• Treasurer Scott Morrison is riding record job growth and high commodity prices in the 2018 budget. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Federal Government’s controversial work-for-the-dole scheme will see 6000 new jobs in remote communities.
8 May 2018 - 8:05 PM  UPDATED 9 May 2018 - 3:05 PM

The Community Development Programme reforms will see remote job seekers are further supported on their pathway to employment. The Government says it will now be a simpler, more streamlined program, with less interactions with Centrelink.

This is being complemented by a government-funded employment program for 6,000 jobs in remote Australia, with participants now eligible to entitlements like superannuation and leave.

The new jobs will be set aside for CDP participants through a new wage subsidy programme working with local organisations to help grow the remote workforce. The changes were made following a consultation with communities.

The government hopes the reforms will address many of the issues the scheme has been heavily criticised for, including reducing the maximum hours of required work from 25 to 20 hours, cutting red tape to reduce reporting requirements and more support for job seekers.

However, penalties imposed on participants for non-compliance will remain. 

The changes will come into effect on 1 February 2019.

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The government says while they are taking measures to reduce the rate of non-compliance, participants will still be punished under a larger job seeker compliance framework.

Last year, a senate inquiry branded the CDP a failure. 

National Congress of Australia's First People CEO Gary Oliver says none of the recommendations have been listened to. 

He's doubtful the new jobs will even come into fruition. 

"I can see that these subsidised jobs will also be involved in the roll-out of housing, so are they going to be paid award rates that a tradie would be paid to do," he told NITV News. 

WA Labor Senator Pat Dodson has previously criticized the CDP for penalising people. 

“[Participants] got to through Centrelink and sometimes the waiting time is hours, and people walk away,” he told NITV News.

“So there’s actually a whole cohort of people who have walked away from the level of support that they could get from participating in the program, because they’re frustrated by the way in which this is being administered,” he said.

“And then they’re frustrated by the lack of real jobs that are coming out of the program, and they’ve been penalised for non-attendance. So if someone's got to survive with kids or with a family it leads to people becoming co-dependent on their relations it just compounds the already impoverished position the people are in."

WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says while the government has reduced the number of hours people have to work but says it does not bring it in line with the obligations of other job seekers.

"They are planning to bring CDP in line with their new demerit point system which is likely to have significant adverse consequences," she said. 

"Minister Scullion has stood up in front of Aboriginal communities and promised to overhaul this program, with a shift to community wages that worked in the previous CDEP program. Changes announced in the budget are a major backtracking of that commitment and I am deeply concerned about the ongoing wellbeing of individuals and communities affected." 

Other reforms include assessing participants’ working hours and whether they are medically fit to do so. The program will work with local health professionals to ensure participants only work hours relevant to their medical capacity.

The government says since the commencement of the CDP in July 2015, participation in the program has lifted from 7 per cent to 70 per cent.

NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said the ‘entrenched poverty’ surrounding the CDP is an area of concern for Territorians.

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“The Community Development Program covers 33,000 people across Australia,” she told ABC radio.

“A large proportion are in the Northern Territory and we know that people are going hungry in our regions that our CDP program is not effective and there needs to be deep consideration, both financially but also policy of CDP for participants across Australia,” she said.

Many others have expressed concern over the scheme.

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Professor Jon Altman from Deakin University said he could predict the ‘disastrous outcome that was going to result.’

He says the government has been slow in making reforms to the program.

“I don't think that they've got an alternative framework to put in place,” he told NITV News. “And again, I think that tells us something about very lazy policymaking and program implementation by this government.”

Dr Francis Markham is a Research Fellow at ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research.

He says the CDP is an example of a program that is not working.

“In my view, our policy outcomes would probably be better off if the program was just wound back altogether, which would both save money, and, make people's lives a bit better,” he told NITV News.

“[It's] incredibly expensive, so costs more than 10 thousand dollars per participant, per year, to go through this incredibly punitive, work for the dole, type scheme which doesn't really seem to be showing any outcome.”

Where most of the Indigenous spend is going

On Tuesday, Treasurer Scott Morrison handed down his third budget.

It contained measures what most suspected. Tax relief for low to middle income earners, a $75 billion injection into transport infrastructure – as part of a larger backing of business to create jobs – and major reform to aged care services to ensure older Australians can stay home longer.

Mr Morrison says this year’s Budget, which comes before a looming election, will be about having a stronger economy, more jobs and guaranteeing essential services – and this in response to the questions Australians want answered. 

But Indigenous spending wasn’t immediately clear.

But what we do know, apart from new reforms to the Community Development Programme, is the Commonwealth will invest $550 million over five years for remote housing in the Northern Territory.

It will, for the first time, leverage matched funding from the Northern Territory government to ensure buy-in from the Territory government.

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The Commonwealth is still negotiating with other states including Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia to secure funding for housing in their respective states.

The Coalition says it will work in partnership with local land councils and the Northern Territory government to build homes in remote communities in a bid to address overcrowding and homelessness.

The number of homes to be built is still under negotiation. The government said a previous investment of $1.7 billion saw around 10,000 homes built over the ten years.

National Congress of Australia's First People's Co-Chair Rod Little says any investment into affordable housing is welcome. 

"But for our people it is the first thing that we need to enable us to move into better health, life expectancy and all the rest of it," he told NITV News. 

"So we think that the budget through its infrastructure investment, that's great, but where do we fair in those opportunities." 

NT Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy said there is still a long way to go.

“With the housing situation, let’s remember that the Federal Government has a responsibility and no one wants to make Territorians feel incredibly grateful for something that should have been a right for people in the Northern Territory for quite some time, instead of leaving it to the last minute with June 30 being the deadline,” she told ABC radio.

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Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said in a statement First Australians will deliver for First Australians across the board by investing in health, safety and security through economic and employment opportunities.

"The Coalition Government’s economic plan has already delivered over 400,000 jobs last year – the highest number of any year on record," he said. 

"We are delivering tax relief to hard-working Australian families, guaranteeing the essential services in health, education and community safety that all Australians rely upon, returning the Budget to a credible trajectory to surplus, while setting the stage for a return of business confidence and the jobs boom. We are also ensuring that First Australians have their fair share of this economic success."

This year’s budget will see major changes to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Land Account, introduced under the Keating Government following the landmark Mabo decision, with $2 billion being shifted to a new Land and Sea Future Fund.

The government says the transfer of funds will ensure sustainability, but also means the current Land Account will be abolished.

The reform will see the Indigenous Land Council expand its functions to include freshwater and sea country.

Other major announcements include funding injections in health and education.

The government will deliver $3.8 billion to the Indigenous Australian's Health Programme (IAHP) from 2018-19, an increase of over $800 million compared with the previous four years. Older Indigenous Australians will have better access to aged care services with $105 million, and a further $34.8 million over four years will be spent to support deliver of critical dialysis treatment in remote communities, under a new Medicare Benefits Schedule item. 

There will be a further $33.4 million spent in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce, which will go towards providing funding to prevent and treat chronic health conditions including crusted scabies, middle ear infection and eye disease.

National Congress CEO Gary Oliver says these conditions are social diseases that should no longer exist. 

"We need money, not just around the treatment, around the treatment of scabies for example, but for the prevention of scabies," he told NITV News. 

"We achieve that through good housing, we achieve that through good housing. So there are another bunch of factors that we will have to watch be unpacked from this budget," he said. 

Indigenous students will receive $38.1 million over five years under ABSTUDY to implement more efficient payment arrangements for schools, safer and fair travel arrangements, and to ensure consistent rates for students studying away from home.

Domestic violence prevention programs for women and girls will get $18.2 million to support their programs, including maintaining the current DV alert service and 1800RESPECT trauma counselling service. 

Rural, remote and regional community infrastructure projects will be supported through a $200 million boost to the Building Better Regions Funding, and $28.3 million over four years will go towards an upgrade to the remote airways works in Indigenous communities to support access to remote towns. 

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, AIATSIS, will receive $2 million over three years to support the preservation and celebration of Indigenous languages and culture.