Jun 29, 2003

Government abandons the unemployed


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 29 June 2003

This week with the commencement of Job Network Mark 3 the Commonwealth Government will be walking away from the provision of direct assistance to the unemployed.

From 1 July Employment National, the public provider of employment assistance and formerly known as the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES), will no longer exist. The winding-up of Employment National will result in the loss of more than 400 jobs and the closure of the remaining 165 offices around the country.

The demise of Employment National ends more than 55 years of the Commonwealth Government’s direct involvement in assisting Australians into jobs making it yet another successful public institution dismantled by the market-driven ideological agenda of the Howard Government.

The decision by the Howard Government to close Employment National begs the following question: if directly helping the unemployed is not a core responsibility of the Commonwealth then what is?

The closure of Employment National is part of broader changes to the Job Network due to take effect from 1 July.

These changes will result in the closure of 53% of Job Network sites. This translates into the loss of 691 regional sites and a further 410 metropolitan sites. In total, of the current 2,087 sites, 1,101 will close permanently.

The Government is closing more sites than they are keeping open.

These closures will leave many smaller towns without any Job Network provider, and the unemployed in those towns having to travel further to get the help they need to find a job. For jobseekers in larger towns and metropolitan areas, these closures will mean less choice.

Not only does this decision mean fewer services for the unemployed, but it will actually add to unemployment queues as staff are sacked from those sites earmarked for closure.

This dramatic cut in employment services comes at a time when the number of long-term unemployed is higher today than when the Howard Government was first elected to office.

The Government is putting jobseekers with significant barriers to employment into the too-hard basket.

On top of this withdrawal of services, the operation of the Job Network is being further impaired by ongoing “technical” difficulties with its IT system, cash flow problems amongst some of its providers and a lack of new investment in the 2003 Budget.

The lack of new investment means that Job Network providers will not have the resources to provide the types of assistance that would significantly improve the employment prospects of jobseekers, particularly those lacking recent experience in a mainstream job or relevant skills.

Over the coming months Labor will be announcing policy measures that will strengthen the operation of the Job Network and more importantly, enhance the assistance available to jobseekers.