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Minister claims the Job Network has been more successful than the Commonwealth Employment Service, CES; critics say figures do not give true comparison.



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MARK COLVIN:  The Federal Employment Minister, David Kemp, has been accused of playing sneaky games in his effort to prove that the newly-privatised Job Network is a runaway success.  Dr Kemp has released figures today which he says show the new employment scheme is already superior to the CES which it replaced in May, but critics in the industry and the Opposition say Dr Kemp’s report card is meaningless and dodgy.  They say he’s comparing the Job Network, which is all employment providers, with the CES which was only one of a number of players in the old system.  Alexandra Kirk reports from Canberra that the jury is still out on what the Government calls its biggest piece of social reform.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Dr Kemp’s trumpeting from a great height that, after just four months, the Coalition’s new Job Network has surpassed the 52-year-old system it replaced, that unemployed people and employers alike are already better off.

 

DAVID KEMP:  These figures completely give the lie to any suggestion that the Job Network is not working.  The Job Network is working.  It’s working better than the CES;  it’s still in its infancy, and it can work better.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: With an election just round the corner, the pressure is on Dr Kemp to prove the Government’s biggest social reform is not a failed social experiment.  Job agencies have been laying off staff, some have handed back their contracts, facing the real prospect of closing their doors.  There’s mounting anger over a system Dr Kemp’s consistently maintained is working extremely well.  Yet, the Minister, later this week, will announce what he calls ‘adjustments’ or ‘fine-tuning’.  His critics call it ‘a major overhaul’.

 

In the meantime, he’s released his department’s evaluation of the Job Network versus the old CES.

 

DAVID KEMP: The Job Network, in terms of job vacancies notified, has some 15.8 per cent more vacancies available in July this year than the CES had available in July last year, and in terms of the placement of eligible job seekers, the Job Network is some 8 per cent ahead of the comparable figure for the CES in the previous year.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But critics like Jobs Australia, the organisation representing community job providers, which make up about half the Job Network, have greeted Dr Kemp’s comparisons with scepticism.  Chief Executive, David Thompson, says it’s wrong to compare the old CES with the new Job Network, simply because the Job Network covers all employment agencies, whereas the CES was only one of a number of providers under the old scheme.

 

DAVID THOMPSON:  I think it’s too early to say.  The figures are unlikely to be statistically significant and, where the CES performance appears by comparison to be worse than the current Job Network, it may be that apples and oranges are being compared.  For example, there are many agencies in the Job Network which were collecting vacancies and placing people in them when the CES existed.  Those figures are not reflected.  For another example, there’s nothing to indicate there’s been any discounting of Job Network figures to take account of what we call multi-listing where more than one provider puts the same vacancy on the database, and further, that the CES figures are being discounted by 40 per cent to take account of temporary and casual vacancies on the basis that they wouldn’t be acceptable jobs in the Job Network, when in fact, for job matching purposes - which is what we’re talking about - a job only has to be of a total of 15 hours over five consecutive days, and that to most people is temporary or casual.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So what conclusions can you draw then from the department’s performance data?

 

DAVID THOMPSON:  I’d say, at this stage, very few.  It’s too early.

 

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Another industry source says the figures only reflect a political perspective and it will take some time before enough information is available to seriously monitor performance, such as outcomes for the intensively-assisted, long-term unemployed.  The Opposition is calling for an independent assessment of the information to give Australians any sense of confidence.  Shadow Employment Minister, Martin Ferguson, has dubbed Dr Kemp’s Job Network data meaningless and dodgy.

 

MARTIN FERGUSON:  It is the Department’s comparisons prepared for the Minister.  It’s a question of how the Minister uses the comparison.  The Minister knows he’s playing a sneaky game and so is the Australian public.  The reason for that is the Australian public knows, from the unemployed and their families to the employers, and especially small business, that the Jobs Network has failed.  They don’t want dodgy figures, they want the Minister to admit to his mistakes and do something to fix it, rather than playing misleading games with the Australian public.

 

MARK COLVIN:  The Shadow Employment Minister, Martin Ferguson, ending that report from Alexandra Kirk in Canberra.