Coalition accused of saving cash at expense of long-term unemployed


But evidence to one of the last pre-election Senate estimates hearings last month into the changes has raised questions about whether the savings, potentially hundreds of millions of dollars, will flow back into consolidated revenue.

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That followed a line item in the budget showing the Coalition expected to save $59.4 million in “net efficiencies” from early trials of the program.

Pressed on these savings, officials from the Jobs Department said while $250 million was being invested in the changed system, there would be savings that would go “back into consolidated revenue”.

Jobs Australia chief executive Deb Cerasa said the $59.4 million in savings was just from a trial affecting 95,000 people in Adelaide and on the mid-north coast of NSW.

She said if the changes were extended to all parts of the country, the Coalition was looking at savings well over $300 million that should be going back into providing intensive services for those who found it most difficult to get into the jobs market.

“We are looking at a sizeable cut despite what was promised when these changes were announced,” she said.

“We are concerned that funding is going to be cut and this is going to have an impact on the people who are most at need of assistance, those who are disadvantaged, those who have a lack of skills.

“Not everyone is going to be able to use the new service, that’s acknowledged, and so those who are most at risk are the most at risk.”

However, a spokesperson for Ms O’Dwyer maintained that savings from the changes would go back into employment services.

The spokesperson said digital technology would help “job-ready” people while targeted services would go to those who needed more assistance.

“We are embarking on a significant and ambitious change to Australia’s employment services model that will provide a better future for millions of Australians,” they said.

“When the national program is fully rolled out, savings from digital servicing will be reinvested in the system to provide a more intensive, targeted and tailored service for those who need extra help in addressing their barriers to finding a job.”

The new system is expected to be rolled out nationally from the middle of 2022.

Shane is a senior economics correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.

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