Labor Senators note the serious concerns with this Bill identified by a
wide range of stakeholders in the course of this Inquiry, many of which are
reflected in the Chair's report.
This includes the inadequacy of consultation, and the lack of genuine
engagement or co-design with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
and representative organisations. Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern
(APO NT) expressed these concerns in strong terms:
Despite this we find ourselves, once again, responding to a
Bill and a set of reforms that have not been the subject of prior consultation.
Again, there is very little detail about key aspects of the overall reform
package and it is proposed that much be left to delegated legislation. Again,
we have very little time to respond to the submission deadline.
The Government repeatedly says that it wishes to do things
with, not to First Nations people. Yet the story of the CDP has been one of top
down decision making – from the decision to impose daily Work for the Dole on
participants, to the failed 2015 CDP2 Bill, to this current proposal.
Labor Senators agree with the concerns raised by the Senate Standing
Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills in relation to key elements of the proposed
changes being consigned to delegated legislation, rather than contained in this
The concerns of Labor Senators also extend to the Government's failure to
provide the Committee with all the relevant delegated legislation, rules and
guidelines in relation to these reforms.
It was made clear in the course of this Inquiry, that extending the
Targeted Compliance Framework (TCF) to remote parts of the country would harm
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Those with practical
experience of program delivery and an understanding of community impacts raised
serious concerns about the expansion of the TCF.
The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples explained:
National Congress asserts that the introduction of the
Targeted Compliance Framework (“TCF”) in remote communities is inappropriate,
and will not achieve the desired outcome of reducing the number of penalties
applied to CDP participants...
Indeed, National Congress notes that the TCF was never
designed for use in remote areas, and that it would be inappropriate to apply
it to CDP participants. The TCF was designed for use in urban and regional
contexts, where the vast majority employment program participants regularly
comply with obligations, and those who refuse to often do so deliberately due
to dissatisfaction with the system. This is not the case in remote communities:
many CDP participants breach obligations on a more regular (i.e. weekly or
fortnightly) basis due to social, cultural and community obligations, and
persistent non-compliance is more likely to be the result of structural
barriers such as geographical challenges.
As such, National Congress believes that, although the
introduction of the TCF may remove some penalties for one-off breaches, its
overall effect will be equal to, or even worse, than the current system.
Jobs Australia indicated that the impact of the TCF on people's ability
to access even the most basic income would be severe:
The Government's own modelling tabled in the Senate on the
20th August suggests that, in the first year alone, 4,687 people will receive
4-week penalties and be forced to re-apply for income support. In year two,
this rises to 7941. From a caseload that currently stands at close to 30,000,
25% of participants getting a 4-week penalty and having their payments
cancelled would be disastrous for them, their families and their communities.
Labor Senators note the much higher participation requirements of the
Community Development Program (CDP), compared to Job Active, and acknowledge
that this would make it significantly more difficult for a person to maintain
compliance over time. Jobs Australia has explained how expanding the TCF in
this context would consign many people to a penalties-and-compliance cycle
which will increase the risk of disengagement:
CDP is causing unnecessary financial hardship, exacerbating
poverty, creating disengagement and doing more harm than good in remote
Australia. After CDP commenced in 2015, the number of financial penalties
applied to CDP participants increased at an alarming rate. Despite having only
30,000 job seekers compared to around 660,000 in Job Active, more financial
penalties are applied to CDP participants than to job active participants...
The very high rates of penalties in CDP are primarily due to
the onerous and inflexible participation requirements in CDP compared to
The application of the TCF will accelerate penalties and
increase the number of CDP job seekers subject to penalties for persistent and
wilful non-compliance and would make a bad situation even worse.
Labor Senators are troubled by the Government's failure to adequately
address the very serious concerns identified by stakeholders in relation to the
TCF, or respond to calls for increased flexibility. The TCF has simply not been
designed for use in remote Australia or as a part of the CDP program and is not
appropriate in its current form.
While the proposal to allow allied health professionals to provide
information in relation to work capacity assessment has been supported by
several organisations, there are concerns this will divert resources from
already under-resourced health services. National Aboriginal Community
Controlled Health Organisations explained:
NACCHO also notes that the inclusion of evidence from allied
health professionals has also been added with no consideration of health
services' current workloads and capacity, no additional resourcing and no
consultation. If these provisions proceed, NACCHO recommends that the
Government work with Aboriginal health organisations and their peaks to ensure
the changes and requirements are properly understood and any financial impact
Labor Senators call on the Government to urgently address the issues
raised in the course of this inquiry through a process of genuine consultation
and co-design with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, their
representative organisations and other stakeholders.
|Senator Patrick Dodson
Senator for Western Australia
|Senator Sue Lines
Senator for Western Australia
|Senator Malarndirri McCarthy
Senator for the Northern Territory
|Senator Murray Watt
Senator for Queensland
|Senator Lisa Singh
Senator for Tasmania
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