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Education and Employment Legislation Committee
06/05/2016
Estimates
EMPLOYMENT PORTFOLIO
Department of Employment

Department of Employment

[09:02]

CHAIR: We will open to questions.

Senator CAMERON: Good morning. Secretary, could you confirm that the organisational chart on your website is up to date and reflects the current structure of the department?

Ms Leon : The chart will probably say what date it was updated at—I can check that for you—but it would have been updated fairly recently. It should be up to date in all material respects.

Senator CAMERON: In all material aspects?

Ms Leon : It is just that there might be temporary actings that have happened in very recent times which are not necessarily up-to-date. I am happy to check for you what the most recent date on the website is, and we can let you know during the hearing.

Senator CAMERON: Could you provide a breakdown of all staff, exactly which division they are in and their physical location?

Ms Leon : Yes. I think we usually have that available, but am not sure if we have it here. I will get Ms Kidd to speak to you. However, I can say that, since last estimates, there has not been any significant structural change to the department and there has not been any closure of offices in state or regional locations. There has been a slight increase in staff numbers, as we have filled vacancies. So there will be a slight increase in numbers, but there will not be any major changes to staff, to location, to structure or to size.

Ms Kidd : Can I just confirm your question was regarding total staff numbers disaggregated by group?

Senator CAMERON: I was asking for a breakdown of all staff, exactly which division they are in and their physical location. Do you have that in a chart form?

Ms Kidd : I have it on a couple of different tables. I can run through that.

Senator CAMERON: Could they be tabled?

Ms Kidd : Yes.

Ms Leon : I am advised that the org chart on the website is up to date as at April 2016.

Senator CAMERON: Unless there are any specific areas that you want to draw my attention to, I think the tabling would suffice. Are there any senior executive positions unfilled?

Ms Kidd : Yes, there are.

Senator CAMERON: Can you take me through them. How many are there and where are they?

Ms Kidd : There are six senior executive positions unfilled at the moment. Two are at the SES band 2 level: one is Group Manager, Workplace Relations Programs and the other is Group Manager, Labor Market Strategy. We also have of four positions at SES band 1 level vacant at the moment. They are: Branch Manager, Youth Employment; Branch Manager, Online Services Development and Engagement; Branch Manager, Technical Support; and—in the Shared Services Centre—Branch Manager, Transactional Services.

Senator CAMERON: What is the longest period any one of those senior executive positions has remained unfilled?

Ms Kidd : We would probably have to take the exact timing on notice. It is probably in the order of 18 months.

Senator CAMERON: What is the problem?

Ms Leon : There is not a problem. At the moment we are advertising. There is an advertisement already in the recruitment phase for band 1s, where the applications have closed and shortlisting is on foot. I think the advertisement for band 2 vacancies is in APS Jobs this week. The reason we left one position vacant for a period is that we were contemplating whether we needed to fill it permanently or whether we were going to restructure that cluster such that we may not have needed it—that is the one that has been vacant for some lengthy period.

As you will have seen from our answers to questions on notice over recent estimates, the department has continued to grow. We have now formed the view that we will not be losing that position but that in fact we will need to fill it. In the meantime, there have been another couple of positions that have either become vacant or that we are creating to deal with demand, so we are now advertising a bulk round so that we can fill all the positions from a broad field.

Senator CAMERON: What created that uncertainty?

Ms Leon : As you know, departments across the Public Service are looking to ensure that our span of control remains appropriate so that we do not end up with a lot of branches or sections that are really are too small to justify an SES officer. We had that question about span of control under review, but also, with the commencement of jobactive, we knew that the focus of the employment cluster—which is the lightest largest part of the department—would need to be revisited. We had new programs and new priorities, so we were restructuring the cluster to make sure that we were organised appropriately for the new programs. Until we finished the restructure, we were not certain exactly how many branches or divisions we were going to have.

Senator CAMERON: On the issue of span of control—the last time I heard this was probably 20 years ago during the Rio Tinto dispute!

Ms Leon : I think it was last estimates, actually!

Senator CAMERON: Yes—but external to the Public Service. Is there a standard for span of control across the Public Service? Is there some indication as to how span of control should work or is this just your department?

Ms Leon : There is no standard for span of control, because the nature of roles in the Public Service varies widely. Even with our own department, the span of control in a program management area would usually be larger than in a legal or policy area. We have undertaken a process and we keep that under review whenever we are filling vacancies to ensure that the span of control in any particular team is appropriate for the work of that team.

Senator CAMERON: Do you base it on a theoretical span of control or on what you think is common sense?

Ms Leon : There is no mandated, benchmark or expected span of control—it depends on the nature of the work. For work that is being done at a professional level or that is of a high-level policy nature, we tend to have teams that might only be three or four people working under a particular supervisor; whereas, where people are doing more routine or transactional work or where there are many more people at lower APS levels, the team might well have 20 people in it, or more.

Senator CAMERON: Do you discuss the span of control issues with the CPSU or the unions?

Ms Leon : If we were undertaking any major structural change, we would consult with the union. If we are undertaking a revisiting, as we fill one position, as to whether it ought to be amalgamated with another section or not, that is unlikely to trigger the consultation requirements with the CPSU.

Senator CAMERON: Have there been any redundancies, forced or otherwise, since last estimates?

Ms Leon : There certainly have not been any forced redundancies and there have not been any widespread redundancies, but, from time to time, we have the occasional one-off redundancy. I will just check if there have been any since last estimates.

Ms Kidd : There has been a small number since last estimates—five.

Senator CAMERON: What kind of classifications were they?

Ms Kidd : I do not have the classifications here. We can take that on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Were there any SES?

Ms Kidd : No.

Senator CAMERON: With such a small number, there must have been specific reasons for those redundancies. Can you provide details on the reasons for those redundancies and can you provide any assurance that the work that these people undertook is not being done by someone else?

Ms Kidd : As part of our workforce renewal strategy, we do, from time to time, consider ad hoc voluntary redundancies. These five individual instances would have arisen either through a review of the positions or through a review of the skill set of the individuals. We would have considered each of those individually and made a decision there.

Senator CAMERON: You said 'ad hoc'. What kind of redundancies were they?

Ms Kidd : They would have arisen in an ad hoc manner. Individuals may have approached management or management may have had a discussion with individuals in certain circumstances.

Senator CAMERON: So an individual can approach you and say, 'I think my job is redundant'?

Ms Leon : These arise either because a whole area of work we were doing we are no longer doing—the typical voluntary redundancies, where an area of work disappears—or because, as Ms Kidd outlined, the nature of work in an area has changed such that the people who you previously had doing the work no longer have the skills. Although we might try to reskill them or to see if there is work elsewhere in the department we can redeploy them to, they may say: 'This is just not the kind of work I came here to do. I came here because I was a regulator. Now the regulation part has gone, I have to write policy briefs. I can't really do it, and it's not working for me.' That is the kind of circumstance where the employee themselves may ask whether it might be appropriate for them to be offered a voluntary redundancy. Or, as Ms Kidd said, we may undertake a review of a particular area and come to the conclusion that the work has changed such that the skill set no longer lines up with the nature of the work.

Senator CAMERON: Can you provide details of the specific circumstances in relation to those five redundancies and whether those redundancies were proposed by the employee or the department?

Ms Leon : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: Do you have the cost of those redundancies?

Ms Kidd : No. We can take that on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Are you planning any further voluntary or involuntary redundancies?

Ms Kidd : We are. We are currently looking at voluntary redundancies—just a small number—between now and the end of the financial year. Again, we are looking at areas where the work or funding is ceasing or reducing or where there is a mismatch with skills and positions.

Senator CAMERON: Where is the funding reducing? What area?

Ms Kidd : Across the department. From time to time we have budget measures that come in and then the funding ceases, whether they are short-term measures or whether it is the implementation role associated with it. That would be an example where funding might reduce.

Ms Leon : But as I said, across the whole department, our staff are increasing and have been increasing over the past year.

Senator CAMERON: Is that going to stay the same after the efficiency dividends are applied?

Ms Leon : It will depend on where we find the efficiencies. It is a little too soon after the budget to say. For example, over the last few years we have achieved significant efficiencies out of our property expenses. It does not have any impact on staff numbers; it just means we have consolidated our property and fitted into a smaller footprint. We have only just got the numbers on the efficiency dividends.

Senator CAMERON: But there are only so many times you can do that, though, aren't there?

Ms Leon : The previous two years before that we achieved significant efficiencies by taking our major IT program off the mainframe and onto a browser base. We achieved millions of dollars in efficiencies from that. We will be continuing to look at ways that we can improve our supplier costs rather than staff. Of course, if we find efficiencies in doing things such that we need fewer staff, we would look at that, but primarily we will look at our suppliers first and see how we can cut costs in a way that does not impact on staff numbers.

Senator CAMERON: When will you have your business plan in place for the efficiency dividend?

Ms Leon : As any organisation does, we usually arrange to have the group budgets allocated by the beginning of the financial year or pretty close to that. It will be in the course of that that we examine what our opportunities are for efficiencies across the department.

Senator CAMERON: Do you consult with the CPSU on efficiency dividend issues?

Ms Leon : If we were planning major structural change or a major change to staff, we would consult the CPSU. But, as I said, our first port of call will be to seek to find efficiencies that do not involve either of those.

Senator CAMERON: So in terms of your property portfolio and your rental portfolio, is closing one area and moving to another seen as an issue that you would consult on?

Ms Leon : If we move out of an expensive building in a particular city into a less expensive building, that is not something that we would need to consult on. If I was proposing to close the entire office and move to another location that would have a significant impact on staff, we would consult. But I am not proposing that and we have not done anything like that.

Senator CAMERON: If you moved, say, from one side of Canberra to another side of Canberra, is that not considered worthy?

Ms Leon : We moved from one side of Northbourne Avenue to the other side of Northbourne Avenue in Civic.

Senator CAMERON: That is not what I am asking. I am asking, if you moved to the north of Canberra from the south of Canberra—

Ms Leon : I think the lease on our national office goes until about 2024. So I do not think I will need to consult about a significant move for quite some time.

Senator CAMERON: All right, so you are locked in on that lease?

Ms Leon : We recently entered into that lease and we took a long lease. I will stand corrected—if it is not exactly 2024, I will get someone to the table to correct me. But it is a long lease and I have no current plans to move the national office.

Senator CAMERON: Is it only the national office operating in Canberra?

Ms Leon : That is right.

Senator CAMERON: It is the one office?

Ms Leon : There is the national office, and within the national office we have the ACT regional office, but it is located with us in the national office.

Senator CAMERON: Can you provide details of the lease arrangements that you have entered into?

Ms Leon : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: Including costs and the like. Unless any other senators have issues on staffing, I am finished on staffing.

CHAIR: You have the floor.

Senator CAMERON: Thanks. Who is handling jobactive advertising? Secretary, in answer to question No. EMSQ16-000118, you said that the total communication budget for jobactive for the two years to June 2016 is $18.3 million. Has that changed?

Ms Fairweather : No, that budget has not changed for that period of time.

Senator CAMERON: When you say that it has not changed for that period of time—

Ms Fairweather : The jobactive campaign has a budget of $20.4 million over four years. That goes through to 2018-19.

Senator CAMERON: So it is $20.4 million?

Ms Fairweather : That is for the overall jobactive campaign, but there was—

Senator CAMERON: Through to when?

Ms Fairweather : Originally through to 2018-19.

Senator CAMERON: Do you have any advertising budgeted for the next several months?

Ms Fairweather : Yes, we do. Sorry, I will just clarify, because I do not want to misinform: we also had in the last budget $8 million for Restart, a campaign that was particularly around mature-age employment and the Restart wage subsidy. That is additional to the $20.4 million over the four years. That $8 million is just this year.

Senator CAMERON: You are going to spend $8 million this year?

Ms Fairweather : The Restart component became part of the jobactive campaign because they are both about talking to employers about taking on jobseekers from jobactive.

Senator CAMERON: Will that campaign run between now and 2 July?

Ms Leon : The practice for all advertising is that if an election period commences then all government advertising ceases. The Department of Finance controls that process. The government's master advertising agency would be instructed to cease all government advertising. I understand that a review is then conducted by the Department of Finance as to whether any advertising is appropriate to continue. For example, Defence Force recruitment often continues during a caretaker period. If an election period were to commence then the jobactive campaign would be subject to those same rules.

Senator CAMERON: As soon as the Prime Minister announces an election campaign, the advertising is stopped?

Ms Leon : That is right. If any advertising is appropriate to continue—I think that is usually done in consultation with the opposition—then it would continue.

Senator CAMERON: Minister, I do not suppose you have set up meetings to get the campaign advertising continued?

Senator Cash: No, it is a decision for Finance.

Senator CAMERON: I am only joking! What is the purpose of the communication campaign budget?

Ms Fairweather : The campaign was to raise employer awareness of government employment services that eventually came to be called jobactive. It is to raise employer awareness of jobactive for the recruitment of staff and to promote increased use of jobactive services. Developmental research indicated that employer use and awareness of government employment services were low, but that businesses were very open to using the services once they were aware of them. Our whole purpose is increasing the number of jobseekers moving from welfare into work, so it is critical that employers are using those services.

Senator CAMERON: Do you have a marketing strategy for this campaign? Can you provide the details of the marketing strategy?

Ms Fairweather : Certainly, advertising is a significant part of that, because we know that messages out in the media will really drive awareness.

Senator CAMERON: I am not interested in the theory behind it; I am asking whether you have a marketing strategy and can you provide me with it.

Ms Leon : We will have a look at what we can provide you on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Thanks.

Ms Fairweather : We certainly have other activities as well as advertising.

Senator CAMERON: Let us go through what exactly the $18 million is being spent on.

Ms Fairweather : I have expenses up until the end of March 2016. Do you want me to split between the jobactive campaign and the Restart or just the overall?

Senator CAMERON: Let's do both and see what we come up with.

Ms Fairweather : I can split this down a little bit, if necessary, but the total cost of the research—developmental and creative concept testing—for the jobactive overall campaign is $597,600.

Senator CAMERON: Who had that contract?

Ms Fairweather : TNS Australia.

Senator CAMERON: Where are they based?

Ms Fairweather : The main person we deal with is based in Perth, but they have offices across the country. They also have offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. They may have another one but they are the main ones which I deal with. The developmental and creative concept testing research for the Restart campaign is $121,550. The creative development—that is, the advertising creative agency—for jobactive is $1,476,562. The creative development for the Restart is $1,418,260.

Senator CAMERON: Who has got the contracts for each one of these?

Ms Fairweather : It is the same agency, because it is all part of the jobactive campaign, and that is J Walter Thompson.

Senator CAMERON: Where are they based?

Ms Fairweather : Sydney.

Senator CAMERON: So the main beneficiaries in terms of contracts are TNS Australia and J Walter Thompson?

Ms Fairweather : Yes. We also have another research contract for quantitative benchmark tracking and evaluation research. Generally, for major campaigns, the research is split. They are DBM Consultants.

Senator CAMERON: Where are they based?

Ms Fairweather : Melbourne.

Senator CAMERON: How much is that contract?

Ms Fairweather : The contract or how much I have spent?

Senator CAMERON: How much is the contract?

Ms Fairweather : I am just making sure I have the whole contract—funds committed to date: $390,447.

Senator CAMERON: Were these contracts open tenders or did they come from a panel?

Ms Fairweather : Not from a panel as such. There was a select tender process. It was a select tender process rather than an open one, because we obtain a recommended list of names from the Communications Multi-Use List, which is managed by the Department of Finance. They are particularly for use in communication campaigns.

Senator CAMERON: Who controls the Communication Multi-Use List?

Ms Fairweather : It is managed by the Communications Advice Branch of the Department of Finance. Consultants register on that list, and we can then use that list in order to conduct a select tender process.

Senator CAMERON: There was a $5 billion jobactive budget. What is the communication budget within that?

Ms Fairweather : The campaign budget is $20 million out of that $5 billion. Again, I just do not want to have not fully answered a question. The other expenditure that we have had, of course, is media buy. That is with Dentsu Mitchell, which is the whole-of-government contracted media buying agency. To the end of March in media buy for jobactive there has been $3,681,718, and for Restart there has been $2,205,643.

Senator CAMERON: That is me for this area. I am happy to go to outcome 1.

Ms Leon : I have got some information for you about our leases that you were asking for. Firstly, if you wish, I can refer you to the answer we gave to a QON at additional estimates, question on notice 16-000435, where we attached a list of all of our current leases, leases that were not renewed and leases that were expected to occur in the next 12 months.

Senator CAMERON: So that has not changed?

Ms Leon : No.

CHAIR: There being no senators with any questions for cross portfolio, we will move to Outcome 1.

Senator CAMERON: There is not a lot of detail in there for the Youth PaTH budget measure. Can you advise how you will ensure internships do not replace existing jobs—by that I mean existing vacancies?

Ms Leon : The program is actually intended to get young people into real jobs. Part of the safeguards to ensure that this program is not used to just put people into free labour that does not lead to a job is to seek to match the job seeker with a prospective employer where there is a real prospect of ongoing work after the internship. We think that the fact there is an existing vacancy or a reasonable prospect of a vacancy by the time the internship ends is an important part of ensuring that this program will put job seekers into workplaces where there is a real prospect of an ongoing job. That is the purpose of the program.

Senator CAMERON: This will not create additional jobs. It is about filling existing vacancies.

Ms Leon : It can be used to match a job seeker with an existing vacancy, or with a prospective vacancy if the employer in question knows they are likely to recruit over the next few months or if their business is expanding and they expect to take on additional staff. In any of those instances, it could be a good opportunity for an unemployed young person to be helped into a workplace where they have a reasonable prospect of an ongoing job.

Senator CAMERON: So these young people, who are being subsidised, will be in competition with unemployed older Australians?

Ms Leon : Older Australians also can get wage subsidies out of the wage subsidy pool. There is already a wage subsidy program, as you would be aware, for older Australians under Restart. There are also wage subsidies available for long-term unemployed of whatever age. So that does put them, as you say, in competition with other workers who are not eligible for a wage subsidy, but the very point of a wage subsidy is to give some additional assistance to unemployed people who might otherwise struggle to get into a job. It is designed to ensure that we do not entrench people in unemployment, but help to get them off welfare and into work.

Senator CAMERON: But they will be in competition with other Australians who may not qualify for any wage subsidy, is that correct?

Ms Leon : If the other Australians you are referring to are other Australians already in work and looking to move to another job, yes, it will assist them to compete with those other people. At the moment unemployed are at a disadvantage in getting a job compared to people who are applying from an existing job. That is why governments for a long time have had wage subsidy programs.

Senator CAMERON: So if you just decide that you want to try to get that job—a better job than you have been in while you have been in paid employment—you are then at a disadvantage because you would not get any subsidy, would you?

Ms Leon : No, Senator, there is no subsidy for people who are already employed. Perhaps I can give you some context to it. There are five million movements into jobs in Australia each year. That is an ABS statistic. At any one time on the case load of jobactive there are between 700,000 and 800,000 unemployed people. So it is not that there is a lack of opportunities to get jobs, as there are five million people moving into jobs every year, but mostly those are people who have not been unemployed for six months or more. The point of the additional assistance we give to people who are in employment services is to try to help them be part of five million that get a job.

Senator CAMERON: Have you any idea how this program could create additional jobs?

Ms Leon : The creation of jobs is part of broader macroeconomic policy, so other portfolios are probably better placed to speak about that. Jobs are growing in many industries in Australia. I think we have given figures at estimates before about the growth industries in Australia where jobs are growing. What we are aiming to do is to skill up the people on our case load, particularly young Australians who otherwise risk missing out on the opportunities that employment gives them over the course of their lives. The purpose is to assist young people into getting into the jobs that are being created. Of course, other parts of the government's policy are designed to increase the number of jobs that are available.

Senator CAMERON: There has to be a vacancy, basically.

Ms Leon : For a person to be eligible there has to be either a vacancy or a reasonable prospect of a vacancy by the time the internship ends. For example, for a very small business it will be obvious whether they have a vacancy. A more medium-sized business or even a large business might well be able to say, 'I don't need to point you to the particular vacancy I have today because I recruit 500 young people every year, so there is bound to be a vacancy by the time this person finishes their internship.' What there has to be is a reasonable prospect of ongoing work so that young people are not being given an internship in a placement which does not have a prospect of leading to ongoing work.

Senator CAMERON: When did 'real vacancy' become 'a real prospect of ongoing employment should the job seeker be deemed suitable'? I think that is what is being used now.

Ms Leon : There is not any difference between those. A vacancy means either that by the end of the internship there is a vacancy that existed three months earlier or that at the time the prospective employer took on the young person they knew that they would or should have a vacancy by the end of the internship. Obviously, that will depend on the size of the business and the nature of the business.

Senator Cash: Can I just say, Senator Cameron, because I think you are referring to what I said yesterday—

Senator CAMERON: It changed from one day to another.

Ms Leon : I think it is just shorthand.

Senator Cash: Exactly. If you look at what I was responding to in terms of all employers will exploit employees, this is a three-stage pathway, and that is what is so fundamentally different about other programs. Other programs have been skills or doing some work experience. This is actually bringing the jigsaw together into that three-stage pathway. In the first instance we will give you those skills that employers tell us you just do not have. Given the nature of this cohort, I think it is recognised even by international research that there are certain skills these young people need to get.

The next important stage of the pathway is giving them that opportunity to get the foot in the door—an opportunity where, again, based on all the evidence and the research, you get feedback from employers that they would love to give the employee a go, but they have not had the experience. This thing gives up to 30,000 youths that opportunity to get into the workforce.

The third stage of the pathway is the hire pathway. You would want there to be that reasonable prospect of a job at the end of it—a vacancy. You need to look at it holistically. That is why it is called PaTH: prepare, trial, hire.

Senator CAMERON: So this will not lead to extra jobs in the labour market.

Senator Cash: That is not what the secretary said.

CHAIR: That was not the evidence from Ms Leon. That is a macroeconomic policy, which is better dealt with in other portfolio areas.

Senator CAMERON: I am just taking from what I have heard this morning. There is no guarantee that there will be extra jobs.

CHAIR: I know you do love to rephrase evidence continually, but I am not going to let you verbal the witnesses' evidence.

Senator CAMERON: I am not verballing them. My estimation of what I have heard this morning is that there will be no guarantee of extra jobs, that this will be about subsidised jobs with no net employment growth. I think that is clear.

Senator Cash: The secretary has been quite badly verballed here.

CHAIR: Ms Leon, is that an accurate reflection of your evidence?

Ms Leon : The purpose of employment services support is to give greater assistance to people who are unemployed to get into work. That has been the purpose of employment services programs under successive governments. Government policy to create jobs is primarily driven from the macroeconomic policy agenda and is not this portfolio's responsibility, but we can refer to those in the broad in the sense that the Treasurer has referred to the economic incentives given to small business as part of what helps to drive job creation. Of course, many of our programs and many of our services are targeted to getting job seekers into small and medium enterprises, they being the places that employ most people in Australia. But there is not any secret about the fact that employment services over some decades have had the purpose of getting unemployed people into the jobs that exist. There probably is some additionality, but it is not the principal purpose of this program.

CHAIR: Thank you for that correction.

Senator CAMERON: Isn't it the case that there are no safeguards to ensure employers will not use the program to, effectively, 'employ' people on below the minimum wage for 12 weeks at a time?

Ms Leon : No, that is not accurate. These people are not being employed. They are on income support. They are not employed by the host organisation. They are still on income support. They are job seekers in the jobactive caseload. They will be given an additional amount of money as an incentive to participate in the program, but they are not employed, so the question of minimum wage is not relevant to their circumstances. They are unemployed, they are on the unemployment benefit and they are on the jobactive caseload.

Senator CAMERON: If there is a vacancy—

Ms Leon : They are getting an opportunity to get work experience.

CHAIR: Would it be helpful if Ms Leon could talk us through the three stages so we are actually clear? That might clear up some of your questions.

Senator CAMERON: Are you asking my questions for me?

CHAIR: I am just saying I might have a question.

Senator CAMERON: You can ask that when you have the call. I am happy for that.

If there is a vacancy and this program did not exist, the vacancy would have to be filled by an employee using the terms and conditions of at least the award. Is that correct?

Ms Leon : I think that depends on the circumstance of the employer. I referred to the fact that there could be employers who only have one vacancy, so it is apparent that they have a vacancy and need to fill it or would have to advertise.

Senator CAMERON: I am not sure you understood what I said.

Ms Leon : I must not have understood it. Could you repeat the question?

Senator CAMERON: If this program were not in place and an employer advertised a vacancy, anyone who filled that vacancy would have to be employed under the terms and conditions of at least the award provisions.

Ms Leon : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: That is the point I am making.

Ms Leon : That is what happens with five million movements into jobs every year. What we are trying to do is make sure that some of those five million are unemployed people so that they are not trapped in a lifetime of welfare.

Senator Cash: The alternative is you will have generations of youth, as we already have, who are literally trapped in that lifetime. The whole point of this program is to give them the pathway to sustainable employment.

Senator CAMERON: So where are the checks and balances to ensure that an employer cannot simply continue to use the—

CHAIR: Okay, you have moved off the award question, so I am going to go quickly to Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: Listening to some of the questioning this morning, I thought, as the chair has, that it might be helpful if, Secretary, you would run through the PaTH announcement as in the budget and run through the three elements of it, because we obviously have a lot of questions on it.

Senator LINES: Is she suggesting that we need her help? We do not need her help.

CHAIR: Senator Reynolds has the call.

Senator LINES: I am just correcting the record. Labor does not need that.

Senator REYNOLDS: If I actually need any assistance, I will go through you, Chair. I do not need Senator Lines to interrupt my questions.

I apologise for the heckling on the sidelines from Senator Lines. I will repeat my question. In respect of the PaTH announcement in the budget, I think it would be very helpful, given the nature of the debate and the questions so far, if you could for the committee go through in detail what is actually in the budget in terms of PaTH and outline the three steps in detail so that we are all starting from a common base.

Senator Cash: And perhaps the why behind this program.

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes.

Ms Leon : I might start by talking about the context for the program, and then Mr Hehir can go through the program in some detail. As you may know, youth unemployment is running at about 12 per cent, so we are concerned that there are a significant number of young people who not only are unemployed but who have never had a job. Our research tells us that, the longer you have been unemployed, the more likely you are to stay unemployed, so we are concerned that, for young people in particular, what should be the time when they are starting off on a lifetime of productive employment could be starting off on a lifetime of difficult labour market disadvantage. That is the context that led us to devise the program. Of course, we have looked into the reasons why young people struggle to get a job, and what employers say is that the reasons why they are less likely to hire the young people who come to them applying for jobs is that they do not have basic employability skills. Of course you can see the vicious circle in that, because, if you do not have work experience, it is hard to demonstrate that you have got the abilities to work in a team, undertake customer service, good communication skills, presentation and work habits that come from having had a job.

The combination of not having had work experience and not having basic employability skills is really holding unemployed young people back from getting a job

So that is why this is a three-stage pathway that is designed to address young people's need for those basic employability skills—young people being able to demonstrate some work experience and then getting some help to move from work experience into an ongoing job, because that potential risk to an employer of taking on someone who is going to need more skilling up is supported by the option of a subsidised placement. I might get Mr Hehir to outline for you what is in those three stages, and I am happy to deal, at that point, with the safeguards that do ensure that it is going to protect young people from just being churned through without an ongoing job.

Senator REYNOLDS: Than would be good. But before we move on to that, could we just go back to the context. You said there is 12 per cent youth unemployment. Do you have a breakdown of how many young Australians that actually is? And perhaps a state breakdown.

Ms Leon : In March 2016 there were 252,700 youth who were unemployed.

Senator REYNOLDS: When you say 'youth', what age range is that?

Ms Leon : That is 15 to 24.

Senator REYNOLDS: So, currently, as of March, there were 252,000 15- to 24-year olds—

Ms Leon : who are unemployed, and then there is another category of people who are what we call disengaged, so they are not in work and not attending full-time education. Some of those are not in the labour force at all. These are people who do not even show up in our case load but who are not in the labour force. In March 2016 that was 349,300.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is including the 252,000?

Mr Hehir : That is additional.

Senator REYNOLDS: Good grief! That is over 500,000 young Australians between 15 and 24 who are either unemployed or disengaged completely—half a million plus! I just wanted to get those figures before we moved on.

Mr Hehir : As the secretary said, the first stage of the path is the preparation—that is, the pre-employment training. There are approximately 100,000 young people who are unemployed who have never worked before. That is close to the highest. It is not quite the highest, but it is close to the highest that it has been since the data started being recorded by the ABS.

Senator SIEWERT: Is that percentagewise or is it a number?

Mr Hehir : It is a number.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, well, of course: the population is growing.

Mr Hehir : I will get a percentage. It is 100,000 young people who do not have any prior employment experience. The training component is intended to start at the five-month mark. It is a period we have chosen where a number of young people who come in who are employed will have had previous work experience, and most of them will find it relatively straightforward to get a job. About 60 per cent of young job seekers in stream A are able to get a job within the first six months. The five-month mark is a point where it is now compulsory, both as an activation measure, but also as an employability skills training measure, for young people to undergo intensive pre-employment training. The intention is that that training will be delivered in two blocks of three weeks of approximately 25 hours per week. Importantly, we intend to design that training with business to make sure that it will meet the needs of employers at the end of the cycle. We have not done that before. We think that a very important aspect of this design is that the pre-employment training will be designed in conjunction with employers of a range of sizes.

The training is demand-driven, so that training will be provided wherever the numbers are. The training will be delivered by a panel of expert training organisation selected through a competitive tender process. They are the two elements—the two blocks of three weeks. The first block will focus on pre-employment skills and preparing job seekers to meet the needs of employers. The second block of training will sharpen a job seeker's understanding of the labour market so they can identify and pursue sustainable employment opportunities. It will focus on advanced job search skills, job preparation, career development, interview skills and workplace tasters.

Senator CAMERON: What are workplace tasters?

Mr Hehir : It is to make sure that people have an idea whether an industry is likely to suit them or be attractive to them.

Senator SIEWERT: Is this training only for those that are taking part in the PaTH program?

Mr Hehir : No, this is compulsory training for everyone who reaches the five-month mark—all 15- to 24-year-olds.

Senator SIEWERT: So everyone is doing this whether they then—

Senator Cash: Go on to the internship, yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Okay, that was not clear.

Ms Leon : And some of them may get a job after doing the employability skills training.

Senator SIEWERT: So after the first five months everybody does these three?

Mr Hehir : The 15- to 24-year-olds, yes.

Ms Leon : Subject, of course, to normal categories. If someone is clearly not ready to do training because of their personal circumstances, there will be the normal process of suitability lined up.

Senator SIEWERT: I want to come back to those barriers, rather than interrupting Senator Reynolds.

Ms Leon : People have extensive barriers that would make it unrealistic to expect them to participate in employability training will not be expected to do it.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: They are good questions. Thank you.

Mr Hehir : The next stage is the trial component. This will provide job seekers aged 17 to 24 with the opportunity to show employers what they can do while learning valuable work skills and gaining experience.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, Mr Hehir, could you say that again? I missed that. Did you say 'offered to employers'?

Ms Leon : He said 'opportunities'.

Senator REYNOLDS: So this is stage 2 now?

Ms Leon : Yes.

Mr Hehir : Job seekers will have an opportunity to show employers what they can do while learning valuable work skills and experience. The employer and job seeker can co-design an internship placement to run over four to 12 weeks with an average of 15 to 25 hours per week over the placement. To be eligible you must have been registered in jobactive, Transition to Work or Disability Employment Services and have been in employment services for at least six months. We chose the six-month point because, as I said, 60 per cent of job seekers generally find their own job in the first six months. Participation is voluntary and, as has already been outlined, the job seekers will receive an additional $200 per fortnight on top of their income support payment. Businesses will receive $1,000 up-front in recognition of costs of hosting an internship placement and providers are eligible to receive an internship outcome payment equivalent to a four-week jobactive outcome for each completed placement. That includes when a job seeker leaves an internship to take up paid employment.

Senator SIEWERT: At the end, the job service providers get a normal outcome—

Mr Hehir : That is correct.

Senator SIEWERT: Of which one, did you say?

Mr Hehir : It is equivalent to the four-week fee, but if the young person then goes on to employment, as is the intent, then they are also eligible to get the four-week outcome for that—the 12 week and the 26 week—if they appear.

Senator SIEWERT: If they go through to 26 weeks?

Mr Hehir : Yes, that is right.

Senator SIEWERT: So it is like normal—

Senator Cash: Like normal—exactly.

Ms Leon : They do not miss out on getting the four-week outcome fee because they got an equivalent amount for the internship period. So they will get a four-week outcome fee because the person has done the internship; then, if that person goes on to actual employment, they can still get the four-week outcome fee.

Senator SIEWERT: There is the normal four-week, 12-week and the 26-week fee.

Senator Cash: And then the outcome fee, yes.

Ms Leon : That is right.

Mr Hehir : As part of the process, as we have with the current work experience programs that we run, we will monitor placements. Our system is able to record ABNs and will be able to monitor how many job seekers undertake internships with particular businesses. We will be able to monitor how many of those job seekers end up in employment and we will be able to identify if businesses are utilising a large number of job seekers as interns and not ending up employing them. So we will have our standard monitoring processes in place where we see reports. We will not permit job seekers to be placed into internships if there is evidence that an employer is misusing the process and that interns are not ending up with employment on a regular basis.

Senator Cash: Senator Siewert, that goes to the terminology of the 'vacancy', the 'real vacancy' and the 'real prospect of a job'—to get over that churn factor.

Senator SIEWERT: I will come back to that.

Ms Leon : Part of the safeguard is that at the outset ensuring that employers commit to the fact that they do have a real prospect of a job at the end of it. Then, also monitoring at the end of it, as Mr Hehir said, whether any one employer has been undertaking the practice of churning interns through and not actually giving them a job. If an employer does that, they will be blocked from using the program.

Mr Hehir : I might expand on the point that the secretary added there. An important part of the process is the jobactive provider is also engaged, so it is not just the young person, there is also the jobactive provider there. The jobactive provider works with the business to make sure that they commit up-front and that there is the real prospect of employment. There is also the usual sort of safeguard that we have in place here, where we identify whether places are not available. If they have recently downsized, they cannot use the internships to backfill places where they have offered redundancies for similar roles. So there is a series of safeguards that we actually go through, or the jobactive provider will go through, with the business to make sure that this is not being used as a substitute for other employees. This is a process we are used to. We understand that the jobactive providers understand it, and we will apply the same general set of processes to that step.

The next step after that is the hire. As part of this process we have made some significant changes to the wage subsidies. Again, responding to feedback we have received from both jobactive providers, providers and employers and, I think, some social services organisations as well, in terms of what is actually needed for a subsidy. For the youth component of the subsidies, we have increased the amount available for more disadvantaged job seekers. Job seekers in Stream B or C will now attract a $10,000 wage subsidy; job seekers in Stream A will still be eligible for the $6,500 wage subsidy that is available at six months per youth.

Senator CAMERON: The wage subsidy of $6,500 applies to what stream?

Mr Hehir : $6,500 for Stream A for youth; that is the same as the current wage subsidy for youth. The broader changes we have made for wage subsidies are that we have moved the time frame for dispending them from 12 months to six months. That increases the flexibility. It provides a subsidy at a point where businesses, peak groups and jobactive providers tell us that business needs it. It is when the job seeker or the new employee is perhaps less productive than other employees as they are learning the job—that is a change we have made which will make it more attractive. We are hoping that $10,000 in the first six months will make for young job seekers in Streams B and C more attractive for business, given that those cohorts are the most difficult to place and find it most difficult to keep jobs.

They are the main changes we have made to the wage subsidies. We have also tried to simplify them, so we will pay them as flat rates. We have moved to 20 hours per week to simplify things—so there are no pro rata payments. We have tried to keep it as simple as possible by minimising the red tape associated with the process so we can increase the take-up and give young job seekers on jobactive the opportunity to compete.

Senator O'NEILL: Is the subsidy paid as a lump sum?

Mr Hehir : Not normally, no. There is flexibility about how employers want to take it, but it is normally paid fortnightly to match a pay cycle.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you say that again; I did not quite hear it. I beg your pardon.

Mr Hehir : Which bit?

Senator SIEWERT: What you have just said to Senator O'Neill.

Mr Hehir : The way subsidies are normally paid is fortnightly to match pay cycles. That is generally the way business like it to happen.

Senator SIEWERT: That starts at six months.

Ms Leon : The actual payment cycle can be negotiated so, if an employer pays monthly and wants to get the subsidy monthly, then they can. However, we would not ordinarily pay it as a lump sum in advance, because we want them to keep the person on for the six months that the wage subsidy covers.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I go to—

Ms Leon : Senator, I think you said that starts at six months; no, it starts from the beginning and goes—

Senator SIEWERT: It is over a six-month cycle rather than a 12-month cycle. I might as well start there but I do want to go back to the beginning, but since we are here: if they have had their subsidy for that six months, what stops them from putting somebody off and then starting the whole process again?

Mr Hehir : There is nothing that actually stops them from putting people off. Again, that is something that we would monitor: if we see employers churning through job seekers—if they come back onto our case load, we know about it. For people have gone through the PaTH process, we have actually extended their time frame where they do not get excluded and do not have a time-off period; they can come straight back onto the program. So we will know, if someone has come in within that six-month period. Again, we will monitor it.

Ms Leon : That has been the case with wage subsidies over every employment program that has ever existed: firstly, there is nothing to stop an employer not continuing a person's employment, subject to the usual rules about unfair dismissal; but, secondly, we do monitor them. We keep a record of who is employing our job seekers. We have quite sophisticated data analytics that enable us to track the pathway of a job seeker and the behaviour of employers so that: if an employer was making a practice of churning people through subsidised placements, then we would stop referring to them. On the other hand, we do accept that employers have to give the person a try. If they really cannot adjust to the employer's business, if they do not work out, we are not going to punish the employer for giving them a try. We are supporting them to do that but we would not support them to be regularly churning through subsidised job seekers.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I perhaps ask—and I know this may take a bit of time to get the information so perhaps I will ask it and then go on while you find the information. Can you give us the data, under the existing 12-month process for termination, on how many people have fallen out of, left or been put off from the process at the moment under the current rules?

Mr Hehir : I think that we might have some data from an evaluation that we undertook that might answer that broadly. I will see whether we can get that.

Ms Leon : But, bear in mind: I will not be able to tell you out of the current wage subsidy pool, because it has not been in existence long enough for me to give you data post 12 months. That big wage subsidy pool we have at the moment is only 12 months old. I can give you generally.

Senator SIEWERT: Wage subsidies have been in various areas. We have got Restart and other programs, so those programs, as that will give us a bit of a feel.

Ms Leon : Comparable information.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I go back to the beginning and ask: what employers are going to be eligible for this type of process? Are we talking about the big chains—and I will pick some out of the air just for examples: Hungry Jack's, McDonalds, Woolworths, Coles—those big types of employers.

Senator CAMERON: And 7-Eleven.

Senator SIEWERT: And 7-Eleven—those sorts of—

Ms Leon : Any employer can have participation in this program.

Senator SIEWERT: How are you going to check that 19-and 20-year-olds who are currently employed in some of these big organisations are not put off—and there was a direct case of somebody talking about this in an experience from overseas: being put off in order to create a vacancy for another young person that the employer gets subsidised for. In some of these areas, in particular, there is no skin of the employer's nose, if they get someone with slightly less experience but they still get the wage subsidy. How are you going to check that is not happening and there is experience of it happening in the UK?

Ms Leon : There is a range of safeguards for that. One of those is that the provider has to work with the host organisation to ensure that, when they are placing people in the organisation, that organisation has not downsized, created redundancies or vacancies in order to put the person on.

Senator SIEWERT: How are you going to check that? I am Coles. I am Woolworths. I am not picking on them. I am just talking about them being large employers? How are you going to check that?

Ms Leon : The host organisation has to sign an agreement, so they have to commit that they have not displaced any worker in order to create this position. Obviously, we run a national tip-off line as well. We regularly get tip-offs from job seekers and others who are affected by the program who tell us if anyone appears to be using the program inappropriately. We investigate all of those tip-offs. So, if an employee was put off from an organisation and immediately saw their job being filled by a subsidised worker, we would invite them and encourage them to ring our tip-off line and tell us.

Senator SIEWERT: How would they know?

Ms Leon : Secondly, we also monitor the behaviour of employers in the program so that any repeated pattern of churning subsidised job seekers through these placements would rapidly become apparent

Senator CASH: Senator Siewert, on that: they will be banned from utilising the program.

Senator SIEWERT: Okay. How many interns can an organisation have at once?

Ms Leon : I am not sure what you mean, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: How many interns am I allowed in an organisation?

Ms Leon : It will depend on the size of the organisation.

Senator SIEWERT: That is what I am asking.

Ms Leon : You would have to satisfy the provider that there is a reasonable prospect of job vacancies for each of those people. If you are an organisation that employs only 10 people, it would be quite difficult to satisfy us that you are going to have 10 job vacancies at the end, unless you have only just started and you do not have any staff. So it will depend on the size of the organisation and the growth pattern of the organisation.

Senator SIEWERT: I am thinking of some of the larger organisations. How many am I going to be allowed to have at one time?

Ms Leon : They would have to satisfy us about what their normal recruitment rate is.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand that. I still ask: how many?

Ms Leon : There is no hard number. It will depend on how large the organisation is.

Senator SIEWERT: So, I could have up to 100. If I am doing a major recruitment drive—

Ms Leon : If you were a multinational chain and you employed tens of thousands of people then it would not surprise me if you had 100 vacancies coming up, and we would hope that you would take some people from the unemployed case load to fill those vacancies and give them a chance.

Senator SIEWERT: Why would you want to subsidise that when they have those 100 coming up anyway and you could put them on a proper wage rather than—

Ms Leon : If they would take our case load without a subsidy, we certainly hope they would.

Senator Cash: We would give it to them.

Ms Leon : We already do work with the large national chains to get people into work but there is still over 100,000 young people who have never had a job, and it is those people whom we are trying to help. There are five million movements into work every year. They are not all coming from the ranks of the unemployed. We are trying to ensure that more young people who do not have the work experience get the jobs that, at the moment, they are not getting.

Senator Cash: Senator Siewert, you have obviously worked on this for a very long time, and I absolutely respect that. One of the things that this program is trying to tackle is exactly the fact that these kids are not getting a chance to get that foot in the door, and in the majority of times the employer is not going to employ them. They will take the other 100 that you were referring to, because I know that you are job ready. You have the skills that I need and I am prepared to take a risk on you. This is saying to business: we need you to take a risk on this cohort, in particular the B and C streams, who, as you know, are not getting a chance to get their foot in the door.

Senator SIEWERT: I will come to the B and C streams in a minute. I want to address the issues around blocks of training and who is going to be providing that. Then I want to go to those with barriers to employment, the B and C groups. Sorry, I have one question before that. You say it is voluntary.

Senator Cash: Internship.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. The training is not; the internship is. But, if it is in my employment plan—I am still using employment pathway plan; sorry about the terminology—it is not voluntary.

Mr Hehir : But whether it goes into your plan is.

Senator SIEWERT: We have had these discussions before in relation to some legislation—which will not be before the parliament for very long—where the government's approach is that you are able to refuse your employment pathway plan.

Ms Leon : The guidelines will make it clear to providers that participation in an internship requires the agreement—it is a voluntary activity that requires the agreement of the job seeker.

Senator SIEWERT: Then we come to the strengthening job seekers legislation, which is now putting in place tougher penalties for when I do not sign my plan.

Ms Leon : But the provider cannot insist on something being in a plan that the guidelines require them to comply with our program requirements that say the program is voluntary. The providers would be in breach of their deed with us if they sought to force someone into an internship when we have instructed them that internships are voluntary.

Senator SIEWERT: Then I am caught up in the inappropriate behaviour category under the strengthening jobseekers legislation.

Ms Leon : Sorry?

Senator SIEWERT: Then I am caught up in the inappropriate behaviour, or the threat of being reported for inappropriate behaviour, when I oppose my plan.

Ms Leon : It is not inappropriate behaviour. If the guidelines say to providers 'internships are voluntary,' then it is not inappropriate behaviour for a job seeker to not volunteer for it.

Senator SIEWERT: What happens when it escalates? As a job seeker provider I know that I can then get my four-week outcome if I can get someone into an internship. It is a guaranteed outcome.

Ms Leon : I do not know how I can make this more clear. The program is voluntary for the job seeker. If any job seeker were to say they were being forced to put that in their job plan we would invite them to immediately call our tip-off line, because the provider will be subject to guidelines from the department that internships are voluntary.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand what you are saying. In practice, there is huge room here for a vulnerable—we are also talking about people with barriers to employment—so the 18-to-24 year olds, who are not as experienced at working in these situations, not even knowing what the tip-off line is or not knowing what their rights are.

Senator Cash: The other thing, remember, is the program is also about working with the provider, the person and the business. I think it would become very evident, very quickly, if that was the case: 'I do not want to participate in this program. It is voluntary. You're now forcing me.' That would become evident very quickly. That is one of the safeguards, again, to ensure that the program is a tailored program.

Senator SIEWERT: In the real world that is not what is happening.

Ms Leon : Let us see what happens when we have implemented it.

Senator SIEWERT: On the issues around training and the competitive tender approach you said was going to be the process for the training, who are the people you are envisaging are going to be the people that apply for these tenders?

Mr Hehir : We would expect quite a broad range. We would expect community based training organisations, we would expect some jobactive providers who have training arms associated with them; and we expect registered training organisations.

Senator SIEWERT: But it will be the usual—

Ms Leon : It will be an open tender process, so I could not say what the outcomes of that will be yet.

Senator SIEWERT: You are going to let that out across Australia for this compulsory—

Ms Leon : Yes.

Mr Hehir : That is right.

Senator SIEWERT: How will you check quality and things like that?

Mr Hehir : We do surveys of job seekers through the training processes. It is a follow-on as a tandem process as we go.

Ms Leon : Do you mean quality before we choose them or quality after it is implemented?

Senator SIEWERT: I mean after—how they are being delivered.

Mr Hehir : We would both monitor outcomes. We have quite sophisticated methodology in terms of looking at outcomes in areas of disadvantage. If we saw people having worse outcomes we would be interested in that from the training side, and we would adjust for labour market factors when we look at that. We always seek to get feedback from job seekers in a post-placement monitoring survey. We would include that into that sort of process. We would have an information collection process to look at quality.

Senator SIEWERT: How did you determine the two three-week blocks?

Ms Jensen : The decision to have the two three-week blocks was based on a range of information about past experience with the effectiveness of training under the Job Network as well as feedback from our surveys of employers and other sources. The intent is that the first three-week block is to help the young people address the foundational skills and basic employability skills to get them ready to go on to either an internship or a wage subsidy job. The second three-week block is when they have got some experience. They come back and they can draw on that experience to do the more advanced job search training. It is based on evidence in terms of the effectiveness of past programs.

Senator SIEWERT: What is the time frame between the two three-week blocks?

Ms Jensen : Because it is a flexible pathway, it really depends on the individual. Some young people, after they do the first three-week block, will then go on into a subsidised job and move—

Senator SIEWERT: Or into an internship.

Ms Jensen : out of the system into a job.

Senator SIEWERT: But if they do not, they do the second three weeks?

Ms Jensen : If they then come back into the service, the job provider will sit down with them and look at their needs. It depends on their needs.

Senator SIEWERT: For the stream B and C groups, will there be separate courses? How do you address the people with specific barriers?

Mr Hehir : We intend to design this, as I said before, with business and industry.

Ms Leon : And with providers.

Mr Hehir : And with providers, of course, who have an understanding of the case load that they have and the areas of further development that they hear from employers. It will be tailored. We are yet to decide how tailored it will be. The important thing about working with industry is that we know that employers need to have confidence in the training that people have. We know that once a young person, or any person, has been unemployed for a particular period of time there is a wariness that employers have around employing them. That is part of what we are trying to break with PaTH. Part of doing that is giving the employer confidence that they have received training that is appropriate for their needs. That is one thing that does overcome their wariness. It is very important that we design it with business. It is important that we do it at this point to make sure that they get it before they hit long-term unemployment. It is also important that we design it both with those experienced in working with the job seekers as well as with those people who will be seeking to employ.

Senator CAMERON: We have gone to the issue of how many interns an employer can hire at any one time. Basically, it is depending on the size of the employer.

Ms Leon : It depends upon the employer being able to demonstrate a reasonable prospect of a job outcome for the number of interns that they take. If they are a large employer, who is regularly employing 100 people a month, then they would be able to satisfy us that there was a reasonable prospect of a larger number of interns moving into ongoing work. If they are a small employer, who only gets one vacancy a year, then they are unlikely to be able to satisfy us that there is a reasonable prospect of ongoing work for a large number of interns.

Senator CAMERON: How do you define 'reasonable prospect'?

Ms Leon : The program was only announced last week and it does not commence until April. As is usual with any budget measure, there is a period of time before commencement where there is a need to develop the micro-policy that supports the program. The micro-policy, which ends up becoming the guidelines for the program, gets developed in consultation with those who are going to be affected by it, including providers and employers. That is the kind of issue that will be dealt with in the guidelines. For example, the decision to fund jobactive was made a year before it commenced, and during that year we developed all the guidelines and micro-policy about how the implementation would occur. This is the same process that we always follow for a major new program—the government will commit the funding based on the broad parameters of the program and then all the detailed definitions are, as appropriate, developed in consultation with those who can best inform us as to how to define those terms.

Senator CAMERON: I understand all that, but Senator Cash's statement yesterday was that there has to be a 'real prospect' and you say today 'reasonable prospect'.

Senator Cash: There is no difference in the terminology.

Ms Leon : There is no difference between what the minister said and what I said.

Senator CAMERON: There is definitely a difference between 'real' and 'reasonable'. You are a lawyer, Senator Cash. You could have earned tens of thousands of dollars each day arguing that very point.

Ms Leon : If this were a statute and we were seeking to interpret its application in a legal case, we would argue about the meaning of 'real' versus 'reasonable', but this is a budget announcement and, as is usual with any new program announced by government, the micropolicy would be developed over the months before implementation and then the definitions that will guide what an employer has to demonstrate to show us that there is a real prospect of ongoing work will be worked up in consultation with industry and providers. Some of that will be, for example, an existing vacancy, a pattern of recruitment or a pathway of business growth with expected new vacancies. They are all the kinds of scenarios we can envisage might demonstrate a reasonable prospect of an ongoing job. But I think it would be premature and unwise for the department to try to define that in the days immediately after the announcement of the measure and without any consultation with employers or providers.

Senator CAMERON: Secretary, I do not think this is a micro-aspect. This is a very fundamental aspect about the prospect of people getting a job. I might come back to that. In terms of the hours that are worked, you said it would be between 15 and 25. Is that set by the employer?

Mr Hehir : It has to be done in agreement. Because it is voluntary, both the job seeker, the jobactive provider and the employer need to reach agreement around those sorts of terms.

Senator CAMERON: Do all participants, regardless of the hours they work, get the $200?

Mr Hehir : Yes, Senator.

Senator CAMERON: So an employer could say, 'I'll give you 15 hours,' and for someone else the employer could say, 'You'll do 25 hours,' and they are employed by the same employer. You said they are not employed, but they are engaged by the same employer. How do you justify the flat payment?

Ms Leon : Because it is not a wage; it is not an hourly rate. It is an incentive payment to encourage job seekers to participate in an internship. We hope and expect that it will help get them into work. It will give them work experience.

Senator CAMERON: So the employer can make that call and could have two people, say, working side by side on a production line, except one works 25 hours and the other works 15 hours?

Ms Leon : The programs are voluntary.

Senator Cash: It can be done in conjunction. It is not just the employer making the decision.

Senator CAMERON: I am not asking about the voluntary nature of it; I am asking whether what I have outlined is possible.

Senator Cash: Senator Cameron, you actually have to take into account the voluntary nature of it. These people are going to want to go on to the ongoing employment, and the internship itself is created not just by the employer but by the employer and others.

Ms Leon : For example, a job seeker may wish to undertake 15 hours a week because it suits their personal circumstances and another job seeker may wish to find an internship with more hours because that suits their personal circumstances. That is why the fact that it is voluntary is relevant to the possibility.

Senator CAMERON: That is not what I have asked. Secretary, what I have asked you is: it is possible that you can have two interns working side by side with one doing 15 hours and another doing 25 hours, and they get the same subsidy of $200? That is all I am asking.

Ms Leon : Yes, Senator.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. We will now suspend.

Proceedings suspended from 10:29 to 10:46

CHAIR: The committee will now recommence. Senator Cameron, you have the call.

Senator CAMERON: Minister, I want to go back to the issue of a real vacancy versus a real prospect of ongoing employment. When the scheme was announced the terminology used was a 'real vacancy' and then on the Thursday night—like most of the coalition policies these days—there was a significant change and we moved from a 'real vacancy' to a 'real prospect of ongoing employment'. Did you have any discussions with the business community on this issue after the announcement and before you changed to 'prospect of ongoing employment'?

Senator Cash: I discussed this with a number of people—in particular, people who phoned me to say, 'Congratulations; this is the first time a government has put together a proper pathway to get youth into employment.' I saw that reporting yesterday. There was clearly a misunderstanding in relation to the use of the word 'real', so we sought to clarify it—and that is it.

Senator CAMERON: Was it your misunderstanding?

Senator Cash: No, not at all. I was in a radio interview being asked about whether or not there would be churn, and the whole point is that it is actually the exact opposite for the first time in a program. It is a pathway to prepare someone to have the opportunity to trial them and then to hire them. So the comments were made in response to the churning aspect.

Senator CAMERON: So I suppose they ring up and say, 'Congratulations, Minister; this is a great program, but you've stuffed it. We can't deliver real vacancies,' and then that becomes a 'real prospect of ongoing employment'.

Senator Cash: No, not all.

Ms Leon : If an employer cannot deliver a real vacancy at the end of the internship—

Senator Cash: They will not be coming into the program.

Senator CAMERON: Ms Leon, it was not the Labor Party that said 'real vacancy'; it was your minister.

Ms Leon : And if there is no real vacancy—

Senator CAMERON: So do not try to lecture me about this issue.

CHAIR: Senator Cameron, please do not—

Senator CAMERON: This is an issue that your minister has stuffed up—not the Labor Party.

Senator Cash: Senator Cameron, I think the difference between you and I is—

Senator CAMERON: Lots.

Senator Cash: I recognise that we have a massive problem with youth employment in this country. This is the first time that a government, based on evidence, domestically and international gathered, is putting in place a policy that recognises that there are youth out there who either are entrenched in that long-term welfare sector or who, if we do not intervene, are going to be. If you want to sit here and argue with me the difference between 'real' when I said that in the context of an interview when I was asked about churn and the clarifying comments now so that people do understand that it is a reasonable prospect of a job, that is absolutely fine—

Senator CAMERON: Why don't you just stop digging the hole. It is getting bigger.

Senator Cash: But I am going to stand by what has been heralded across the sector, including by Cassandra Goldie from ACOSS and by Andrew Leigh from your own party. I know the Labor Party often use interns in their offices. This is a fantastic program and I hope that this ultimately changes the way Australia looks at youth unemployment, because for the first time ever we are looking at it holistically—preparing you, trialling you and getting you a job. That can only be a good thing. I would hope you would agree with that, Senator Cameron.

Senator CAMERON: In terms of the trialling, is there a legal definition of intern?

Ms Leon : No.

Senator CAMERON: There is no legal definition of intern?

Ms Leon : You mean broadly across work or in our program?

Senator CAMERON: Broadly.

Ms Leon : No. It is not a term of art.

Senator CAMERON: Have you defined intern for the purposes of your program?

Ms Leon : As I outlined earlier, there will be a process of developing a micropolicy and the guidelines for the program. To the extent there is a need for a definition—

Senator CAMERON: How could that in any way be part of the micropolicy when you do not have a program without an intern?

Ms Leon : You asked me if we were going to define the term.

Senator CAMERON: No, I asked you did you have a definition.

Ms Leon : I was attempting to say when the micropolicy is expressed in guidelines we will assess, at that point, whether there is any need for such a definition. But clearly the people who are going through this program will be people who have been in employment services for at least six months. They will have to meet the age criteria—

Senator CAMERON: I am not interested in that particular point at this stage—

CHAIR: Senator Cameron, stop.

Senator CAMERON: What I am interested in is—

CHAIR: Senator Cameron, this is about the fifth time you have spoken over the top of Ms Leon. Please wait for her to finish the answer and then proceed to your question.

Senator CAMERON: We are going to be here for a long time, Chair, to be honest—

Senator LINES: You are protecting the government.

CHAIR: I am protecting good manners, Senator Lines.

Senator CAMERON: If we are going to wait for Ms Leon to finish every answer without being able to move on we are going to have a very long and tedious day.

CHAIR: We are going to have a long and tedious day regardless of Ms Leon's answers.

Senator CAMERON: Are we? Ms Leon, I would like you to concentrate on the questions I am asking, please.

Ms Leon : I thought you were asking me to define who the interns would be, and I was answering that question.

Senator CAMERON: You have not, because you have indicated that there is no definition.

Senator Cash: You said legal definition.

Senator CAMERON: Is there a definition?

Ms Leon : I thought you were asking me to say who an intern would be under our program, and I was attempting to answer that. But if you would like to ask me the question differently I will try again.

Senator CAMERON: Is this definition that you are going to take me to going to be included in regulation? Is it going to be included in guidelines? Where will we see this definition that you are about to tell us?

Ms Leon : What I said was guidelines will be developed before the program is implemented in April 2017.

Senator CAMERON: You cannot tell me, at this stage, even what your program definition of intern is?

Ms Leon : I was attempting to tell you, Senator.

Senator CAMERON: Can you tell me, then?

Ms Leon : The internship program will be available to young people between the ages of 15 and 24—

Senator CAMERON: Here we go. Why can't you just tell me about the definition—

Ms Leon : Senator, perhaps you could wait until the guidelines are developed then.

Senator Cash: The secretary is trying to answer Senator Cameron's questions in the most efficient manner. The program commences on 1 April 2017. There are clearly a number of implementation issues that are going to be worked through as with any government program announcement. When your government made program announcements I would ask similar questions from that side of the table and be given the exact same answer from the officials. The broad parameters are there and the secretary is trying to explain that to you.

Ms Leon : I will correct my earlier age range, it is actually 17 to 24 not 15 to 24. We were speaking about youth unemployment before, which is 15 to 24, but the program is for young people aged 17 to 25.

Senator CAMERON: That is fine. I think you have explained all that. I am just interested in what these interns will do.

Senator Cash: They will be working—

Senator CAMERON: So they will be working. They will be workers, will they?

Senator Cash: They will be given an opportunity to get their foot in the door.

Senator CAMERON: They are workers are they, Minister?

Senator Cash: Oh, seriously, Senator Cameron.

Ms Leon : They will be undertaking work experience in a host organisation, which will give them an opportunity to learn the skills they need—

Senator CAMERON: Now we are maybe getting somewhere—

CHAIR: Sorry, Ms Leon had you finished your answer?

Ms Leon : No.

Senator CAMERON: So they are workers and they are doing—

Senator Cash: No, Senator Cameron, that is not what Ms Leon said—

Senator CAMERON: Workers who are doing work experience, is that it?

Ms Leon : They will be undertaking work experience in a host organisation, which will give them an opportunity to develop the skills they need to get ongoing work there and to show the employer what they can do.

Senator CAMERON: So they are undertaking work experience. Does that mean then that they actually will be undertaking work?

Ms Leon : I think you are asking me to define the program guidelines when they have not been written. As Mr Hehir already indicated, we will develop the program guidelines in consultation with employers and jobactive providers.

Senator CAMERON: How much is this program worth over the forward estimates?

Ms Leon : Do you mean the internship part or the whole package?

Senator CAMERON: I mean the youth employment package.

Ms Leon : It is $751 million over the forward estimates.

Senator CAMERON: So here we have a program of $751 million and I cannot even find out one of the key aspects of that program, the interns. We cannot get a definition of an intern. We are told that they are going to be doing work experience. I am asking does that mean that they will be actually carrying out work unsupervised? That is a simple question; will they?

Ms Leon : No.

Senator CAMERON: They will not be carrying out any work unsupervised?

Ms Leon : I cannot imagine that most employers would want to take an inexperienced person into their workplace and allow them to carry out work unsupervised, when the whole purpose of this is to take on people who do not have work experience. So they will be undertaking work experience and the detailed guidelines that they will have to comply with will be developed before the program is implemented, as is normal with any government program—over years—from successive governments.

Senator CAMERON: This is a $750 million program. You do not pull these out overnight. These workers or these work experience people—

Senator Cash: Job seekers. The term is 'job seeker'.

Senator CAMERON: What is the term? Are they interns?

Senator Cash: No, they are job seekers. The person is a job seeker, obviously.

Ms Leon : They are a job seeker until they are employed.

Senator CAMERON: So we should not call them an intern, should we?

Ms Leon : They are in the internship phase of the youth PaTH plan but they are a job seeker. They are a job seeker until they get a job.

Senator CAMERON: Yes but they are in the internship phase. So you cannot tell me what that internship phase encompasses, can you?

Senator Cash: The finer details will be worked out as is appropriate with any government program.

Senator CAMERON: Let me see what we have established. We have established that these interns, work experience people, unemployed people—whatever you are calling them now—

Senator Cash: That is a terrible thing to say, these 'unemployed people'. Give them some respect, Senator Cameron. They are people who are voluntarily putting their hands up to undertake a valuable piece of the pathway. Show them a little respect.

Senator CAMERON: Minister, I know you are under a bit of pressure on this but you can stop gritting your teeth. The issue here is we are trying to get some details of a three-quarters of a billion dollar program and we are getting none. I think what we have established is that we do not know what the workers should be called. We are told that they will not work unsupervised. The only thing I know at the moment is that they will not work unsupervised.

Senator Cash: Chair, on that basis, perhaps we could then allow the secretary to respond to all of Senator Cameron's clear misunderstanding of what the secretary has in the last hour and a half placed on the record. And again the secretary can go through it is a three-stage process and that each part of the process builds on to the next part.

Senator CAMERON: If you need time to compose yourself and that is that how that is going to be done well I suppose we will just go through the same thing again.

Ms Leon : Perhaps I could assist you by pointing you to the existing work experience program. We already have a work experience program, and unpaid work experience has been a feature of job services for over a decade. The existing work experience program allows for job seekers who are participating in work experience to undertake productive work and requires that they be supervised. So that gives you some guidance as to the kinds of things we usually cover in programs. But as I said, the detail will be developed in consultation with industry before we implement the program.

Senator CAMERON: So will they actually be carrying out work? They will not just be there observing?

Ms Leon : No, they will be carrying out—they can observe. It may be, in some workplaces, that the employer wishes them to observe for a period before participating in activities, but—because it is work experience—we want them to get experience and be able to show the employer or any future employer that they can do the activities involved in that industry or workplace.

Senator CAMERON: So that employer would need to allocate someone with these interns, unemployed workers or work experience—we are not sure; what are we calling them, when they are in this space?

Ms Leon : They are job seekers undertaking work experience.

Senator CAMERON: So they are not interns.

Ms Leon : I do not know what you are getting at. Some people might call them 'interns'. It is not a term of art.

Senator Cash: Exactly. You are calling them interns. We are calling them job seekers in part 2 of the PaTH.

Ms Leon : It is not a term of art.

Senator Cash: No. I might even call them, 'Youth putting up their hands to have a go'. That is it.

Senator CAMERON: We do not need the rhetoric. I am trying to get some detail, here. They will be classified as job seekers undertaking work experience.

Ms Leon : Classified by whom? By us?

Senator CAMERON: Yes.

Ms Leon : That is what they are. They are job seekers. They are still on our case load and they are undertaking work experience.

Senator CAMERON: Can you take me through it? What happens if there is, unfortunately, an accident with one of these work experience people?

Ms Leon : That would depend on the circumstances. I am not sure what question you are asking.

Senator CAMERON: A compensatable accident.

Ms Leon : I would anticipate that we would extend our normal insurance cover to cover people while they are on this program.

Senator CAMERON: You would expect it.

Ms Leon : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: What does that mean? Either you will or you will not.

Ms Leon : We have not extended it to them yet.

Senator CAMERON: Pardon?

Ms Leon : That program has not commenced yet, so I am speaking in the future tense.

Senator CAMERON: Minister, will it be extended?

Senator Cash: If you are asking whether the normal rules will apply, in relation to occupational health and safety, yes.

Senator CAMERON: Okay.

Senator Cash: The finer details will be worked out. Perhaps the secretary could take you through, given this program is not up and running, what the current rules surrounding occupational health and safety are, from all aspects of the pathway.

Senator CAMERON: Before she does that I would like to continue. So the normal rules will apply, in relation to work health and safety.

Senator Cash: Chair, perhaps the secretary could outline what the current situation is, in relation to programs that have been in place under former Labor and coalition governments.

CHAIR: Thank you minister, but Senator Cameron has the call.

Senator CAMERON: You said normal rules will apply. Maybe the secretary can—without you having to invite her; I can deal with this issue—tell us whether they will be covered by the employer's workers' compensation?

Ms Leon : No. They will not be covered by workers' compensation arrangements unless they are either workers in business or, as you may know, under some state and territory laws workers' compensation laws cover a wider range of people in that. That is why I said it would depend on the circumstances. Under the Commonwealth work health and workers' compensation legislation they would not be working for the Commonwealth, so they would not be covered by workers' compensation legislation. Whether they are covered by any state and territory legislation will vary, because all of the states and territories have slightly different provisions. For example, some of them cover volunteers.

Senator CAMERON: What states do not cover volunteers?

Mr O'Sullivan : I am afraid I would have to take that on notice, because that would require a search of relevant state and territory workers' compensation law.

Senator CAMERON: The secretary might know, because she just said some do.

Ms Leon : I do not have that in any detail. I am aware that some do but I do not have state and territory legislation.

Senator CAMERON: But you can tell me some do not.

Mr O'Sullivan : Some do and some do not, yes.

Senator CAMERON: So there are inconsistent entitlements across the country on this.

Mr O'Sullivan : On workers compensation, yes. For non-employees it is different.

Senator CAMERON: What can you tell me about workers' compensation for non-employees?

Mr O'Sullivan : That it is a state matter.

Ms Leon : At the Commonwealth level, we do not cover volunteers.

Senator CAMERON: What about at state level, Mr O'Sullivan?

Mr O'Sullivan : I am afraid I am not an expert in state and territory legislation.

Senator CAMERON: So we are unsure about what coverage these job seekers will have.

Ms Leon : I can tell you what they will be covered by; we are not uncertain about that. I can tell you what current work experience participants are covered by.

Senator CAMERON: Okay, let's do that.

Ms Leon : And I anticipate that we would extend that policy to this program as well.

Senator CAMERON: You say that you 'anticipate'. Minister, will it be extended?

Senator Cash: Will there be a requirement to comply with workplace safety laws? Yes. Do we anticipate that the laws that will apply will be the same as the laws that currently apply to participants in internships? Yes, the secretary is utilising qualifying language appropriately because the program does not commence until 1 April 2017.

Senator CAMERON: I am not talking about the workplace safety laws at the moment. I am talking about workers' compensation entitlements.

Senator Cash: It is occupational health and safety laws generally.

Ms Leon : No, I will not be recommending to the minister that these job seekers are covered by Commonwealth workers compensation, but I will recommend, at the appropriate time, that appropriate insurance cover is provided.

Senator CAMERON: Okay.

Ms Leon : I am speaking in the future tense because it has not occurred yet.

Senator CAMERON: What happens if one of these job seekers is engaged in work for an employer and the employer has breached a workplace safety law, and that job seeker—heaven forbid—ends up dead?

Ms Leon : Perhaps I can separate the question into two parts for you. You have asked about the employer breaching a workplace safety law and you have asked about possible compensation for an injured job seeker. If an employer breaches workplace safety law they will be subject to whatever the regulatory programs is that applies to them under the state and territory that they are operating in. Whether or not there has been a breach of workplace safety law will not necessarily be the defining feature to whether or not the person is able to receive compensation for injuries. They are two separate issues.

Senator CAMERON: It makes a big difference in terms of whether that individual can take common law action.

Ms Leon : I cannot comment on the circumstances in which an individual might wish to take action on negligence against—

Senator CAMERON: We are not talking about any individual.

Ms Leon : I can tell you about the insurance cover that we will provide. It is not dependent on the person—

Senator CAMERON: Is that the $250,000?

CHAIR: Hang on, can Ms Leon finish?

Ms Leon : It is not dependent on there being a breach of workplace safety law.

Senator CAMERON: Yes, I accept that.

Ms Leon : The current liability cover that the department has for its existing work experience program is personal accident insurance and combined liability insurance, and we provided those policies to the committee in answer to a question on notice from last estimates, I think. The current personal accident policy provides coverage of $250,000 for a death benefit. It also provides for medical costs for bodily injuries if people are injured, and it can cover for additional payments if people need them.

Senator CAMERON: If this job seeker has a family and dependents and is killed in the course of this work experience program, has the Commonwealth set aside any funding to support legal action by the family against the host employer?

Ms Leon : No.

Senator CAMERON: Minister, would that be a reasonable thing to do?

Senator Cash: As the details are still being worked out, I will wait for advice from the department.

Senator CAMERON: Minister, I am asking you if a worker is killed through no fault of their own but through negligence by the employer—and this is a very real issue, as you are well aware—will the government set aside funding to allow the dependents—

CHAIR: Senator Cameron, there are rules and regulations—

Senator CAMERON: Just let me finish. Will the government set aside funding to allow the dependents to take legal action in support of their ongoing entitlements?

Senator Cash: That would be a decision for government, not for me sitting at this table now. In any event, as the secretary has tried to outline to you on several occasions now, there are laws—whether your party is in government or whether this party in government—in relation to health and safety. Whatever they are, whether they are state laws or not, those laws are what both Commonwealth and state employees have to abide by.

Senator CAMERON: Until these regulations are out there, no-one really knows what the legal position will be.

Senator Cash: The program does not commence—the internship—until 1 April 2017.

Senator CAMERON: You see, you just cannot throw thought bubbles up and then say, 'We will just work on it for a year to get these things right.'

Senator Cash: This is not a thought bubble. Someone may want to ask about the domestic evidence in relation to why this is a groundbreaking program, or perhaps even the international evidence—

Senator Lines interjecting

CHAIR: No, sorry, Senator Lines. That is not the case. It is just that Senator Cameron has have the call for 25 minutes. We are about to go to Senator Reynolds. I am sure the program and the research on which it is based will be fully fleshed out over the course of this hearing.

Senator CAMERON: I will be back.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I ask a quick question about the extra $100 a week. Is that going to be part of the income test, or will that be exempt from the income test?

Mr Hehir : That will be exempt from the income test.

Senator SIEWERT: It will be exempt. Thank you. Can I go back to the issues around training for the intensive blocks—

Senator CAMERON: Sorry, Senator Siewert. Just on that specific point of the $100, is that to cover travel? Does it mean these unemployed Australians need to pay for their own safety gear? What does that $100 cover?

Ms Leon : It is an incentive payment to the job seeker. No, they would not be expected to buy their own safety gear.

Senator CAMERON: They do not have to buy their own safety gear. Who is going to provide the safety gear?

Ms Leon : That is part of what would be worked out with the host organisation. If the host organisation, for example, already has safety gear that it would provide to the people in its enterprise, it may wish to offer that, but we do provide for the purchase of safety gear out of the employment fund at the moment for participants in similar programs.

Senator CAMERON: Could you provide details, then, on notice about how this would work, because some employers supply overalls; others do not. Some supply safety boots; others do not.

Ms Leon : If the prospective employer does not provide all the safety gear then we fund it out of the employment program. There is an employment fund that the jobactive providers all have access to, and it is routinely used for the purchase of personal protective equipment.

Senator CAMERON: To what value?

Ms Leon : That depends on what the person needs. It is not—

Senator CAMERON: Okay, thanks.

Ms Leon : It is for clothing, or whatever they need.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, I should have also asked: will the $100 count as income for income tax?

Ms Leon : I am not a tax expert, but I think if they are only receiving Newstart and $100 they will not hit the threshold. But I would have to be guided by the tax office.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. Can I go back to the intensive training process. In terms of the training supplement, will the previous training supplement apply? I am thinking of bus fares or train fares or that sort of support.

Ms Leon : Sorry, we were just checking on tax.

Senator SIEWERT: Did you have anything to add?

Ms Leon : Only that the question of whether the Treasurer needs to make a determination to prevent it being counted for taxation purposes is a matter that is in the policy responsibility of the Department of Social Services.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I am now pursuing whether there is there some form of training supplement, or whether the previous training supplement applies, in terms of support for people that are participating in those two training blocks.

Mr Hehir : Training is delivered through the employment fund and so the normal claw-down rules will apply. Sorry, I misheard the question.

Senator SIEWERT: Will participants have access to the training supplement and whatever else they need to participate in the process?

Ms Jensen : The training itself will be paid by the department to the training provider, and so it will be free to job seekers. If there are additional costs, such as travel costs to get to training, they will be paid for out of the employment fund by the providers.

Senator SIEWERT: Does the $751 million include the cost of providing that intensive training?

Ms Jensen : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: But will they have access to the normal process of the employment fund?

Ms Jensen : That is correct.

Senator SIEWERT: If people are not attending the intensive training program, does the normal compliance process apply?

Ms Leon : I expect so. We have not seen the guidelines yet but I would expect that we would apply normal compliance, as we do for every activity. If they are supposed to be doing a particular activity and they fail to do it without reasonable excuse, then you would expect the normal compliance processes to apply.

Senator SIEWERT: Does training start at the five-month mark?

Ms Jensen : They can opt to do it from day 1, but at five months they have to do it so that they are prepared for the second stage.

Senator SIEWERT: I will call it internship for the purposes of this but if they choose not to do an internship what happens then?

Ms Leon : They do not have to do it. It is only one of many options—

Senator SIEWERT: That is why I am asking.

Mr Hehir : They have to undertake the activities that are defined for their normal pathway.

Senator SIEWERT: Work for the Dole does not kick in for 12 months. Is that correct?

Mr Hehir : That is correct.

Ms Leon : An individual job seeker might have a particular training pathway, which they agree with their provider they want to undertake, and we would support that.

Senator SIEWERT: I want to go back to the issue of reasonable prospect. Will there be criteria around what is a reasonable prospect?

Ms Leon : Yes, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: What is the time line for developing that?

Ms Leon : The program commences in April, and we will develop the criteria before then.

Senator SIEWERT: Will that be publicly available?

Ms Leon : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Is there anything specific for people from a CALD background? Does it depend on whether you are A, B or C in terms of barriers?

Ms Leon : That will depend a bit on what we develop in the tender process. To give you an example: when we were developing the broader jobactive program, part of what we wanted people to cover in their tender was whether they had significant CALD communities in the employment region they were tendering for, then part of how we determined the tender was by seeing what they were going to do for those communities in their area. I anticipate that we would take a similar approach to this. If they have particular cohorts or communities they need to consider, then successful tenderers will be the ones who have demonstrated they can meet the needs of that region.

Mr Hehir : Given that we will be having panels, we would anticipate a broad mix of training providers on those panels available in each of the regions. Hopefully, there will be the opportunity for people to specialise as part of that.

Senator SIEWERT: I want to go back to the training panels. Will each region have a training panel?

Mr Hehir : That is our intent at the moment.

Senator SIEWERT: That will be part of the tendering process, will it? Will each training provider apply for a particular region?

Ms Leon : I expect so. We have not developed the tender documentation yet, but we want to make sure that each region is covered so that every jobactive provider will have a range of providers they can use to deliver the training. It is likely that doing it by region is the most efficient way, but we have not determined that yet.

Senator SIEWERT: Is it fair for me to conclude from those comments that the current processes will apply to this process?

Ms Leon : Do you mean the tender process?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. And focusing on the need of particular communities—the current processes that you use will be the ones applied here.

Ms Leon : Yes. I do not know if it will be exactly the same process or weighting as we have used in previous tenders, but we of course want to make sure that the training is going to work for the case load that we have and there will therefore need to be a means of ensuring that communities with particular barriers or particular needs are going to be properly supported.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. You have probably already seen and heard the concerns people have raised about possible exploitation of young people. Obviously I have paid attention to the discussion you have just had about supervision, but I still want to ask: if a young person thinks that they are being exploited, that they are being asked to do long hours or tasks that they do not think are appropriate or if they are unsupervised, what is the process for that? What processes or actions are they able to take to report that?

Mr Hehir : We would expect them to go to their jobactive provider in the first case—that is their first port of call—and seek to raise the issues with them and make sure the jobactive provider engages them to address the issues with the employer. If they do not feel that the jobactive provider is doing enough, they can approach the department, either directly or through our tip-off line, and we will investigate.

Senator SIEWERT: So they can go to the tip-off line?

Mr Hehir : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: The problem with potentially going to your provider is that they have a financial interest in you sticking there. How can we be confident that they will take the appropriate action? It means that somebody might have to come out of a placement.

Mr Hehir : This program is voluntary. It is voluntary not just to enter, but all the way through the program. At any point where a young person feels that they are not getting the response they need from the employer, they can choose to not continue to participate. There is no compulsion, even once they are in there, for them to stay. It is a voluntary program throughout the entire time.

Senator SIEWERT: No penalty applies if you drop out?

Mr Hehir : That is correct.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you for clarifying that.

Mr Hehir : Can I just add to that. Given that the jobactive provider has an incentive for the internship to continue, we actually believe they will engage positively to support the young person to try and keep the placement going—of course recognising that the young person is there, but we believe they will be an advocate for the young person in that situation.

Ms Leon : If the young person feels that they are being asked to do unsuitable work or to work hours that are longer than they signed up for, then they might well want to drop out of participation. So I think the incentives are all the right way for the jobactive provider to get on to the employer and make sure the young person is not being subjected to conditions that might want to make them drop out. So I do not think—

Senator SIEWERT: I can see how you can see it from that perspective, but the alternative view is that they will just encourage them to go back and put up with it because they will get a payment at the end of it.

Ms Leon : We also have the backup of them being able to contact the department directly through the national customer service line. Of course, as answers to QONs in the past have demonstrated, we do get a lot of calls to the customer service line.

Senator SIEWERT: I want to go back to the issue of the non-compliance process. If they do not turn up to their training, will the same process—

Unidentified speaker: Sorry, I did not get that.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, I accidentally activated Siri's voice on my iPhone. Sorry.

Unidentified speaker: So you should be, Senator Siewert.

Ms Leon : Perhaps we could ask Siri.

CHAIR: Let Hansard reflect: Siri.

Senator SIEWERT: Siri does not get it.

Unidentified speaker: Siri, you do not have the call.

Senator CAMERON: Siri might have better luck than me.

Senator SIEWERT: Senator Cameron, you could put Siri on as well and then they could just—

CHAIR: Then we could all leave the room.

Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the non-compliance issue, will exactly the same process work? It is anticipated that exactly the same—

Ms Leon : Subject to the qualification that of course we have not developed the guidelines yet so most of what we say has to be just anticipatory based on our expectation that normal processes will apply. But when we come to look at this—bearing in mind that it is a voluntary program and that it is a three-way arrangement with the provider, the employer and the job seeker—we will just have to work through what the implications of that are for the compliance process.

Mr Hehir : She was asking about training, I think.

Ms Leon : Sorry.

Senator SIEWERT: I did not ask very well because my brain was already jumping forward to the part where in fact you were going. I will go back and reframe the question in a better way. When they are doing the intensive training process, the normal compliance process will apply. Is that correct?

Mr Hehir : That is what we would anticipate, yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Exactly the same: no show, no pay, things like that. Now can we go to when you are doing your internship or your placement. What happens if there is a no-show there? Have you thought through that process yet? We just had a conversation—

Ms Leon : Not in any detail. We need to develop what the compliance regime is going to be—recognising it is a voluntary program but that seeking to encourage people to give it a go. We just have not worked out yet the details of that. But it is a voluntary program. So, if the young person starts a work experience opportunity in a cafe and discovers after a week of waiting tables that it is just not for them, then we would encourage them to try a different workplace and see if that is the pathway for them. That is how I envisage we would make this. It is meant to be a pathway to work. We want the young people to undertake a work experience opportunity that they will want to continue with and that the employer will want to keep them on at. So I anticipate that the compliance guidelines will be informed by that purpose of the program.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. Do I take from that that you are going to be working out a new set of compliance processes that will apply for the internships?

Ms Leon : I think the question will be whether it triggers compliance action. The guidelines that determine how the program will operate will also determine whether something triggers a compliance process; but then, if anything did, I anticipate the normal compliance rules would apply, rather than us developing a whole different compliance regime.

Senator SIEWERT: They are working with an employer—

Ms Leon : They are 'undertaking work experience'.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry: 'undertaking work experience'. It really is a grey area, in terms of the compliance—they are still on income support—as to what process you will put in place. Isn't it?

Mr Hehir : Senator, they would still be required to comply with the compulsory elements of their job plans. There will be a compliance regime that is in place. However, where they are meeting that through voluntary participation in the internship, that is okay. If they get to the point where they are not participating effectively in the internship—and that is where we would look for it to be—if they are routinely not showing up in a way that is not working for the employer, we would expect them to fall back to their normal plan and be back in the phase they were in; in which case they fall back into the standard compliance arrangements.

As I said, this is anticipatory. It is voluntary. If they are not showing up, it cannot be working for the employer, and that is the point we would expect the conversation to occur. 'Is this working or not?' 'Are we going to continue this or not?' If the job seeker does not engage and does not show, we would say they are not participating and we would put them back onto their normal regime. So it would not initially be compliance around that activity; it would be a test of whether they are doing the activity or not. If they are not doing it really, we would put them back and see what their normal requirement is for that that phase.

Senator SIEWERT: There will be a requirement of the employer—sorry the 'host'—

Mr Hehir : 'Host' is the word we use.

Senator SIEWERT: There will be a requirement of the host, if the job seeker is routinely not turning up, to go back to the job service provider. Is that what you anticipate?

Ms Leon : That is what I anticipate.

Mr Hehir : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.

CHAIR: Alright—

Senator SIEWERT: Can I ask one more?

CHAIR: Sure.

Senator SIEWERT: The maximum is 25 hours?

Ms Leon : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: What happens if an employer requires people to work longer? Sorry, the 'host'.

Ms Leon : If the job seeker wishes to do more time because they love doing it and they want to do more time, they can. But they cannot be required to do more.

CHAIR: Senator Johnston, you had a quick one?

Senator JOHNSTON: Very quickly. Secretary, where did we get this model from? Is there any international research or example that you are looking at that has been functioning in a positive way? Obviously, you would not do it if it was negative. When did we get this from?

Ms Leon : There is some good international experience that we drew on for this. I might ask Ms Jensen to take you through some of the experience, particularly in Ireland. Faced with very high youth unemployment, Ireland implemented a program that had some similar elements to this one. They did find that it was highly successful.

Ms Jensen : We did look very closely at the Irish internship program JobBridge. That program is also endorsed by the European Commission, which provides funding for it. JobBridge provides work experience placements for interns for a six-month or a nine-month period at the discretion of the job seeker. It was introduced in July 2011. It is administered by the Irish Department of Social Protection. It was introduced in response to rising youth unemployment following the GFC. It is currently for a maximum of 30 hours per week. Job seekers are eligible to participate if they are unemployed. They remain on their income support and they receive an allowance of 52.5 euros a week, or 105 euros per fortnight, on top of that income support. In terms of the evaluative evidence from JobBridge, an independent evaluation was done in 2013 that showed 61 per cent of participants were in employment five months after completion of the program.

Senator SIEWERT: On that one, [inaudible] is that where the subsidy went to? How long was the wage subsidy for?

Ms Jensen : The Irish also have a wage subsidy in addition to their internship program. The internship program, as I have said, has a payment to the job seeker on top of the income support of 105 euros per fortnight. The Irish wage subsidy, what they call the Jobs Plus, is a grant from 7½ thousand euro to 10,000 euro paid to the employer in a similar way that the wage subsidy scheme operates.

Senator SIEWERT: So the figures that you just gave us, the 61 per cent, was that after the wage subsidy? At what point was that?

Ms Jensen : That was an evaluation of the internship program. It was showing that 61 per cent were in employment six months after completing the internship program.

Senator SIEWERT: Six months? I through you said five months.

Ms Jensen : Sorry, it was five months. My apologies.

Senator SIEWERT: My question is: do we know how many of those were then employed because they got the wage subsidy? Then do we know what happened after the wage subsidy?

Ms Jensen : The information that I have here is that this was the employment outcome of the internship program itself. I am happy to come back on notice to clarify whether some of that was due later to—in combination with the wage subsidy. But my understanding is: this was purely the employment impact of the internship program itself from an independent evaluation of the JobBridge internship program.

Ms Leon : The evaluation data we have with us do not say whether any of those people were on subsidies. So I think Ms Jensen has taken that part on notice.

Senator SIEWERT: There are a number of points there. We need to know whether it was a combination—whether it was the people who went through the whole process or whether it was just the internship and the subsidy, and then from a perspective of how successful the subsidy process was.

Ms Jensen : I am pretty sure it is purely the impact of the internship program. But we can just take that on notice to be very clear on that. We also looked at the United Kingdom's work experience program that involves placements of two to eight weeks and is targeted at 18- to 24-year-olds with little or no work experience. The evaluation of that program, which was launched in 2011, concluded that work experience had a strong and beneficial impact on the likelihood of a participant being off benefits at 13 weeks.

Senator JOHNSTON: Are these subjective assessments or are they departmental evaluations of their own work?

Ms Jensen : In those cases, they are objective assessments.

Senator JOHNSTON: So a separate outside agency was retained to review how it was working?

Ms Jensen : That is correct. With the Irish internship evaluation, it was an independent evaluation by Intercon, a separate company. In the case of the United Kingdom, the evaluation was a peer reviewed analysis. Again, I could take this on notice, but it looks like there was a department evaluation but it was also peer reviewed to get that independent scrutiny of the evaluation.

Senator REYNOLDS: I would like to shift gears slightly while still being on the intern program. Secretary, thank you very much for you and your staff going through the detail of the program this morning. I found it very helpful, particularly some of the elaboration on the questions. It made me reflect on the actual intent of this program. It made me reflect on how I got my first professional job in what I am doing now. After working in KFC, room service and selling office supplies, I got my break working for a federal member at the time, Fred Chaney. It was not called an internship then, but it was very much about getting into the routine of work, dealing with people and teams, developing research skills, working with the public et cetera. That led to a full-time job for me and a pathway through to here today. This morning make me think of that program and how it has morphed into a program that many of my parliamentary colleagues support, which is the parliamentary intern program. I use it, and I know many of my colleagues do. We as parliamentarians provide that to high school students, university students or people who are not working to give them unpaid work experience in our offices so that they can put it on their CVs and then go out into professional jobs. Minister, is there a parallel between what we as politicians do for students and what you are trying to do for 100,000 young Australians who have never been employed?

Senator Cash: The point is that it is all about allowing someone to showcase their skills to an employer. In the case you are talking about it is people who potentially already have the skills and do not necessarily have to go through the 'prepare' stage. But, again, it is all part of asking, 'What are the skills that you need to ultimately get a job?' In the case we are talking about today, PaTHees are people who have not yet had an opportunity. That is why the three-stage pathway is so important.

Senator REYNOLDS: There has been something that has surprised me since the budget on Tuesday in listening to some of my colleagues speak against it. I went online. Some of what my Labor and Greens colleagues have been talking about to do with internships has been quite inspiring. I would like to read this out and get your thoughts on it. This is from the shadow Assistant Treasurer and economics professor, Dr Andrew Leigh. He said on his website today:

When I was 16, I did two weeks’ work experience for John Langmore, who was then the member for Fraser … I'm not sure that I provided any value to John, but the experience had a profound impact on me—as I learned a ton about the issues and personalities that drove politics …

Over the past parliamentary term, I’ve been fortunate to have a variety of people help out as volunteers in my office, assisting me with speeches and submissions, helping solve constituent problems, answering the phone, assisting with campaigning activities, and looking into data-related issues (I've made particularly good use of economics students) …

So I thought it might be useful to put out a formal call for interns …

That formal call is what I am reading from. Then as a Labor economics professor he put on his website:

Is it unfair not to pay people?

He said:

This is something we've worried about a lot. If we had an external source of funding, I'd love to run a paid internship program. But we don't. So our philosophy has been to work hard to ensure that interns-fellows have an experience that's stimulating and rewarding.

There are few better ways to demystify politics …

And he goes on about the benefits of having internships.

It was also good to see that many of the people who have done internships have their professional profiles on LinkedIn. For example, there was one who now works in a temporary capacity for Dr Leigh who was an intern for Bill Shorten and also for Gai Brodtmann. Looking at her career progression through these unpaid internships, starting with Gai Brodtmann: database entry, mailouts, correspondence; then with Bill Shorten: responding to constituents, assisting with meetings, speech research, administrative tasks; there is clearly a career progression of experience here, to the point now where she is still studying but is working for Dr Leigh, who is such a strong proponent of this.

Having a look through, we have unpaid research interns for Senator Moore and for Senator Di Natale, who also provides internship programs to offer an opportunity to acquire first hand experience in volunteering with the federal Greens. Volunteer interns learn how to respond to constituent concerns and help them to solve problems, research and write about issues, facilitate outreach to community groups, undertake research projects, build constituent capacity and do a range of other things. How does it work? The position is voluntary—no financial remuneration is provided. I am very pleased to say that my wonderful colleague, Senator Siewert, has also provided these internship opportunities. There is one here, Robyn, who looks like she is a fabulous young woman. She was an intern and, in fact, may still be an intern with Senator Siewert. Clearly on Linked In she has some fantastic opportunities and career skills to offer employees.

As politicians we provide and freely make use of young people, for the 100,000 young Australians who have never worked and who are currently unemployed. Is this the sort of opportunity that this program is looking to replicate—but paying them in the process, not doing it on a voluntary basis?

Ms Leon : Yes. Of course, the people who we are targeting it to are also people who have been unemployed for at least six months, so they are already facing some significant barriers to being able to get that kind of opportunity to work for a member of parliament. I think it is great that members of parliament already make some internships available, and we hope that this program will enable particularly disadvantaged young people who have already racked up six months of unemployment to get access to that sort of opportunity and to find, like the examples that you gave, that it does then lead them into ongoing work.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is interesting. I look back at the skills that I got from working for Fred Cheney at the time, where I developed a huge passion for politics and for doing this sort of work and, equally, the skill sets I got in that particular office were transferrable to any other office in that junior position. Are those the sorts of skills you are seeking to develop?

Ms Leon : That is right. Our data tells us that people who have had even short-term work opportunities like this are significantly more likely to translate into an ongoing job once they have had some periods of even short-term work. That short-term work can be a real stepping stone to ongoing work, and internships are one way of getting that on-the-job work experience.

Senator REYNOLDS: I do not know how many, but I know that a significant number of my colleagues on all sides routinely provide internships and, as you can see, are very solid supporters of it. If it is good enough for us as politicians to do unpaid internships for students in high school or at universities or for people who might not otherwise be employed, I am struggling to see why any of my colleagues who do this would argue to deny that opportunity for the 100,000 young people who have never had a job. Minister, perhaps this is a question for you, in a policy sense.

Senator Cash: I think it is in what has been read out, but particularly in how eloquently Dr Andrew Leigh put it: it is all about gaining valuable opportunities, gaining valuable experience and being able to showcase what you can do to an employer. I think one of the key differences between what you have just outlined and this program is that these are youths who are either unemployed or looking at being long-term unemployed and do not necessarily have that opportunity to get their foot in the door. Hence the holistic approach to this particular program: the prepare, the trial, the hire.

Senator REYNOLDS: I can hear one of my colleagues heckling in the background. I am wondering whether any of my other colleagues here—I know there are at least two of us that already do support interns and give people a hand up. I am not sure—anyway, that is speculation.

Senator CAMERON: Are we going to set a standard for stimulation and reward in this? What we have just heard is probably the high-end internship. That is not to be the experience for all interns, is it?

Ms Leon : I anticipate and hope that internships will be available across a broad range of industries. For example, the growth industries in Australia are in health care, social services, hospitality and retail. I hope that employers across the growth industries of the economy will offer young people an opportunity. Exactly what they do—

Senator CAMERON: You could go from doing what the intern for Dr Leigh did to packing shelves. There could be that range, couldn't there?

Senator REYNOLDS: What is wrong with packing shelves?

Members of the committee interjecting—

Senator CAMERON: Chair, I have been very patient. I must say I do not want to be interrupted every time I ask a reasonable question.

Senator REYNOLDS: My apologies, Senator Cameron. I will refrain.

Ms Leon : The internships could be in a range of industries, depending on the aptitudes and interests of the job seeker.

Senator CAMERON: Not everyone can end up working in a member of parliament's office. That is just not feasible.

Ms Leon : It is possible that not everyone wants to.

Senator CAMERON: Or the office of the secretary of the department.

Ms Leon : It is possible that not everyone wants to work even in the Department of Employment!

Senator CAMERON: Given that this whole proposition is a bit half baked, I just want to put this to you on notice, because you obviously do not have the answers because it is so half baked. Can you provide on notice—

CHAIR: Senator Cameron, please refrain from paraphrasing the evidence we have heard today.

Senator CAMERON: It is my view, it is not paraphrasing.

Senator Cash: Good, as long as you qualify that in Hansard.

CHAIR: I think people reading the Hansard may have been confused that that was a factual statement.

Senator CAMERON: It is my view, and I think many more people listening in here today would know it is half baked.

CHAIR: They will read the Hansard and come to their own determination.

Senator CAMERON: On notice, Ms Leon, can you provide details of how the monitoring of these—what are we calling them?

Ms Leon : Job seekers.

Senator CAMERON: They are not interns, are they?

Ms Leon : I do not mind if you want to call them that, if that is an easy shorthand for you.

Senator CAMERON: What are they going to be called in the program?

Ms Leon : We have not written the guidelines yet, so I do not mind if you want to call them interns.

Senator CAMERON: Let's call them job seekers. We will wait with interest to see what you call them in this half-baked program. What monitoring will take place? How many staff will be monitoring? What would constitute exploitation? What behaviour will result in a ban? How long will employers be banned for?

Ms Leon : Can I qualify that? We have given you—

Senator CAMERON: Can you let me finish? Is it a three-strike policy? Is there any policy developed on the bans? If you have a policy, can you table it? They are the issues that I am raising now on notice.

Ms Leon : I will take it on notice, but there are two qualifications to that. One is that some of the detail you have asked for will not exist yet, because we are going to develop the guidelines in consultation with industry. The second is that, as you are aware, we already have a wide range of integrity measures in place. Usually we deliberately do not put the details of those into public hearings, because we would not really want to make it easy for employers who might want to circumvent the program guidelines to evade the program scrutiny. For example, if I were to say that there is some hard and fast rule about how many times an employer can take a young person on without giving them an ongoing position, then that could be used by an unscrupulous employer to evade the program assurance. As you know, we have given you a private briefing in the past about program assurance measures, and it may be that some of the detail about the integrity measures of this program, when it is developed, is more appropriate to be handled in a private briefing than in public evidence.

Senator CAMERON: Ms Jensen, how is this issue handled in Ireland?

Ms Jensen : We do have some information on that.

Senator CAMERON: Do you have a brief on the Irish experience and outcomes?

Ms Leon : We can take on notice whether Ireland has produced a publicly available document.

Ms Jensen : We have had some information from the Irish about some of the guidelines that they use in the program. We can take that on notice. We have been in touch with the Department of Social Protection.

Ms Leon : It would be better for us to take on notice whether they are publicly available or whether Ireland has some aspects of integrity monitoring that they do not want to make public, as we do. We would have to consult our Irish colleagues about whether their guidelines are public.

Senator CAMERON: Was there a process of consultation between the department and the Irish equivalent department?

Ms Jensen : Yes. We consulted with them to understand how they run their program.

Senator CAMERON: What did that consist of?

Ms Jensen : We read all the relevant documents and evaluations and we have had a teleconference with the key people in the Irish government.

Senator CAMERON: Are the relevant documents public documents?

Ms Jensen : We need to take that on notice, because often there may be some confidentiality aspect.

Senator CAMERON: Have you picked up public documents and been supplied with documents from the Irish department?

Ms Jensen : Yes, we have.

Senator CAMERON: Can you supply us with the public documents that you have been using?

Senator Cash: I think that is what they will check for you, to make sure that they are public.

Senator CAMERON: I am not asking you to check whether they are public. The answer to my question was 'Yes, there are some public documents.'

Senator Cash: I think that is what they are taking on notice to check—to verify that they are public and were not provided in confidence.

Ms Leon : If there are any public documents, we will be happy to provide them.

Senator CAMERON: The answer I got was, 'Yes, there are public documents.'

Ms Jensen : At minimum, as I noted before, there is a public evaluation. Anything else we will need to take on notice.

Senator CAMERON: So there are public documents. Could you provide the public documents that you have used, and take on notice, in relation to these other documents that you are checking, even if they are not public documents, whether the Irish department or Irish government would make them available to the Senate?

Ms Leon : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: Minister, have you had any discussions with the Irish minister on this?

Senator Cash: No, I have not.

Senator CAMERON: Ms Jensen, the UK has a similar proposition. Have you had discussions with the UK department?

Ms Jensen : I have not personally had discussions. I would need to take on notice and check with my staff about whether there have been interactions and what they may have been.

Senator CAMERON: Can you refresh my memory? What is the outcome in Ireland in terms of successful placements?

Ms Jensen : The independent Indecon evaluation in 2013 showed that 61 per cent of participants were in employment five months after completion of the JobBridge internship program.

Senator CAMERON: What is the outcome from Work for the Dole?

Mr Hehir : Last time we talked we had some results from the preliminary surveys. I will check with the team. The outcome was in the order of 35 per cent.

Senator CAMERON: 35 per cent successful placements from Work for the Dole?

Ms Leon : We are just getting the exact figure for you.

Mr Hehir : 35 per cent were in employment three months after having exited Work for the Dole.

Senator CAMERON: What was the Irish experience in this program again?

Ms Jensen : The Irish experience was that 61 per cent of participants were in employment five months after completion of the internship program.

Ms Leon : I do not know what the overall youth unemployment rate was in Ireland at that time and how 61 per cent compares to the rest of their programs, so I do not—

Senator CAMERON: Can you provide us with the details of that?

Ms Leon : If we have it, I will. I do not know that I could confidently compare an Irish outcome with an Australian outcome for different programs in different countries at different times.

Senator CAMERON: Are labour hire companies included in this?

Ms Leon : Included in what?

Senator CAMERON: Included in hosting.

Ms Leon : Labour hire companies can host people. In fact, they are some of our most significant organisations that take people on from jobactive.

Senator CAMERON: Some of the problems that young workers have are similar to, while not exactly the same as, to those of mature age workers. Has there been any thought to how you deal with mature age workers or whether you deal with them in a similar way?

Ms Leon : Mature age workers are not usually lacking in work experience because—

Senator CAMERON: Some are.

Ms Leon : I think I said usually. The particular barrier that young people face is demonstrating to employers and prospective employers that they have experience and that they have those basic employability skills. The research that we have done and that other organisations have done tends to demonstrate that that is not usually the barrier for mature age workers.

Senator CAMERON: Have you given any thoughts to whether this program might result in mature age workers having less of a chance of getting a job because they will be in competition with these young unemployed workers?

Ms Leon : Both mature age workers and the stream B and C young people have access to a $10,000 wage subsidy. For an employer considering either an inexperienced young person or an older person, they both have access to a $10,000 wage subsidy. That is for stream B and C young people.

Senator CAMERON: If one of these companies has a collective agreement with a trade union, and the young unemployed person joins the union in that enterprise, do you see any issues with that?

Ms Leon : Every enterprise is different. I think that would be a matter in which we would have to look at the circumstances on a case-by-case basis. But these young people are not employees.

Senator CAMERON: Why would you have—

Ms Leon : So, to the extent that an enterprise agreement covers the employees of an organisation, it will not cover a job seeker who is not an employee.

Senator CAMERON: Why would you have to look at each enterprise on a case-by-case—

Ms Leon : It depends on what question you are asking. Do I see there is any problem in that?

Senator CAMERON: Yes. Why would you have to look at each enterprise on a case case-by-case basis, if a young person decides to join the union?

Ms Leon : I do not know whether the young people can join a union when they are not employees, so I do not know.

Senator Cash: Do you mean join a union for the internship, or do you mean join a union, technically, like filling out a membership form?

Senator CAMERON: I mean join the union that covers the workers in the enterprise.

Mr O'Sullivan : Can I just mention something? Under the registered orgs act, if we are talking about a federally registered union under the registered orgs act, I think that, overwhelmingly, one has to be an employee to be a member of a union.

Senator CAMERON: Okay.

Ms Leon : That is the only case-by-case issue I—

Senator CAMERON: So these young people would be restricted from joining a union?

Mr O'Sullivan : That would be dependent on the union's rules and the registered orgs act. That has basically always been the case for unions. You really have to be an employee or an independent contractor to be a member of a union.

Senator CAMERON: But this is a new process. These are young people who are actually engaging in employment.

Senator Cash: No, no, no. That is a fundamental difference.

Senator CAMERON: They are engaging in work.

Ms Leon : But they are not employed.

Senator CAMERON: They are not employed, but they are actually engaged in work.

Ms Leon : As anyone who is undertaking work experience is doing.

Senator CAMERON: So they could be doing work that is covered by a classification in an enterprise agreement—

Ms Leon : But they are not employed.

Senator CAMERON: They are not employed, so they get no access to union support. Is that what you are saying?

Senator Cash: Is that the problem?

Mr O'Sullivan : That is not what we are saying. What the union might want to do to support people—and I am sure that unions support other people who are not necessarily union members—this would not prohibit that.

Senator CAMERON: So if the young person decides to join the union anyway, and the department is advised that maybe two or three of these young people have joined the union, what would be the response from the department?

Mr O'Sullivan : I think that at this stage the general manager of the Fair Work Commission would probably be best placed to answer that question. But the union itself would be very cognisant of its rules of membership.

Senator CAMERON: If a union sought to change its rules to cover these people, what would be your position, Minister—the government's position?

Senator Cash: It completely depends on what the law is. The law currently states, as articulated by Mr O'Sullivan, that you need to be an employee to join a union. These job seekers are not employees and, as such, the law prohibits them from doing that.

You are really talking about joining the union. As Mr O'Sullivan also said about any assistance that the union may or may not want to provide to a young person, whether they are a member of the union or not, that is completely up to the union itself. If the union chooses to provide the young person with assistance, that is exactly what they will do. If the union wants to speak to the hotline or the department, that is for the union to decide.

Senator CAMERON: So if the union wants to negotiate with the employer—say, to act for an insurance policy to cover these young workers—would that be consistent—

Senator Cash: Again, they are not young 'workers'. They are job seekers who are undertaking phase 2 of the PaTH program.

Senator CAMERON: Okay—that is going to be hard to write in The Australian, isn't it? So—

Mr O'Sullivan : It is very hard to give legal advice in the abstract, I have to say.

Senator Cash: It is, actually.

Senator CAMERON: I am asking the minister what the political response might be—

CHAIR: The minister is answering the question—

Senator Cash: I am not giving you a political response. The current situation is that if you are not an employee, the rules of the union prohibit that. Should a union choose to change its rules we would then deal with that at the time. It is as simple as that; it is a legal position.

Mr O'Sullivan : And a union's ability to change the rules must always be within the statutory framework.

Senator CAMERON: Sure. So there may have to be some legislative changes to ensure that if these young people are coming in—even if it is only for a temporary period—that they have rights to join a union and rights to be represented by that union. That is a legislative issue, isn't it?

Mr O'Sullivan : There is nothing in the current registered orgs act that would prevent this scheme going ahead, as I understand it. It is a completely other matter—

Senator CAMERON: No, that is not—

Mr O'Sullivan : if people are not happy with the current registered orgs act. Right now there is a bill to amend it, but that is—

Senator CAMERON: Okay. I think I am just about done there. Let's see if we can get some advice on these issues so that this can move from being, basically, a thought bubble to something that is important. Minister, we have an election coming up; you are going to run this issue during the election campaign and it is a real half-baked piece of unfinished business—

Senator Cash: That is exactly right: it is unfinished business and that is why we want to be re-elected, so we can implement this policy and give 30,000 the opportunity—

Senator CAMERON: Well, good luck with—

CHAIR: Whenever that election is called, Minister.

Senator Cash: to get into work. I am not going to sit by and see our youth become entrenched in a culture of welfare dependence.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you repeat the outcomes from Work for the Dole please?

Mr Hehir : For the program monitoring survey—figures from July to November 2015—

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Mr Hehir : Thirty-five per cent were in employment three months after.

Senator SIEWERT: And what form of employment was that? Part-time or full-time?

Mr Hehir : It was a bit of a mix.

Senator SIEWERT: But you do not know?

Mr Hehir : 16.1 per cent were full-time employed and 18.8 per cent were part-time employed.

Senator SIEWERT: And that was three months?

Mr Hehir : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I go to the question I asked previously on the extra hours. If they wanted to do extra hours, could they be paid for those extra hours?

Ms Leon : No, because they were not employed. They could go and get a job with the employer. If they want to exit their internship and get a job with the employer, they can. If the employer says, 'Let's not keep you on the internship anymore. I want to give you 15 hours work a week,' of course they can do that.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I am ready to move on from PaTH. I want to go to the job commitment bonus, please. That bonus will cease?

Ms Leon : That is correct.

Senator SIEWERT: What is the reasoning for its ceasing?

Ms Leon : It has had lower than expected take-up. We think there is also some deadweight loss in it because we think the claimants who were staying in work were likely to remain in work without the bonus. The fact that there has been lower than expected take-up of the bonus reinforced that view.

Senator SIEWERT: What has the take-up been?

Ms Leon : It is take-up as against what we expected. In a way there is always the problem about projections versus actuals, but there were 16 per cent of the expected claims in the 2015-16 financial year, as at 31 March.

Senator SIEWERT: Given that it is ceasing, how will it apply to employment that has been initiated but has not quite reached that threshold?

Ms Drayton : Anyone who is eligible for the bonus on the date that it ceases will continue to be paid the bonus. People have 90 days to claim the bonus after such time as it ceases. So people who are in receipt of the first bonus now who became eligible for the second bonus before the repeal date will still be entitled to receive it. The eligibility on the day it is repealed means that people will continue to be paid it.

Senator SIEWERT: There is 16 per cent take-up. Do you have figures on who has the first payment and the second payment?

Ms Drayton : Certainly. No-one has the second payment yet because it does not fall due until 1 July this year. That is two years after it started. But we know that as at 31 March there have been 3,138 claims for the job commitment bonus. Some of those are still being assessed, but there have been 2,212 people actually paid the first bonus.

Senator CAMERON: I have a couple of questions on the job commitment bonus. Can you advise how much has been expended on the job commitment bonus? What has been the expenditure?

Ms Drayton : Again, as at 31 March, it was $5.53 million.

Senator CAMERON: How many job seekers claimed the job commitment bonus?

Ms Drayton : 3,138 have claimed it.

Senator CAMERON: Was there a target?

Ms Drayton : It really was dependent on people claiming the bonus. There was not a target as such. It was something that we had not really done before, which was incentivising people post income support. We were waiting to see what the take-up was. It has not turned out to be taken up as much as we thought it could have been.

Senator CAMERON: Was a cost-benefit analysis done before the decision was made to cancel the scheme?

Ms Leon : No—in the sense of a formal cost-benefit analysis, no, but in the sense of making an assessment about whether a continued investment of this amount of money in the program was justified.

Senator CAMERON: Who did that?

Ms Leon : That is a decision for government in the budget—

Senator CAMERON: No, who did that assessment?

Ms Leon : That is a decision for government in the budget process.

Senator CAMERON: I may have misunderstood what you said. Did you say there was an assessment done?

Ms Leon : I do not mean in the term of art sense; I mean the view was formed that this—

Senator CAMERON: So this was a political decision?

Ms Leon : No, it was a decision made during the course of the budget.

Senator CAMERON: On advice? Was there advice provided on this by the department?

Ms Leon : It went through the normal budget process.

Senator CAMERON: What does that mean?

Ms Leon : It means it has gone through the cabinet process. As you know, I do not—

Senator CAMERON: That is not what I have asked you. I have asked did the department provide specific advice on this issue.

Ms Leon : And, as I said, it went through the normal budget process, which is usually taken as a fairly reasonable code for 'that was a cabinet process.'

Senator CAMERON: I am not asking for any cabinet advice; I am simply asking you—

Ms Leon : I am telling you the process was in cabinet.

Senator CAMERON: I am asking you did you provide any advice to the minister on this issue?

Ms Leon : And consistent with practice in the committees, we do not comment on processes that have gone through cabinet.

Senator CAMERON: This is not a cabinet issue. I am not asking you what advice you provided, and you must respond to that simple question: did you provide advice to the minister?

Ms Leon : I cannot really add to the answer I have given you—the matter was considered by cabinet and therefore the nature of what went to cabinet is not something that I can disclose.

Senator CAMERON: I am not asking whether —

Senator Cash: Chair, can Senator Cameron repeat his question.

Senator CAMERON: My question was, simply, did you provide any advice to the minister in relation to the job commitment bonus. It is pretty simple. I am not asking about the cabinet process, I am not asking what advice you provided—I am simply asking whether you provided advice to the minister on this issue.

Ms Leon : We provided advice to the minister on all the matters that were going through the budget process.

Senator CAMERON: Well why couldn't you have said that in the first place? It gets a bit frustrating when you are trying to be too smart.

Senator Cash: Senator Cameron, you do know that ACOSS have previously called for the abolition of this program?

Senator CAMERON: That is not the issue. I asked a simple question and the secretary could have given me a simple answer but chose not to do that.

Senator Cash: They are never simple.

Ms Leon : In respect of the committee and whichever government I am serving, I do always seek to protect the integrity of the cabinet process.

Senator REYNOLDS: What was the reason for the cessation?

Ms Leon : Of the program? That it had been achieving lower than expected take-up and was considered not to be fulfilling the aims of the program.

Senator REYNOLDS: So it was not working?

Senator Cash: It was not incentivising job seekers. The point the secretary was making previously was what was found was that job seekers were staying in jobs without the need to put their hand up for the payment. When you look at what we have is done with, say, the youth program, all of the evidence says the better way to incentivise this is to incentivise at the other end. This was a demand-driven program. They were staying in employment without the need for the additional money, so they were not putting their own hands up.

Ms Leon : So many more people stayed in employment without claiming the bonus than claimed the bonus. I would not like to go so far as say it was not working in the sense that for those 3,000 claimants it may well have helped to incentivise them, but it was clear that there were many more people who were staying on without the bonus, and so it appeared to be not the best use of funds.

Senator CAMERON: Ms Leon, can you provide details in relation to the date that you advised the minister in relation to the job commitment bonus? I would like to know the dates that you provided that advice.

Ms Leon : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: Did you provide that advice in a written form or a verbal form?

Ms Leon : Written.

Senator CAMERON: Written form? So the dates that that advice was provided—

Ms Leon : I believe it was written and I believe I will be able to provide a date. I will take on notice what that was.

Senator CAMERON: Thank you. Chair, could I get a little bit of indulgence to correct the record?

CHAIR: Of course.

Senator CAMERON: Senator Reynolds was indicating that 'the interns' who work both in the office of the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, and in Dr Leigh's office were unpaid. Jen Rayner has just advised: 'That's a dirty allegation that either of us were ever interns'—they were not interns. Thomas McMahon has said, 'I may have sold my soul to the ALP'—good person!—'but my labour has always been paid for.' That is the situation from them.

Senator REYNOLDS: Senator Cameron, I did not actually say who these individuals were. I want to thank you for putting it on the record. I was reading straight from LinkedIn profiles. I am happy to table them. Do you want them tabled, Senator Cameron?

CHAIR: Righto. They are tabled. Thank you.

Senator CAMERON: During the February estimates, Secretary, you reported that from 1 July 2015 to 31 December 2015 there were 307 workplace incidents reported to the department and your insurer. Could you update those figures.

Mr Hehir : From 1 July 2015 to 31 March 2016, there were 490 incidents reported to the department and Arthur J Gallagher.

Senator CAMERON: Did you say 490?

Mr Hehir : Yes, 490.

Senator CAMERON: What about to the insurer?

Ms Milliken : The 490 is both reports to the department and reports to the broker.

Senator CAMERON: Okay. Can you provide a breakdown on the incidents in terms of their seriousness?

Ms Milliken : I can advise that, of the 490 incidents, 108 did not involve an injury, and I can break it down by injury if you would like. Renee, do you want to take it on notice?

Senator CAMERON: If you can break it down, why would you need to take it on notice?

Ms Milliken : Sorry; I meant in terms of the detail.

Senator CAMERON: If you have the information there, why would you have to ask your superior: 'Should I take it on notice?' Come on.

Ms Leon : I think if it is 490 it might take a long time for us to go through.

Ms Milliken : I am comfortable to read it out.

Senator CAMERON: I am asking the general type.

Ms Milliken : Of the incidents reported, 24 involved animal or insect bites or allergies; 217 related to a muscular stress; one was a bone fracture; nine were burns; 15 were eye injuries; eight were head injuries; 71 were lacerations—

Senator CAMERON: How many head injuries?

Ms Milliken : Eight head injuries. I am not sure whether or not they were impact head injuries. There were 71 lacerations. Twelve related to a loss of bodily function. Thirteen were for mental stress. As I mentioned, 108 involved no injury, and 12 were puncture wounds.

Senator CAMERON: Can you, on notice, provide details as to whether there was any compensation paid for any of these?

Ms Milliken : I am able to advise that, of the incidents reported, there have been five claims resulting in payment.

Senator CAMERON: Five?

Ms Milliken : Five.

Senator CAMERON: Were these serious injuries?

Ms Milliken : The total amount claimed was $896, and they were predominantly minor injuries.

Senator CAMERON: You did not mention the tragedy in Toowoomba.

Ms Milliken : The information that I have provided is for incidents to 31 March 2016.

Senator CAMERON: This was April. Do you have figures for April?

Ms Milliken : I do not have figures for April at this stage. Sorry.

Senator CAMERON: Obviously everyone here would extend their sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the 18-year-old man who died on a Work for the Dole site in Toowoomba. Can you detail what the government's processes have been in response to this tragic event.

Ms Leon : The incident itself is under investigation by the appropriate authorities in Queensland. In relation to our own activities, the activities that the employment service provider had referred the person to have been suspended, and other outdoor activities of a similar sort managed by the provider and involving plant and equipment have been suspended pending a review. We already had on hand an independent consultant who was reviewing risk assessments and WHS processes for Work for the Dole, and we have asked them to review the risk assessments that were undertaken for those suspended activities.

Senator CAMERON: Could you table the document you are reading from.

Ms Leon : That is my estimates brief. No, I cannot table it.

Senator Cash: If you would like some information provided to you, we can do that, but this is an estimates brief, which is consistent with practice

Ms Leon : It will have a range of material in it that may or may not be suitable for tabling.

Senator Cash: Just so you know, Senator Cameron, Mr O'Connor did ask for a briefing and he was provided with a briefing by the department and my staff.

Senator CAMERON: I have not had a briefing.

Senator Cash: No, I am just saying that so you also know we briefed a shadow spokesperson on this.

Senator CAMERON: On notice, can you provide a briefing on the issues, the responses and details of the responses. I would like quite a detailed response from you on that—not just what you have read out but what the processes were, dates and times, when you first became aware of it, who activated what, what was done, any internal correspondence on the issue and any file notes on the issue. You know the process. Could you supply all of them.

Ms Leon : We will take that on notice.

Senator REYNOLDS: Chair, are we likely to finish outcome 1 before lunch? I have a few more questions. I am just seeing whether Senator Cameron needs the rest of the time.

Senator CAMERON: I do not know. It depends on how long the responses are.

CHAIR: That is fine. Senator Reynolds, you can ask your questions just in case.

Senator CAMERON: I am halfway through.

Senator REYNOLDS: I am happy if Senator Cameron wants to finish, and then I can come after lunch.

CHAIR: No worries.

Senator CAMERON: I have only started. Give me a break! I know you are pretty tough, but that is tough. That is crazy.

Are you thinking about any changes to policy arising from this incident?

Ms Leon : We will await the outcomes of the review to see whether what occurred leads us to think there is a need for a change of policy or not.

Senator CAMERON: Are you aware of whether there is going to be a coroner's inquiry?

Ms Leon : I do not know. That would be a matter for the Queensland authorities.

Senator CAMERON: Will the department cooperate in any coroner's inquiry?

Ms Leon : Of course.

Senator CAMERON: Wasn't there another Work for the Dole participant driving the tractor?

Ms Leon : All the details of the incident are being investigated by the Queensland regulatory authorities, and we have not had access to their investigations as yet.

Senator CAMERON: So you do not know what happened.

Ms Leon : We do not know the details of the incident. That is being investigated by the appropriate state authorities.

Senator CAMERON: Do you know whether there was supervision on site at the time?

Ms Leon : All those details are being investigated by the state authorities in Queensland?

Senator CAMERON: But do you know in terms of your—

Ms Leon : We do not know. We do not know anything definitively, because all of the details, the interviews, the site assessments and the investigations are being undertaken by the Queensland authorities.

Senator CAMERON: Do you know whether there was a safety induction completed by the participants prior to them commencing that program?

Ms Leon : I cannot really provide any information about the details of the incident—

Senator CAMERON: I am not asking about the incident; I am asking about your procedures.

Ms Leon : We are undertaking an investigation about our procedures—we call them risk assessments. We are investigating whether the matters that we are responsible for, as the program owner—

Senator CAMERON: Who is carrying this out for the department?

Ms Leon : We have established teams separate from the area that is responsible for—

Senator CAMERON: Can they come to the table?

Ms Leon : Work for the Dole to undertake that investigation, but they have not completed that investigation yet and so they will not be able to tell you what they know, because they do not yet know the full details.

Senator CAMERON: You cannot tell me what you don't know?

Ms Leon : We cannot tell you what we do not know, of course, Senator.

Senator CAMERON: No, but they should be able to tell me whether a risk assessment was carried out consistent with the obligations under this program.

Ms Leon : That is part of what we have contracted Ernst & Young to do—to review the risk assessments—

Senator CAMERON: So Ernst & Young are doing it?

Ms Leon : Ernst & Young was already engaged by us, as part of our routine program assurance monitoring, to review our work health and safety management for Work for the Dole, so we have asked them to review the risk assessments of the suspended activities.

Senator CAMERON: Do you know whether any risk assessment that was done on this site included occupational health and safety training?

Ms Leon : That will all be provided to us in the report by Ernst & Young.

Senator CAMERON: So there is no-one in the department who has actually looked at this?

Ms Leon : We are not going to get out ahead of the investigation and start putting partial thoughts or information in front of the committee. We have properly contracted an independent party to review the risk assessments—

Senator CAMERON: I do not have to remind you of your responsibilities to the Senate, do I?

Ms Leon : and I am waiting for their reply.

Senator Cash: No, Senator Cameron—

Senator CAMERON: I do not have to remind you of your responsibilities.

Senator Cash: Chair, I think the secretary is completely aware of her responsibilities.

Senator CAMERON: Do not sit there and tell us that because you have conducted some inquiry you will not respond to proper questioning from the Senate. Is that what you are telling me?

Ms Leon : No, Senator. I am saying I do not have the information until the review is conducted.

Senator CAMERON: Do any of your officers have that information?

Ms Leon : We will take that on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Who is in charge of that area?

Ms Leon : I am in charge.

Senator CAMERON: Who have you allocated the work to?

Ms Leon : We have established a team within the department.

Senator CAMERON: Who is heading that team?

Ms Leon : I do not believe the person is in the room, but I have taken the questions on notice—

Senator CAMERON: I am asking: who is heading the team that is looking into a Work for the Dole participant losing their life?

Ms Leon : The team is looking into our responsibilities as part of our—

Senator CAMERON: Who is heading the team?

Ms Leon : It is one of my SES officers.

Senator CAMERON: Who is that officer?

Ms Leon : Medha Kelshiker.

Senator CAMERON: Why couldn't you have just answered the question?

Senator Cash: The secretary has answered the question, Chair.

Senator CAMERON: Why couldn't you have just answered that question?

CHAIR: Senator, the secretary has answered that question. You have two minutes.

Senator CAMERON: Well, I do not want to do an arm wrestle with the secretary every time I am asking a legitimate question, especially when some young person has lost their life in a Work for the Dole scheme. It is absolutely outrageous and unacceptable, and you should have a think about your behaviour—absolutely.

Senator Cash: Senator, I think, quite frankly, on that note you should draw it to a close.

CHAIR: Senator Cameron, Ms Leon has been answering the questions—

Senator LINES: No, she didn't.

CHAIR: She has been answering the questions.

Senator CAMERON: She avoided the question.

CHAIR: She has been answering the questions.

Ms Leon : I am responsible for the activities of the department and I am taking the questions—

Senator CAMERON: What is the name of that person again?

Mr Parsons : The person who is managing it is a lady called Medha Kelshiker.

Senator CAMERON: Who does she directly report to?

Mr Parsons : She directly reports to me. She runs the normal program assurance.

Senator CAMERON: So let's have a talk to you about these issues.

CHAIR: Senator, we are going to have to revisit this after lunch. The committee will now suspend for lunch, after which we will deal with outcome 1.

Proceedings suspended from 12:29 to 13:30

CHAIR: The committee will recommence and we are on outcome 1.

Senator REYNOLDS: Secretary, earlier you spoke of some employment statistics for 15- to 24-year-olds. I understand the unemployment rate is currently 12 per cent and we have somewhere over 60,000 15- to 24-year-olds who are either not employed or disengaged from the workforce—is that correct?

Ms Leon : That is right.

Senator REYNOLDS: And we have 100,000 15- to 24-year-olds who have never been employed.

Ms Leon : That is correct.

Senator REYNOLDS: We have those figures for the 15- to 24-year-olds, but I want to go more widely to the labour force data. Could you advise what the unemployment figure is for the March labour force statistics?

Senator Cash: We will just get the officer to the table.

Mr Neville : You want to know the current—

Senator REYNOLDS: The unemployment figure from the March labour force market statistics.

Mr Neville : The unemployment rate or the number of unemployed?

Senator REYNOLDS: Both the rate and the numbers.

Mr Neville : The unemployment for Australia in March this year was 5.7 per cent. The number of unemployed people in March 2016 was 723,100. These are numbers from the ABS; this has nothing to do with Newstart or our case load.

Senator REYNOLDS: Do you have the case load and the Newstart figures for the March quarter?

Mr Neville : The case load figure, as of 31 March 2016, was 778,570.

Senator REYNOLDS: Are you able to tell the committee how many jobs have been created since September 2013?

Mr Neville : Just over 440,000.

Senator REYNOLDS: 440,000 have been created.

Mr Neville : That is the increase in employment since September 2013.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. During this period, has there been an increase in full-time employment.

Mr Neville : Yes, there has been. I think I have the split between the two. Just give me a moment. Actually, I may have to take that on notice. I may be able to get it during the course of the next 20 minutes or so.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. What has been happening to the participation rate during that period?

Mr Neville : Again, I think I will have to take the change in the participation rate over that period on notice. It has increased, but I will have to get the exact change for you.

Senator REYNOLDS: So the participation rate has increased?

Mr Neville : Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: Would this increase translate into confidence in the job market?

Mr Neville : When the participation rate increases, we deem it to be an encouraged worker effect, that job seekers are more confident of gaining employment. So a greater number of people move from not being in the labour force in to either work or looking for work.

Senator REYNOLDS: Of these 440,000 new jobs that have been created, do you have any figures or information about where these jobs have come from?

Mr Neville : By industry—

Senator REYNOLDS: By industry or by sector. Are there any trends?

Mr Neville : Yes. There has been a significant increase quite a number of industries. Most of the increases have been in the services sector. The industry that has provided a lot of new jobs over the last few years has been the health industry. But retail, education and professional, scientific and technical services are other industries providing a lot of job opportunities for jobseekers.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is good news. Could you update the committee on female participation in the workforce. Do you have any numbers or trends?

Mr Neville : Yes. The female participation rate is currently 59.1 per cent. In September 2008, it was 58.5 per cent. So there has been an increase over that period.

Senator REYNOLDS: Is that part-time or full-time work? Do you have the breakdown for women?

Mr Neville : It covers total employment.

Senator REYNOLDS: Do you have a breakdown of the figures for women, part time and full time?

Mr Neville : Not in terms of the participate rate.

Senator REYNOLDS: In terms of total numbers?

Mr Neville : The total number of females employed in full-time and part-time jobs?

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes, and increases.

Mr Neville : These are proportions rather than total numbers. If we look at the proportion of employed women working part time, in March this year it was 46.4 per cent; so 53.6 per cent working full time.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you very much. You will come back with the other answers later.

Mr Neville : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: I might finish off on this Work for the Dole issue. Mr Parsons, I understand the person who is heading up this inquiry reports to you.

Ms Leon : Medha Kelshiker reports to Mr Parsons for normal purposes—she is in his group—but the review that is being undertaken will report directly to Mr Hehir, the deputy secretary.

Senator CAMERON: I thought it was Mr Parsons.

Ms Leon : She is part of his group; she normally reports to him. But the review is direct to the deputy secretary.

Senator CAMERON: Mr Hehir, when did you set-up this inquiry?

Mr Hehir : I would need to check the exact date.

Mr Parsons : It was the start of this week.

Senator CAMERON: When was that young person tragically killed?

Mr Parsons : 19 April.

Senator CAMERON: How many days was it—

Ms Leon : That is when we set up the task force. That is not when we began responding to the incident.

Senator CAMERON: Okay. Can you then provide me details of all internal correspondence in relation to this incident, all file notes, times and details of telephone conversations in relation to the issue, who telephone conversations went to and the terms of reference for this task force. Do you have the terms of reference with you?

Ms Leon : I can tackle the terms of reference, but we will have to take the remainder of your questions on notice.

Senator CAMERON: Could you table those terms of reference. Ms Leon, you understand that because the department sets up an internal inquiry it does not give you any right not to respond to questions in Senate estimates.

Ms Leon : Yes, Senator.

Senator CAMERON: We might move on. I am finished on the Work for the Dole. Can I just go back to the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme. Can anyone advise how the additional places are apportioned between those on income support and those not on income support.

Mr Hehir : We have an estimation of what the split will be.

Ms Leon : But it is not an allocation. When you say 'how are they apportioned?' they are not a hard and fast allocation one way or the other.

Senator CAMERON: So you do not differentiate between income support and non-income-support?

Mr Hehir : We do. The program of 6,300 has been increased to 8,600. We anticipate—I am just looking for the exact figure—that just over 700 will be from income support, with the remainder of the additional 2,300 coming from non-income-support. Of course, those coming from non-income-support will not be able to access the NEIS allowance funding.

Senator CAMERON: So there are only actually 700 people accessing the program. Is that right?

Mr Hehir : No. The budget allowed for 6,300 until now. The new allowance allows for a further 2,300, of which approximately 1,600 or 1,550—in that sort of order—will be non-income allowees.

Senator CAMERON: What was the previous budget cut to NEIS?

Mr Hehir : I do not believe there has been a budget cut to NEIS.

Ms Leon : There has been a budget increase.

Senator CAMERON: Wasn't there a previous budget cut?

Ms Drayton : There was. I am just trying—

Senator CAMERON: It is always difficult to get an answer here, isn't it? One person tells me 'no budget cut', then we find, in fact, that there is a budget cut.

Ms Drayton : It was not in this budget. It was a previous decision.

Senator CAMERON: That is right.

Ms Drayton : It reduced the amount of NEIS allowance from 52 weeks to 39 weeks.

Senator CAMERON: What was the budget saving for that?

Ms Drayton : It was some time ago now. I will just get that for you—$57.5 million.

Senator CAMERON: How much has been put into the new program?

Ms Leon : $88.6 million. The program has been increased as to how many people it will cover. The NEIS allowance is still for the 39 weeks instead of 52 weeks, so we can now cover a greater number of people for that additional money.

Senator CAMERON: Is there any explanation for this inconsistency in the treatment of this program? Why are there all these cuts, then leading up to an election there is money put in?

Ms Leon : The reason for the earlier cuts: there isn't any inconsistency between that and the current program, because the current program maintains the 39-week period for the NEIS allowance. That is a consistent policy that flows from the earlier decision. The increase in the program is to increase the number of places not to increase the allowance. So it increases the places and, in addition, it funds a number of entrepreneurship supports to encourage young people who are interested in starting their own business.

Senator CAMERON: So the 2014-15 budget cut how much? This was the infamous '14-15 budget.

Ms Drayton : $57.5 million.

Senator CAMERON: Was there any reasoning for why that cut came out?

Ms Leon : Yes: because the businesses of people who undertake the NEIS program have usually become sustainable by that nine-month mark, and so continuing to support them with the NEIS allowance to the 12-month mark was just dead weight.

Senator CAMERON: Wasn't it indicated for budget repair?

Ms Leon : I am sure it went towards budget repair, but the evidence for it and the basis for it was that businesses that people establish under the program have usually become self-sustaining by the nine-month mark and so continuing to fund them with the additional allowance was unnecessary.

Senator CAMERON: Can you then provide me with all details—all internal correspondence, file notes and memorandums—in relation to that 2014-15 budget cut so that I can understand why we were cutting it in '14-15 and why we are increasing it now.

Ms Leon : I have just answered that question.

Senator CAMERON: Not to my satisfaction.

Ms Leon : To the extent that the questions you ask—

Senator CAMERON: Yes—'to the extent'.

Ms Leon : are cabinet-in-confidence because they were budget decisions, obviously there will be limitations on what we can provide.

Senator CAMERON: Well, within those limitations—and I will remind you again, Ms Leon: you cannot simply come here and argue cabinet-in-confidence, or that you have set up an inquiry, to try and frustrate the estimates process. You have been around long enough—

Senator Cash: But, Chair—

Senator CAMERON: that you should know these things.

CHAIR: Minister?

Senator Cash: As to the reference to an inquiry being set up to frustrate the estimates process: I think that was an allegation that was a little unfair, Senator Cameron.

Senator CAMERON: It was not unfair. I think it is unfair—

CHAIR: Senator Cameron, do you have some questions?

Senator CAMERON: I think it is unfair when the secretary tries to deliberately frustrate the process. That is the most outrageous position I have seen.

CHAIR: Senator Cameron, please return to your question.

Senator CAMERON: The secretary indicated that the businesses are sustainable after nine months. Can you provide details of how they are sustainable and how that assessment was made?

Ms Leon : We can take that on notice. Obviously, we had those things available to us when we came here after the 2014 budget, but they are now not material that we have brought with us today.

Senator CAMERON: It seems to me there have been lots of U-turns in terms of government policy, and now there is an election close by—

Ms Leon : The policy of only funding NEIS allowance for 39 weeks has continued since that decision was made. So that is still the policy. It is consistent policy throughout the 2014 budget, the 2015 budget and now the budget for 2016.

Senator CAMERON: I want to go back to the Work for the Dole budget issues. How many unique job seekers have now commenced in Work for the Dole compared to the target?

Mr Hehir : As I get the exact figures, it is in the order of 86,000 individual job seekers who have commenced in a Work for the Dole placement.

Senator CAMERON: Is that 86,000?

Mr Hehir : I will just check the exact figure, but that is the order of it. It is 86,034.

Senator CAMERON: What was the target?

Ms Milliken : We had expected in the order of 150,000 Work for the Dole places over the first 12 months.

Senator CAMERON: You have achieved 86,000 and you were expecting 150,000. What is the problem?

Mr Hehir : There are a number of factors that have changed. Our predictions were based on the estimated unemployment benefit rate, which translates into flow through the jobactive stream. That predicted unemployment benefit rate was in the order of 6½ per cent. We have not reached that figure. Unemployment has been in the order of six per cent to 5.8 per cent for a large period of this financial year. That means there is a lower flow and therefore we would expect lower numbers to flow through into Work for the Dole.

Senator CAMERON: So that is unique job seekers, isn't it?

Mr Hehir : That is correct.

Senator CAMERON: How many total job seeker commencements have occurred compared to your target?

Ms Milliken : There have been 104,557 commencements since 1 July.

Senator CAMERON: And the next part of the question: how does that compare to the target?

Ms Milliken : We had a target for overall job seekers of 150,000 for the year.

Senator CAMERON: So you failed to reach the target again? How many job seekers have exited Work for the Dole into employment?

Ms Milliken : 60,355 job seekers have exited Work for the Dole between 1 July and 31 March. I will look for the figure on those who exited into employment.

Senator CAMERON: Into employment?

Mr Hehir : No, that was the total figure.

Senator CAMERON: That is the total figure that have exited. How many have exited into employment?

Ms Leon : I think we have a problem about the timing for that, because the outcomes do not come in at the exact same time as the exit. Providers have got a period of time to claim an employment outcome, and they cannot claim that until, at the earliest, four weeks later. These figures will not exactly line up with numbers. So for everyone who exited Work for the Dole at the end of March, not all of them will have yet reached the point where a provider could claim an employment outcome.

Senator CAMERON: How many do you understand are in employment now?

Mr Hehir : As the secretary identified, there are a number of delays between the four-week, the 12-week and the 26-week outcome—

Senator CAMERON: Can you just answer my question? I am happy for you to come back and do the explanation but I would really like to know the figure that you have. What figure do you have for job seekers that have exited Work for the Dole into employment? Have you got a figure?

Mr Hehir : 16,233 job seekers had a job placement recorded.

Senator CAMERON: Was there a target for that?

Mr Hehir : No.

Senator SIEWERT: Can I just double check: that is the figure for the 35 per cent—is that correct?

Mr Hehir : The 35 per cent was recorded from the post-placement monitoring survey.

Ms Leon : You might recall—we tried to explain this last estimates—that there are two ways of measuring the outcomes of all of our jobactive programs. One is administrative data, which are the outcome payments that are claimed by providers, and so there is a bit of a lag between—when a person undertakes certain activity, there is then a period of time in which the provider has to claim for that. The figures are always a couple of months behind. If the outcome in question is an outcome payment that appears at four weeks or 12 weeks, it is that far behind as well. That is the administrative data.

The other data that Mr Hehir is referring to are our postplacement monitoring surveys, where we contact a large sample of job seekers regularly—as part of our assurance of the program—to ask them a series of questions about their participation in jobactive, including what they are doing now. That is the figure Mr Hehir was referring to.

Senator SIEWERT: That is the 35 per cent?

Ms Leon : The 35 per cent of the people who we got survey information from who had exited work—

Senator SIEWERT: And the other one is—

Ms Leon : The other one is administrative data, but it does have that delay problem affecting its completeness.

Senator CAMERON: How many are in full-time employment?

Mr Hehir : I do not have that data in front of me.

Senator CAMERON: Do you have that figure? Do you monitor that figure?

Mr Hehir : I would need to check and see what information we record. We will have the record of a job placement and we will have a record of how much the benefit will have been reduced, but I will need to check whether we can access the hours worked. We work on a system of: if the benefit is reduced to an outcomes provider, we focus on that part. I will check to see whether we can access the hours worked.

Senator CAMERON: Okay, so perhaps you can try to find out and give us some details on how many are in full-time employment and how many are in part-time employment. Do you know how many are receipt of government payments again?

Mr Hehir : There will be a component that I will need to break out. In addition to the 16,233, there is another category that job seekers can move out of from job placement recorded, which includes, as a component, part-time or casual work. But that is a component of a figure. The total figure is 6,914.

Senator CAMERON: I have just asked you how many went to part-time work.

Mr Hehir : This records that they are in part-time work; it does not record that they were not already in part-time work. The 16,233 is a recorded job placement. I just would like to break that down for you. And within that second figure I quoted—6,914—there are a number of different activities that are incorporated into that figure, including voluntary work, part-time or casual work and accredited training. I would need to break down that cohort.

Senator CAMERON: So, that would then give us an idea of whether they are back on government payments?

Mr Hehir : Most of those people will be still on a proportion of government payment—that second figure.

Senator CAMERON: Do you carry any figures, if people go into part-time or full-time employment, how long they stay in that employment?

Mr Hehir : We do post-program monitoring at particular points. We have also done some evaluation. I would need to check whether that was a broad evaluation or just for the subsidy work.

Ms Leon : And Senator, did you mean how many people do that after Work for the Dole, or just in general?

Senator CAMERON: After Work for the Dole.

Mr Hehir : We do have conversion rates, but they stop at the 26-week mark. We do not track our data beyond that, but I can check to see whether we have done evaluations.

Senator CAMERON: Yes, and if that is all the evaluations you do, is there any reason it is 26 weeks and then stops, or some value for government to have the analysis of—

Ms Leon : There are two reasons for it. One is that the administrative data covers the final outcome payment, which is paid at 26 weeks, but that is because our research tells us that if a job has been sustained up to that period then there is a very high likelihood that it will continue to be sustained.

Senator CAMERON: Perhaps you could take on notice to provide that detail to me.

Mr Hehir : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: And could you also on notice provide a reasoning for why you cannot go past 26 weeks and if going past 26 weeks would provide some useful statistical analysis?

Mr Hehir : We can have a look at that.

Senator LINES: Ms Leon, you just tabled the terms of reference for the task force, looking at the management of Work for the Dole. When were the terms of reference developed?

Mr Hehir : In the previous week.

Senator LINES: Last week?

Mr Hehir : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: Is there any date on this document?

Ms Leon : No.

Mr Hehir : Not that I can recall.

Senator LINES: When were the terms of reference written down in document form such as you have presented today?

Mr Parsons : The terms of reference that we tabled, as my colleagues have indicated, were worked up last week and formally cleared off in the department at the start of this week.

Senator LINES: When last week?

Mr Parsons : Work started on them probably, I would guess, early- to mid-week, and then there were just a few iterations to refine how our task force would work with the Ernst & Young engagement, which you should also have a copy of.

Senator LINES: Yes, we have.

Ms Leon : Mr Hehir and I discussed the need to establish a process separate from the regular line area—

Senator LINES: Yes, you have explained that, thanks, Ms Leon.

Ms Leon : You were asking about the timing.

Senator LINES: No, I was just asking when the terms of reference were—

Ms Leon : Yes, and that is what I am trying to answer.

Senator LINES: Well, I think Mr Parsons is—

Ms Leon : And I am adding to his answer by saying that Mr Hehir and I—

Senator LINES: Well, if I want that I will come back to you; we have limited time. So, when were the terms of reference put on this document?

Senator Cash: This particular piece of paper?

Mr Parsons : That particular piece of paper—and I am not trying to be clever—I printed that over lunchtime here, from my email that went to Mr Hehir for clearance on Monday of this week, in anticipation of its being of interest to the committee.

Senator LINES: Does that mean this did not exist before lunchtime?

Mr Parsons : No. I will repeat myself. They were sent to Mr Hehir for clearance on Monday of this week and, in anticipation of the committee's interest, at the lunch break I forwarded the email and asked our local support to print it off, should the committee be interested.

Senator LINES: At lunchtime did you make any changes to it?

Mr Parsons : All we did was strip off an attachment, which it had at the top of it—a covering minute that said, 'Mr Hehir, please find attached for your approval.'

Senator LINES: And this was the format, in the email document?

Mr Parsons : The only thing that is missing is the attachment heading.

Senator LINES: But this piece of paper you have submitted, that was in the body of an email, was it?

Mr Parsons : A Word document that was attached to an email. And you should have two pages.

Senator LINES: Yes, I do have two pages. So, you do not normally date stuff or say where things are coming from?

Mr Parsons : The covering minute was certainly dated, but the terms of reference as such, no.

Senator CAMERON: While we are on that issue, before we go back to Work for the Dole, why were the terms of reference restricted to NEATO?

Mr Parsons : As you can see, it is a two-stage report. The first is, can we have a look at—and NEATO, who is the jobactive provider that the job seeker in question—

Senator CAMERON: We are talking about the Ernst & Young one now?

Mr Parsons : No, I was talking about the department's one. Is your question about the Ernst & Young one?

Senator CAMERON: Both.

Mr Parsons : Because the incident that occurred involved a job seeker who was on the NEATO case load, our first and most urgent port of call I think was to ascertain the facts, and some of the facts you have queried about earlier on, in connection with that incident. That will form part of that interim report which is due on 25 May. Then, subsequent to that, and perhaps leveraging off things that are discovered there, is to have a broader look and ask, if there is anything that does not look quite right, whether that was unique to NEATO, or, as I think we have heard earlier, whether there are some changes in procedure that we should contemplate.

Senator CAMERON: Are there any thoughts that this might be widened in case there are other providers involved in similar activities?

Mr Hehir : We had already had in place a process—which is why we had Ernst & Young on hand—whereby Ernst & Young were looking at a broader range of providers and their work in this area. So, we actually were, as part of our normal compliance arrangements, engaged in examining Work for the Dole. That is why Ernst & Young were on hand and that is why they were able to appoint them. So yes, we will see a broader piece of work from Ernst & Young as well.

Senator CAMERON: We will? That is not clear in those terms of reference, though, is it?

Mr Hehir : Because the work was already commenced and had already been commissioned, we did not put that into the terms of reference, but we will—

Senator CAMERON: Why wouldn't you amend the terms of reference so that they can have a wider look at this?

Ms Leon : They already have. Prior to this process we had already contracted them to undertake a review of work health and safety issues in Work for the Dole.

Senator CAMERON: Okay. So, can you provide the terms of reference for that inquiry?

Ms Leon : Yes. I will just have to see whether someone can get it to the table.

Senator CAMERON: Minister, have you contacted the family? Have you been in contact with the family of this young worker who was killed?

Senator Cash: Not personally, no.

Senator CAMERON: Why not?

Senator Cash: Because I did not think it was appropriate at this point in time, given that there is still an investigation, and my understanding was that the family did not want any attention.

Senator CAMERON: You say the family did not want any attention. How did you know that?

Senator Cash: I believe I had read in the media that they did not want any attention.

Senator CAMERON: Ms Leon, has the department been in touch with the family of this young worker who was killed?

Ms Leon : I understand that the department has written to the mother.

Senator CAMERON: Did anyone try to ring the mother or contact the mother to see whether she needed any help or any support?

Ms Leon : I think that was the terms of the letter, but we chose not to ring the mother at this difficult time.

Senator CAMERON: It has been some time now since this terrible incident. Has anyone thought about making some contact now?

Ms Leon : I believe the department has written to her.

Senator CAMERON: Can you provide a copy of that correspondence?

Ms Leon : I will see whether we can get it for you.

Senator CAMERON: Minister, why would you depend on a newspaper report that the family did not want to be—you are the minister responsible for this program—

Senator Cash: Absolutely.

Senator CAMERON: This young worker has lost his life.

Senator Cash: Yes, they have, and quite frankly—

Senator CAMERON: There is a bereaved family, and you have made no attempt—

Senator Cash: Senator Cameron, don't try to politicise this death.

Senator CAMERON: to contact that family. I just find it wrong.

Senator Cash: I made a decision that at this difficult time the last thing the family may have wanted to hear from was a government official. That is it.

Senator CAMERON: You are not a government official; you are the minister. If you cannot understand that distinction—

Senator Cash: You may have made a different decision, but the decision I made was to let them grieve outside of the media limelight, outside of the Senate estimates process.

Senator CAMERON: But a personal telephone call is not 'media limelight', is it?

Senator Cash: Senator Cameron, I made my decision.

Senator REYNOLDS: Secretary, I was wondering, with all this discussion about Work for the Dole, whether you or one of your staff could take a step back from the details of the program per se, and I am really interested in the intent of the program. Like the new PaTH program, what is it designed to achieve, and what are some of the benefits you might be seeing out of the program?

Ms Leon : I might make a start, but then Mr Hehir might want to continue. The overall objective of Work for the Dole is to give job seekers some work-like experiences, both as a means of meeting their requirements under jobactive and, especially, as a means of improving their job prospects and also to enable them to provide a benefit to their local community. The kinds of outcomes that we hope to achieve from it are giving them the opportunity to improve their ability to undertake work, to improve their communication skills, to learn how to work under a supervisor, to increase their motivation and their dependability and to give them experience working as part of a team. And these are of course all skills that are going to be useful for a young person in any workplace.

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes, in any job at all.

Mr Hehir : The principles behind Work for the Dole are very much the work experience, and that has been a feature of Work for the Dole for many years under many different programs—JSA, Job Network et cetera. One of the key design factors has been that it does provide an opportunity for a job seeker to gain work experience and provide back to the community, as well as providing a real incentive for them to look for work, as well as a new confidence to look for work. And that is very important in terms of the feedback we got through the evaluation. As you saw earlier, Work for the Dole had employment outcomes of 35 per cent so far. That is very close to the training outcome we are receiving for the same period. Se we are seeing that about 35 per cent of people are able to move from a program into work, and Work for the Dole is at this point—and it is early days; I will stress that for a number of months yet—is providing quite an equivalent outcome rate to that of training. Among job seekers themselves there are a range of reactions to it.

Senator REYNOLDS: Do you do qualitative research with them, in terms of their attitudes and opinions?

Mr Hehir : The survey asks them a number of questions, which include their attitude to Work for the Dole, looking for work, how they are being treated, whether they feel it has provided back to the community. We have data on that from the first survey we have undertaken.

Ms Leon : And perhaps I can share some of that with you.

Senator REYNOLDS: Please.

Ms Leon : These are job seekers who were surveyed between September 2015 and February 2016. That was six weeks after they had started in Work for the Dole. They told the department that they already considered that participation had improved: for 75.5 per cent their desire to find a job; for 73.3 per cent their ability to work with others; for 70.1 per cent their self-confidence; for 67.5 per cent their work-related skills; and for 70.5 per cent their understanding of the workplace. So you can see that across the board two-thirds or more of them said that there had been very positive outcomes as a result of their participation.

Senator SIEWERT: Who did the survey, sorry?

Mr Hehir : We have a team within the department that does the post-placement monitoring survey.

Senator SIEWERT: So it is the department; that was not independent.

Mr Hehir : As I said, there is a team within the department that does the work.

Senator SIEWERT: I want to go to jobactive issues in a minute, but I want to finish on Work for the Dole. As part of the new PaTH process, Work for the Dole is being reduced—not reduced, sorry. Funding has been reduced, but it goes to 12 months now rather than six months.

Ms Leon : That is right.

Mr Hehir : That is correct, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: If Senator Cameron asked any of these questions while I was next door, just tell me and I will go and look at the Hansard. If Work for the Dole is so successful, why are we moving it back to 12 months?

Mr Hehir : I did talk about this slightly earlier, but perhaps in a different context, so I will cover it again. What we find when we look at stream A, which were the group of job seekers that were starting at the six-month mark, was that approximately 60 per cent of them have exited job services by the six-month mark. A further 20 per cent exit by the 12-month mark. So about 80 per cent of them have exited. When we had a look at it, that exit rate—

Senator SIEWERT: So that is why you are doing B and C. What is happening with B and C, then?

Mr Hehir : B and C remain at the 12-month mark.

Senator SIEWERT: They start at 12 months.

Mr Hehir : We have aligned the start date.

Senator SIEWERT: Everybody is now the same.

Mr Hehir : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: You do not have any involvement with the Aboriginal remote communities program, do you?

Ms Leon : No.

Mr Hehir : No, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: You provoked some further questions about Ernst & Young's work. I understand they have been carrying out risk assessments that have been conducted by jobactive providers.

Ms Leon : We contracted them as part of our normal program monitoring and assurance. Prior to the incident we have all been discussing we had already contracted them to do a review of the work health and safety issues in Work for the Dole and in particular whether providers were carrying out risk assessments appropriately and complying with the requirements in that respect.

Senator SIEWERT: Is that the same work Senator Cameron asked about?

Ms Leon : That is what Senator Cameron has asked for us to give the terms for. Subsequent to this incident in Toowoomba we asked Ernst & Young to undertake the review you now have the terms of reference for.

Senator SIEWERT: Is there any work that has come out of that review they were already undertaking?

Ms Leon : The first one? Not yet.

Ms Milliken : It is due to report later this month.

Senator SIEWERT: If I am still here in October, I will have to ask you that in October. Can I ask you please about feedback on jobactive providers? Sorry, I had another question before that. I will ask this one and then I will go back to the other one. In answer to question EMSQ16-000132, which was about feedback on jobactive providers, the department said:

The Department may request an employment services provider’s feedback or complaints register to support the investigation of a complaint, drafting of a response …

That sounds like you are not actually tracking what is happening on that feedback line.

Mr Hehir : No, sorry, that is in addition to what we see on the feedback line. As part of the exercise within the feedback, we see whether it can be resolved by the customer service officer on the line. Then, if it is not able to be resolved, there are a number of possible things that can be done. The job seeker might just move or we might go and approach the provider and say, 'Can you show us how you've managed this complaint,' particularly if the feedback is a complaint.

Ms Leon : For instance, a person might ring the customer service line and say, 'I've complained to my provider about what's happening in my job placement and they haven't done anything about it,' and so one of our steps would be to go to the provider and see what their records show about when the person complained, what they said and what the provider did.

Mr Hehir : As part of their deed requirements, they are required to keep a complaints log.

Senator SIEWERT: So you would then go and re-access that information—

Ms Leon : That is right.

Mr Hehir : That is right.

Senator SIEWERT: for an ongoing issue—is that what you mean?

Ms Leon : To follow-up the investigation.

Senator SIEWERT: Can you tell me what the latest jobactive complaint figures are for 2015-16?

Mr Parsons : Yes. The figures I have go from 1 July 2015 to 31 March 2016. I have statistics here for the number of complaints, the number of requests for information and the requests for transfer, and then there are others, which surprisingly does include compliments and suggestions. So for complaints, it is 13,000.

Senator SIEWERT: How does that compare to 2014-15?

Mr Parsons : I think we covered this last time. It is an increase on the previous financial year, largely because whenever we transition from one contract to the next job seekers change providers. In the most recent case there were roughly 500,000, from memory, job seekers who moved from one provider to the next. That will always drive a spike in calls to our national customer service line.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, but you would have thought that that would have started petering out by now.

Mr Parsons : Yes, but the figures I have given you go back to July. There was an intense period from July where, over the following six weeks, the new providers were to contact and interview, if you like, or meet their new job seekers. If the job seeker did not like their new provider or it was inconvenient for them to travel there or whatever, then you would have seen a high number of calls in that period post-July until the population settled.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand that. Sorry, I interrupted you. How many complaints?

Mr Parsons : There were 13,000 complaints. There were 14,775 requests for information, and, again, I would think that that would be quite high compared to steady state because there was a new program in place and there would have been lots of requests for information.

Senator SIEWERT: What were the figures for 2014-15?

Mr Parsons : I do not have it disaggregated. I am sorry.

Senator SIEWERT: I will go back and check myself.

Mr Parsons : I beg your pardon, I do. Requests for information for 2014-15 were 7,000 roughly—so about half.

Senator SIEWERT: Do you have the actual complaints for 2014-15?

Mr Parsons : Yes, 12,200. The next statistic I have for you is transfer requests: 10,341.

Senator SIEWERT: I understand all the caveats you have just put on the figures.

Mr Parsons : Last year there were 9,950.

Senator SIEWERT: That is not that much—

Mr Parsons : No, but, again, without wanting to try and confuse things, job seekers were contacted in the months leading up to July to let them know where their new provider was. I think that you would have a hump in the tail end of last financial year and the start of this financial year.

Senator SIEWERT: I see what you are saying.

Mr Parsons : The final statistic I have here are the compliments, suggestions and other things in the other category. For this financial year, there were 3,946, which is close to last year's figure of 3,366.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you for that. Obviously, the complaint numbers have gone up. Do I interpret from what you are saying that you think a lot of that is because of the transfer of contracts and all that sort of stuff, and so you are not necessarily responding in the same way that you would if it had not been for that? That is a large number of complaints already for the year.

Mr Parsons : It is. To be honest, it would depend on the nature of the call. I have just mentioned that there are four broad categories. If a job seeker rang with what sounded like a complaint that was very much targeted about the service or the interaction they are having with their new provider—not so much a complaint about the difficulty of travelling to the provider, for instance—then we would follow the process that we have talked about where we would ask the provider for a copy of their complaints register to see what interaction had occurred. If it were categorised as a complaint because of difficulty of accessing the site—it is not close to where they live—then it does not make sense to ask the provider for a copy of that log, because the computerised mapping to a new provider for the job seeker was not a convenient mapping.

Senator SIEWERT: How many of those complaints required you to go and get that information?

Mr Parsons : I do not have that with me, but we can take that on notice and see if I can provide it for you.

Senator SIEWERT: So you do collect that information?

Mr Parsons : I am not sure that we do, but I will ask and see if I can get it.

Senator SIEWERT: Given the circumstances that we are in, taking it on notice—with all due respect—is not a great help. Is it possible to find that out today?

Ms Leon : We will try. It depends if it is one of those things that have a field that means we can just press a button and get a report, or it is something that we would have to go back manually and look at. If it is the latter, I doubt we can do it while we are at the table, whereas if it is the former then we could.

Mr Parsons : I will get someone to make a phone call.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.

Senator CAMERON: I have only had a chance to have a quick look at the two documents that were tabled. Is there a file note number for these two documents? What is the recognition for these two documents within the system?

Mr Parsons : I am not sure if you were in the room when I mentioned that what I have given you are documents that were attached to a minute that went to Mr Hehir as the delegate for approval.

Ms Leon : That minute will be filed in our filing system. It is the minute that has all of that kind of data on it.

Senator CAMERON: Will that be part of the discovery of documents that I have asked for?

Ms Leon : That is right.

Senator CAMERON: It also says in the longer letter—the review of NEATO's management of Work for the Dole, the terms of reference—that the terms of reference of the Ernst & Young review are attached. Do you have that?

Mr Parsons : That is the shorter page.

Senator CAMERON: That is that one? That is not the general Ernst & Young review?

Ms Leon : No, this one is the one—

Senator CAMERON: Okay, I will wait until we get all of that. Thank you, I am finished on this. I would like to go to the wage subsidy pool.

CHAIR: Is this still in outcome 1?

Senator CAMERON: Yes, I think it is. I will be asking mostly about statistics on this, so whoever is doing the statistical stuff should come to the table.

Ms Leon : One of the senators was asking for some statistical information earlier that we said we would see if we could get for you, so I might, before we start a new topic, get Mr Neville to take you through that. I think you said that you would try and get it while we were still at the table. This is the data going back since 2013 which we did not have at the table.

Senator CAMERON: Can we get some idea how long will take to go through.

Mr Neville : One minute. Senator, you asked about the change in employment since September 2013. The exact increase in employment is 441,900. Of that increase, 181,400 has been in full-time employment and 260,500 has been in part-time employment.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you very much.

Senator CAMERON: During the 2016 estimates hearing, the department detailed that just $1.95 million of the $1.2 billion national wage subsidy pool had been expended in the first six months. How much has now been expended in total?

Ms Drayton : As at 31 March 2016, $6.68 million.

Senator CAMERON: Was there any estimate of how much you should have expended if the program were running as per program details?

Ms Drayton : It is a demand driven pool of money, so, over the forward estimates, it was originally estimated at $1.2 billion worth of funding available for wage subsidies. I would also add that, for this first period, some of the changes that were made in the previous budget had not taken effect, so there was a 12-month wait for some of the subsidies to be paid and six-month milestone payments. That has now changed and we expect that the expenditure will continue to increase over the next few months.

Senator CAMERON: It has to increase a lot, really. What percentage is that $6.68 million of the $1.2 billion?

Ms Leon : The $1.2 billion is over the forward estimates. That is not an annual figure.

Senator CAMERON: What percentage of that over the forward estimates has been expended? Does anyone know?

Ms Leon : I do not know. We would have to get our calculators out.

Senator CAMERON: If somebody could do the calculation for me, that would be good. How much has been expended on Restart?

Ms Drayton : Restart has had $3.98 million.

Senator CAMERON: Was there an estimate of how much should be expanded on Restart?

Ms Drayton : With the last budget, all the wage subsidy moneys were put into the one pool, so it became a consolidated pool for all the wage subsidy is to be drawn on.

Ms Leon : There was not a separate allocation for Restart.

Senator CAMERON: Can you give us an idea of how much has been expended on the youth wage subsidy?

Ms Drayton : Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, noting that that only started late last year.

Senator CAMERON: Late last year?

Ms Drayton : Yes, 1 November.

Senator CAMERON: How late was late last year?

Ms Drayton : The first of November. There have been 3,124 placements—

Senator CAMERON: So it has been six months?

Ms Drayton : There have been 3,124 youth subsidy placements. I should also add that providers actually pay the employers the wage subsidy and we reimburse providers. So we are dependent on providers invoicing the department.

Senator CAMERON: I am sure they are not hanging around, letting you get the interest on the money, so I do not think that is a good excuse! How much has been spent on the parent wage subsidy?

Ms Drayton : That one is $35,000.

Senator CAMERON: There are no noughts missing anywhere? It is just $35,000?

Ms Drayton : Thirty five thousand dollars.

Senator CAMERON: And these are all to the 31st of the third?

Ms Drayton : Yes, they are.

Senator CAMERON: How about long-term unemployed?

Ms Drayton : One point nine million dollars.

Senator CAMERON: The Indigenous wage subsidy?

Ms Drayton : That is part of long-term unemployed, and I will break that down for you. Indigenous has been $340,000.

Senator CAMERON: Is that part of the $1.9 million?

Ms Drayton : Sorry—that subsidy is combined. The total is $1.9 million, made up of $340,000 for Indigenous and $1.5 million for the long-term unemployed.

Senator CAMERON: The Tasmanian jobs program?

Ms Drayton : That is $485,000.

Senator CAMERON: Was there a figure that was scoped for that program?

Ms Drayton : The trial came with funding of $6.1 million, but it was always going to be a trial figure dependent on how many people were eligible.

Senator CAMERON: So there has been $485,000 expended of $6.1 million. How many jobseekers are currently in the eligible pool to receive Restart?

Ms Drayton : There are 211,875 jobseekers.

Senator CAMERON: In the youth wage subsidy?

Ms Drayton : One hundred and twenty two thousand and thirty six.

Senator CAMERON: The parent wage subsidy?

Ms Drayton : Fifty thousand three hundred and nine.

Senator CAMERON: Long-term unemployed?

Ms Drayton : That is 139,563.

Senator CAMERON: The Indigenous wage subsidy?

Ms Drayton : Sorry, Senator. Again, I just have to go to a different one.

Senator CAMERON: So they are included in the long-term unemployed?

Ms Drayton : The Indigenous wage subsidy is $42,741 and the long-term unemployed is $96,822, which equals the $139,000.

Senator CAMERON: The Tasmanian jobs program?

Ms Drayton : Which is now closed.

Senator CAMERON: How many people went through that program?

Ms Drayton : We paid 363 placements for the Tasmanian jobs program.

Senator CAMERON: How many placements have been completed in Restart?

Ms Drayton : In Restart, there have been 543 completed placements.

Senator CAMERON: The youth wage subsidy?

Ms Drayton : It is too early. The milestone for that subsidy is yet to be completed.

Senator CAMERON: Can you give us an idea of whether there have been any completions?

Ms Drayton : No. The six-month period has not passed. There are 2,846 active placements.

Senator CAMERON: How many?

Ms Drayton : There are 2,846 active placements ongoing.

Senator CAMERON: The parent wage subsidy?

Ms Drayton : It is the same thing. So for the long-term parents and youth—

Senator CAMERON: How many are active in that program?

Ms Drayton : In the parents program, there are 686 active ones.

Senator CAMERON: The long-term unemployed?

Ms Drayton : There are 5,058 active ones.

Senator CAMERON: How many have been completed?

Ms Drayton : In the long-term unemployed?

Senator CAMERON: Yes.

Ms Drayton : It is still too early.

Senator CAMERON: Too early?

Ms Drayton : No, I am sorry. Yes, it is. It is too early. It has not reached the milestone of payment at this point in time.

Senator CAMERON: The Indigenous wage subsidy?

Ms Drayton : The same.

Senator CAMERON: How many are active?

Ms Drayton : One thousand one hundred and twenty-four.

Senator CAMERON: How many job seekers are currently in receipt of a wage in Restart?

Ms Leon : Or do you mean 'have passed into employment with Restart'?

Senator CAMERON: Yes. So they are on a wage.

Ms Leon : They are on a wage when they are in receipt of the subsidy.

Ms Drayton : There are 3,049 people currently receiving the subsidy for Restart who would be receiving a wage also.

Senator CAMERON: Do you have the figure for the youth wage subsidy?

Ms Drayton : The figure that I am giving you is the active placements, which I think I have just given you.

Senator CAMERON: So that is the same?

Ms Drayton : Yes.

Ms Leon : Because if they are receiving a subsidy, they are receiving a wage.

Senator CAMERON: Thanks for that. In answer to question No. EMS Q16—000060, you said that the projected number of wage subsidy placements that would fully expend wage subsidy funding is around $80,000 to $100,000 per year. Can you provide a breakdown of the projected annual wage subsidy places that would fully expend wage subsidy funding?

Ms Leon : Is that the same question?

Ms Drayton : Are you asking for an update to that QON?

Senator CAMERON: No. This is about, you indicated, what would fully expend the wage subsidy funding of around $80,000 to $100,000 per year.

Ms Drayton : Sorry, do you mind just giving us what QON you are on?

Senator CAMERON: I am simply asking: what is the projected wage subsidy that would expend the wage subsidy funding per year?

Ms Leon : The projected—

Senator CAMERON: No, the wage subsidy. How much of a subsidy are you putting into the wage?

Ms Leon : It depends on how many people are on it. I am not sure I understand the question. That is why I think we said $80,000 to $100,000—not a precise number—because some of the people who are receiving it would receive it for the full six months and some might receive it for a lesser period, and some might get $6½ thousand and some might get $10,000. So it depends on how many people you have who receive it—

Senator CAMERON: So you do ongoing monitoring. If the wage subsidy is higher across the whole cohort, then you would expend it quicker?

Ms Leon : That is right. So if, for example, everyone got their wage subsidy for the full six-month period and they were all at the $10,000 mark then a fewer number of people would have it. But in practice it is likely to be spread over people who are entitled to $6½ thousand and people who are entitled to $10,000, and there will be some who might not complete the whole six months.

Senator CAMERON: So you sort of monitor obviously?

Ms Leon : It is a demand-driven pool. So, if, in fact, we ended up with all of the people doing their full six months and more than we expected being on the $10,000 rate, rather than the $6½ thousand rate, then we would expend more money.

Senator CAMERON: So that would go similarly for the number of places?

Ms Leon : It is a demand-driven program, so if there is a lot of demand then it can expend more.

Senator CAMERON: I understand that a jobseeker has to register with a provider within 28 days of starting work; otherwise, they will not be able to access a wage subsidy. Is that correct?

Ms Drayton : That is the signing of the wage subsidy agreement.

Mr Hehir : If I could just qualify: the arrangements are that the jobactive provider and the employer have to have reached an agreement within that period. The jobseeker does not have to have a role in that. It is between the employer and the jobactive provider.

Senator CAMERON: Does that have to be done within the 28-day period that the individual is engaged?

Mr Hehir : That is the current policy, yes.

Senator CAMERON: Does the 28 days start to tick from the day they start on the job?

Ms Leon : At the moment, yes, but for the new Youth Bonus wage subsidy, starting from April next year, we will allow for a wage subsidy to arrive later in the relationship.

Senator CAMERON: How much later?

Mr Hehir : Up to 12 weeks.

Ms Leon : I will correct that: it is for all of the subsidies, not just the youth bonus subsidies. We will make that rule apply to all of them. For example, if an employer had taken someone on, was paying them the normal wage and then wavering about whether they could afford to keep them on, then that might mean, even though it is more than 28 days after they started working with them, that they might be persuaded to keep them on because they can access a wage subsidy later in the relationship.

Senator CAMERON: How many employers have been refused a wage subsidy because they do not comply with the existing requirements?

Ms Leon : I do not have that information here. I am not sure that we do have it. I will find out what we do have and take that on notice, if that is alright?

Senator CAMERON: So you cannot tell if an application has been made and rejected?

Mr Hehir : The application is not made to us. The application is made to the jobactive provider.

Senator CAMERON: They do not provide you that information?

Mr Hehir : They would not necessarily tell us that someone had asked for a wage subsidy outside of the period. They would normally follow the guidelines which say that it needs to be kept within the period.

Ms Leon : We will see what information we do have.

Senator CAMERON: Yes. If there is a lot of this happening, then it hinders the program—

Mr Hehir : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: because of some administrative oversight, doesn't it?

Mr Hehir : Anecdotally, we have heard through business groups and jobactive providers that it was happening. We do not have data on it. It is part of the reason we made the change to increase it from four weeks to 12 weeks. We felt that increasing the flexibility of the wage subsidy pool, allowing jobseekers to get beyond the four weeks mark and be sustained into employment towards the 26 weeks mark, was a really positive thing, given we know how important the 26 weeks mark is.

Senator CAMERON: I am finished on that. Can I go to youth reach subsidy?

CHAIR: As long as you are still in outcome 1?

Senator CAMERON: Yes.

CHAIR: Go for it. It is all yours.

Senator CAMERON: What are the cost implications of increasing Youth Wage Subsidy from $6½ thousand to $10,000?

Mr Hehir : It is within the funding envelope. You will have noted from your previous set of questions that we were not hitting the overall dollar spend, so it is within the overall spend.

Senator CAMERON: Within the overall spend is a big—

Mr Hehir : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: What is your estimation then—

Mr Hehir : Of the dollar value?

Senator CAMERON: within the envelope, of the increased expenditure?

Mr Hehir : Do you mean the Youth Bonus? I think Benedikte will be able to give you the figures.

Ms Jensen : The estimated cost of the Youth Bonus wage subsidy over four years is $298.3 million.

Senator CAMERON: Can you give me the estimate of what increases there are? Is that estimate the $10,000 figure?

Mr Hehir : That is both the $10,000—

Ms Leon : It is broken down. It assumes a split of $6½ thousand—

Senator CAMERON: I am asking: if it had been maintained at $6½ thousand, what would it have come in as? That is the figure I am after.

Ms Leon : I do not know if we have that.

Ms Drayton : It would be very difficult in that they were consolidated into the one pool when it was under the old arrangements, and the new youth bonus is also part of that consolidated pool, which is demand driven. If the wage subsidy numbers were to increase, we would increase the funding available in order to honour them.

Senator CAMERON: Minister, what led to the decision to increase them from $6½ thousand to $10,000?

Ms Leon : I could probably answer that for you: it was departmental research. We conduct surveys of employers on a range of matters, and the feedback that we have from research with employers was that they expressed some reluctance, as I think we have been canvassing, to hire inexperienced young people. That reluctance was more considerably alleviated at the $10,000 mark, especially for job seekers who were relatively disadvantaged, as our Stream B and C are. It was surveys of employers, plus drawing on the international experience, about the level that subsidies had been successful in comparable countries.

Senator CAMERON: Can you provide me of details of the methodology that was used to come to this conclusion?

Ms Leon : Yes, Senator.

Senator CAMERON: Did that include the Tasmanian Jobs Program?

Ms Leon : The Tasmanian Jobs Program, I think, was already on a path to closure at that point. You will recall we did increase the—

Senator CAMERON: But it wasn't very successful, was it?

Ms Leon : The Tasmanian Jobs Program originally started off at half of the $6,500 and, as you said, the take-up was a bit lower than had been hoped. We did, for its last six or eight months, increase it to $6,500, but it was on a path to closure.

Senator CAMERON: Did that help instruct this decision?

Ms Leon : Yes, Senator.

Senator CAMERON: It did?

Ms Leon : Yes.

Senator CAMERON: Thanks. The previous government's Wage Connect scheme was oversubscribed, wasn't it?

Ms Drayton : We had to pause that scheme several times, because we reached the yearly funding amount. It was not a consolidated pool at that point in time; it was a fixed funding amount.

Senator CAMERON: Compared to these schemes, it actually delivered in terms of what the expected numbers were?

Ms Drayton : It did reach its yearly funding figure. It was a different—

Senator CAMERON: Was it successful?

Ms Drayton : It was under different parameters, so it had different eligibility and different conditions under which the subsidy could be paid than the current suite do.

Senator CAMERON: But it was a successful scheme?

Ms Drayton : It was subscribed, yes.

Senator CAMERON: Not just as subscribed, but it was successful—there is a difference.

Ms Drayton : The departmental evaluation has shown that wage subsidies are useful and are a great lever in helping people get a job who would not otherwise have got one. Wage Connect, along with the use of other wage subsidies, is a good tool.

Senator CAMERON: What safeguards exist in the wage subsidy to ensure employees are not being exploited?

Ms Drayton : Employees?

Ms Leon : In what way?

Senator CAMERON: In any way—exploited.

Ms Leon : The exploitation of paid workers—

Senator CAMERON: I could take you to maybe a 7-Eleven-type exploitation.

Ms Leon : It is the Fair Work Ombudsmen that is the protection for people once they are employed.

Senator CAMERON: Have you got any guidelines that you provide to employers who access this?

Ms Leon : I am not sure what you mean, Senator. They are governed by all the normal workplace laws once they have employed someone, so we do not try to restate what their obligations are as employers.

Senator CAMERON: Are there any restrictions on how many times an employer can use the subsidy?

Ms Leon : They cannot use a subsidy in respect of the same person for the same position more than once, and there are eligibility rules for employers, if that is the question you going to, Senator.

Senator CAMERON: For instance, could Coles and Woolworths use it to place 500 job seekers?

Ms Drayton : If the job seekers met the eligibility requirements, they could.

Senator CAMERON: So they could?

Ms Leon : Yes.

CHAIR: Are there any more questions for outcome 1?

Senator REYNOLDS: No more questions, but I would just like to, with your indulgence, correct the record.

CHAIR: Yes.

Senator REYNOLDS: Before lunch, Senator Cameron sought to correct the record about something that I had said earlier when we were having a discussion about parliamentary intern programs. I think this is correct, but I will read it out. Senator Cameron said:

Senator Reynolds was indicating that 'the interns' who work both in the office of the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, and in Dr Leigh's office were unpaid. Jen Rayner has just advised: 'That's a dirty allegation that either of us were ever interns'—they were not interns. Thomas McMahon has said, 'I may have sold my soul to the ALP'—good person!—'but my labour has always been paid for.' That is the situation from them.

At the time, I was caught a little unawares because I had no idea, and I certainly had not mentioned the names Jen Rayner and Thomas McMahon. What I did do, however, is simply quote from publicly available material from the website of at least one if not two of Senator Cameron and Senator Lines's colleagues, who were waxing lyrical about the benefits of parliamentary intern programs. One of them was Andrew Leigh, the shadow Assistant Treasurer, who was very fulsome in his praise about the program and, in particular, his program.

What I noted—again from publicly available information on the website—is that someone who is now an electorate officer for Dr Leigh had mentioned on her LinkedIn profile that she was an intern for Hon. Bill Shorten for one month and an intern for Gai Brodtmann for five months before that. I believe that what I just noted was that that was the case. In that sense, that was actually incorrect. But, in relation to the two people that Senator Cameron implied that I had misrepresented, the first one, Thomas McMahon, who he said works for Bill Shorten, I went online with Dr Google on the lunchbreak.

Senator LINES: A point of order, Chair.

CHAIR: Yes, Senator Lines.

Senator LINES: Mr Shorten needs to be given the same courtesy as—

CHAIR: Absolutely. Thank you, Senator Lines.

Senator REYNOLDS: The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten—I presume Senator Cameron is talking about the Thomas McMahon who is an adviser to Hon. Bill Shorten MP. I did not know who he was and I certainly had not quoted anything about him before, so that is another misrepresentation. I was not quite as clear about a Jen Rayner, but again I went online. There is a Jennifer Rayner at ANU who has done some of the formal parliamentary intern programs. I am not quite sure whether it is these two people, but I wanted to correct the record that I do not know and I certainly did not quote—

CHAIR: So they were not the people?

Senator REYNOLDS: They were not the people. The people I was talking about proudly talk about their internships with various Labor Party and Green senators. I wanted to correct the record that that is not what I said, and I certainly do not know the people he was talking about. Thank you.

CHAIR: Outcome 1 is now finished.

Ms Leon : I wanted to provide a follow-up to a question that Senator Siewert asked. Although she is not here, I hope she will at least get to see it on the Hansard.She asked about the number of times we access the complaint registers held by providers. The information I can provide is that, of the 13,000 complaints, 2,412 have been referred to the provider for follow-up. We do not capture the number of times we call for the complaints register, but they are a part of every site visit. Thank you.

[14:49]

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Leon. We move to outcome 2.

Senator CAMERON: Can we have the officers dealing with the Fair Entitlements Guarantee. Welcome, Ms Parker.

Ms Parker : Thank you.

Senator CAMERON: One of the provisions in the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Amendment Bill 2014 is that it would reduce the entitlements of workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Their redundancy pay would be changed from four weeks per year of service to a cap of 16 weeks. Is that still government policy, Minister?

Senator Cash: An announcement will be made during the election period as to the status of that policy.

Senator CAMERON: It is under active consideration, is it? It is election time.

Senator Cash: It is under active consideration. An announcement will be made.

CHAIR: Everything is under active consideration.

Senator CAMERON: You have not been able to cut workers' wages on time, so you are doing a U-turn, again.

Senator Cash: We believe in a strong safety net, I can assure you.

Senator CAMERON: Every member of the government, in the House of Representatives, supported that bill to cut the FEG entitlements. Is that correct?

Senator Cash: If it went through the House of Representatives, the answer, I assume—according to the Hansard—would be yes. But, as I said, we will be making further announcements in the election.

Senator CAMERON: Why did the government support a bill that would significantly cut the FEG entitlements?

Senator Cash: It was a budgetary measure. You and I have spoken before as to the impact of the former Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government's fiscal irresponsibility and the fact that you acquired a surplus. You spent that. Taxpayers are now paying about $8 billion a month because of your fiscal irresponsibility. Tough decisions have to be made, across the board. We will be making further announcements during the election period.

Senator CAMERON: Because it is an election, the tough decisions are getting ditched—because you could not get it through in time.

Senator Cash: That is not what I said. This is a fiscally responsible government, as was outlined in our budget on Tuesday night, as compared to—unfortunately—what we saw last night.

Senator CAMERON: Under that bill, which is still government policy, a worker who had been employed for 10 years under the Palmer Nickel and Cobalt Refinery collective agreement would have been eligible to receive 39 weeks payout, 14 weeks—

Senator Cash: Senator Cameron, you are completely aware that this bill was not proceeded with in the Senate. We can give an update on—

Senator CAMERON: Chair, can I finish asking the question?

Senator Cash: exactly what the Queensland Nickel employees are receiving to date.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Cameron, you have the call.

Senator CAMERON: I will start again. Under the Palmer Nickel and Cobalt Refinery agreement, a worker who has been employed for 10 years is eligible to receive 39 weeks payout, 14 weeks pay and a further 2½ weeks pay per year of continuous service with the company. Is it not true, Minister, that the 2014 amendment bill that was introduced and was still supported by the Abbott-Turnbull government would see that worker lose 23 weeks redundancy pay, as they would only be eligible for 16 weeks? Is that how the bill would operate?

Senator Cash: The bill did not proceed through the Senate. As I said, I am really pleased that Queensland Nickel workers are receiving approximately $68 million in the Fair Entitlements Guarantee. If you are genuinely interested in the Queensland Nickel workers, perhaps you will allow the department to take you through the processes being gone through and what they are being paid. As you are also aware, we are pursuing Clive Palmer, Queensland Nickel and the entities. That is something the former government never did, when it paid out under that scheme.

Senator CAMERON: Given that you said this was based on budgetary measures, not based on a fair and reasonable proposition for the workers—it was simply about your budget—is it, then, true that if that bill had passed Queensland workers would have received much lower amounts under FEG?

Senator Cash: I am not going to comment on hypotheticals.

Senator CAMERON: It is your bill.

Senator Cash: The law in place is the law that applies. I am pleased that the Queensland Nickel workers are receiving approximately $68 million. I am sure Senator Reynolds will be asking questions about what is the current status, because she genuinely cares about the employees as opposed to making cheap political comments.

Senator CAMERON: It is not a cheap political point. I do not think it is a cheap political point to draw attention to the fact that this government was prepared to pass legislation that would have left individual workers $58,000 worse off and that the local member cries crocodile tears, when he actually voted for this bill in the lower house. What is the problem with identifying these issues? That is exactly how you operate.

Senator Cash: Again, fiscal responsibility—which is well-known to this government, but is clearly not known to those on your side of the chamber—is something that we will always adhere to. Further announcements will be made during the election, but, as I said, I am pleased that Queensland Nickel workers are going to be receiving approximately $68 million under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee. On top of that, we are going after Queensland Nickel, and the entities, by aggressively pursuing him as a creditor.

Senator CAMERON: Luckily, the legislation did not get through the Senate and those workers are under the existing legislation. What is the time frame for the payment of FEG to the workers of Queensland Nickel?

Senator Cash: I will get the department to take you through that process.

Ms D Mitchell : The department went up to Townsville for a period of a week to support the Queensland Nickel workers to put their claims in, in a timely way. We have allocated resources and we have a rolling claim process happening at the moment, and we anticipate that all of the distribution of payments will be by the end of May.

Senator CAMERON: So all claims have been lodged?

Ms D Mitchell : We have had 708 claims lodged, but people have up to 12 months to lodge their claims.

Ms Parker : We had 787 people employed by Queensland Nickel—I think that is what you were looking for. There were a couple of steps in that process: there were 237 retrenched on 15 January, and then 500 retrenched on 11 March.

Senator CAMERON: I understand people have got 12 months to lodge, if they have not lodged. Has the department provided assistance to these workers to help them fill in the forms and go through the bureaucracy?

Ms D Mitchell : Four senior staff went up to Townsville, and we had 10 information sessions to help the workers understand the FEG process. We provided those sessions in a shift or rotating basis in case people could not come during the day.

Ms Parker : It was about a week, wasn't it?

Ms D Mitchell : It was a week. We had 300 to 400 people attend those sessions. As well as that, we had a claim drop-in centre established, and we had laptops and scanners there so that workers could have assistance to lodge their claims and be given guidance about the documents that they required. We could scan them in there immediately. It was a pretty intensive week.

Ms Parker : There is also an information line—the usual. You could phone up and get assistance from the team back in Canberra.

Senator CAMERON: When do you expect all of the payments to be made?

Ms D Mitchell : We expect, on the current claims, that they will be distributed by the end of May. They are distributed through the liquidator.

Senator CAMERON: Has the department received any correspondence from the member for Herbert seeking expeditious payment of the FEG payments.

Ms Parker : No, we have not.

Ms D Mitchell : I am not aware.

Senator CAMERON: No, you did not.

Ms Parker : The minister may have seen it, but the department has not.

Senator CAMERON: Minister Cash, did you receive any direct correspondence?

Senator Cash: The member for Herbert, Ewen Jones, absolutely advocated on behalf of the Queensland Nickel workers.

Senator CAMERON: Did you receive any correspondence? Did he write to you?

Senator Cash: I will need to check whether it was actual correspondence, but certainly he will pick up the phone and talk to me, as I would expect him to.

Senator CAMERON: When he did that, did he tell you that he still supported the cuts to the FEG payments or had he changed his mind?

Senator Cash: No, he told me he supported the Queensland Nickel employees, and he was very glad we were able to assist the Queensland employees in the way that we have.

Senator CAMERON: Did he ask you then to make sure that the FEG payment was not as he voted for?

Senator Cash: Again, the member went into bat for the people in his local area.

Senator CAMERON: Did he understand that the position he adopted in the lower house would have cost some of his local constituents $58,000—

Senator Cash: Senator Cameron, the member for Herbert—

Senator CAMERON: Did he understand that?

Senator Cash: unlike so many on your side, he understood that when he voted to abolish the carbon tax he was giving a tax cut to Australian families. The member for Herbert understands that this government has to undertake fiscal repair.

Senator CAMERON: When in trouble, go to the carbon tax!

Senator Cash: The member for Herbert understands his constituency, and I can assure you he advocated strongly on their behalf.

Senator CAMERON: I am finished on this. Can we go to working women?

CHAIR: There are some questions around Queensland Nickel from Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: First of all, I would just like to put in—I am not quite sure what it is, but it might just be a comment—I took great offence, on behalf of Ewen Jones, to the reference to his crocodile tears. I have known Ewen Jones for many years and he is a man of deep emotion. He cares about his constituents, and the fact that a grown man cried says so much more about him. You ridiculing it now speaks volumes about you: that you would actually ridicule Mr Jones in this way.

Senator CAMERON: I do not appreciate any character reference from you.

Senator REYNOLDS: I just want to put on record that he absolutely—calling crocodile tears—

Senator CAMERON: Crocodile tears.

CHAIR: Senators, we are significantly behind the program, so rather than argue—

Senator REYNOLDS: I actually have questions on QNI.

CHAIR: Senator Reynolds, you have the call.

Senator REYNOLDS: Secretary, can you please explain the role of the special purpose liquidator in the QNI liquidation as announced by the minister, I believe, in mid-April?

Ms Parker : I hope it is okay, if I answer.

Senator REYNOLDS: Please, Ms Parker.

Ms Parker : As you know, the minister has announced that the Commonwealth government make an application to the court to appoint a special purpose liquidator to Queensland Nickel under a program we have called the FEG—Fair Entitlements Guarantee—recovery program. A special purpose liquidator is appointed by the court to carry out a specific function in the liquidation of a company where it is desirable. It is only in certain circumstances. If the court agrees, the government will nominate Stephen Parbery from PPB Advisory to accept the appointment as the special purpose liquidator.

The court will hear the application for that request to appoint a special purpose liquidator on Wednesday, 18 May. We have been meeting with the Queensland Nickel committee of inspection and talking to them about the application filed by the Commonwealth seeking the appointment. The reason for those discussions is to inform the committee, on the grounds for the application, of the proposed funding arrangement and answering any queries raised by the committee members.

It is an unusual thing to do. The government has decided to intervene, because of the estimated taxpayer funds involved in FEG—estimated to be $65 million once the guidelines are applied. If they are appointed, they will work alongside the liquidator, which is FTI Consulting, to maximise recovery of moneys to meet employee entitlements. They are also working to the interests of creditors as a whole.

Senator REYNOLDS: Could I just clarify something there: you just mentioned a figure of $65 million—is that what you are seeking to get back; and does that correlate to the $68 million in payments that you have paid to the workers or is that separate?

Ms Parker : It is an estimate.

Ms D Mitchell : The estimate is between $65 million and $68 million. It is a moving feast while we do the assessment.

Senator REYNOLDS: But there is the correlation between the two?

Ms Parker : Yes, and the aim is obviously to try and recover as much of that as possible.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. What are the reasons that the Department of Employment, representing the Commonwealth, will be putting in its application to the Queensland Supreme Court as to why an SPL is necessary? Why a Queensland court?

Ms Parker : Clearly the sheer size of the payout. It is an enormous amount of money that will be paid out by taxpayers. So the role of the Commonwealth in this case is—if a liquidator is appointed, it is for that reason. It is for the FEG purpose. So we are not going for any other reason. It is to protect the Commonwealth's interests in terms of the taxpayer funds.

Senator REYNOLDS: Can you explain why the Commonwealth says there is conflict of interest between FTI and its role as liquidator of Queensland Nickel?

Ms Parker : Part of an application for a special purpose liquidator, as you can understand, is because they are working together with the liquidator—you mentioned QNI. There are basically two working alongside each other. Our special purpose liquidator is there for FEG; the other, FTI Consulting, is there for the broader interests of the creditors. The court usually in these kinds of cases, I understand, looks to see what the good reason is for having another one. You do not want to be tripping over each other. One of the things they look for is whether the actual originating, or in this case FTI Consulting, may have a conflict of interest—in other words, may not necessarily be able to represent the interests—

Senator REYNOLDS: Of all parties?

Ms Parker : of all parties and, in our case, FEG.

Senator REYNOLDS: Will the special purpose liquidator duplicate the work of FTI?

Ms Parker : They will work in partnership. The intention is absolutely not to work in conflict; it is to work in partnership. What ours, or the government's, will be there to do is to ensure that the FEG entitlements are given a lot of attention.

Senator REYNOLDS: Will the special purpose liquidator have the effect of changing the priority of creditors should moneys be realised in the liquidation process? Can they move it around?

Ms D Mitchell : We would have to take that one on notice.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is fine. It is not an issue for now, but it is obviously a relevant issue as we move forward.

Ms D Mitchell : And the application is before the courts.

Senator REYNOLDS: There have also been reports suggesting that, as the Commonwealth is appointed as SPL, the Commonwealth will take all of the money recovered and not allow creditors to be repaid any of this money. Are those reports correct? I would have thought not.

Ms Parker : Part of the role of the special purpose liquidator is to get information on what assets there are, what possibilities there are of recovering any funds out of this significant liquidation. As I said, we will be working in partnership, so all of that is very much subjective and difficult for us to say this stage but it is not the intention to get ahead of other creditors.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you. I have a number of other questions here but I will put those on notice. I would like to congratulate your staff on the work they have done, the speedy response and the engagement they did with the workers up in Queensland Nickel, so if you could just pass on congratulations.

Ms Parker : Thank you, Senator. We will.

Senator CAMERON: It sounds like you have done a good job. Well done.

Senator Cash: They have. The department have done a good job.

Senator CAMERON: When the workers get their cheques, I will say, 'Good on you'!

Senator LINES: I have a couple of quick questions. Ms Parker, in terms of the hundred-odd applications you have received so far for FEG—

Ms Leon : There are many more than that. Seven hundred and eight, I think.

Senator LINES: Are the records from Queensland Nickel intact enough?

Ms D Mitchell : The books and records were in a reasonable condition and we worked very closely with the liquidators in the early days to make sure that we could expedite the process.

Senator LINES: So what sorts of details are you chasing? If they are in a 'reasonable' condition, what is missing?

Ms D Mitchell : I could not go to the volume of cases, but generally it is where we are looking for document verification, and it usually is when old workers perhaps do not have a copy of their birth certificate and they need to go and get that.

Senator LINES: No; I am talking about Queensland Nickel's records, because you have to verify the claims.

Ms D Mitchell : That is correct.

Senator LINES: Do you have the hours worked, the annual leave paid?

Ms D Mitchell : We do.

Senator LINES: Are they in reasonable condition or are they in good condition?

Ms Parker : They are in condition enough for us to be able to assess and make payments.

Senator LINES: And superannuation records?

Ms Parker : I do not think there is anything specific that anyone has said is missing. We can take that on notice, if you like, Senator, but we are pretty comfortable.

Senator LINES: Have you had contributions of superannuation that employees have paid?

Ms Parker : We do not pay superannuation.

Senator LINES: I know that, but I am saying: are they are missing?

Ms Parker : We will not be collecting those.

Senator LINES: Are they missing?

Ms Parker : They are not missing because we are not asking for them.

Senator LINES: Does that mean you don't know?

Ms Parker : We don't know.

Senator CAMERON: Who is handling Working Women's Centres? I refer here to the budget measure Community Engagement Grants Program. I note the funding for Working Women's Centres runs out at the end of this financial year. Will this budget measure be used to provide ongoing funding for the centres?

Dr Morehead : This is a question probably best asked of the Fair Work Ombudsman. You will note in the budget papers for both last year and this year that the item is for the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman. The relevant extract from the budget paper this year says there will be $7.3 million provided:

… over four years from 2016-17 to establish the Community Engagement Grants Program.

Then it explains it a bit. It says:

… it will replace the current Community-Based Employment Advice Services program.

The next paragraph says:

This will continue the Government's support for community organisations that provide employment advice to disadvantaged and vulnerable people in the workplace ...

The cost of this measure will be met from within the existing resources of the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman.

That is the budget measure.

Senator Cash: Senator Cameron, if I can update you on the situation. My office did meet with members of the Working Women's Centre last week and they have kindly sent me a letter acknowledging that, stating: 'You have listened to our concerns and to the voices of many supporters concerned about the future of our services.' And then there are a number of other nice things that they have said. We had also worked with them, saying that we would extend their funding until 31 December 2016. They have acknowledged that. We have sat down with them. We have talked with them. We have managed to get to a process where we can extend the funding until 31 December 2016. The FWO is looking at what it can do, which you could probably ask Natalie James about.

Senator CAMERON: Why would we cut out an important women's program?

Senator Cash: It is not cutting out an important women's program. As I said, we have extended the funding and now there is a review process, as Ms Parker just outlined, being undertaken by the FWO, and Natalie James can take you through that in detail.

Dr Morehead : In the previous budget measure, it was $7.056 million over four years and this current one is $7.3 million over four years.

Senator CAMERON: This is an issue for the department. Given that there has been an extension of funding, will these Working Women's Centres have to apply for more funding under a competitive process at the expiry of that funding period?

Ms Parker : Senator, I think you need to ask the Fair Work Ombudsman. We do not have the detail.

Ms Leon : We do not administer this program.

Ms Parker : We do not have the program.

Senator Cash: FWO are on later in the program.

Ms Parker : Yes, they are on later.

Ms Leon : It is the Fair Work Ombudsman that runs this program.

Senator CAMERON: I am ready for asbestos safety.

CHAIR: Are there any more questions for outcome 2?

Senator REYNOLDS: Yes.

CHAIR: Senator Reynolds.

Senator REYNOLDS: Secretary and Minister, I would like to ask some questions about the previous Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal legislation. Could you clarify some factual details in some of the case studies that have been cited in this debate. I have a press release here from the TWU, which refers to Ms Sue Posnakidis, whose brother John was killed by a truck driver, Daniel Walsh. He later pleaded guilty and was jailed. The press release, which is dated 16 April this year, says:

"Bereaved family members like Sue Posnakidis are very the reason why the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was established in the first place - so that fewer people have to go through the pain that she has suffered.

I also have a statement that Ms Posnakidis has made to the RSRT:

Daniel Walsh pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated driving without due care. He was sentenced to 5 months jail, suspended on a good behaviour bond for two years.

Here is the kicker:

Daniel and the company he worked for, lnfront Transport, were also fined for multiple breaches of trucking industry regulations.

If Mr Walsh was an employee driver, would the pay order of the former RSRT have even applied to this particular truck driver?

Dr Morehead : No.

Senator REYNOLDS: That is very clear, thank you. On that basis, would it be correct to say that if the RSRT's pay order had applied at the time of this accident it would not have had any impact in relation to road safety in this particular case?

Dr Morehead : There are many reasons for heavy vehicle fatalities. The data shows that in roughly 37 per cent of heavy road vehicle fatalities the driver of the heavy vehicle had some role in the crash. So I guess the important point to note is that the majority of heavy vehicle fatalities decided by the coroner are not the fault of the truck driver. The other point to note is that when people have tried, mainly in the US, to look at the link between pay and safety the results are mixed. It is clearly established that the main factors for having safe roads and people being able to drive safely on them are, obviously, factors other than those to do to do with pay—when you look at what causes most of the accidents. And most of the studies do not distinguish between employees and owner-drivers. For example, with the 192 heavy vehicle road fatalities excluding buses—that is, heavy vehicle trucks—the road deaths in the year to December 2015 were 192. We do not know how many of those involved drivers who were owner-drivers rather than employees. That data is not collected.

Senator REYNOLDS: By my calculation, 63 per cent of fatalities that involve truck drivers are not the fault of the truck driver themselves?

Dr Morehead : That is correct.

Senator REYNOLDS: You also said that there is a tenuous—I am not sure exactly what word you used—correlation between pay and safety?

Dr Morehead : There have been a number of US studies done. The main issue with the studies is that the majority of studies do not show a statistically significant link. We have had a couple of studies done that go either way. When you take a sample of drivers and ask them how many crashes have you been involved in within the last few years, one study showed, for example, that owner-drivers did have a few more of the crashes. The other study showed exactly the opposite. Most of the studies are done with employee drivers, so most studies look at pay data from employee drivers in big firms. On an evidence based approach, there is no definitive link between safety and pay.

Senator REYNOLDS: On the basis that the order would not have applied to that particular driver, in light of what you have said, is it actually correct to say that the RSRT's pay order, if it had applied at the time of this accident, would not have had any impact at all in relation to road safety in this particular case?

Dr Morehead : That is correct.

Senator REYNOLDS: Going back and having a look at the TWU's media release of 16 April, using this poor woman, who has just lost a brother in this way, seems to be taking advantage of her, at best, and exploiting her, at worst. I have another question. I am looking at a Facebook post by the TWU which has a quote attributed to Lystra Tagliaferri. Ms Tagliaferri's husband, David, was killed by a truck driven by Paul Stewart Kershaw. The quote says: 'Nothing can bring my husband back, but I want to make sure that others do not suffer a senseless loss. That is why I support the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal so strongly.' Again, this woman has been used as a public face of this campaign by the TWU. I would also like to quote now from a judgement of the West Australian Court of Appeal in sentencing Mr Kershaw, which states that he had worked as a truck driver for 17 years, averaging about 120,000 kilometres per year. The appellant's employer advised that he was a reliable, hardworking employee. That is from Kershaw versus Western Australian Court of Appeal. Again, given that the Court of Appeal has confirmed the truck driver in this accident was actually an employee and not an owner-driver, would the pay order of the formal RSRT have even applied to this second driver?

Dr Morehead : No.

Senator REYNOLDS: On that basis, given the previous information provided, would it then also be correct to say that if the RSRT's pay order had applied at the time of this accident, it would have made no difference to road safety?

Dr Morehead : That is correct.

CHAIR: I wanted to return to the FEG. On the matter of Bruch Textiles, in the north-east of Victoria, I understand that the public examination of the liquidation of Bruch Textiles is continuing before the Federal Court in Sydney. I understand that on 28 April Mr Philip Bart gave evidence. Can you remind the committee about Mr Bart's role in the Bruch Textiles' corporate structure?

Ms D Mitchell : Mr Bart was a director of the Bruch Textiles group.

CHAIR: I have read the transcript and on page 322 of the transcript the following exchange occurred between Mr Bart and counsel for the Department of Employment. Counsel, 'I'm just asking the questions. Have you ever made any offer or proposal to pay the Bruch creditors out of your own money?' And Mr Bart replied, 'No, I have not made any offer.' Counsel then asked, 'So you have not made any offer or proposal to repay FEG, or the employees, their outstanding entitlements?' Mr Bart, 'No, I have not.' Counsel, 'Have you ever discussed any repayment of the FEG monies with anyone but your lawyers?' and Mr Bart replied, 'I have not discussed the repayment of the FEG money.'

Is the department aware of any proposals Mr Bart may have put forward to either the department or the liquidator of Bruch Textiles, to pay money in the context of the FEG moneys paid when Bruch Textiles went into liquidation, leaving the taxpayer pick up the tab for $3 million of the employees' entitlements?

Ms D Mitchell : We have been advised by the liquidator that the liquidator met with Mr Bart and Mr Nicodemou on 5 June 2015. I was further advised that the purpose of the meeting was to ascertain whether there was an outcome for Mr Bart that would result in an end to the then proposed public examination. The liquidator suggested, I understand, that it might be possible to repay the $3.5 million in FEG advances. Subsequent to that, the liquidator received an informal offer of $400,000, and I understand that the liquidator did not consider it an appropriate or acceptable offer.

CHAIR: So not only did he have the meeting, discuss the repayments of FEG money; he actually made an offer to the liquidator, which is quite in contradiction to his evidence previously.

Ms D Mitchell : That is how I have been advised by the liquidator.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Ms Mitchell. We will follow that up. I now call the Fair Work Commission. Thank you very much officers.