Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, has strongly rejected the findings contained in an Australian National University (ANU) report about the Coalition Government’s Community Development Programme (CDP) that has been released today.
Minister Scullion noted the report, Job Creation and Income Support in Remote Indigenous Australia: Moving Forward with a Better System, was compiled by ANU academics, Dr Kirrily Jordan and Lisa Fowkes, without any input from his office or department.
“If I had been invited to contribute to the report, I would have pointed to the significant progress the CDP has delivered in terms of engagement and participation rates,” Minister Scullion said.
“The last thing the communities I visit and engage with on a regular basis say to me is that they want a return to passive welfare and disengagement – which is precisely what would happen if we ended the CDP.
“Support for the CDP is demonstrated by the number of participants who volunteer to participate in activities: more than 7000 or around 22 per cent of the caseload.
“Under the CDP, 85 per cent of eligible job seekers have been placed in work-like activities, up from 45 per cent at the end of the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme (RJCP).
“The CDP has supported job seekers into more than 11,000 jobs and achieved more than 3600 26‑week employment outcomes for job seekers in remote communities.
“The rate of job seekers actively participating in the programme has increased from less than 7 per cent in July 2015 to 62 per cent in November 2016 – reversing the failed arrangements of the former RJCP that facilitated passive welfare at the expense of community engagement.
“We estimate the Government provides about $400 million every quarter in welfare payments to remote communities covered by the CDP. Less than 1 per cent of this is deducted as a result of financial penalties imposed because of non-attendance at CDP work-for-the-dole activities.
“I remain committed to working in partnership with the Opposition, communities and providers to continue to improve the operation of the CDP and ensure local communities have more control, including through the delivery of the programme by local providers rather than Centrelink.
“This proposed reform to support local delivery of the CDP would address many of the issues the authors of this report raise but fail to acknowledge.”
Minister Scullion said Dr Jordan also failed to acknowledge the mutual obligation requirements for remote job seekers were not more demanding than those of non-remote job seekers.
“All activity-tested job seekers nationally are required to undertake up to 25 hours of mutual obligation activity (depending on their assessed capacity to work) in return for their income support.
“Furthermore, waiver provisions are in place to ensure that financial penalties such as the eight-week non-payment period do not cause undue financial hardship. More than 90 per cent of eight-week non-payment penalties are waived.
“It is disappointing that public debate is being dominated by urban academics like Dr Jordan whose professional experience is limited to being an academic in east coast universities, and the union organisations like the ACTU that have only opposed mutual obligation requirements since the change of Government in 2013.
“In contrast, the Government is working in partnership with communities to reduce sit down welfare in remote communities and get job seekers into work and actively engaged.
“I have visited more than 150 communities on more than 200 occasions to talk with communities about the CDP and am committed to continuing to engage with communities.
“I encourage the report’s authors to talk to me and the communities I visit that have strongly welcomed the introduction of the CDP before reaching conclusions about the CDP that are not backed up by the real evidence.”