From memory our last Prime Minister copped significant flack for a seeming desire to return to a previous better time in Australia's history (if I recall correctly, somewhere in the fifties).
Our present government appears hell bent on a similar course to the possible loss of a most valuable resource: Australia's Disability Employment Network.
Quick history lesson:
Once upon a time people who had a disability couldn't access the Commonwealth Employment Service (a 'one-stop shop' and the only national program to assist unemployed people into work). People with a disability received the 'invalid' pension (play around with where you put the emphasis in that word and you'll get an idea of my direction).
Along can the Hawke government with a most enlightened Minister and a reform agenda that included empowering people with disability.
The 1986 Disability Services Act was passed and opportunity for participation became available to 'invalids'. Not initially through the CES but through small community based programs that specifically targeted those most in need. There came to be many small specialist programs with expertise, often shared freely, in specific areas, disability type and need.
Unfortunately an 'industry' was also born.
The Hawke government becomes the Keating government and moves are made toward the privatisation of employment services.
1986 - 1996 Disability employment in Australia grows and develops a unique innovative response to consumer needs
1996 The Howard government is elected and turns the delivery of employment services over largely to the private sector (incidentally and for transparency), I made some money out of this for which I was and am most grateful).
The Howard government stick it to disability employment programs and pull the guts out of the funding available.
The net effect is to reduce the numbers and level of disability that can be effectively assisted.
2006. The Howard government turn to the government (theirs and previous) created disaster of the former Invalid Pension now the Disability Support pension (governments of both persuasion used DSP as a parking place for long term unemployed persons) in which some 720,000 people have been placed.
The small 'industry' of disability employment is moved from the person focused Department of Family & Community Services to the compliance focused Department of Employment & Workplace Relations.
DEWR seek to come to terms with their new charge through the application of the same processes used in the private 'for profit' Job Network.
An incalculable amount of time, energy and resource is spent ensuring compliance.
Additional programs (Vocational Rehabilitation Services) are added and opportunities exist for service expansion. This, coupled with high employment, attracts for profit players into the disability 'industry'.
Despite the best efforts of organisations involved in the delivery of service participation drops by almost 10,000 persons.
2007 The Rudd Government is elected and a New Minister is appointed (Brendan O'Connnor).
Nothing much changes.
The 'Star Ratings', a use free nonsense that bear little application to fact, are slated for use in the growth and distribution of future employment places.
Quick break and a question or 2 for my critics: If the Star Ratings are so good, why scrap them? If they stink, why use them? If the Star ratings are so hot, how come they don't have a measure to acknowledge junior rates? Surely this penalises those programs that work with younger job seekers (like NOVA!)?
The Job Network is put up for tender and replaced with Job Services Australia.
The process is designed to simplify the administration of the programs funded by DEEWR and results in 'one-stop shops' through which taxpayers funds are provided to a progressively smaller number of players. DEEWR craft their responses to the outrage that follows the loss of perfectly good programs and their replacement with new and overseas programs.
2009 DEEWR flag the replacement of the Disability Employment Network through a 2 stage tender process.
What does the future hold?
Unless we speak out against this nonsense the world beating Australian Disability Employment Network will be assimilated into giant employment conglomerates with little or no interest in the individual needs of job seekers.
For what it is worth my opinion is that this government is unable to rein its super-Department in. The process grinds forward following an economic rationalist agenda set a decade ago.
The Minister (O'Connor) has just moved on and a new man (Mark Abib) appointed - we'll need to wait and see whether he's capable of halting this madness or not.
It looks to me like we are heading for a pre 1986 world at high speed.
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