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Thursday, 16 May 2002
Page: 2362


Mr COX (2:31 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment Services. Can the minister confirm that the budget includes a cut to the Job Network of $64 million over the next four years? Can he also confirm that, in March this year, 37,500 long-term unemployed seeking work did not have access to intensive assistance services under the Job Network? What is the government offering people with disabilities who will no longer qualify for the disability support pension, other than a lengthening queue for intensive assistance under the Job Network? Minister, how can you be serious about getting disadvantaged people into work when you are cutting the Job Network?


Mr BROUGH (Minister for Employment Services) —I thank the member for Kingston for his maiden question, his second question, his third question and his fourth question all at once.


The SPEAKER —Order! The Minister for Employment Services will come to the question.


Mr BROUGH —I hope it does not take you as long to get up another question in your tactics committee!


The SPEAKER —Order! Minister!


Mr BROUGH —The first thing to say is that under the Labor Party over the last six years—under the stewardship of the Leader of the Opposition, who was then employment minister—the number of long-term unemployed in this country grew and grew. In fact, long-term unemployment grew by 89 per cent over that time. Labor threw people onto the scrap heap and kept them there, while spending $3,000 million of taxpayers' money. It cost the taxpayer $15,000 for every person who got a job. Today, it costs $5,000. The number of very long-term unemployed—of whom there were a multitude under the Labor Party—in the last six years of Labor increased by 90.1 per cent.


Mrs Irwin —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 145, it is quite obvious that the minister at the table is not answering the question.


The SPEAKER —The member for Fowler will be aware that there were a number of questions asked, including questions that cited the number of unemployed people and the growth of unemployment. In that context, it is difficult for me to rule the minister out of order. He is responding to the questions asked, and I invite him to come to the question about the Job Network.


Mr BROUGH —In conclusion on that point: since the election of the Howard government, very long-term unemployment has come down by 13 per cent and today is less than half the rate it was under the peak of the Labor government. To come to question 3 or question 4 of your four questions, you asked about what we will do about limiting the services in the Job Network. What the member for Kingston obviously did not see when he was in the lockup is that this is an uncapped program. Whether you are a disability support pensioner coming off DSP into new work or into the unemployment field and into the Job Network, you will be accommodated. I inform the House that everybody will have access to the new scheme of intensive support customised assistance— everybody!

The member for Kingston also makes the claim that there will be less money. In this current year, we will spend in the order of $823 million. We will be spending over $900 million in the out years. There will be more money spent on the Job Network. There will be better services that are better targeted. We will get results. The Job Network, since its inception, has continued to outperform its predecessor. The question for the opposition is this: are you going to put up a policy that damns the Job Network, or will you be in the vacuous position that you have always been in—saying nothing, doing nothing but barking an awful lot?