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Unemployment rises while computer bugs crash the Job Network.

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Senator John Cherry Australian Democrats Employment & Employment Services spokesperson

July 10, 2003 MEDIA RELEASE 03/503

Unemployment rises while computer bugs crash the Job Network Today’s unemployment statistics showing that 7,500 Australians joined the unemployment queue and 31,800 gave up looking for work last month highlights the need for the Government to urgently sort out the problems in the Job Network referral process, according to the Australian Democrats.

Democrats Employment spokesperson Senator John Cherry said the Government’s determination to cut costs on the Job Network had led to an over-reliance on computer generated correspondence, resulting in just one third of job seekers being able to keep appointments set by computer.

“I am not surprised that 31,800 people gave up looking for work last month when the services of Centrelink and Job Network are so patently designed to discourage job seekers from positively participating in the labour market,” Senator Cherry said.

“I think it is outrageous that the Employment Minister blames the unemployed for not turning up for interviews when these computer generated letters fail to take account of their personal circumstances.

“The Government was warned last year by the Commonwealth Ombudsman that over-reliance on computer generated referrals is reducing the effectiveness of the system, and resulting in unacceptably high breach penalties against the unemployed.

“But the Government has failed to properly staff Centrelink to provide more individual attention to job seekers and to personally make appointments.

“Instead of blaming the unemployed for the failings of the Job Network, the Federal Government needs to ensure that the system is better tailored to the personal needs of the unemployed.

“Blaming the victim is no way to address the unemployment crisis, as jobs growth has slowed and more unemployed people are chasing fewer vacancies.

“The Democrats are seeking an assurance from Government that the referral system to the Job Network will be comprehensively reviewed, and that job seekers will not be penalised for the failings of the system,” Senator Cherry concluded.

Media contact: Pam Hose 0408 752 750