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Wednesday, 20 August 2003
Page: 19044

Mr ALBANESE (2:55 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment Services. With respect to Job Network mark 3, does the minister recall telling parliament on 18 June:

... we are confident that on 1 July ... it will work.

In light of the minister's announcement on 10 July that $30 million in emergency payments would be made to providers just to ensure that they kept their doors open, isn't it the case that, far from working, the system is teetering on the verge of collapse? If the minister remains confident that the system is working well, will he now rule out making any further emergency payments to providers, changes to the fee structure or outcome payments over the remaining life of ESC3? Minister, isn't it the case that your department is already negotiating with the National Employment Services Association over the amount of additional funding needed by Job Network providers just to shore up their viability?

The SPEAKER —I remind the member for Grayndler that the use of the word `your' is, of course, inappropriate.

Mr BROUGH (Minister for Employment Services) —No, member for Grayndler, the premise of the question is absolutely incorrect. The IT system that you are referring to is conducting about 3.5 million transactions a day in an average time of about half of second. The $30 million payment that the member for Grayndler refers to is not a bailout in any way, shape or form. As has been widely reported in the press, for the first time in this nation's history over 700,000 unemployed Australians have had a letter sent to them with a time, a date and a place to attend an interview where they can have their resume recorded and put on an automated database so they can be matched with jobs. The unfortunate reality is that many of those job seekers have not turned up to those interviews.

Rather than be draconian, the government paid Job Network members extra funds to make additional phone calls to unemployed people so that they would receive not only a letter informing them of the time, date and place of their appointment but also a minimum of two contact points from the Job Net-work member. This was to encourage people to turn up for what is, after all, assistance paid for by the taxpayer. I ask the member for Grayndler and those sitting opposite who ridicule this: do you believe that Job Network members should be doing something they are not paid for? We are asking them to make additional contacts with job seekers in order to assist them. This government stands by Job Network. It is not in imminent collapse. In fact, there is currently a NESA conference being held, which I am aware that the member opposite will be addressing tomorrow, as I will be on Friday. I look forward to a robust Job Network that continues to drive unemployment down in this country.