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Social Issues

Bring back the CES (Commonwealth Employment Service)


Job Services Australia, or Workforce Australia as it is now called, has failed to live up to the promises the Howard government made when they introduced it in 1998.

Originally known as the Job Network, it has devolved into a giant money making venture by about 30 multinational organisations, and offers few tangible services to the unemployed, underemployed, disabled and others.

In recent years, there have been calls to bring back the much more successful CES (Commonwealth Employment Service), a government owned institution who kept unemployment below 2% during much of their history.

But what is the CES? Half Australia’s population were born after 1980, and wouldn’t remember it.

The Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945, which was introduced in 1946 by the Curtin ALP government, led to the creation of the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES), an employment agency for the Australian Government.

Its goal was to locate labour shortages and address them by supplying labour. Additionally, it put welfare claimants through a “work test” to demonstrate their capacity and willingness to work.

It proved extremely successful, and gained the confidence of employers and those looking for work on a scale that has never been matched by Job Services Australia (JSA).

At one time, it was responsible for creating 48% of new jobs in Australia, something JSA has never even come close to achieving.

Their staff were highly trained and went the extra mile to ensure the unemployed, disabled and war veterans found suitable employment.

There were reports that some staff would go to Vinnies and other agencies to buy clothing so job applicants would have good clothes to wear for job interviews. They would buy the clothes, take them home, wash them and iron them, then bring them back to the office.

Many branches would start work at 6:00 am in the morning to provide casual employment for employers needing a worker that day. People would line up outside the offices from before sunrise, and the staff would take calls from employers needing someone to help out that day.

The staff would match the requests with the skills of those lined up, and send people off to the job. Many of these casual jobs became permanent.

This was totally voluntary, and there were no mutual obligations. The CES was enormously popular and it worked well.

And it wasn’t just the unemployed that they helped; they also helped millions of Australians find better jobs that they were more suited to. The service was open to everybody, not just those that the JSA could profit from.

Then on April Fools Day 1998, it ceased to exist. Its services were outsourced to over a thousand private job providers who were supposed to provide more localised services to the local community. This has never worked out well, and unemployment started rising.

Today there are only about 30 national corporations that run the bulk of these services, and they don’t do it very well.

Instead, they make huge profits off the back of the unemployed. In the June 2022 financial year, these corporations were given a massive $3.26 billion dollars of taxpayers money, while achieving very little benefit for the clients they were supposed to be helping.

In addition to that, they received a whopping $2.23 billion dollars for referring clients to substandard training programs which these companies operate themselves.

Their major purpose these days is not finding employment, but keeping surveillance on their clients to ensure they are meeting the insidious “mutual obligations” requirements of Centrelink, designed to deny Centrelink payments to those that need them. We will talk more about mutual obligations another day.

Their staff are poorly paid and poorly trained, in contrast to the high level of training the CES staff had. They have little job security, and have the corporate aim of reaching KPIs rather than achieving results.

This is reflected in the lack of commitment they have to their jobs, the poor service the provide and the failure of the entire system.

But there is hope on the horizon.

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan, for whom current Treasurer Jim Chalmers used to work, has been at the forefront of calling for the return of the CES, and he is a man with considerable influence.

Mr Chalmers and his colleagues have also expressed some interest in the idea.

Let’s hope they do more than just express interest, listen to Mr Swan and bring back the CES for the benefit of all Australians.

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The costs of campaigning for changes to government legislation are considerable. If you appreciate this work, please consider donating so we can continue operating in this area.

The money raised will be spent on campaigning to state and federal MP s, as well as newspapers and other media across Australia, to improve social justice for all.

Please bear in mind that while I am a business consultant, I only work part time due to also being a disabled pensioner. I intend to take these matters to court, but that takes time and money.

Any money raised through donations will be kept in a separate bank account to cover these costs.

I would also welcome any help from legal professionals, or professionally qualified volunteers who are willing to assist.

The costs of campaigning for changes to government legislation are considerable. If you appreciate this work, please consider donating so we can continue operating in this area.

The money raised will be spent on campaigning to state and federal MP s, as well as newspapers and other media across Australia, to improve social justice for all.

Please bear in mind that while I am a business consultant, I only work part time due to also being a disabled pensioner. I intend to take these matters to court, but that takes time and money.

Any money raised through donations will be kept in a separate bank account to cover these costs.

I would also welcome any help from legal professionals, or professionally qualified volunteers who are willing to assist.

The costs of campaigning for changes to government legislation are considerable. If you appreciate this work, please consider donating so we can continue operating in this area.

The money raised will be spent on campaigning to state and federal MP s, as well as newspapers and other media across Australia, to improve social justice for all.

Please bear in mind that while I am a business consultant, I only work part time due to also being a disabled pensioner. I intend to take these matters to court, but that takes time and money.

Any money raised through donations will be kept in a separate bank account to cover these costs.

I would also welcome any help from legal professionals, or professionally qualified volunteers who are willing to assist.

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About Craig Hill

Social Justice Campaigner. Business and Education Consultant. Former Business/ESL Teacher. Lived in China and USA. Dealing with disability. My articles have been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and many other international publications.

Discussion

One thought on “Bring back the CES (Commonwealth Employment Service)

  1. All governments services which could make money have been taken away by private entrepreneurs more interested in profits than serving the public . Governments have and still are selling out our public assets . It s going hard to reclaim as as you say half the population in Australia was born after 1980 and many new migrants have no political Australian knowledge. Most are already coming from countries with poor public welfare services systems that they can’t/don’t expect better services. They are already well off compare where they come from and that ‘s why questioning a system which is already improving their lives.

    Posted by Philippe | January 18, 2023, 07:40

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