Chapter 1

Introduction

Inquiry terms of reference

1.1
On 15 August 2018, the Senate referred the inquiry into the appropriateness and effectiveness of the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of jobactive to the Education and Employment References Committee (the committee) for report by 5 December 2018.1 On 29 November 2018, the Senate granted an extension of time to report until 13 February 2019.2 On 13 February 2019, the Senate granted a further short extension of time to report until 14 February 2019.3
1.2
The terms of reference for the inquiry are:
(a)
the nature and underlying causes of joblessness in Australia;
(b)
the methods by which Australians gain employment and their relative effectiveness;
(c)
the extent of consultation and engagement with unemployed workers in the design and implementation of jobactive;
(d)
the ability of jobactive to provide long-term solutions to joblessness, and to achieve social, economic and cultural outcomes that meet the needs and aspirations of unemployed workers;
(e)
the fairness of mutual obligation requirements, the jobactive Job Plan negotiation process and expenditure of the Employment Fund;
(f)
the adequacy and appropriateness of activities undertaken within the Annual Activity Requirement phase, including Work for the Dole, training, studying and volunteering programs and their effect on employment outcomes;
(g)
the impacts and consequences of the job seeker compliance framework;
(h)
the appeals process, including the lack of an employment services ombudsman;
(i)
the funding of jobactive, including the adequacy of the ‘outcome driven’ funding model, and the adequacy of this funding model to address barriers to employment;
(j)
alternative approaches to addressing joblessness; and
(k)
any other related matters.4

Conduct of the inquiry

1.3
Notice of the inquiry was posted on the committee’s website.5 The committee also wrote to key stakeholders to invite submissions.
1.4
The committee received 169 submissions, including 45 name withheld submissions and 20 confidential submissions. Public submissions are listed at Appendix 1. The confidential and name withheld submissions were largely from jobactive participants who did not want their circumstances to be disclosed publicly.
1.5
The committee held five public hearings:
1 November 2018 in Melbourne, Victoria;
14 November 2018 in Canberra, ACT;
20 November 2018 in Terrigal, NSW;
29 January 2019 in Perth, WA; and
1 February 2019 in Canberra, ACT.
1.6
A list of witnesses who appeared at these hearings is at Appendix 2.

Structure of the report

1.7
During the course of the inquiry, the committee identified a wide range of matters relating to the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of jobactive.
1.8
Chapter 2 of this report sets out a selection of jobactive participant voices in an attempt to convey the significant challenges and experiences of participants. These voices highlight the profound impact of government policies on the lives of participants and the need for appropriate and effective employment services.
1.9
Chapter 3 provides background information on Australia's labour market and a brief overview of the government's employment services policies and programs.
1.10
Chapter 4 examines the assessment and streaming process for participants.
1.11
Chapter 5 examines the services and supports available to participants.
1.12
Chapter 6 examines issues related specifically to employment services consultants, including their capacity to engage with employers.
1.13
Chapter 7 examines the mutual obligation requirements for participants, including requirements to apply for jobs and attend appointments with their jobactive provider.
1.14
Chapter 8 considers the compliance framework, which determines the penalties applied to participants if they fail to meet their mutual obligations.
1.15
Chapter 9 considers the appropriateness of the complaints and appeals processes for participants.
1.16
Chapter 10 turns to matters relating to outcome-based funding arrangements for jobactive providers.

Acknowledgement

1.17
The committee thanks those individuals and organisations who contributed to the inquiry by preparing written submissions and giving evidence at public hearings. In particular, the committee acknowledges the detrimental experiences of many participants under jobactive and sincerely thanks those individuals for their courage and strength in sharing their stories and concerns for the purpose of informing the committee's deliberations on this very important topic.
1.18
The committee also acknowledges the difficult burden placed on employment services consultants under jobactive. The committee thanks those individuals with experience working in the industry for speaking out and bringing their concerns to the committee's attention.

Notes on references

1.19
References in this report to the Hansard for the public hearings are to the proof transcript. Page numbers may vary between the proof and official Hansard transcripts.

  • 1
    Journals of the Senate, No. 108, 15 August 2018, pp. 3480–3481.
  • 2
    Journals of the Senate, No. 133, 29 November 2018, p. 4324.
  • 3
    Journals of the Senate, No. 139, 13 February 2019, p. 4631.
  • 4
    Journals of the Senate, No. 108, 15 August 2018, pp. 3480–3481.
  • 5
    Senate Education and Employment References Committee, The appropriateness and effectiveness of the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of jobactive, www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Education_and_Employment/JobActive2018
    (accessed 10 September 2018).

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