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Tanner's "bombshell" fails to explode.

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MEDIA RELEASE Minister for Employment Services

The Hon Tony Abbott MP

9 February 00  AES08/00


Late yesterday, the Acting Shadow Employment Minister released what he called “the latest bombshell that the whole Job Network may be unlawful”. 

If Lindsay Tanner had done his homework, he would know that the legal status of the Job Network was thoroughly considered before May 1997. The Chief General Counsel of the Commonwealth, Henry Burmester QC, advised then that the establishment of the Job Network by executive power under pre-existing legislation was legally valid. The Auditor-General’s 1998 report on the implementation of the employment services market confirmed this advice. 

Tanner’s claim is based on a Brisbane lawyer’s opinion that the Job Network is “an entirely different system set up for the same purpose” as the old CES. In fact, the Government set up a different system for a different purpose - as was made clear in both the Employment Services Request for Tenders in 1997 and in 1999. The opinion in question was obtained for a recent Federal Court action to prevent the Government proceeding with the contracts offered under Job Network 2. This action was unsuccessful with all costs awarded to the Commonwealth. 

Tanner has seriously damaged his credibility with wild allegations that risk damaging Job Network members’ efforts to help the unemployed. First, he claimed that Employment National has been given work “on a silver platter” after winning a defence department tender. Then he claimed that the Government had set up Employment National to fail after the Job Network tender. Subsequently, he accused the Government of “pork-barrelling” in regional electorates. Later he claimed that the Government had abandoned the bush. Now he bandies around a legal opinion he knows is wrong to damage a system he doesn’t want to replace. 

This is the worst kind of political point-scoring that could end up hurting innocent third parties: Job Network members who are doing their best and jobseekers who need their help. 

By comparison, Cheryl Kernot’s return to the Employment Shadow Ministry should bring more intellectual rigour to Labor’s position. It’s possible Labor might even develop a policy some time…. 

For more information call Simone on 0417 656 668 or 6277 7540