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Job Services Australia- not up to the challenge.

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Dr Andrew Southcott MP Shadow Minister for Employment Participation, Training and Sport

Just weeks before the start of Job Services Australia, the Rudd Labor Government has replaced the Minister for Employment Participation. This is only exacerbating the disruption to employment services, with a Minister who is yet to get on top of his brief.

This Wednesday employment services in Australia will be thrown into turmoil. The highly successful Job Network will be replaced with a convoluted and ill-conceived employment services model that is designed to operate optimally in times of low unemployment and strong labour market growth. Regrettably, this is not the position Australia finds itself in, and Job Services Australia is likely to fall well short of the challenge.

Not only is this model unsuited for the current economic climate, but the entire tender process has been under a cloud, with a Senate Inquiry and a request for the Auditor-General to investigate the tender process. The Senate Inquiry reported last week with a majority of committee members suggesting it was time to alter the tender process to allow for greater consultation with tenderers and greater consideration for providers’ past performance.

Highly successful employment services providers lost business and particularly for the not-for-profit sector, this has had highly damaging consequences. One such provider is Wesley Uniting Employment. As a direct result of losing 60 of their 68 employment services sites, their community services arm Wesley Mission has been forced to cut $3 million in services, with the loss of a campsite for disadvantaged children, a rehabilitation programme and a ‘Homes for Hope’ project at Port Macquarie amongst the casualties.

At least one provider has already cancelled their contract- just days from being due to commence services. Other providers have indicated significant concerns as to how long they will be able to operate for under the proposed funding model. Whilst this does not bode well for the new Minister, of greatest concern are the more than 770,000 job seekers who are set to be serviced by Job Services Australia.