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Wednesday, 30 October 1996
Page: 4766

Senator CHILDS —My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Minister, is it true that the job seekers diary is `ready proof of satisfying the activity test'? Is it true that a customer who has a job seeker diary can produce it every fortnight instead of completing question 3 about details of their work search efforts on their claim for a continuation of payment, their SU19? Is it true that DSS staff have now been instructed not to encourage this option as `it may cause delays at reception'?

Senator NEWMAN —I think the senator has perhaps been briefed by the CPSU, which would be a pity. The CPSU in fact made an agreement with the department in recent times that the diary was going to be processed in the normal way—in the way required by employers—and that the bans would be lifted on the diary. Within a few days, the CPSU had second thoughts on that, although the overwhelming vote by the members of the union for the processing of the diary was that the ban should be lifted.

Having said that, I make the point that the diary is meant to be an aid to the finding of work. It is issued to people for the first three months in which they are looking for work, because that is the time when, statistically, people have the best chance of getting work. It is intended to be used in a flexible way depending on the skills of the individual and on any particular disadvantages which the individual may have such as English language difficulties, literacy difficulties, et cetera. It is also meant to take into account the local labour market situation.

So the requirements on people completing their diary vary as between individuals and as between areas. The government's wish and the department's wish are that the diary be implemented in a reasonable, flexible and humane way.

Senator CHILDS —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. If the diary is not in fact `ready proof of satisfying the activity test', if customers are not encouraged to produce their diary to answer question 3, and if the diary contains only fatuous job seeker hints like `don't wear thongs', what exactly is the job seeker diary for?

Senator NEWMAN —It is a pity that you proceeded with your supplementary question after I had already told you what it was for, Senator. I suggest that the opposition is really not able to be educated, and we know the Australian people have tried very hard to educate it, to no avail.

The situation is that some people have great difficulty in looking for work, even where some jobs are available, because they perhaps have a fixed view of which geographical area in which they will look for work or they have a fixed view as to what kind of work they will do. The law, which was administered by the previous government—or was supposed to have been administered by the previous government; it is not a new law—requires that people must take a job, not the job of their choosing. They are also meant to travel for up to 90 minutes to look for work and to take work. Some people need help in widening their jobsearch activities. (Time expired)