Sep 26, 2003

Abbott adopts Howard’s script: Deny and lie


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 26 September 2003

On ABC Radio today Minister Abbott while attempting to justify his Government’s latest campaign of vilifying the unemployed demonstrated his complete lack of understanding about one of the most significant parts of his portfolio responsibilities – the Job Network.

On the ABC Radio’s World Today program Minister Abbott was asked:

“What about the … report that said that Job Network only helps, by 0.6 per cent, the chances of an unemployed person getting a job?”

In response the Minister said:

“Well, look, I am not a great expert on that particular report, and I don’t believe that they are necessarily the relevant figures.”

This is an extraordinary admission. The findings referred to are contained in the only major report conducted by his own Department into the performance of the Job Network.

Does Minister Abbott seriously expect us to believe that he has so little knowledge about the central findings from the only extensive review conducted by his own department into the performance of one of the Government’s most significant policy experiments?

Either Minister Abbott is not on top of his brief or ignorant of the facts that do not support his ideological crusade. But why should we be surprised. The Howard Government has made an art form out of denying knowledge of crucial facts.

For sake of the Minister’s memory, the report from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, The Job Network Evaluation Effectiveness Report, concluded that participation in Intensive Assistance — the highest level of help available through the Job Network — raised the employment prospects of long-term unemployed people by a mere 0.6% (page 80). The report concluded:

"… the overwhelming majority of the job-seekers who obtained jobs after participating in Intensive Assistance would have got jobs anyway." (page 81)

In justifying Centrelink’s harsh new breaching regime Minister Abbott told AAP:

“The Government doesn’t want people who are genuinely unemployed to lose their benefit even temporarily…”

Again, if the Minister knew the facts he would be aware that jobseekers are already having their benefits suspended through no fault of their own. Centrelink data reveals that 72.4% of breach recommendations by Job Network providers are found to be unwarranted.

The changes the Minister has announced today is nothing more than an attempt to cover up his gross mismanagement of the Job Network and will only place more innocent jobseekers at greater risk of having their meagre unemployment benefits taken away through no fault of their own.

What changed on July 1 was not the behaviour of jobseekers but the system that is meant to serve them – the Job Network. Instead of finding new ways to punish the unemployed, Minister Abbott should be working to fix his ailing Job Network which has already been bailed out to the tune of $2.1 billion.