaudible] examples of thousands of people who Job Network recommended breaches on even though on the day they were actually at job interviews or training or genuinely sick or incapacitated. Something like 72 per cent of the recommended breaches from Job Network members are rejected by Centrelink as not being ‘for valid reasons’.

CATHERINE McGRATH: But Tony Abbott maintains there’s nothing wrong with the Job Network system.

TONY ABBOTT: Sure, there have been some difficulties in the transition from the second Job Network tender to the third Job Network tender. Look, Anthony Albanese, when he goes out to visit Job Network agencies he is full of praise for them because he knows that they do a very good job, under difficult circumstances, and he is not suggesting for a second that we should go back to the old system where everything was run by one giant bureaucracy.

CATHERINE McGRATH: What about the Productivity Commission report that said that Job Network only helps, by 0.6 per cent, the chances of an unemployed person getting a job?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, I am not a great expert on that particular report, and I don’t believe that they are necessarily the relevant figures. Certainly if you look at the figures which compared the actual employment record of the Job Network to the Working Nation program, Job Network programs have about 50 per cent better employment outcomes, also about 50 per cent lower net costs. So I think that the Job Network, while far from being a magic wand, there are no magic wands when you’re dealing with long-term unemployed people, is much more effective than anything that’s ever gone before.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Employment Minister, Tony Abbott, with Catherine McGrath.

 

Sep 26, 2003

The World Today: Employment Programs

THE WORLD TODAY – Employment Programs

Friday, 26 September 2003

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Under new rules which came into effect this week, Australians on the dole who don’t attend job interviews or training, could have their benefits cut or reduced within two weeks. Federal Employment Minister, Tony Abbott, says the new rules underline the obligations required of job seekers and, he says, it’s impossible to be fair without also being firm. But the ALP and the Australian Democrats says that Tony Abbott is just blaming the unemployed and that it’s the government’s Job Network scheme that’s letting job seekers down.

From Canberra, chief political correspondent, Catherine McGrath.

TONY ABBOTT: …essentially a system which was very slow and was not always noticed by job seekers who hadn’t turned up for interviews or employment programs or Work for the Dole will be replaced by a system whereby if you don’t turn up and you haven’t got a decent excuse your payments will be stopped.

CATHERINE McGRATH: And he says the focus is on speed—getting the penalties to apply quickly.

TONY ABBOTT: It’s a much faster system of consequences for people who don’t take advantage of the opportunities they have got.

CATHERINE McGRATH: But this is where the real dispute is with the ALP and the Democrats. They say that it’s the Job Network system—the privatised employment agents who are responsible for tracking the job seekers, organising their interviews and putting them on to Work for the Dole or training opportunities—that are to blame.

Opposition employment services spokesman, Anthony Albanese

ANTHONY ALBANESE:

This is, once again, an attempt by the government to blame the unemployed for the problems that are there, of its own making, in the Job Network. The government has been forced to bail out the Job Network to the tune of $2.1 billion. And earlier on they have been saying that 60,000 people had already been breached. The fact is that Centrelink executive minutes—leaked to the opposition—of 8 September, show that that figure was 3,000 and that they had been exaggerating the number of people who hadn’t been fulfilling their obligations by 20 times. It’s about time the government took responsibility for the failings in the system rather than just blame the unemployed.

CATHERINE McGRATH: And Democrats Senator John Cherry agrees.

JOHN CHERRY: Look, I think the minister is trying to cover up for the absolute flaws in the Job Network system itself. There is too much reliance in Job Network on computer-generated appointment times, and as a result when you do things by computer you forget to take into account the reasonable excuses that unemployed people often have for not (sic) missing interviews. [inaudible] examples of thousands of people who Job Network recommended breaches on even though on the day they were actually at job interviews or training or genuinely sick or incapacitated. Something like 72 per cent of the recommended breaches from Job Network members are rejected by Centrelink as not being ‘for valid reasons’.

CATHERINE McGRATH: But Tony Abbott maintains there’s nothing wrong with the Job Network system.

TONY ABBOTT: Sure, there have been some difficulties in the transition from the second Job Network tender to the third Job Network tender. Look, Anthony Albanese, when he goes out to visit Job Network agencies he is full of praise for them because he knows that they do a very good job, under difficult circumstances, and he is not suggesting for a second that we should go back to the old system where everything was run by one giant bureaucracy.

CATHERINE McGRATH: What about the Productivity Commission report that said that Job Network only helps, by 0.6 per cent, the chances of an unemployed person getting a job?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, look, I am not a great expert on that particular report, and I don’t believe that they are necessarily the relevant figures. Certainly if you look at the figures which compared the actual employment record of the Job Network to the Working Nation program, Job Network programs have about 50 per cent better employment outcomes, also about 50 per cent lower net costs. So I think that the Job Network, while far from being a magic wand, there are no magic wands when you’re dealing with long-term unemployed people, is much more effective than anything that’s ever gone before.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Employment Minister, Tony Abbott, with Catherine McGrath.

 

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

Important items

Enrol to vote Parliament of Australia Australian Labor Party Clean Energy Future