May 14, 2003

Budget 2003: The unemployed sentence to another period of suffering


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 14 May 2003

Despite the number of long-term unemployed being higher today than when the Howard Government was first elected, the 2003 Budget provides little additional investment in the assistance that would help them back into a job.

Today 382,176 people have been on the dole for more than a year.

However, this rise in long-term unemployment should come as no surprise. Under the Howard Government not only has funding for labour market programs been slashed, but they consider these cuts an achievement.

In March the Minister for Employment Services, Mal Brough, boasted that his Government had cut $2 billion from labour market programs over the past 5 years (Australian Financial Review, 27 March 2003, p7).

The only new initiative contained in last night’s Budget for the unemployed was motivational classes for young people aged 16 to 24. However, this $12.5 million initiative is clearly dwarfed by 7 years of cuts.

A lack of substantial new investment in last night’s Budget will ensure that the Government’s cornerstone labour market program, the Job Network, will not be able to reduce entrenched joblessness in our community.

The most recent data produced by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, shows that only 18% of those who participated in Intensive Assistance – the highest level of help available through the Job Network – found full-time employment. In the case of the most disadvantaged jobseekers, only 1 in 8 (12.5%) found full-time work upon completing Intensive Assistance.

Labour Market Assistance Outcomes, Issue 10, p4

The under-funding of the Job Network was exposed in a report completed last year by the Productivity Commission. The Commission found that the most disadvantaged long-term unemployed were being “parked” in Intensive Assistance receiving only the “pretence of aid”.

The unemployed are facing a bleak future. Not only did last night’s Budget fail to provide additional investment for labour market programs but it also predicts a slowing of employment growth over the coming 3 years.

The government is sentencing the unemployed to another period of suffering.