New Jobs Legislation May Unfairly Target Indigenous Australians
15 February 2016 at 9:46 am
There are fears that new legislation being introduced by the Turnbull Government aimed at revamping its remote employment programs will not comply with human rights obligations.
The Community Development Program replaced the Remote Jobs and Communities Program on 1 July 2015 and features full-time Work for the Dole obligations all year.
The national peak body for Not for Profit organisations that assist unemployed people to prepare for and find employment, Jobs Australia, said in a statement that the changes were “significantly more onerous” than the mutual obligation requirements in non-remote areas.
“The proposed legislation, if passed, will amend social security law to allow the Minister for Indigenous Affairs [Senator Nigel Scullion] to create a separate job seeker compliance regime for remote areas,” Jobs Australia said.
“This is highly unusual, as job seeker compliance – which is a politically contentious issue – is generally detailed in legislation, which requires the approval of the parliament before it takes effect.
“Social security amendments are closely scrutinised and often sit in the parliament for more than a year while political parties negotiate and debate amendments.
“Leaving all of the details to regulation means that changes can be implemented without the prior approval of the parliament, and the parliament has only a short window of time in which it may disallow the regulations after they have already been implemented.”
Jobs Australia said while the details were still unknown, it was clear that the Senator Scullion intended to set up a compliance regime that would make it quicker and easier for CDP providers to apply financial penalties to remote job seekers.
The peak body said while this may or may not encourage greater compliance with the Work for the Dole requirements, it was not clear that greater compliance would lead to increased employment.
“Classic economic theory would also suggest that the presence of thousands of people supplying labour at no cost to employers would reduce demand for paid workers – thereby actually reducing employment. In effect, greater compliance (in areas with only a few jobs) leads to less employment, not more,” Jobs Australia said.
“Moreover, a program with more onerous obligations and quicker, easier to enforce financial penalties will inevitably result in some individuals receiving less social security. This raises a question as to the compatibility with the right to social security in international law and whether the removal of the right to social security (through penalties) is a proportionate response to the problem of remote joblessness.”
The Human Rights Committee has determined that the information provided in the Bill and its Explanatory Memorandum “does not justify that limitation for the purposes of international human rights law”.
“There is also a question as to whether the arrangements discriminate against Indigenous people,” Jobs Australia said.
“The bill ostensibly imposes the more onerous requirements on all job seekers in remote areas, so is unlikely to constitute direct discrimination. It may, however, constitute indirect discrimination because the overwhelming majority of people affected are of one race.”
The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Community Development Programme) Bill 2015 is being separately reviewed by the Senate Committee on Finance and Public Administration and many submissions, including Jobs Australia’s submission, have already pointed out that the arrangements likely constitute indirect discrimination against Indigenous people.
As a result of the submissions, Scullion has been asked for a draft of the regulations to be released, since the details about the remote penalty regime are not in the Bill itself.