Browsing articles in "Interview Transcripts"
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.

 

Sep 10, 2003

Transcript of a Doorstop Interview: Job Network

Transcript of Doorstop Interview: Job Network

10 September 2003

ALBANESE: Yesterday the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations Deputy Secretary Bob Correll wrote to Job Network providers providing details of the $2.1 billion bailout which was announced by the Minister on 22 August to the NESA Conference. This bailout is an extraordinary event in Australian politics which is unprecedented. $670 million per year has been guaranteed to Job Network providers, each and every year over three years.

Essential with this bailout you have a situation whereby the Job Network was justified as being a competitive market-based system in which they have removed the market. It is also suppose to be an outcome-based system in which for the majority of payments they have removed any outcome payment.

In the letter to Job Network providers I think the Government stands condemned by its own words, and that letter says: “Notably there’s nothing in these changes that alters the planned balance between service fees and outcome fees, but rather ensures that Job Network achieves what was modelled.”

Here you have an extraordinary admission that the Job Network process for Job Network 3 which began on July 1 with a model that was flawed but then changes made so that the outcome meets the flawed model. This is a policy process which is extraordinary.

The fact is there are three problems with the Job Network:

The first is that the modelling was wrong. It estimated that there would be 720,000 people in the system and the real figure is under 500,000. So whilst the Minister tries to blame the number of unemployed people not turning up to interviews, which he himself says is around 60,000, for the problem with the system, the fact is that 220,000 people which were included in the business plan were never meant to be part of the system and the Minister from day one got that wrong.

The second problem is that of the automated referral system where people are receiving letters to go to Job Network providers without the personalised service and it being understood what their obligations are. It has been shown to be a failure and when a trial period of direct Centrelink personalised referrals was made, the fact is that over 90% of people did turn up to the interviews.

The third problem of course is with the disastrous IT system which Job Network providers have described as a “dog” of a system.

These changes leave all those structural weaknesses in place. The changes consist of two main elements. The first is up front quarterly advances of cash to Job Network providers. This turns on its head the whole reason for the Job Network coming into being and is simple about keeping the doors of Job Network providers open. The second change is that 40,000 people will be added into Customised Assistance. What that means is that people are having their risk of being long-term unemployed defined not by the reality of their situation but by the needs of Job network providers to receive the upfront cash payments of between $800 and $1,200 for each Customised Assistance client who’s referred to them.

You now have a situation whereby the Job Network is being driven not by the needs of the unemployed, but by the needs of Job Network providers to keep their doors open. Labor believes very strongly that employment services should be driven by the needs of the unemployed to get into work. In particular the needs of the long-term unemployed not to be left behind. The fact is Minister Brough in his statements continues to blame the unemployed when it’s his incompetence and maladministration of this system which is to blame. Job Network providers know that, the unemployed know that and it’s about time the Minister took some responsibility.

END

Sep 10, 2003

Transcript of a Doorstop Interview: Job Network

Transcript of Doorstop Interview: Job Network

10 September 2003

ALBANESE: Yesterday the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations Deputy Secretary Bob Correll wrote to Job Network providers providing details of the $2.1 billion bailout which was announced by the Minister on 22 August to the NESA Conference. This bailout is an extraordinary event in Australian politics which is unprecedented. $670 million per year has been guaranteed to Job Network providers, each and every year over three years.

Essential with this bailout you have a situation whereby the Job Network was justified as being a competitive market-based system in which they have removed the market. It is also suppose to be an outcome-based system in which for the majority of payments they have removed any outcome payment.

In the letter to Job Network providers I think the Government stands condemned by its own words, and that letter says: “Notably there’s nothing in these changes that alters the planned balance between service fees and outcome fees, but rather ensures that Job Network achieves what was modelled.”

Here you have an extraordinary admission that the Job Network process for Job Network 3 which began on July 1 with a model that was flawed but then changes made so that the outcome meets the flawed model. This is a policy process which is extraordinary.

The fact is there are three problems with the Job Network:

The first is that the modelling was wrong. It estimated that there would be 720,000 people in the system and the real figure is under 500,000. So whilst the Minister tries to blame the number of unemployed people not turning up to interviews, which he himself says is around 60,000, for the problem with the system, the fact is that 220,000 people which were included in the business plan were never meant to be part of the system and the Minister from day one got that wrong.

The second problem is that of the automated referral system where people are receiving letters to go to Job Network providers without the personalised service and it being understood what their obligations are. It has been shown to be a failure and when a trial period of direct Centrelink personalised referrals was made, the fact is that over 90% of people did turn up to the interviews.

The third problem of course is with the disastrous IT system which Job Network providers have described as a “dog” of a system.

These changes leave all those structural weaknesses in place. The changes consist of two main elements. The first is up front quarterly advances of cash to Job Network providers. This turns on its head the whole reason for the Job Network coming into being and is simple about keeping the doors of Job Network providers open. The second change is that 40,000 people will be added into Customised Assistance. What that means is that people are having their risk of being long-term unemployed defined not by the reality of their situation but by the needs of Job network providers to receive the upfront cash payments of between $800 and $1,200 for each Customised Assistance client who’s referred to them.

You now have a situation whereby the Job Network is being driven not by the needs of the unemployed, but by the needs of Job Network providers to keep their doors open. Labor believes very strongly that employment services should be driven by the needs of the unemployed to get into work. In particular the needs of the long-term unemployed not to be left behind. The fact is Minister Brough in his statements continues to blame the unemployed when it’s his incompetence and maladministration of this system which is to blame. Job Network providers know that, the unemployed know that and it’s about time the Minister took some responsibility.

END

Aug 22, 2003

PM – Job Network

PM – Job Network

Friday 22 August 2003

MARK COLVIN: Because far fewer jobseekers are registering than had been expected, the Federal Government has now had to guarantee funds to save the jobs of the people who work with Job Network providers.

The Employment Services Minister Mal Brough is blaming unemployed people. He says tens of thousands of them haven’t been turning up for job interviews. Labor, though, says it’s the fault of the Government, and the Minister should resign.

Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Less than two months into the Government’s third Job Network contract it struck real trouble.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  In the transition between Job Network One and Job Network Two, it cost David Kemp his job. Quite frankly this should cost Mal Brough his job. He should resign and put someone in charge.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: According to Labor’s Anthony Albanese, the Government has vastly over-estimated the number of jobseekers expected through the Job Network, by 200,000. For job agencies, paid according to the number of people they see, that’s spelt a massive drop in income.

Labor says two thirds of employment service chief executives indicated yesterday, they’d be laying off staff and/or considering closing some operations in the next fortnight unless there was a cash injection.

Today, says Anthony Albanese, the Government’s been forced to stave off a complete collapse of the system, guaranteeing job agencies payment regardless of outcomes – that is, whether or not they meet their targets for helping Australia’s unemployed find jobs.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  This is an extraordinary bail out by the Government. It resolves the problem for the providers, but it leaves the big question unanswered of how the system will be changed to actually help the unemployed get into jobs.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Employment Services Minister Mal Brough is guaranteeing the Government will spend the two and half billion dollars it budgeted for the Job Network over three years.

MAL BROUGH: The money they’ve received in the first two months is far lower than the money that had been anticipated and modelled.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: How much lower?

MAL BROUGH: Considerably lower. I don’t have a figure on me, but we are talking tens of millions of dollars below. And the reason for that is people haven’t turned up to interviews after they have been chased for appointments; reappointments have been made; reminder calls have been made; letters have been sent out.

And as it stands today, right now there is in excess of 60,000 job seekers who are activity tested, in other words, are required to attend these interviews because they are receiving payments, who have failed to attend, having had follow up phone calls, letters, numerous other attempts at contacting them.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So you’ve guaranteed to the employment agencies that they will be get paid, because it’s not their fault that the unemployed are turning up?

MAL BROUGH: That’s it in a nutshell. We’ve said to them you have done what we asked of you, in fact you have done a lot more than what we’ve asked of you. They have scheduled 900,000 interviews.

There are only 720,000 people on the case loads and far, far fewer than that have actually attended those interviews, so they have staffed, they have built offices, had their IT in place and on top of that they’ve conducted numerous activities at great expense simply to fulfil what they want to do, and that is to get people in off the streets, talking to them so they can assist them.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So will this be an extra cost to the taxpayer then and to the Government?

MAL BROUGH: No, that’s the clear point Alex, there is no additional cost to the taxpayer, there is not one red cent more that I have to appropriate from the Budget. This is all money which they anticipated coming to them, they have actually dealt with the caseload. The trouble is that the people themselves haven’t actually responded positively.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The Government has yet to indicate how it intends to fix the problem. PM understands job agencies, which until now have been paid once unemployed people turn up for assistance, will now be paid for all the work they do associated with getting jobseekers in the door.

Anthony Albanese says that creates a new problem.

ANTHONY ALBANESE:  It creates a massive accountability problem, we’re talking about more than $2 billion of taxpayers money that will now be handed over with no strings attached. This is money for nothing.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In the longer term the Government needs to find a way to encourage more job seekers to turn up to employment providers. Those subject to mutual obligation face having their dole cut if they don’t attend job interviews, but there are another one- or two hundred thousand who are not activity tested and thus under no obligation to turn up.

MARK COLVIN: Alexandra Kirk in Canberra.