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Thursday, 31 August 1989
Page: 703


Senator MICHAEL BAUME(3.52) —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the Auditor-General's Reports Nos 2 to 9 of 1989-90 tabled on 30 and 31 August 1989.

I particularly want to draw attention to the Auditor-General's Report No. 5 presented yesterday relating to the Department of Employment, Education and Training-Jobstart. I want to draw attention to the fact that the Auditor-General clearly has pointed to some serious problems in this program. It is a program that quite frankly has not in fact achieved its objectives. This Government's management of it has been apparently incompetent and I think it is very important that the Senate be aware of the Auditor-General's comments in his review. For example, on page 7 the Auditor-General concludes:

. . . on the basis of the review that there was an urgent need for the Department to examine the operation of Jobstart to determine whether it was meeting the needs of the long-term unemployed as prescribed in its objectives.

In other words, the Auditor-General is questioning whether the Government has made another muck-up with another of its highly publicised but largely incompetently run, misdirected and wasteful endeavours to be seen to be doing the right thing by a targeted political group, and that is in this case a segment of those people who are unemployed.

This Government's gestures and posturing in this area have been exposed by the Auditor-General. It is all very well for the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Button) to smirk and scratch his head over this; he obviously has not read the report. I think it would be very useful if he did because then he would see that the Auditor-General reveals that 58 per cent of participants failed to complete the full 26 weeks of subsidised employment work experience. This, by the way, is in the Queensland division.

The Auditor-General says that the Department should establish the reasons for the high drop-out rate to determine whether Jobstart was in fact meeting the needs of individual participants. Here we have the Auditor-General, fortunately, having the fortitude to question whether this Government program, which has more political than practical overtones, should in fact be examined to see whether it is doing what it is supposed to do. This is, as I said, simply another example of the Government trying either to paper over the cracks or to spend money trying to create an illusion that it is doing something meaningful for political purposes.

Mr Deputy President, there are many other criticisms in the Auditor-General's report. Briefly, the response from the Department to some of those criticisms has been strong and well argued. The Auditor-General has conceded that there have been improvements since the audit took place, but he persists that some criticisms remain relevant and unsatisfied. In these circumstances, there is a clear need for the Government to do what the Auditor-General advised and see whether Jobstart does anything more than serve some political purpose and whether this enormous drop-out rate is justified. The Auditor-General also raised the question about whether the program was properly run in the first place because people in the over-45 age bracket are getting a raw deal as a result of Government policy. Quite properly, these matters should come to the attention of the Senate. I hope the Government will do something meaningful to respond to the report.