30 March 2009

Australia to become "bleeding edge" in employment services delivery?

In today's Australian Nicola Berkovic and Dennis Shanahan report that other voices, notably Tony Abbott, have weighed into the debate about the next round of Job Network tenders

The Coalition has urged the Rudd Government to consider suspending its $2 billion Job Network tender, warning that thousands of people would miss out on retraining and assistance in finding work as the dole queues lengthened.

Opposition community services spokesman Tony Abbott said many of the 600,000 clients of the Job Network would miss out on crucial services because of government bungling.

"A very large percentage of Job Network sites are going to be closing down in the next couple of months," he told the Ten Network.There will virtually be no Job Network services in these sites in the three months it takes to close the existing ones and the further six months to start up new sites."

In the past week, some of Australia's biggest and best-performing job agencies have been told they have lost their government business to provide employment services to the unemployed, as two new British providers enter the market.

Employment Minister Julia Gillard yesterday defended the Government's handling of the tender, saying it was being conducted at arm's length and that it would be improper for her to interfere.

"I'm not interfering with the tender round," she said."It's being done properly, at a distance from political figures like me."

On ABC RN Breakfast this morning Sally Sinclair, CEO of the peak industry body NESA , held her cards close to her chest as she was interviewed by Fran Kelly (can be heard here )

At one point Sinclair said the current system was"mired in red tape". Later she asserted that Australia was at the "leading edge" in the provision of employment services then, in an unfortunate choice of phrase given the likelihood of redundancies among workers in the industry, that it could be "the bleeding edge". Hmm.

Note:Ms Sinclair recently delivered a presentation at a conference in Vienna in which she spoke in favour of stronger business involvement in employment services: see here and here .

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