Jun 30, 2003

Employment national and job network 3

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, Monday June 30 2003

ISSUES: Employment National and Job Network 3

30 June 2003

ALBANESE: Today sees the demise of fifty five years of the Commonwealth Government giving direct service to the unemployed. From today, Employment National will be closing its doors, what that means is 165 offices around the country shutting up shop. When the government introduced the Job Network …(it had ) Employment National as a public service in order to provide a safety net particularly in regional Australia where the private providers would not take up the offers of job contracts, yet tomorrow we see the Government reneging on yet another promise.

The close of Employment National is a part of changes to Job Network which will see 53% of offices closing around the country, moving from 2087 to 986. This is a government that is closing more offices than they are keeping open. Employment is an issue which is central to people’s living standards. There are currently more long termed unemployed in Australia than when John Howard came into office, almost four hundred thousand people. There are eight hundred thousand Australian children live in families where no-one has a job. We need to once again restate our priorities and Labor today, is stating our priorities with employment being a major issue on the Australian agenda.

As well, the government has known these changes have been coming for some time, but they still have not got Job Network up and running properly. Job Network Mark3 is supposed to herald a whole new era of new technology, and yet the new technology is not working. Last Wednesday, Minister Brough had to fax all CEOs of Job Network providers for an emergency meeting the following day, in Sydney, with video links to capital cities around the country. Because what is occurring is that the unemployed …………………. (pause in recording).

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

ALBANESE: With the new Job Network 3, the information technology system keeps crashing. What that means is that those people who have made tenders for job network, simply aren’t being sent the clients that they expected for the new contracts starting tomorrow. That means that many job network providers question whether they will be financially viable or not. But whether it is the closure of Employment National, the government is essentially saying that getting people into a job is not a core responsibility of government. Whether it be the closures and ..continue

slashing of funding for Job Network, when Minister Brough proudly proclaimed in the Financial Review in March that two billion dollars had been cut from labor market programs over the last five years or whether it be the government’s incompetence in vowing to have Job Network 3 up and ready to run fully by July 1, this government is simply failing the unemployed and therefore failing Australia.

JOURNALIST: Would a Labor Government restore those offices, the directly funded offices?

ALBANESE: A Labor Government is committed to ensuring that employment service provision is given. In the Labor platform, adopted at the last National Conference, we are committed to there being a public service provider. We think that there is a role for government in people obtaining employment service provision. We also think there is a role for developing a much more cooperative approach and one that makes sure you don’t have a system whereby people are just falling off the end of the queue.

JOURNALIST: Mr Albanese, would you have kept Employment National open?

ALBANESE: I think in terms of Employment National, there is a role. It’s the Government’s commitment that Employment National would be a competitor with both the private for profit sector and the not for profit sector. My real concern, and one thing that Labor would have done, is ensure that regional Australia, which is going to be left without many services, does have provision. At the moment the Government simply can’t answer the question. The Government’s response has been to say in spite of the figures we’ll distribute this morning which shows that (inaudible) the government’s own information the 986 sites. The Government now in a desperate attempt, Minister Brough’s is saying now, that labour hire companies such as Manpower will count as job providers. Yes, they get people into employment. Yes, they are used by the private sector essentially for casual employment. But there is a big difference, and I think most Australians know there is a big difference between whether it be Employment National or Mission Australia or another job network provider and someone who simply advertises jobs.

JOURNALIST: But Employment National was making a huge loss and being propped up by the taxpayer………surely…………………(inaudible)

ALBANESE: One of the things that Employment National was doing was Being the safety net provider. The Government had released Employment National from areas of profit. It is not surprising that, if you run a system on profit, then unfortunately everyone in Australia isn’t just as able as everyone else to be got into employment. And one of the concerns that I have, is that it would be nice of the public sector provider, that in great slabs of regional Australia, particularly ones where there is large numbers of the indigenous community, they are left without any assistance whatsoever. That is one of the reasons why Employment National was making a loss. We don’t believe that there is no role for competition, we strongly support the role of private providers and not for profit providers. What we do say however is that people shouldn’t be left behind.

At the moment, the Government is establishing Job Network 3 from tomorrow, without even having a criteria for how the star rating system, how the performance of job network will be assessed. One of the things that we know is that they have established a committee to look into these issues, is the Government’s demanding that equity be taken out of consideration in relation to performance. If you take equity out, what you’ll be doing is writing off those people, many of whom have multiple disadvantage, given their ethnicity, given where they live, due to disabilities they might have. It is imperative that equity remain a consideration in judging how job network is performing.

What we’ve seen today with the demise of Employment National and the shutting of these other job network offices largely in regional Australia is what Labor predicted would come true. If you have a system that judges performance simply on the number of people being got into jobs, which is the logic of a totally for profit system then it makes common sense, and the providers have no other alternative but to assist those people into jobs thereby getting a payment, who least need assistance. If you have two people, and one person you’ve got to spend five hours to get them a job and another person who might have to get training or form of other assistance to get them into a job that might take 50 hours, then you will concentrate on getting those people who need least assistance. And that is what Labor believes needs to be addressed with the job network, that needs to be addressed in the criteria that hasn’t been worked out yet and we are calling upon the Government to finalise its performance criteria immediately so that there is certainty.