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Estimates & Committees
Rachel Siewert 25 Feb 2011

Community Affairs 25 February 2011

Senator SIEWERT—I want to quickly ask about that follow-up initiative I asked about last time—that is, the number of jobs in the Northern Territory. We had a discussion last time about the number of jobs that had been transitioned in the Northern Territory—full-time jobs. At the time you told me the number, which was a significant number, and I was then subsequently told that the Northern Territory had only guaranteed the money up to the end of the financial year. You undertook to check that. The reply that you gave me was still not clear, so I want to know if that money is there after the end of the financial year 2010-11.

Mr Ryan—The arrangements that were in place to transition from where CDEP was, funding a whole range of activities, finished up in June 2010 and the payments were made to the Northern Territory government over 2½ years for that period. The Northern Territory government provided a proposal to the Australian government for our consideration, which we have approved, to continue up to 500 jobs in shires. Their estimates are that approximately 250 of those jobs are for what you would probably call core shire services and approximately 250 are related to the support of housing, which the shires do on behalf of the Northern Territory government in remote Indigenous housing. So it is up to 500 jobs, with the Northern Territory government working with the shires as to which particular service those positions would deliver.

Senator SIEWERT—I want to be really clear about this. That funding is committed after the end of the financial year that ends in June this year?

Mr Ryan—There is funding available after the end of that financial year. That is absolutely right. So some of that funding is coming from the Northern Territory government in relation to the shire services and some of the funding is coming from the housing side, which draws its income from a mix of national partnership and remote Indigenous housing money from the Australian government but also from the rental payments which are used for housing maintenance as well.

Senator SIEWERT—Okay. Thank you. I want to, if I can please, go on to the Australian Employment Covenant that we were talking about the last time. I understand from their website that at the moment the pledges are 27,061 jobs. That is as at 23 February. That is pledges, which is different from jobs. How many jobs have now eventuated from the AEC?

Mr Griew—As at the end of December 2010—so that is a slightly different time frame—

Senator SIEWERT—Yes, that is fine.

Mr Griew—Fourteen hundred and six placements are known to have been filled through the AEC, but it is certainly an undercount, because several of those will have come directly through the JSA system rather than through the AEC. But the number as at 31 December was 1,406.

Senator SIEWERT—When you say ‘undercount’—

Mr Griew—It is just that some of the employers who made a pledge through the covenant process would then have gone and filled those jobs through a standard employment service without necessarily either telling the AEC or the AEC then reporting that to us.

Senator SIEWERT—Okay. For a breakdown for that, do we know how many of those have remained for the usual 13 and 26 weeks?

Mr Griew—Do we have 13-week—

Ms Wood—No, we do not have 13-week data.

Mr Griew—I have 26-week data, which is 282.

Senator SIEWERT—And you do not have the 13 weeks?

Mr Griew—I am sorry. We can get that for you.

Senator SIEWERT—Maybe you could take that on notice. Thank you. Of the 1,406, there is a small proportion that has stayed through 26 weeks. Are those jobs permanent full-time jobs or are some of those jobs temporary?

Mr Griew—Let me just clarify first that the 282 that are the six-month outcomes will, of course, only be relevant for those who started more than six months before—that is, the first half of last year.

Senator SIEWERT—Yes, you are right. I take that on board.

Mr Griew—The nature of the job we will not necessarily know in terms of whether it is part time, permanent or a contract with an expiry date. That would not necessarily be recorded in our system.

Senator SIEWERT—Are the nature of the jobs such that the requirements for the jobs are a postsecondary, tertiary or some other qualification? Because I have noticed when I have been looking that a lot of those jobs seem to require a significant level of education. I am wondering whether you have looked at what qualifications are required for those jobs.

Ms Wood—Senator, we do not have a breakdown of the types of jobs and what kinds of qualification levels, but one thing I would say about the information on the AEC’s website is that in terms of that mix it might be a little bit misleading because of the way that different employers use it. Some employers post specific jobs and they are the ones that have the specific skills. There are some other employers who basically just maintain a single vacancy. Some large employers who have a lot of entry level positions maintain a single vacancy on the list so there is always a job there if someone goes to it, but they do not list them all separately.

Senator Arbib—The other thing, Senator, is I am not sure how many jobs actually have life now in terms of offering. Last time I remember it was around maybe 2,500 approximately that were only available now. So they have got 27,000 commitments but only 2,500 available now. What happens with the commitments is they will go and see one of the corporations, they will say, ‘Yes, we would like to commit 500 employees’, but it is going to be over the next two, three, four, five years. So it is going to take a long period of time to fill the jobs and they come on and off the database, obviously depending on the time lines.

Senator SIEWERT—Thank you. Can I go to some funding?

Mr Palmer—If I could jump in, I do have an answer to the earlier question on CDEP numbers.

Senator SIEWERT—Okay.

Mr Palmer—As of today there are 10,498 participants. Of that 5,822 are grandfathered and 4,676 are new participants.

Senator SIEWERT—Thank you. I want to ask some questions about funding for the AEC. Can you tell me how much in total the AEC has had in funding including affiliated organisations such as Leaping Joeys, Australian Children’s Trust, GenerationOne et cetera? How much in total have those organisations received?

Ms Wood—Senator, the funding that we have provided to the AEC directly is in the order of $5.2 million in total. That is made up of an initial establishment payment when we had an interim contract at the very beginning of $725,000, an establishment payment when we moved on to the longer term contract of $3.3 million and $1.2 million in outcome payments for job commitments. At this point we have only paid for job commitments, we have not paid for any employment placements, and our funding agreement is only with the Australian Employment Covenant.

Senator SIEWERT—Sorry?

Ms Wood—We have only provided funding to the Australian Employment Covenant not to GenerationOne.

Senator SIEWERT—Have any of the other programs that are affiliated with that been funded—received any funding from the government?

Ms Wood—No.

Senator Arbib—Hang on. We can only talk from our department, DEEWR.

Senator SIEWERT—Yes, point taken. Thank you. You said you had not paid any money yet for—was that job placements?

Ms Wood—Job placements, yes.

Senator SIEWERT—How long have you got a contract with AEC for?

Ms Wood—Senator, we have a contract until 30 June 2011. There is a period beyond that where the 26week outcomes can be claimed. I think the contract formally ends in March 2012.

Senator SIEWERT—The period between June and March is for picking up the 26 week—

Ms Wood—Yes.

Senator SIEWERT—Or, in fact, any—

Senator Arbib—Outcomes.

Senator SIEWERT—Yes, any outcomes?

Ms Wood—Yes.

Senator SIEWERT—I know I am skating on thin ice, but is consideration being given to further negotiation of other contracts with AEC?

Ms Wood—That will be a matter for government as to whether they want to continue that relationship.

Senator SIEWERT—What is the assessment process that you will be carrying out as to whether it has met its contract obligations? Because this is a different process, it is not just about meeting its contract obligations, although of course that has to be assessed. But because this is a different way of doing things, have you got an evaluation process where you will be looking at that?

Mr Griew—We look at the data continuously. There is a clear set of results that are fairly transparent. It is a very high profile activity. The corporate sector engagement with the process—the number of significant corporates who have signed up and made these covenant commitments—is a very substantial part of what the AEC project was setting out to achieve. The contract is geared strongly around that, thus the payments that have been made to date. The consideration that the government will give and no doubt the AEC sponsors will give to the continuation of the project is fairly apparent to all of us.

Senator Arbib—Can I add to that as well. I think 27,000 commitments is a very good effort from corporate Australia. That is a very good start. It is going to take time. We are not going to get them filled between now and March next year. I need to think as the minister responsible, but the government and cabinet need to think, about what processes need to be put in place to fulfil the obligations to those corporations because they have gone out and they have made a commitment to employ large numbers of Indigenous people. We need to ensure we have in place processes to make that happen.

It is very hard to judge the success of the program just on the basis of the outcomes, because the number of corporations that are now involved in this cause is large. While many of them are in the covenant, a large number of them have been inspired because of the work of the covenant, and also Andrew Forrest, and are now working with different government programs or working in with not-for-profits to achieve Indigenous targets. Reconciliation Australia is one which has had a big boost over the past two or three years. Obviously a great deal of effort has been made. We will need to look at the ways to channel this into the future.

Senator SIEWERT—While not at all casting aspersions on any of the companies that have signed up, it is one thing to make pledges and it is another thing to then turn them into real jobs. I have seen examples before where companies will sign up to something and—as I said, I am not casting aspersions on any of the companies that have signed up now—not carry through on their commitments. It looks good to be able to do it. That is why I am asking about evaluation and what processes are in place to make sure that they carry through with their pledges.

Senator Arbib—All the companies I have dealt with that have pledged positions are upholding their commitments but, again, it is going to take years to fill the positions because we try to work on covenant action plans where we set out what is going to be the target over a period. No company is saying, ‘We will take 500 or 100 employees right now.’ They are saying that they will do it over two years, three years, four years or five years because that is the only way to achieve it. As you know, you need a great deal of preemployment training but at the same time you need training on the job and then mentoring, counselling and guidance. It is a big task.

Senator SIEWERT—In terms of training in the JSA process, do you have any numbers on how many of the people who are being employed are then getting their training through JSA?

Ms Wood—We have looked at that data from time to time and we could go back and have another look at it. It relies on the JSA flagging that it is an AEC job when they put their information in the system and, to be honest, that has been a bit patchy. So we have some information, but we think it undercounts the connection between JSA and the people getting jobs through the AEC.

Mr Griew—It is worth stressing that we have very substantial flow-through of Indigenous clients through JSAs who are getting job placements. A very substantial number of those are hooked into training, either prevocational or vocational. In addition to that, the IEP is aimed specifically at filling the gaps where they exist. So large employers, some I know are associated with the AEC, I know are involved in quite substantial projects in order to boost their Indigenous employment. Linfox is one. I just happened to be in a meeting recently where they were trying to work out exactly what they would do to their training programs and their in-house mentoring programs to make good employing a substantial number of Indigenous people—dozens— in different sites. We were able to help broker their relationship with IEP providers and through IEP, for example.

The question about whether all of this activity that flows from the AEC process is then taken back to the AEC or is just part of the up-swell of corporate engagement in these programs is a bit hard to answer, but it is significant—57,000 JSA Indigenous job placements until the end of last year. It is an unanswerable question exactly how many of those are a result of the AEC or a result of the work of the JSAs or, in a significant number of cases, the partnership of a large JSA with a large corporate.

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