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Government Defends ‘Ineffective’ Remote Work-for-the-dole Program

2 May 2018 at 6:17 pm
Luke Michael
The Turnbull government has defended its controversial Community Development Program, amid claims the remote work-for-the-dole scheme was ineffective, costly and “monetising racial discrimination”.

Luke Michael | 2 May 2018 at 6:17 pm


Government Defends ‘Ineffective’ Remote Work-for-the-dole Program
2 May 2018 at 6:17 pm

The Turnbull government has defended its controversial Community Development Program, amid claims the remote work-for-the-dole scheme was ineffective, costly and “monetising racial discrimination”.

The CDP requires its roughly 33,000 remote participants to complete 25 hours of “work-like” activities per week to receive welfare payments – which is up to three times longer than the requirement for unemployed people in metropolitan areas.

Participants – of whom more than 80 per cent are Indigenous – are fined one day’s Centrelink allowance if they miss one of their scheduled activities or are late, and the past two years has seen more than 350,000 fines handed out.

On Wednesday, the Australian Council of Trade Unions used a recent report from the Australia Institute to label the CDP racially discriminatory, ineffective and too expensive.

“The only people who benefit from the CDP are the companies which the Turnbull government pays to run it. [Indigenous Affairs] Minister Scullion is monetising racial discrimination,” ACTU national campaign coordinator Kara Keys said.

“This program is expensive, ineffective and brutal in its treatment of its participants. It is inflicting economic and emotional trauma on remote Indigenous communities.

“CDP is causing people to go hungry, it costs more than any comparable program and does not achieve its stated goals. The creation and pig-headed defence of this disastrous policy by the Turnbull government has done lasting damage to countless remote communities who have been robbed of their autonomy.”

The Australia Institute report found that the scheme last year cost $360 million to operate, and for every dollar of support a CDP worker received, 70 cents were spent on administration.

That cost is five times as much per participant compared to the metropolitan jobactive program.

CDP workers were also found to be 25 times more likely than non-CDP workers to receive a financial penalty.

“The harshness of the scheme has not achieved results,” the report said.

“It is twice as expensive to administer as the schemes that it replaced, and a participant can expect to spend over 12 years on average in the scheme before achieving six months of employment. That employment may not even be full time.”

The Australia Institute added that “the task the CDP is expected to perform is herculean”.

“Remote Australia has few jobs and a disadvantaged workforce. However, the CDP is failing… [it] needs urgent reform or replacement.”

But the government has vigorously defended the program.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion told Pro Bono News that you “don’t need an Australia Institute report to know that the costs of delivering services in remote areas are higher than in urban areas”.

“Due to the unique challenges and economic conditions in remote Australia, which include weaker labour markets, fewer job opportunities, and sometimes different social conditions to urban and regional areas, a tailored approach to employment services is required in remote Australia and that is exactly what CDP is,” the spokesperson said.

“Because of these factors, it is absolutely ridiculous to even attempt to compare the costs of CDP with jobactive or other mainstream employment services, as the programs operate in different conditions and with different job seekers. It is comparing apples and oranges.

“The criticisms of CDP from Labor and its special interest mates would see a reduction in services for remote communities and more taxpayer funds spent on administering sit-down money and passive welfare which we already know is so harmful and destructive to remote communities.”

The spokesperson said that in the last five years, not a single remote community has requested “the sit-down money or unconditional welfare model” proposed by welfare advocates.

“The CDP has been a resounding success that has exceeded our expectations. Compared with Labor’s failed Remote Jobs and Communities Program which saw engagement at a diabolical 6 per cent, we have achieved engagement of 75 per cent,” they said.

“In fact, in the two years since the program commenced, CDP has supported remote job seekers into over 23,000 jobs; more than 8,000 of these jobs have lasted for 26 weeks or longer.

“Like any remote program, the CDP costs more to deliver than if it were being delivered in the major cities that Labor, ACOSS and the Australia Institute reside in.”

The spokesperson added that claims financial penalties were causing hardship in CDP regions were not supported by evidence.

“There are strong protections in place to make sure that penalties are only applied when they are warranted. These protections are the same for all job seekers across Australia,” they said.

“These protections ensure that job seekers do not suffer financial hardship – waiver provisions are in place with 92 per cent of eight week non-payment periods waived since the start of CDP.”

The Turnbull government is currently engaged in detailed consultations to improve the CDP, after a Senate inquiry recommended replacing the current compliance and penalty regime.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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