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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3851


Senator FIFIELD (2:25 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Arbib. Is the minister aware that Wesley Uniting Employment, who provided employment services for 11 years under Job Network, will be closing 60 of their 68 sites, resulting in 350 staff losing their jobs, under Job Services Australia next Tuesday?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) —Senator Fifield has asked a number of questions regarding the Job Services Australia changeover and I take him back to my answers last week: this was a competitive process based on protocols and guidelines developed under the previous government, but the core of this is improving the service and improving the system for job seekers.

Under the old system there were seven programs—seven doors that a job seeker would have to go through. With Job Services Australia there is one door, a personalised service for job seekers. Not only have the government put an extra billion dollars into the system; at the same time we have put in place the redundancy compact. Under the Howard government, if you were made redundant you would have to wait to go into stream 2 of the Job Network; you would have to wait for personalised service, wait to get the support you needed. Under Job Services Australia, if you are made redundant there is immediate access to the system. It provides personalised support, tailoring it to make sure people get the retraining they need to get back into the job market. That is what Job Services Australia is about.

With regard to tenders, of course there are some organisations that have missed out; there is no doubt about that. I have great sympathy for them because they have put their hearts and souls into this. But in any competitive process there are winners and losers. Unlike the previous government, we have done our best and have worked to try to assist those organisations. The Agency Adjustment Fund, $3.5 million— (Time expired)


Senator FIFIELD —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware that, as a result of the Rudd government’s bungling of employment services, Wesley Mission have been forced to withdraw $3 million from services they provide to the community?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) —I again say that under the Rudd government we are assisting and attempting to assist those organisations that have missed out in the competitive process. I was talking about the Agency Adjustment Fund. That is $3.5 million—about $100,000 per organisation—going to those organisations that have missed out, which will assist them in transitioning. There are also other programs available to them. There is the Innovation Fund: $41 million. A number of these organisations are tendering directly to the Innovation Fund. There is the Jobs Fund: $650 million. On top of that, organisations that have missed out can apply to subcontract under the main tenderers. So there are still opportunities and, of course, the government is working on the transition. It will not be an easy transition, but certainly we are putting job seekers first. (Time expired)


Senator FIFIELD —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware that the cuts Wesley Mission has been forced to make as a result of this bungled employment services tender include, amongst others, a campsite for disadvantaged children, rehabilitation work in jails and a regional Homes for Hope program in Port Macquarie?


Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) —I say again that it is extremely unfortunate for those organisations that have missed out that they have not been successful. This, though, is a new system. It is not based on the previous conveyor belt—the one size fits all. This is about getting it right for job seekers and it is also about getting it right for the long-term unemployed—the long-term unemployed that the previous government really did not care about. I am very sorry that organisations have missed out in the competitive process. I am very sorry, but, in the end, this is about putting job seekers first.


Senator Fifield —Wesley Uniting will feel so much better now; thanks for that!


Senator ARBIB —Senator Fifield might go on like this with his feigned response, but I went back and checked on his interest in this area. I had a long look at it and found that the last time he asked a question on employment it was about Work Choices—a question to Senator Abetz. (Time expired)