Media Release: “Government needs to learn from mistakes of the past when rebuilding employment services, to reduce harm to those on income support” — Economic Justice Australia

Kirsty SierMedia release, Policy

5 July 2024

The government’s response to the Workforce Australia Inquiry report, made yesterday, is weak on the major structural reforms that are needed to stop privatised employment services from causing harm to people who are unemployed, says Economic Justice Australia (EJA).

Given there are more than 700,000 people who are currently required to use employment services, many of whom are in financially dire positions, there is a need for urgent action to address very real ongoing risks.

Structural reform is needed because the design of employment services as we know them is underpinned by a basic lack of respect – the same big-stick policy approach that enabled Robodebt and its disastrous heavy-handed compliance approach. Threats to social security payments deprive people of the security they need to function effectively while they look for work.

The government’s response does not address that fundamental problems that have been caused by privatisation, which has failed to deliver effective services.  

More than a third of existing providers are failing to meet the performance benchmarks that have been set for them, and very few providers are meeting a high quality of service.  

“We are now two years into the Workforce Australia model and nothing has changed for the people who are required to use the services,” says EJA CEO Kate Allingham.

“Payment suspensions are still out of control, and every day we see examples of employment services breaking the rules they are supposed to follow. There are nearly 700,000 people who use Workforce Australia who need better services – and quickly.

“People also need to be relieved from the excessive levels of reporting required under the points-based activation model, and to get exemptions from meeting requirements easily.

“While we appreciate that a number of measures were announced in this year’s Budget, we were hoping that the government would commit to the major structural reforms mooted by the House of Reps committee inquiry.

“Every effort is needed to ensure the Budget reforms come quickly and that they are more than band-aid measures.”

Employment services can be rebuilt with the needs of people looking for work at the centre of the design. If the $1.4-billion annual investment in these services is to be spent well, a new and more inclusive approach is needed.  

In our submission to the inquiry, our main asks for Workforce Australia Employment Services Inquiry report were:

  1. No automatic payment suspensions
  2. A return of decisions affecting payments to Services Australia
  3. To overhaul of the Targeted Compliance Framework
  4. To provide access to a better complaints process and review of social security decisions
  5. To abolish Work for the Dole

So far the only real commitment to change has been the Budget measures already announced.

“The government’s commitment to improving mutual obligation settings is welcome. We recognise public policy reform is complex and takes time, but significant change needs to come quickly,” says Ms Allingham.

“The changes mooted in the Budget are steps in the right direction but progress on reform must not stall for political reasons.”


Media contact: Kirsty Sier | 0435 075 085 |