Thousands of Australians in remote and regional areas people will have to work twice as many hours a week than people living in cities in order to receive welfare payments.
They’ll have to work 25 hours a week, or about 260 days a year, double the number of days of welfare recipients in urban areas.
The Federal Opposition and the Greens have labelled the moves as punitive and discriminatory against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
ABOUT 30,000 AUSTRALIANS TO BE AFFECTED
The Government announced the moves on Saturday after Parliamentary sittings had ended for the year. They will come into effect from July and affect jobseekers aged between 18 and 49.
“Firstly, it’s putting more money into those communities to enable every single able-bodied person to have the opportunity to work 25 hours per week”, said Alan Tudge, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.
“Second, it provides additional empowerment initiatives and particularly reforming training so that training leads into a job rather than training being training for training’s sake”.
The new welfare regime is expected to affect about 30,000 Australians living in remote communities, many of them Indigenous.
The Government said their scheme will replace Labor’s multi-billion dollar Remote Jobs and Communities Programme.
“Labor simply put the urban model of employment services into remote Australia. The result was widespread disconnection and a return to passive welfare”, said Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion.
In addition to continuing the funding Labor started, the Coalition says it will also be contributing $25 million a year to establish businesses in remote communities.
BUILD A SALON, OR A BUTCHER
The Coalition is encouraging remote job seekers to be creative in completing their mandatory work for the dole activities.
“It could be through ranger-like initiatives, it could be through establishing butchers and hairdresser salons, it could be generally in construction”, said Mr Tudge.
Parents taking their children to school will also be able to claim that as working for welfare.
“This measure that they’re proposing will result in a disproportionate and discriminatory impact on Indigenous people in this country”, said the Opposition’s Indigenous Affairs spokesman Shayne Neumann.
The Labor Party maintains there are too many small communities in the bush with small job markets, which will force people into job activities they don’t want to do.
The new scheme is the Government’s first official moves in response to the Forrest Review of Indigenous employment and training – the report by mining billionaire Andrew Forrest.
It contrasts with the Work for the Dole Programme in Australia’s urban areas. Welfare recipients in Australia’s cities and larger towns only have to work up to 25 hours a week for six months of the year. Alan Tudge says the Government isn’t breaching the Racial Discrimination Act, because its scheme applies to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
It’s been a year of shake ups for the Abbott Government. It radically overhauled the funding model for Indigenous organisations – condensing over 150 funding programs into five. It’s called the Indigenous Advancement Strategy and has been causing confusion for many Indigenous organisations.
The Government’s proposed Medicare copayment, whatever form it takes, will probably harm Aboriginal Medical Services. The Australian Medical Association is supporting a number of Indigenous medical services, which say a copayment on doctor’s services will see them lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is expected to visit Redfern in Sydney later this week to reaffirm his support for constitutional recognition of Indigenous people.