The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, has strongly rejected claims from the ACTU that the Coalition Government’s remote employment services programme is racially discriminatory or creates a two-tiered unemployment system.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said today the Government’s Community Development Programme (CDP) applied to all jobseekers living in remote Australia.
“The ACTU knows full well all activity-tested jobseekers, whether they live in our biggest cities or remote communities, have mutual obligations of up to 25 hours a week,” Minister Scullion said.
“However, the remote communities in which the CDP operates have fewer employment opportunities than exist in the regions where jobactive operates and, as such, the programme’s support for jobseekers is tailored accordingly.
“This was the case under previous Labor governments and will be the case into the future.
“The CDP is a welfare programme designed to support jobseekers into work. It is not, and should not be considered, a job in itself. Like welfare programmes across Australia, the CDP transitions jobseekers to make them job-ready.”
Minister Scullion said the ACTU’s plan to campaign against the CDP was predictable, hypocritical and consistent with an organisation that had seemingly not asked people living in remote communities what they actually wanted from an employment programme.
“I question what consultation the ACTU executive has had with jobseekers in remote communities who are now benefiting from the training and work experience the CDP provides,” Minister Scullion said.
“The ACTU did not raise any concerns about the failed remote employment services programme Labor delivered when in office, despite dismal levels of engagement from jobseekers.
“In fact, the ACTU publicly stated its support for the former Labor government’s Indigenous employment policy in 2009 and welcomed the approach it was taking, which at the time included similar mutual obligation requirements.
“The Coalition’s CDP provides employment services to jobseekers in exactly the same communities that Labor’s remote employment services were delivered.
“However, the CDP provides additional support to jobseekers in recognition of the challenges they have finding employment in remote areas – including significantly more funding for activities than is provided by mainstream employment services.
“Since the CDP replaced Labor’s failed Remote Jobs and Communities Programme, more than 82 per cent of eligible jobseekers have been placed in activities, up from 45 per cent under RJCP. This goes to show people living in remote communities are engaging with the programme and appreciate the benefits it provides.”
Minister Scullion said that he had personally visited more than 70 remote communities on 90 separate occasions since 2015.
“I have heard a clear message from many leaders in remote communities that they want a return to ‘no work, no pay’ arrangements. The CDP brings this back,” Minister Scullion said.
“We also want to bring back other positive elements of the old CDEP programme that people living in remote communities have said they want brought back in – things such as local control, weekly payments and an ability for participants to top up their income support when they undertake paid work.
“These changes would improve the way the programme operates and reflect the wishes of remote communities and their leaders.”