The new employment services model, Workforce Australia, has made headlines this month ahead of its rollout in July. It is touted as being the biggest system overhaul since the privatisation of employment services in place of the Commonwealth Employment Service in 1998 (and we all know how well that has turned out). While the 1998 change was rolled out under Howard's Liberal government, it was based on recommendations from the Working Nation white paper commissioned in 1989 by then treasurer Paul Keating. The recommendations included raising $800 million in "savings" from penalising welfare recipients' non-compliance. The Hawke-Keating Labor governments required participants to satisfy mutual obligations as well - they just called them "activation" requirements. After nine years of Liberal "leadership", it is easy to forget Labor's welfare policy is rarely dissimilar to that of its Coalition counterpart. Let's not forget that the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act 2007 (NTER) that saw the suspension of the Anti-Discrimination Act to facilitate measures targeting Aboriginal people may have begun under Howard, but it was rolled out under Rudd - our "Sorry" PM. This legislation was amended five times in successive Rudd and Gillard governments before being replaced with the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act 2012 under Gillard, but many of the NTER measures (such as the Basics Card) remained under the new legislation. Perhaps in light of this history, an expectation for the Albanese Labor government to do something significant with employment services is naive and idealistic. After all, Labor voted for the Workforce Australia change in Parliament alongside the Coalition. On paper, this new system has the potential to be an improvement for some participants. In the short term, digitally literate participants with access to tech and the internet will be able to self-manage their mutual obligations. The I Want to Work report says all the right things about putting jobseekers at the centre of the program model, and seeking opportunities to tailor services to particular needs in local areas. Here, it seems that jobseekers have actually been consulted on how the system could be improved. At least in appearances. However, this consultation has not resulted in avoiding the key issue of punitive policy - with the "traffic light" system still alive and well - and participants are finding themselves reliant on a predominantly digital system - again - to manage their very survival. In light of the robodebt chaos, My Health Record and the COVIDSafe app, people may be forgiven for not putting much stock in the new system. READ MORE: Mutual obligations have always been marketed as the participant's responsibility to the public in return for the meagre funds they receive, and this is why it's so important that they maintain these requirements. However, the private providers are not the perfect arbiters one would expect. Employment services have been forced to pay back over $1 million in wrongful claims paid to them. Having scoured the job boards in the past week looking at employment consultant vacancies in view of the upcoming Workforce Australia change, I was not shocked to see not one of them required any kind of qualification for the role. Many of them highlighted "retail, sales and marketing" skills and experience as being well regarded. Clearly the focus here is less on supporting the participants through the transition period, and more on selling them on to employer-clients. With face-to-face service provision now focused on those who need more help, would it not stand to reason providers should be qualified to provide it? Furthermore, with the huge number of stories involving payment suspensions for unavoidable failures to meet mutual obligations (such as non-attendance at meetings they were not informed about), is it any wonder people are worried? Is this really the jobseeker-centric model we were promised? And are being told it is? It appears that despite the rebrand, not much has really changed here at all: it is still a wolf, just in granny's nightie. My, my, what big eyes you have. All the better to surveil you with, my dear.