A strong stand against the NT intervention

October 29, 2010
Photo: Ella Ryan

Campaign groups against the NT intervention published a statement in the October 29 Australian that condemned its effects on Aboriginal working conditions in remote communities.

The statement was supported by Unions NT and by unions such as the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union; the Maritime Union of Australia; and the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union. It was also supported by several Aboriginal corporations, health services and rights groups involved from communities affected by the intervention, as well as support groups in the coastal cities.

Some political parties, including the Greens, Socialist Alliance, Solidarity, Socialist Alternative and the Communist Party of Australia, signed the statement.

The statement was published to coincide with a national day of action against the intervention on October 29.

* * *

Stop the NT Intervention: Jobs with Justice for Aboriginal workers!

New CDEP scheme worse than Workchoices

The NT Intervention promised to deliver “real jobs” for Aboriginal communities. Instead, thousands of waged jobs have been lost and Aboriginal organisations have been crippled as Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) close down.

Under the new CDEP scheme designed by the federal Labor government, Aboriginal people no longer receive wages.

They are being forced to work providing vital services such as rubbish collection, school bus runs, sewerage maintenance, construction and aged care in exchange for quarantined Centrelink payments.

People are compelled to work 16 hours a week for $115 cash, plus $115 credit on a “Basics Card” which can only be used on “priority items” in government-approved stores.

Aboriginal workers have described this as a return to the “ration days” when they were paid in food instead of cash. Centrelink is threatening to cut off payments entirely if people do not participate.

Unclear guidelines and the vulnerable position of many workers have seen cases of people working 30 hours or more for no extra money. This is far worse than anything the Liberals inflicted on workers under Workchoices.

The Labor government committed to halving the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in a decade. But due to a continuation of Howard-era policies such as the Intervention, Indigenous unemployment has drastically worsened from 13.8% in 2007 to 18.1% in 2009.

The 500 “real jobs” created to replace some of the lost CDEP positions in remote NT shire councils face the axe next year. The Commonwealth is refusing to guarantee ongoing funding of $8.5 million per year needed by the NT government to keep the jobs. Many Aboriginal communities serviced by these shires already suffer atrocious living conditions — 500 more job losses will be devastating.

The NT Intervention shames Australia. Despite recent amendments, the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) ruled in August that Intervention legislation provides clear evidence of “embedded racism” against Aboriginal people. The UNCERD report said living conditions had deteriorated for Aboriginal people under the Intervention through loss of land, property, employment, legal rights and opportunities for cultural development.

Rather than abandon failed policy, the government is planning to spend $350 million (over 4 years) to expand income management across the NT. This money is desperately needed to create real jobs in Aboriginal communities and ensure the provision of basic services.

The government must act immediately to:

• Guarantee the 500 threatened shire jobs;

• End compulsory income management;

• End current CDEP arrangements forcing people to work for the Basics Card;

• Turn all CDEP positions into fully waged jobs;

• Provide massive investment in job creation and service provision in all Aboriginal communities.

[For the full list of endorsements and more information see www.jobswithjustice.wordpress.com ]

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