BILLS - Social Security Legislation Amendment (Community Development Program) Bill 2018 - Second Reading

I rise to speak on the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Community Development Program) Bill 2018. Labor will not be supporting the bill. In our remote First Nations communities far from labour markets, jobs are scarce and sometimes non-existent. The design of these programs has been constantly changing as governments of both persuasions have tried to manage and balance the rights and responsibilities in what is really an artificial labour market.

The government has created a program called the CDP, the Community Development Program. Of the 35,000 participants, around 85 per cent are First Nations people. This government has sold the rights to manage the program in communities to the private sector, to big foreign owned companies like MAX Employment. The program settings, designed in Canberra and rolled out in the bush, are fatally flawed, as the Senate committee report has shown. The penalty regime for breaches of the program is ruthless, draconian and discriminatory. It creates hardship and hunger for kids in communities where there are breaches. Being off an income for four weeks is certainly not humane.

Since the CDP was introduced, the number of financial penalties applied to people in remote areas has increased sevenfold, from 5,900 per quarter to 45,000 per quarter. By comparison, jobactive has fewer financial penalties for participants per quarter on average, at 37,000, despite being a program which has 20 times more people. The impact of these financial penalties on the most disadvantaged, marginalised people in Australia is well known to our communities. It leads to overcrowding, to family violence and to poor health.

This coalition government promised substantial reform to CDP. The bill is not that substantial reform. The bill does not fix the real problems but does tamper around the edges. If the bill were to pass, it would create more hardships. Our approach if we were to legislate, from the Labor point of view, would be to underpin greater empowerment of local communities in administration and management; provide quarantined funding for the benefit of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities managing the program; separate out the mainstream policy and administration scheme to confine it to a discrete Aboriginal community; focus upon wage parity and conditions; and focus the scheme upon community development and training. The current CDP is a failure, and the government's proposed amendments will make it worse. Labor will not support this legislation.

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