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Government WINZ Response PR Exercise As Predicted

The Government’s response to the damning Hunn Report into WINZ is a weak PR Exercise that simply re-states initiatives already announced, according to ACT Social Welfare Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman.

“Under his leadership, Steve Maharey said that the culture of extravagance in WINZ would go – nothing has changed. He said that Christine Rankin should go – yet she is leading his fresh start. That there would be a greater employment focus for WINZ –the total employment funding for WINZ remained static in the budget,” she said.

“The key problem remains. The culture of WINZ and its ongoing problems will not change while Christine Rankin is in charge. The Minister knows this but his own attacks on Ms Rankin mean it would cost taxpayers a seven figure payout to remove her. Behind the Minister’s PR terms like “fundamental change”, “new beginning” and “significant new start” this PR Exercise has no credibility. The fact that Ms Rankin and Mr Maharey didn’t face the media together at today’s launch speaks volumes,” she said.

“The Government’s response is a total contradiction in terms. Instead of an ‘increased focus on employment’ for WINZ the Minister has pulled out the single biggest employment programme, Community Employment and transferred it to the Department of Labour. That has removed a significant amount of funding and flexibility for the Regional Commissioners,” she said.

Dr Newman said details of the Government’s plans in welfare remain confused and sketchy with increased bureaucracy at every level.

“The major problem with WINZ has been its corporate style championed by Chief Executive Christine Rankin. Ms Rankin was also responsible for WINZ emphasis on its Income Support role at the expense of its employment role,” said Muriel Newman.

“The Minister’s claimed initiative to move to greater employment flexibility and responsibility for Regional Commissioners was the previous Government’s plan when WINZ was created. However, this did not happen because WINZ set up was not a merger of employment and income support but a take-over by income support. As the Hunn Report concluded the employment expertise and focus was lost because of this take-over,” she said.

“The Minister has simply tried to claim responsibility for initiatives already in place or signalled. His self proclaimed ‘probity project’ was started by Christine Rankin herself in July 1999 after the charter flight incident,” said Muriel Newman.
ENDS

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