Sep 19, 2003

Brough lies, Vanstone misleads


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 19 September 2003

Can the word of Employment Services Minister Mal Brough ever be trusted?

That is the question not only being asked by some of his colleagues but by taxpayers following yesterday’s revelations that he has been using factitious figures to conceal the real reason for the unprecedented $2.1 billion bailout of the Job Network – his own mismanagement.

Over the past 3 months the Minister has repeatedly asserted that the cash flow crisis that has brought the Job Network to the brink of financial collapse was caused by 60,000 “greedy” jobseekers who failed to attend compulsory interviews with their providers.

On the 23 August 2003 Minister Brough told the Canberra Times:

“…we have about 60,000 people who are about to be suspended or are responding to letters on suspension from Centrelink…”

However Minutes from a Centrelink Agency Executive Forum held on 8 September and obtained by Labor shows that this statement by the Minister was a lie.

The Centrelink Minutes state unambiguously:

“There have been some statements about 60,000 job seekers did not attend a Job Network appointment without a valid reason. Centrelink analysis of this information has found only 3000 job seekers slipped through the net.”

Minister Brough must now come clean: When did he first become aware that his claim that 60,000 jobseekers were about to be breached by Centrelink was wrong; and why didn’t he immediately correct the public record when made aware of the true figure?

Furthermore, in attempt to protect the hapless Minister Brough, Family Services Minister Amanda Vanstone misled Parliament. Yesterday during Question Time when asked to confirm Minister Brough’s claim of 60,000 was wrong and that the true figure was just 3,000 jobseekers, Minister Vanstone brazenly told the Senate:

“There is no significance to this 3,000 figure. I just cannot understand what you think you are onto there. So I cannot help you.”

We now know that Minister Vanstone’s own Department viewed Minister Brough’s breaching claims with such concern that they undertook their own investigation and advised their Minister accordingly.

Following speculation that Minister Brough would be vacating his marginal seat of Longman to contest the safe Liberal seat of Fisher at the next election, the incumbent member for Fisher, Peter Slipper, told the ABC:

“I rang him [Brough], he assured me he’d be running for Longman – I have every belief he’s a man of his word – I haven’t heard anything to the contrary, so I can only assume this is just Labor Party rumourmongering.”

Of course, we now know that Minister Brough is planning to abandon Longman and contest Liberal Party preselection for Fisher.

Clearly the word of Minister Brough cannot be trusted.