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Govt defends new job network -

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Reporter: Tanya Nolan

TANYA NOLAN: The Federal Government is defending a move that will see jobs lost as the best way to
get more people into work.

It's released the results of tenders for its new Job Network. Now called Job Services Australia,
the $4-billion new employment service has resulted in fewer job providers.

About 100 businesses have missed out on contracts and they say that will put about
two-and-a-half-thousand people out of work.

But the Minister for Employment Participation Brendan O'Connor says the new service folds seven
separate programs into a 'one-stop-shop' and will provide job seekers with a more personalised

I spoke to the minister earlier today.

Employment Minister Julia Gillard says the aim of the overhaul of the job network is to provide
better employment services to Australia.

How does funding less job providers get more people into jobs?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Can I say that the Government started to consult widely with the sector at the
beginning of last year. We knew we had to reform employment services, we made a commitment prior to
the election because the job network system is out of date. It is mired in red tape. It is
fragmented into seven programs.

TANYA NOLAN: But you've just added to the unemployment queue, as many as two-and-a-half-thousand
people will lose their jobs out of this tender process. So how does adding more people to the
already growing unemployment cue make it easier for these people to get jobs?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Can I say I understand the disappointment for unsuccessful tenderers and their
staff. But can I say also to you, I am being informed that providers, successful providers are
expanding their services and recruiting additional staff and indeed there will be more employment
services for out of work Australians.

And so there are great opportunities for employees in this field to assist the Government in
providing those services to job seekers.

TANYA NOLAN: But how are you providing more unemployment services?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: We're providing more employment services in a number of ways. Firstly can I say
other than the $4-billion that we've spent on Job Services Australia, we've announced $300-million
to assist retrenched workers.

We've also announced $145-million to assist in ensuring that out of work apprenticeships find work
with employers or group training companies.

We have 319,000 training places for job seekers over the course of the next five years, which is a
massive training agenda.

TANYA NOLAN: But up to 100 businesses have lost their government tenders for these services so how
can you then guarantee that more people are going to get work when you have less job providers?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Well I've indicated to you that of course employment services are expanding.

We have much more resources going into employment services because due to the global recession we
have greater demands for providing support for job seekers.

We are providing non-vocational support because we know a lot of the barriers to employment for
some of these job seekers are indeed not just their skill deficiencies but indeed social issues...


BRENDAN O'CONNOR: And we're attending to those for the very first time.

We also have five homelessness, homeless providers working in this field for the first time; 27 new
Indigenous providers providing the support for Indigenous job seekers.

TANYA NOLAN: But a lot of social services were already provided as part of the job provider network
under the old structure and you've actually cut tenders to a lot of those providers - Mission
Australia, the Salvation Army.

And if I can quote to you the executive Director of Catholics Social Services Australia Frank
Quinlan, he says the department has completely botched the process. He says one agency was told a
fortnight ago it was the preferred choice and found out last night it didn't get a contract.

Is that acceptable?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Can I say I understand that there are disappointed unsuccessful tenderers and I
understand that this has been a very difficult process.

This is a massive tender. It actually is involving over 116 local areas, involving 3,000 bids
across the nation.

TANYA NOLAN: But putting a business in a position of weeks of uncertainty over its future, is that

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: This is a difficult task. It's a very large reform. It needed to be done. The job
network system was broken. We've had complaints about its failures. In fact the sector itself told
me that we needed to improve the employment services.

We listened to them and indeed we have now got a one-stop-shop approach to provide services to job
seekers where they can go through one door to access the services they need, rather than going
through up to seven.

TANYA NOLAN: And you're satisfied with the whole handling of it - even the delay in announcing the

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Look of course I'm disappointed with any problems that have arisen through the
process but can...

TANYA NOLAN: But are you embarrassed about it?

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Can I say that the department has indicated, the department has overseen this.
There was a problem with that particular issue.

But can I just go back to the...

TANYA NOLAN: But unfortunately the buck stops with you - so are you embarrassed, are you

BRENDAN O'CONNOR: Look this is a tender that's at arm's length. It's been run by the department.
These services will provide better opportunities for job seekers in this country and that's very
important in this time.

TANYA NOLAN: The Minister for Employment Participation Brendan O'Connor.