Feb 20, 2004

The disabled to be punished for Job Network flaws

THE DISABLED TO BE PUNISHED FOR JOB NETWORK FLAWS

MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 20 February 2004

Today’s article in the Financial Review, entitled “Prop up Job Network with disabled, says note”, is further evidence that the Howard Government’s approach to employment policy is being driven solely by a desperate need to prop up its ailing Job Network system. The needs of the unemployed come a distant second.

The article is based on documents obtained by Labor from the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) under Freedom of Information (FOI).

These FOI documents reveal that in a desperate attempt to fix the cash flow crisis which has brought many Job Network providers to the brink of financial ruin, the Government is planning to push parents, the disabled and older workers into the system.

These documents contradict earlier denials by Minister Brough that such plans were being considered by the Howard Government.

As revealed in Parliament this week it was not recalcitrant jobseekers that brought the Job Network to the brink of financial collapse, as claimed by Mr Brough. It was the fundamentally flawed financial model developed by Mr Brough and his Department.

Put simply, Minister Brough grossly overestimated the number of jobseekers – and therefore the level of paying work ultimately available to providers – who would be requiring Job Network services. The figure initially started at more than 780,000 jobseekers; then revised down to 690,000; and now the FOI documents reveal that the true figure is likely to be no more than 500,000.

As a consequence the cash flow of providers has been reduced by 30% to 40%. The Job Network’s financial crisis has been of the Minister’s own making.

The latest revelation contained in today’s Financial Review is deeply concerning.

Already the Job Network is struggling to reduce long term unemployment. Despite a decade of economic growth, the number of people on the dole for more than 12 months is higher today (378,793) than it was when the Howard Government was first elected to office in March 1996 (350,000). And now the Government wants to push people with even greater barriers to employment, such as the disabled and mature aged jobseekers, into this ailing system.

Unfortunately, we have a Government obsessed with propping up its ailing Job Network, rather than ensuring the system works for those it is meant to help.