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Thursday, 13 April 2000
Page: 16028

Mr JENKINS (12:30 PM) —Today I wish to return to a subject that has concerned me over the past couple of weeks: the government's implementation of Job Network 2. In previous opportunities that I have had to speak in the parliament, I have raised my concerns about the co-location of Job Network sites. That is in the context of the minister crowing about an increase in the number of sites. In my electorate, in two suburbs, a number of these sites are in the same location—under the same roof. Another concern that I have already raised is about the operating hours of the Job Network sites. In Greensborough there is a site that is only open from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and people are then referred to another site of this provider organisation which is some 11 kilometres away. I know that, in the case of the honourable member for the Northern Territory, 11 kilometres might not seem a very long way but, in the context of urban Melbourne, it takes something like two or three different versions of public transport to get to the other site.

My real concern, which I wish to raise today, is about the use of commercial-in-confidence provisions for the first round of Job Network 1 to stop proper scrutiny of Job Network's effectiveness. When Labor went into opposition I raised a number of questions to try to get in context what the picture was at the time of the change of government on a number of things to do with my electorate. One of those was employment assistance programs. I asked about the performance of Skillshare and other employment assistance programs. In that instance, Dr Kemp—as the then Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs—provided me with information to show the number of people that achieved outcomes under Skillshare and the cost of those outcomes for all the different providers of the Skillshare program.

This year I raised the question of the performance of the different provider sites under Job Network Employment Services Contract 1. In the answer I received, Minister Abbott said:

This information is bound by the confidentiality and commercial-in-confidence provisions described in the Employment Services Request for Tender 1997. I am therefore not in a position to release details on these numbers.

I maintain that this brings into question the ability of the government to look at those tenders in a proper light and to then look at the renewed tenders for some and the new tenders for others under Job Network 2. As I have stated, my concern about the use of commercial-in-confidence provisions is that, for a Victorian, this smacks of the things that Premier Kennett hid behind. That has given great concern to the Victorian community. It is interesting that the Victorian parliament has just released a report critical of the use of commercial-in-confidence as a defence for preventing the proper parliamentary scrutiny of outsourced activities. Without the full disclosure of information about the performance of providers under Job Network, we cannot have confidence in the way in which the program is being administered.

Another element of concern for me about Job Network 2 is that the government is using the so-called 90-minute rule for job seekers. That is where, under a so-called 90-minute rule, they are expected to travel up to 90 minutes to a Job Network provider. Failure to do so can be regarded as a breach of the Centrelink activity test. Unfortunately, when Job Network 2 started late in February, this 90-minute rule was applied arbitrarily. We then had the incongruous position that one of the providers at two different sites in two different suburbs in the electorate of Scullin found that 50 people that lived in one location were sent to one site and 30 from the other site were sent to the former site. Right from the initial point in time, people were being allocated to Job Network sites out of their local neighbourhood and community.

This provider has raised this with the minister and wants it changed because they know that it is in the best interests of the unemployed people to whom they are trying to provide services to have them more appropriately allocated to their local network site. I call upon the minister to redress this problem. It is unfair, especially on the unemployed people—people that he calls `job snobs' and decries and criticises when in fact he is not giving them the opportunity of taking any advantage of the only thing that is available to them, Job Network. (Time expired)