Monday 23rd February, 8.30pm ABC
Unemployment in Australia is at its highest in 12 years. The Government’s solution is an innovative billion-dollar scheme called Jobs Services Australia. But the initiative is failing.
Now, a Four Corners investigation shows how the scheme is being manipulated and, at times, systematically exploited. Reporter Linton Besser reveals the corruption at the heart of the program aimed at helping some of this country’s most vulnerable people.
He travels to suburbs where unemployment is a way of life. He meets Kym, struggling to find work and pull her daughter out of a cycle of poverty.
There to help are private and not-for-profit job agencies, paid by the Government to help find work for Kym and others like her. These agencies have blossomed thanks to the privatisation of the Commonwealth Employment Agency in 1998, and are thriving on contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Unemployment is now big business in Australia. Each year the Government spends about $1.3 billion on its welfare to work scheme.
But what happens when there are simply not enough jobs to go around?
What Four Corners discovers is a system open to abuse where the unemployed have become a commodity. Some agencies bend the rules, others break them.
“I would say about 80 percent of claims that come through have some sort of manipulation on them.” – Agency whistleblower.
Four Corners goes inside the industry, finding shocking evidence of fraud, manipulation, falsified paperwork, and the recycling of the unemployed through temporary jobs.
Hours are bumped up, wages are inflated, and in many cases, vital evidence to support claims from the taxpayer appears to have been falsified. One former jobseeker tells Four Corners her paperwork appears to have been completely forged.
In recent years Government checks have forced some companies to pay back millions of dollars, but few are sanctioned. Former job agency employees say crucial internal records are adjusted in preparation for government audits.
“That, I guess, caused alarm bells for me... Claims that have been claimed, signatures that weren’t on them, and we were sort of told, you know, if the signature’s not on it, get it any way that you can.” – Former job agency employee
As the nation grapples with rising unemployment, Four Corners raises uncomfortable questions about the charities and profit-takers making a buck from Australia’s jobless.
“THE JOBS GAME”, reported by Linton Besser and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 23rd February at 8.30pm on ABC. The program is replayed on Tuesday 24th February at 10.00am and Wednesday at midnight. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm, ABC iview or abc.net.au/4corners.