Nov 6, 2003

Centrelink exposes Brough’s lies


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 6 November 2003

Today under questioning in Senate Estimates Centrelink exposed as a lie Employment Services Minister Mal Brough’s repeated assertion about the number of jobseekers failing to attend compulsory interviews with their Job Network providers.

When Mr Brough attended the annual conference of the National Employment Services Association on 22 August he unambiguously asserted:

“Today, as I stand before you, there are more than 60,000 Australians who have received unemployment who you have made numerous attempts to get through your doors, who have had letters, who have had phone calls from you and from Centrelink. They’re had their doors knocked on. Who have had no valid reason.”

He repeated this assertion to the Canberra Times on the 23 August 2003:

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

However, today Centrelink – the agency responsible for the issuing of suspensions – told a Senate Estimates hearing that as at 22 August just 11,845 jobseekers had failed to attend meetings with their provider without a valid reason – one fifth the number claimed by Mr Brough. Furthermore, of those 11,845 jobseekers, just 1,292 had had their benefits suspended.

According to Centrelink the balance of the 60,000 jobseekers had valid reasons for not having attended their compulsory interviews – 11,357 had already attended compulsory interviews with their providers and a further 22,742 had a future interview booked. The fact that the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) was unaware of this, despite having spent more than $200 million creating an IT system to track jobseekers through the Job Network, raises grave concerns about the effectiveness and reliability of this new system.

Centrelink had provided the details of their analysis to DEWR by late August, and despite 3 months having passed Mr Brough still has not corrected the public record.

In a desperate attempt to conceal his complete mal-administration of the transition to Job Network Mark 3, Mr Brough has engaged in a dishonest campaign of vilifying the unemployed. The Job Network’s financial crisis is of the Minister’s own making.

It was not recalcitrant jobseekers that brought the Job Network to the brink of financial collapse, it was the fundamentally flawed financial model developed by Mr Brough and his Department. The Government simply got its numbers wrong. Or as one Job Network provider so eloquently told The Australian on 14 August, the Government “totally stuffed up the modelling.”

Just 4 months into Job Network Mark 3 and already two bailouts have been needed – the first was for $30 million and the second totalled $2.1 billion.