Sep 17, 2003

Vanstone exposes Brough


MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 17 September 2003

Under questioning in the Senate today the Minister for Family and Community Services, Amanda Vanstone, failed to support the repeated assertions made by Employment Services Minister Mal Brough about the number of jobseekers who have failed to attend compulsory interviews with their Job Network providers.

On the 23 August 2003 Minister Brough told the Canberra Times:

“…we have about 60,000 people who are about to be suspended or are responding to letters on suspension from Centrelink…”

Over the past 3 months the Minister has repeatedly claimed that the cash flow crisis that has brought the Job Network to the brink of financial collapse was caused by these 60,000 “greedy” jobseekers failing to attend compulsory interviews with their providers. At that stage, the Government only paid providers once such interviews had been conducted.

However, it is understood that just 3,000 jobseekers have failed to attend their compulsory meeting without a valid reason and are likely to be breached by Centrelink – not the 60,000 figure Minister Brough has been dishonestly using.

Minister Brough’s use of the 60,000 figure is a deliberate attempt to conceal his own gross mismanagement of the transition to Job Network Mark 3. Just 3 months into Job Network Mark 3 and already two bailouts have been needed – the first was for $30 million and the second totalled $2.1 billion.

Blaming disadvantaged Australians for their own policy failings is unfortunately second nature to the Howard Government.

Let’s be blunt. Minister Brough grossly overestimated the number of jobseekers – and therefore the level of work ultimately available to providers – which would be eligible for Job Network services. The figure initially started at 780,000 jobseekers; it was then revised down to 630,000; and now providers have been told the real figure is no more than 500,000 jobseekers. As a consequence the cash flow to providers has been reduced by between 30% and 40%.

The Government simply got its numbers wrong. As one Job Network provider told The Australian on 14 August, the Government “totally stuffed up the modelling.”

Instead of admitting to his mistake, Minister Brough has engaged in a disgraceful campaign of vilifying the unemployed, blaming them for the Job Network financial crisis and threatening to take away their benefits.

Today Minister Vanstone has exposed as a furphy Minister Brough’s repeated claim that 60,000 jobseekers are avoiding their responsibility to find work. The Job Network’s financial crisis is of the Minister’s own making.