Feb 18, 2004

Doorstop Interview: FOI Documents exposing Job Network fiasco

Transcript of Doorstop Interview: Parliament House, Canberra

FOI Documents exposing Job Network fiasco

Wednesday 18 February 2004

ALBANESE:  Today we see the latest example of why the Howard Government has a reputation for being mean and tricky. The Job Network administration has been a fiasco. What we know from documents obtained under Freedom of Information by the Opposition is that prior to the new system coming in on July 1 the government was telling providers that there’d be some 900,000 people participating in the Job Network, we know that the real figure was around 500,000.

We know that the IT system which the Government said would be world’s best was, in the words of these documents, up and running for only two or three days in eleven weeks. Or some 5 per cent of the time it was operating.

We know that when the bail out occurred of Job Network just eleven days into July, some $30 million, and then on August 22 some $670 million per year for three years or 2.1 billion guaranteed to providers. The minister didn’t accept that it was the Government’s system that was to blame. He tried to blame the unemployed.

He spoke about “shaking the tree”, he spoke about how 84,000 people would be taken of benefit saving the Government some $1 billion. But now these documents from the Government have belled the cat. The Minister this morning on AM said that he couldn’t quantify how many people hadn’t fulfilled their obligations. What we know from these documents is that in the period from April to the 5th of September only 286 people were breached.

So we know that the Government had to prop up the Job Network simply because its modelling for how many people would participate in it was wrong. We know that rather than concede its mistake they attempted to blame the unemployed when it was in fact the system that was to blame. And we know further that since then the Government’s still unclear about how many people should be in the system and has sort to distort social policy in order to prop up the system by making changes including pushing more disabled people into the Job Network and more mature age people into the Job Network.

The Labor Party supports giving assistance to the unemployed, including the disabled and mature age workers, but what we believe is that their needs should be driving the policy not the need to prop up what is an incredibly flawed system.

The Minister has refused to release any documents from his own Department outlining this sad and sorry tale and he should come clean immediately if we’re going to have open and accountable government. These documents suggest that some of the most disadvantaged people in Australia are missing out on getting employment services assistance that they should get. And it’s about time the Government conceded the problems with the system and set about fixing it.

JOURNALIST: What kind of effect is it having on people (inaudible)?

ALBANESE: Well the effect that it’s having is that they’re being told by the Government from the top down that some how they’re not fulfilling their obligations, that some how they’re to blame for the incredible frustration which they’re feeling with the Job Network system. They’ve experienced the problems. They’re people who’ve been sent letters to wrong addresses because of the IT system. They’re people who because of the maladministration have been sent, we have the example of the Tasmanian young man sent to work in an escort agency. There are practical effects on the unemployed due to the Government’s maladministration and unemployed people are feeling it every day. And in spite of the fact that you have had substantial employment growth you still have today more people on unemployment benefits for more than 12 months, more long term unemployed today than there was in March 1996. And that’s a disgrace. That’s because the system isn’t looking after those people who most need assistance.