Feb 18, 2004

Freedom Of Information documents confirm that Brough denied and lied


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 18 February 2004

Documents obtained by Labor from the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) under Freedom of Information (FOI) prove:

1. The financial crisis that engulfed the Job Network, and has already led to the collapse of one provider, was of the Government’s own making;

2. The Minister for Employment Services, Mal Brough, not only failed to heed the warnings from the industry, but also ignored the concerns and advice of government departments;

3. Minister Brough engaged in a dishonest campaign of vilifying jobseekers to conceal his mismanagement of the transition to Job Network 3 which commenced on 1 July 2003;

4. The need to prop up the Job Network is now distorting other areas of social policy.

Minister Brough has repeatedly asserted that the cash flow crisis that has brought Job Network providers to the brink of financial collapse was caused by “greedy” jobseekers failing to attend compulsory interviews with their providers.

However, FaCS documents obtained by Labor show that the overwhelming number of jobseekers where fulfilling their responsibility and attending compulsory meeting with their providers. In fact, between 14 April and 5 September 2003 only 286 jobseekers had been breached by Centrelink for failing to attend these meetings without a valid reason.

It is now obvious that in a desperate attempt to conceal his mal-administration of the transition to Job Network 3, Minister Brough engaged in a dishonest campaign of vilifying jobseekers.

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 Minister Brough and his Department. The FaCS documents reveal that the Job Network’s financial crisis was of the Minister’s own making.

Minister Brough grossly overestimated the number of jobseekers – and therefore the level of work ultimately available to providers – which would be requiring Job Network services. The figure initially started at more than 900,000 jobseekers; then revised down to 690,000; and now the FaCS documents reveals that the real figure is likely to be no more than 500,000.

On 25 July 2003 a Minute from Centrelink to FaCS stated:

“I think we need to bring out the fact that there are only perhaps 500,000 customers who can be compelled to come in.”

As a consequence the cash flow of providers has been reduced by between 30 and 40 percent resulting in the sacking of staff.

Despite having spent $11.3 million on preparing, developing and implementing Job Network 3, Minister Brough still got his numbers wrong.

Further undermining the operation of the Job Network was an IT system riddled with ongoing “technical” problems – a system that cost $20.9 million and took 300,000 person hours to build.

A briefing note to the Minister for Family and Community Service dated 11 June 2003 stated:

“It is now 11 weeks since ESC3 was introduced. There have been only two or three days where there has not been a system outage.”

Instead of admitting to his mistakes, Minister Brough has engaged in a disgraceful campaign using dodgy statistics to vilify the unemployed, blaming them for the Job Network’s financial crisis and threatening to take away their benefits.

Minister Brough is refusing to release documents from his own Department requested under FOI. The Government must come clean and release these documents immediately.