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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 13 February 2006: Job Network scandal.

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Penny Wong Labor Senator for South Australia Shadow Minister for Employment and Workforce Participation Shadow Minister for Corporate Governance and Responsibility

Monday 13 February 2006



Subject: Job Network scandal

WONG: On top of the AWB fiasco, we have today yet another scandal emerging on the Howard Government’s watch. Serious allegations have been aired about financial mismanagement in the Job Network and if these are true, it is a direct result of this Government’s failure to properly supervise the Job Network. This Government has put in place an employment services system which rewards those who fudge the figures. It has failed to put in proper safeguards and the new minister, Sharman Stone, needs to come clean on the details of these allegations of financial mismanagement.

JOURNALIST: Are you saying the Salvation Army has fudged its figures?

WONG: We have serious allegations being made public. The Government needs to come clean on these issues. My focus is on the Government. It is the Government that sets this system up. It is the Government that puts into place the conditions of funding under the Job Network. If there has been financial mismanagement, it is a direct responsibility of the Government. It is the Government’s failure to put in place proper safeguards and a proper system in the Job Network which has directly led to this situation.

JOURNALIST: It is a lot of money that flows through the Job Network. Is it not reasonable to expect that some of it goes astray just by the sheer volume of it?

WONG: The allegations that have been raised are to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars. That is not appropriate. I do not believe taxpayers think that is appropriate. The Government needs to ensure there is

proper supervision. Instead, what they have is a system which rewards those who fudge the figures; where the incentives are incompetent and perverse.

JOURNALIST: Do you think Centrelink is better placed or are the organisations better placed themselves to decide what the needs of their individual clients are?

WONG: Well clearly what we need is a Job Network which is focussed on the needs of the jobseeker and is focussed on delivering real outcomes to jobseekers. Unfortunately, what we have is a Government that is more focussed on propping up the system and on propping up its own employment figures rather than ensuring the system works properly.

JOURNALIST: So should Centrelink take back that responsibility?

WONG: What we say is a system needs to be in place that has probity. We need a system that has proper safeguards and it is clear from the allegations which have been made that is not the current Job Network.

JOURNALIST: So do you think that stripping the individual providers of their responsibility to assess the needs of their clients and categorise them would result (inaudible)?

WONG: The system needs to be redesigned. The system needs to have proper safeguards and the system needs to be focussed on the needs of the jobseekers and to reward those providers who get employment outcomes, real jobs for jobseekers. Instead, what we have is allegations of financial mismanagement to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars.

JOURNALIST: Is it not better though to have a system that is not profit motive driven?

WONG: The issue is the system needs to be redesigned. We have to have a system that has front and centre the needs of the jobseekers and rewards job providers who give proper service and who get real jobs for jobseekers. That is what the system needs to be focussed on.

JOURNALIST: Do you think the way in which Dr Stone handles this issue will be her first real test as a minister?

WONG: Clearly Dr Stone today has gone to ground. She is refusing to comment. What we say is she should be coming clean. She should detail the extent of the financial mismanagement and she should give a guarantee that no provider who is engaged in any mismanagement profits from this. But most of all, most of all she should go about redesigning the Job Network so it is focussed on proper outcomes so you get better results for jobseekers and better value for money for taxpayers.

JOURNALIST: Is this an indication that (inaudible)?

WONG: We wait and see what Dr Stone does with these allegations. I call on her to detail the extent of the mismanagement and to do the things I have outlined: make sure no one profits from this and ensure that the Job Network is redesigned to focus on jobseekers.

JOURNALIST: Are you considering concerns like this will not just be an issue for the Salvation Army but it could be widespread?

WONG: That is an issue the Government needs to come clean on. We have some allegations aired publicly. We want to know how many more are there? How many more millions of taxpayer dollars are involved in this scandal? The Government needs to come clean, come clean to the parliament today about the detail of these allegations and the extent of this mismanagement.


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