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.
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.
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.