Small business minister defends ‘dobseeker’ hotline, while small business groups call for more training and support


Small Business Minister Stuart Robert. Source: AAP Image/Mick Tsikas.

Business owners can now call the national Employer Reporting Line to disclose information about job seekers who make inappropriate applications, turn down job offers or do not show up to interviews.

Dubbed ‘dobseeker hotline’ by its critics, the employer reporting line has not been met without backlash. However, small business minister Stuart Robert has stood by the reporting mechanism, saying it’s intended to ensure that mutual obligations are being met.

The hotline allows employers to notify the Department of Education, Skills and Employment if a job seeker “submitted an inappropriate job application”, “failed to attend an interview” or “voluntarily left a suitable job”.

Businesses can also report a job seeker if they have “demonstrated misconduct or unsuitable behaviour at a job interview”.

What Stuart Robert says

Stuart Robert, who took over the small business portfolio earlier this month, said in a statement that the reporting hotline is there to send a message to Australians that “you have a responsibility”.

“You just can’t sit on the JobSeeker payment and expect your neighbours to cover that lifestyle,” Robert said.

“We want to give you every opportunity to train or re-skill, and we want you to turn up. If you’re going to turn up, be intentional, be intentional about working — that’s the whole point of this.”

Despite being active for several weeks, Robert was not able to provide any details about how many employers had used the hotline.

“We’ll get numbers at the end of each month — so it is too early to determine yet.”

The hotline was announced in February along with the $50 a fortnight increase to welfare payments for the unemployed and other additional mutual obligations.

To keep receiving unemployment benefits, Australians receiving JobSeeker are now required to search for at least 15 jobs a month before the requirement increases to 20 jobs in July.

What Peter Strong says

Peter Strong, chief executive of the Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA), says that the government should focus more on providing face-to-face support to job seekers and training.

“We can have the dob-in line, that’s part of it, but we need to give people the skills and support they need so they can go and do the jobs that we want them to fill,” Strong says.

Strong says the biggest obstacle facing COSBOA’s members is the effect of international border closures on recruitment.

“What we’re hearing from the service station sector, the hospitality and retail sectors and those out in the bush is the lack of backpackers and international students is the biggest issue.”

There were 778,100 Australians without work in March, according to ABS data. The government’s internet vacancy index, which measures job advertisements, found there were 238,700 job vacancies in the same period.


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