Even before the government considers dropping its plans, out-of-work Australians worried about the prospect of having to apply for 40 jobs a month to keep their unemployment benefits can breathe a little easier as software developers race to build apps to automate the process.
Earlier this month Adelaide programmer Bill Malkin launched a Pozible crowdfunding proposal to raise $30,000 for SpamBludger, a web-based system to enable applicants to fire off applications with a few clicks and copy in the architect of the new regime, Employment Minister Eric Abetz.
But Brisbane web designer David Lumley may beat Mr Malkin to the punch, with 36 Jobs a Month, a similar application he said would be ready to roll this weekend.
Both initiatives come in response to draft unemployment and welfare changes scheduled to start next July, which will require the unemployed to apply for 40 jobs a month, in order to receive the dole.
Mr Lumley, who works for a Brisbane IT start-up, said job seekers would be able to use his free system to create a basic resume which can be fired off automatically in response to job ads, along with a generic email.
The program will perform key word searches of Seek and Twitter and present each subscriber with a list of relevant vacant jobs at the start of each month.
Applications will be sent from the subscriber's email address and can be staggered across the month, to prevent the impression that a program has been used when records are provided to Centrelink as proof of activity.
Mr Lumley said his service was developed as a result of fellow feeling for the unemployed, of whom he was one, briefly, after being laid off two years ago.
His aim is not to help job seekers rort the system but to provide them with the time needed to focus on the few jobs a month - he estimates four - they really want and are suited for, while still complying with Centrelink obligations.
"I don't think job seekers are lazy - I've been retrenched before," he said. "You do want to find a job. The norm is to want to work and contribute something.
"Getting a job is lots of work, spending time training and up-skilling … you can't do that if you're spending time applying for a lot of jobs. I don't know if it's reasonable."
Making a political point or spamming people is not his game, he hastened to add.
"The idea is it makes it easier for job seekers. You can spend the rest of the month doing the other four [job applications], the ones you really want."
While programmers work on software to combat the 40 jobs rule, how the government's own systems will be modified to deal with the administrative burden it is likely to create remains to be seen.
A spokesperson for the Department of Employment said the agency would make system changes to help job seekers record their applications and allow employment providers to view information about job applications.
Online applications, correspondence with employers, and details of interviews and contacts would be accepted as evidence a job seeker had applied for 40 jobs, the spokesperson said.
IBRS analyst Alan Hansell said until the Department of Employment had developed programming specifications, it would remain unclear what changes were required to Centrelink systems.
"They will need to create bi-directional linkage to Centrelink to determine eligibility for and paying of benefits," Mr Hansell said.
How well the agency's 31-year-old mainframe will cope is open to question.
The Commission of Audit report handed down earlier this year recommended a complete overhaul, at a projected cost of up to $1.5 billion, but this year's federal budget included no upgrade funding.
Centrelink makes more than $400 million in payments each day to individuals.
A spokesman for the Department of Human Services said the agency could not comment on how the policy would be implemented, as legislation was yet to pass.
On Thursday the minister told ABC Radio the government had concerns over the extra pressure the requirement might place on small businesses.
Earlier this month Public Service Minister Eric Abetz came under fire for letting thousands of would-be government department recruits languish in uneployment since May, as departments wait for his go-ahead to make new hires.