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Friday, 13 December 1996
Page: 7503

Senator NEWMAN (Minister for Social Security and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women)(11.12 a.m.) —Those are the matters I was referring to when I said earlier that I was proposing to address certain matters when we came to Senator Brown's amendment. I am happy to address them now, if it helps.

I do not know whether I can provide Senator Brown with the figures he is asking for at the moment. Already I have been advised that there is a minimal administrative cost with the ECCs because they are issued and returned with the regular fortnightly forms. The scheme works to allow job seekers to confirm their job search efforts.

As for the employers, I understand that representatives from leading employer organisations have stated publicly that they do not believe that the changes will result in a considerable burden to employers. The secretary to my department has written to major employer organisations detailing the changes to the activity test and requesting their support for the measure.

In addition, I point out that the employer contact units, set up, firstly, in Tasmania and now in operation around the rest of the country, are bringing in thousands of calls from employers who find it an easy, low cost way to deal with the department on a range of issues. Some might be formal matters, others just inquiries, while others alert the department about people you could call `work shy'.

Employers' needs and the cost of doing business with government were very much taken into account in the introduction of those employer contact units. The employer contact certificates are not used indiscriminately. They are used particularly where people are seen to be at risk of not pursuing job opportunities. That is not the only situation. Over the years statistics have found certain people, particularly young people, are a vulnerable part of the community, and where such groups are identified the certificates will be introduced.

I do not know whether I have the information Senator Brown requested. I have not mentioned the problem of employers refusing to sign; I can say that our amendment addresses that problem. The current legislation provides that allowances be cancelled if people cannot get certificates completed. Our changes allow that, provided people attempt to get them signed, they would not be penalised. Those are the sorts of reasons I believe it is appropriate to pass the government's proposals.