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Thursday, 24 May 2001
Page: 27036

Ms KERNOT (3:00 PM) —My question is to the minister for employment. Minister, do you agree with Senator Vanstone's budget press release about assistance for the most vulnerable unemployed, when she said:

The current system is failing these people. It does not help enough people and there is not enough funding for service providers to do their job.

Minister, isn't Senator Vanstone saying that your system and you as minister have failed the most disadvantaged job seekers for the last five years? And, having identified this failure, why are you now making Australia's unemployed wait 16 months until you address this serious defect in the Job Network?

Mr SPEAKER —I need clarification. Is the honourable member's question addressed to the Minister for Employment Services or the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business? I call the Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business.

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business) —As the shadow minister should know, this is not a government which throws money at problems. This is a government which believes in making judicious, targeted investment in solving issues, in building community infrastructure and in building up the human capital of our nation. There is a perfectly good reason why the programs and the extensions to the existing programs announced in the budget are taking place in some cases from early next year and in some cases from the middle of next year. It is because we believe in consulting with Job Network members, we believe in consulting with community work coordinators—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dickson!

Mr ABBOTT —we believe in negotiating contract variations with them and we believe in giving them appropriate time to put new infrastructure in place.

The shadow minister for employment suggests to me that this government is dilatory and that this government does not move sufficiently quickly. Let me just refer to something the Leader of the Opposition, old manana man—

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the member for Dickson.

Mr ABBOTT —said on Tuesday of this week when he was asked what he was going to do immediately to help people in Australia. He said: `Ours is not a vision for the first year or two. Ours is a vision for a decade. If it means that we have to start it off slow, we start it off slow.' The sheer hypocrisy and the sheer inconsistency of it! I challenge the Leader of the Opposition to say exactly what he is going to do for job seekers and to say it tonight.

Mr Crean —You are the fool on the hill.

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.