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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6372

Senator DENMAN (2:20 PM) —My question is addressed to Senator Vanstone, the Minister for Family and Community Services. I refer to the government's decision to cut a number of services operating across Australia under the Job Placement, Employment and Training, JPET, program. Why were some services notified in writing that they must cease assisting homeless young people as of 31 December this year then two weeks later told that the government is holding off closing the services until after the end of March 2003—that is, after the Victorian and New South Wales state elections? Doesn't this simply leave vulnerable young people in great distress for a further five months?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) —Senator, the JPET program is a very good one, as I am sure you understand. We allocated $74 million to it over four years in funding. This financial year the funding will increase from $18 million to $18.5 million. The department recently conducted an open, competitive business allocation process to determine where the future service should be allocated. A part of this process included a needs analysis to ensure that services are allocated in the areas of the highest need. Over 600 applications were received. There was a great deal of interest from community organisations in this very effective program. As would be expected in any of these business allocation processes, not all incumbents were successful, and it is never surprising to have people complain and be unhappy. Quite often it happens that there are very good providers who do not get the money, either because the service is not required in that area or because there was someone who was better. Appropriately, the Secretary of the Department of Family and Community Services is investigating the complaints, and the business process will therefore be delayed until the investigation is complete. I can assure you, Senator, from every piece of information I have about this, that it has nothing whatsoever to do with any state election.

Senator DENMAN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, is youth homelessness still one of the Prime Minister's priorities? Why then won't the minister do more to safeguard the JPET program, which has been evaluated time and time again as the most effective program available to assist young homeless people to get jobs?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) —Senator, thank you for highlighting the priority that the Prime Minister puts on youth homelessness. You invite me to remind you of the task force that he set up and the work that the government is doing in that area. I thank you for that acknowledgment. That is still a priority. Nothing that I have said and nothing that I am aware of changes our commitment in that area. Nothing associated with the review of JPET and the business allocation process is in any way related to any diminution whatsoever of our commitment in that area— nothing at all that I know of.