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Bring back the CES

The Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) was an Australian Government employment agency that was established in 1946.

With the successful election of the Liberal government of John Howard in 1996, the agency was on short time. Liberal Government policy stated that all Employment services were to be opened up to privatisation.

Within 2 years, all federal government interests and claims to run employment services directly had been relinquished by April 1998.

External or Contracted Case Management (CCM’) ‘Job Agencies’ tendered for job/employment services. These services were run by organisations, community groups and for the first time ‘main stream’ privately run agencies.

As reported by Four Corners, unemployment is now big business in Australia in a system open to abuse where the unemployed have become a commodity.

Each year the Government spends about $1.3 billion on its welfare to work scheme. The maximum single rate of payment for Newstart is $519.20 per fortnight so the amount given to Jobs Service Providers equates to over 96,000 Newstart recipients’ yearly payment.

An agency whistleblower said “I would say about 80 percent of claims that come through have some sort of manipulation on them.”

They found evidence of fraud, manipulation, falsified paperwork, and the recycling of the unemployed through temporary jobs.

Hours are bumped up, wages are inflated, and in many cases, vital evidence to support claims from the taxpayer appears to have been falsified. One former jobseeker told Four Corners her paperwork appears to have been completely forged.

In recent years Government checks have forced some companies to pay back millions of dollars, but few are sanctioned. Former job agency employees say crucial internal records are adjusted in preparation for government audits.

A former job agency employee said “That, I guess, caused alarm bells for me… Claims that have been claimed, signatures that weren’t on them, and we were sort of told, you know, if the signature’s not on it, get it any way that you can.”

Currently, only jobseekers aged from 18 to 30 who live in 18 trial sites across Australia are required to undertake compulsory work for the dole.

From July, the scheme will be expanded nationally and take in all job seekers up to the age of 49.

The federal government is poised to announce the results of tender process for its revamped $5.1 billion job services system, which will include a confirmation of the new requirements job seekers will have to meet from July this year.

The new mutual obligation requirements will see Australians under 50 having to undertake work for the dole programs for 15 hours a week, for six months of every year they remain unemployed.

Unemployed people under the age of 30 will have to do 25 hours of work for the dole a week, and all job seekers will have to apply for 20 jobs a month

In its first budget, the Abbott government announced a new policy of removing 16,500 full-time-equivalent jobs from the Australian Public Service by June 2017.

Senator Abetz said on March 10 that this target would be reached earlier than planned.

Under the Coalition government some 14,400 Australian Public Service jobs had been cut by the end of 2014. Of the 13,200 staff who left the public service last year, about half were retrenched.

The Tax Office and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission each lost 17 per cent of their staff, and the Treasury and the Attorney-General’s Department both lost 16 per cent. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet lost 474 jobs during 2014.

Rather than making thousands more people unemployed and paying billions to profit-making organisations, many of whom are rorting the system, think of the advantages of reinstating the CES.

Aside from hooking workers up with jobs, a nationwide body could liase with other government departments identifying demographics, seasonal work, skills shortages, employment trends, training opportunities and support services.

It would also make it much easier for the unemployed to satisfy the obligation of applying for twenty jobs every month if they could go into the CES and search for advertised jobs.

Rather than handing out 457 visas, we could match up skilled older workers with jobs or direct young people to appropriate training to fill employment needs. Refugees could be found gainful employment.

If we are going to have work for the dole programmes and the $300 million Green Army, they would be better administered by the public service than private firms bidding for free labour.

The oversight and avenues for redress offered by such an organisation would go a long way towards stamping out exploitation.

The conservative penchant for small government is costing thousands of jobs and making a thriving profit-driven industry of untrained disinterested people making money from the misery of the unemployed whilst doing little to address the underlying problems.


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  1. Britt Cole

    The article confirms how incompetant the Howard LNP realy was and still are under Abbot LNP. Labor should bring back government run employment agencies.

  2. M-R

    Anyone who thinks the Howard years were good is a rusted-on LNP voter.

  3. Gilly

    Bring back the CES … bite your tongue. Privatisation is needed so that the rorting of the system will help deflect attention from the rorting of entitlements.

  4. stephentardrew

    Thank you once again for compiling the facts Kaye.

    I totally agree the CES was much more functional than these private providers. Having worked in the welfare sector for decades I had direct experience of the ineptitude and down right rorting of private providers. CES definitely provided a much more effective universal system of job search and training.

    Health, welfare and prisons are the direct responsibilities of government and should never be taken over by the private sector.

    We live in a dysfunctional capitalist system which relies upon, at the very least, 5% unemployment to control inflation yet the unemployed are vilified and treated like leeches as if they are the result of personal failure not economic circumstances.

    In times of hardship, when there are no jobs due to the failure of bankers, the finance sector and government the unemployed end up the pitiful product of their greed while becoming scapegoats for mismanagement, poor regulation, corruption, and carelessness while the doyens of capitalism beg for more corporate welfare to save their arses. Bloody Reinhart and Forest are a prime example.

    It is simply a way of deflecting from the real issue that capitalism is a boom bust system inculcated with the necessity for cycles of suffering by the working class and poor. In short they don’t give a shit.

    The people of this country are stupid enough to be sucked into victim blame while the perpetrators continue, not only to to get off scot free, but to demand higher productivity, reduction in work conditions and greater corporate larges.

    The real worry is the ease with which they manipulate the populace who cannot logically think their way out of their own prison.

    Yes my fellow citizens you would rather condemn the victim to hardship and suffering rather than holding the perpetrators to account.

    How the hell are we going to get you to think logically and rationally and to act in your own best interest?

    Come on you gullible people wake up.

    Inequality is growing; resources are being squandered; capitalists are receiving massive corporate welfare; profits are sky high; one percent of the population own most of the wealth; the planet is going to wrack and ruin while you blame the poor bastards that are the victims of your ignorance and stupidity.

    I am gob smacked at your blindness and complicity in your own demise.

  5. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    stephentardrew – How can we expect governments with the ideology that pervades the present one to think logically.
    They just shut their eyes and chant mantras like “Stop the boats” – which according to Abbott gets children OUT of detention.
    Does it not just stop forcing more children into detention centres in Australia while condemning them to abuse in their country of origin?
    And as always, Kaye, a brilliant and logical article.

  6. stephentardrew

    Rosemary it’s ordinary citizens we have to get to think rationally not governments. How to do it? I don’t know. That it needs to be done is glaring. AIMN at least offers a great conduit for critical thinking so it’s a good place to start.

    Ain’t no one shutting me up.

  7. Margot

    Coupled with the dodgy private training colleges targeting vulnerable unemployed signing them up to inappropriate courses both the government, taxpayers and the unemployed the unemployed are being thoroughly screwed. Privatisation – where there is a profit to be made there’s a rort to be had.
    VET FEE-HELP loan scheme: Millions lost in training courses
    Date February 17, 2015
    Victorian students who drop out of costly training courses are wasting more than $40 million in fees and government funding every year.
    Serious doubts have been raised about the integrity of government-subsidised vocational program following revelations that job applicants are being targeted and pressured to sign up for courses by private colleges.
    Yet while enrolments and course fees have increased, state government figures show that only four in 10 students who started these short courses in 2013 have completed them.
    Average fees for diploma and advanced diploma students in the VET FEE-HELP loan scheme rose by 84 per cent between 2011 and 2014.
    Fees charged to these students increased from $2.4 million in 2009 to $79.6 million last year.
    Australasian College Broadway accused of claiming federal training loans for under-skilled graduates; college rejects allegations
    By Claire Aird and Alison Branley
    Here’s one example of a dodgy private college.
    Enrol now for your chance to WIN!
    See a sample of their courses, costs and admission criteria
    Online, 9 months cost $15,350
    To be accepted, applicants must meet one of the following criteria:
    a Certificate IV; OR
    Possess relevant skills through work experience; OR
    Australian Year 12 or equivalent; OR
    Demonstrate through a phone or in-person consultation that they have appropriate skills to undertake the course

  8. gangey1959

    OOOOOh the visuals.
    I am sure you are correct, litterally, but “Seling his arse” as part of a “dick measuring contest”.
    No wonder he “smiles” the way he does.
    What is Russian for “Out the back. 15 minutes. Second cubicle from the end. Don’t be late or Ms Bishop will go first….” ?

  9. stephentardrew

    Margot great post says it all.

    One word – disgusting.

  10. diannaart

    …Rather than making thousands more people unemployed and paying billions to profit-making organisations, many of whom are rorting the system, think of the advantages of reinstating the CES….

    Again Kaye Lee speaks good sense, what used to be referred to as common sense, to a political system that is not remotely good and way too common denominator for a 21st Century nation in a first world country.

  11. Kyran

    As always, a well thought out article. I am starting to think I live in two worlds. One is based on fact, evidence, rationale, ethics, reason, morality, etc. The other is a world where, if you scream black IS white often enough, it won’t become real, but people will eventually give up arguing with you. Listening to RN for most of today, I am assured by ‘political observers’ that, in NSW, most people are against privatisation, fracking is an issue and most of Baird’s election promises are on the nose for many punters. However, “he has a nice face”. Seriously? This is their reasoning for saying he will win. I have been reading a blog from Bob Ellis for a while now and his deconstruction of poll’s is very insightful. Do the poll’s attempt to predict the outcome or try to influence the outcome? As with so many posters here, I despair that politicians will always go for the lowest common denominator. I despair that the MSM will always form a cheer squad for the lowest common denominator. And I sincerely hope NSW will give both of them a rocket. Thank you Ms Lee. Gangey, can I borrow some of your medication? (hope your recovery is swift) Take care

  12. tet02

    Concerning the work for the dole scheme, what happens if you’re hurt while working, do they supply workcover? If not why not? Also as they are ‘working for the dole’ surely they are entitled to superannuation on their earnings. Both workcover and superannuation payments are compulsory for anyone employing an individual.

    Copy of email sent to Warren Entch, member for Leichardt on 22nd, as yet no reply

    I am emailing you about your ‘austerity policies’, in the hope that you could clear up some queries I have concerning the Liberal Parties policies’ in regard to the unemployed.

    Can you please tell me if;

    1)An unemployed person under the age of 30 now has to wait six months before they can receive unemployment benefits?

    2)While waiting for the income support, the person will be required to apply for at least 40 jobs a month (and keep detailed written records of this). They will receive no income support throughout.

    3)They will have to attend a monthly meeting with a privatised employment service and produce evidence of their job search endeavour (including the documentation of applications, etc)?

    4)If they fail to do this they will be penalised. Their non-income period will be extended for 4 weeks for every infraction?

    5)Once they reach the six month period, their pitifully low income support payment will begin but they will be required to work for 25 hours a week in return?

    6) There will be an A.F.P. investigation or Royal Commission into the rampart fraud and rorting of the taxpayer by the numerous job network agencies as reported by Four Corners.

    7) Is it true that the Liberal Party will push for the privatisation of Centrelink?

    Unemployment has hit a 12 year high under this Government. On top of that, youth unemployment is at a 13 year high with around 14 per cent of young people unemployed Australia wide. Here in the Cairns region youth unemployment is a staggering 21.3%. According to Professor Bill Mitchell employment has grown by 2.1%, while the working age population has grown by 3.7%. At the moment there are currently 800,000 jobseekers in Australia and only 145,000 job vacancies available. I’m no mathematician but even I can see the figures don’t add up.

    Unfortunately my son makes up a part of that percentage and for the last 2 years he has been under the umbrella of a job placement agency called Neato. In that 2 years ‘Neato’ has got him exactly “0” job applications, not a single appointment. However they have had him jumping through more hoops than a circus performer, and heaven help him should he miss a hoop. And he is certainly not an isolated case, as the recent publicity around the dysfunctional privatised Job Network system by Four Corners has exposed. It is a fraud-riddled system in which profiteer contractors ride roughshod over the very clients they should be serving, with the sole aim of maximising their own business turnover. Fraudulently making claims for clients a common practice according to Four Corners. Billions of dollars are spent annually on these ridiculous job network agencies, that do nothing to find jobs for their clients and absolutely zilch for their self esteem, my son was treated as nothing more than grist to their job mill.

    This is fraud on such a massive scale that it beggars belief, and to even consider privatising Centrelink, essentially giving the keys to the public purse to the likes of Serco or G4S would be an invitation to the fox to sleep in the hen house, and as far as I’m concerned tantamount to criminal neglect.

    Eagerly awaiting your reply to the above,

  13. Loz

    Unfortunately we have a right wing Lib/National government that is all for privatisation. The sensible CES will never be reinstated whilst this government is in power.
    Kyran is right in that many people will vote for the Liberals in NSW because Baird has a nice smile and seems to be a nice person. The fact that the voter does not know this person at all is bizarre.

  14. Loz

    tet02 reading your comment makes me so mad in that this abusive fraudulent system is allowed to continue. I sincerely hope that Australia will wake up to the realisation that this country is going down a very dark road.

  15. townsvilleblog

    Private enterprise had made mince meat of these poor unemployed buggers for their own profitable purposes, it’s a disgrace, it should be taken back as a government responsibility.

  16. Pingback: Bring back the CES – » The Australian Independent Media Network | winstonclose

  17. olddavey


    “The red speedos, the fireman costume and the Lycra. The boxing, the “shirtfronting” and “selling his arse”. These are the words and actions of a man whose first instinct is to turn everything into a dick-measuring contest.”

    “ooh, you ARE awful!

    Change of underdungers needed.

  18. olddavey


    “Copy of email sent to Warren Entch, member for Leichardt on 22nd, as yet no reply”

    Lucky you didn’t have to pay for a stamp for that. Entch is renowned for ignoring anything that might upset the LNP.

  19. Itsazoosue

    Thanks, Kaye, for another great piece. That last paragraph is a doozy!

  20. stephentardrew

    Abraham Lincoln had it right.

  21. Indistinct chatter

    Beware the fake internships phenomenon, as well. Companies like Pulse promise unpaid internships which amount to nothing more than tricking young people into menial labour, answering phones etc. with no real training at all.

  22. Keith Woolsey

    As the Liberal government of little Johnny Howler was implementing its ideological driven reforms(at all cost ) CES staff were predicting what has come to pass(there was some sour grapes of course!) in that the “honey pot” in private hands will lead to all sorts of rorts. Centrelink staff since then have heard all sorts of reports along the lines of the recent expose since soon after privatisation, reinstating in many cases customers payments that had been incorrectly cut due to fallacious reports from Job Network providers.

  23. Bronte ALLAN

    Just like almost ALL of these government departments etc, when they are “privatised” (sic), then service levels drop–sometimes dramatically–costs always rise, the numbers of persons who would be able to see & attend to customers inquiries, questions & advice also drops dramatically! It seems that “privatisation” does not work well, especially for us, the poor, long suffering public! The “old” CES was actually of use & service to us, whereas this “system” we have now is about as useful as a chocolate teapot! Here in SA our inept governments have “privatised” just about all Government supplied services, departments & instrumentalities, with the latest one being “their” desire to “privatise” SA Water! Idiots, the lot of them! The ONLY “thing” all the privately owned ex-government departments etc want to do is ensure their bottom line (profit) keeps getting larger–to hell with “public service”, or any service for that matter!

  24. diannaart

    What simply has to be the final indignity played upon the public is that after an essential service has been privatised it then is subsidised by our tax dollars. Particularly in services that simply cannot be made competitive such as rail infrastructure, electricity grids, or where profit is the goal creating inequities such as when schools are privatised.

    We know privatisation only serves big business – yet in NSW, the public voted against their best interests because the Premier is a ‘nice bloke’. Starved as we are for a human being in charge, will Baird’s ‘niceness’ compensate for another public asset carved up for profiteers?

  25. Liz

    My husband has been out of work for 2 months now. He is applying for jobs online but is constantly being harassed by training organisations & marketing companies. We’d like to know how & why these organisations are able to access his personal details. We’re assuming it’s through job applications. Would anyone know what’s going on in this instance & who we can make a complaint to? It’s a stressful enough time as it is & to have someone trying to pressure you into ‘upskilling’ at your own expense, is beyond a joke – never mind the issue of privacy.

  26. Sean C

    stephentardrew – you hit the nail on the head with “The real worry is the ease with which they manipulate the populace who cannot logically think their way out of their own prison.”

  27. Matters Not

    Liz, I note that there has been no response re your situation.

    While I was never been out of work and to date the same applies to my offspring, I have accompanied several community members on their visits to ‘Centrelink’.

    In particular, I recall the experience of a (refugee) Sudanese family with six children who was advised that the prime income earner (the father) should do a course in English. While his English was (and is), less than perfect, he was and is now employed as a ‘form worker’ the advisor seemed intent on palming him off to another agency.

    The ‘advice’ was bloody useless and demeaning.

    I sympathise. (Not that it helps).

  28. gorgeousdunny1

    This very good piece by Kate is a year old now. Unfortunately i missed it at the time. I only got to it from a link on Kate’s latest piece on Turnbull escalating the War on the Poor.

    As en ex-employee of DEET, I would have liked to have contributed. I have published a series of stories in The Pub blog on some of my case work as a country Employment Counsellor. I’ve also posted on the closure of the CES from an insider’s perpective. Here is the link
    The Sacking of the CES: An Insider’s Story

    If you wish to follow up by all means contact me

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