New policy of imposing full-time work for the dole in remote communities is blatant racism

'Greens blast remote dole rules'
Patricia Karvelas The Australian 6 December 2014

This new policy is a treacherous act, the Federal government closed down Community Development Employment Programs (CDEP) against the wishes of the people. Instead of reinstating these worthwhile community projects, they are going to force people into full-time 'Work for the Dole' where there is no work. This appears to be part of the major conspiracy of forcing First Nations people off their homelands ... again.

CDEP offered part-time work that was in flexible, allowing for time off for funerals and cultural obligations. It also enabled people to live and work in their own community. Instead of reinstating CDEP, the government is in the process of forcing unemployed First Nations into slaving for big business, probably as low paid as trainees, without any of the perks their white workmates will have. (Image: The Conversation - Photo: Kayt Davies)

The Greens have called "discriminatory" a new policy imposing full-time work for the dole in remote communities, saying the Abbott Government plans to make different rules for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in such communities for accessing welfare.

Responding to a report in The Weekend Australian revealing the new policy, the Greens said the government had waited until after parliament has finished for the year to announce plans to force people in remote communities to undertake work for the dole for 12 months of the year in order to receive income support.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert said the Coalition government was "once again ignoring the underlying factors that are contributing to unemployment".

"It is unjustifiable that this scheme would be so much tougher in remote communities compared to the rest of the country," she said.

"The minister [Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion] has admitted that there are a lot less jobs available in remote communities. Work for the dole doesn't address that problem.

"The prospect of people working 25 hours a week for Newstart means they will be working for insignificant wages. This is an incredibly punitive and discriminatory approach, especially when you consider it is likely be paired with the rollout of a healthy welfare card."

CDEP was introduced in the 1970s when new wage laws moved First Nations people off stations, where they had largely been paid in-kind, creating significant unemployment. In most communities it was working well, so the government closed it down. (Image: The Conversation - Photo: Kayt Davies)

Nearly 30,000 people across remote Australia, most of them indigenous, will have to work five days a week, 12 months a year, to receive the dole, under a tough new regime that the Abbott government will roll out.

The remote scheme, which will require recipients of the Newstart allowance to undertake 25 hours of work-for-the-dole activities each week, is tougher than the regime to be rolled out in cities and regional areas, which will apply only for six months a year.

A new fund will be established to support the creation of businesses in languishing communities in remote areas, such as butchers and hairdressers, to support the scheme.

In its first policy response to mining magnate Andrew Forrest's indigenous employment report, the Abbott Government will embark on reform of employment services in remote Australia to put an end to "sit-down welfare". The radical new regime will be rolled out progressively region by region, starting next July.

Senator Siewert said successive governments have cut and reduced CDEP, a job program that worked for many communities.

"People received top-up wages and considered they had real jobs. Since stopping that program, many people have felt demoralised about losing those jobs. Work for the dole is a poor replacement.

"There are a range of factors contributing to underemployment, none of which are addressed by a punitive work for the dole scheme, especially at the same time as the Government are cutting $534 million from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs.

"Investing in new businesses is an important and necessary step but should not be accompanied by extreme work for the dole measures," Senator Siewert said.