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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 7215

Dr LAWRENCE (3:00 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations. Is the minister aware that Indigenous unemployment is 23 per cent and that this figure does not include Indigenous people participating in the Community Development Employment Program, an ATSIC-managed Work for the Dole program? Is he also aware from recent reports that most of the recent increase in Indigenous employment can be accounted for by increased participation in the CDEP scheme, which has been estimated to account for between 15 and 25 per cent of employed Indigenous persons, and that Indigenous unemployment rates would be over 40 per cent if that scheme did not exist? Given these appalling figures, can you confirm, Minister, that federal government departments, including Centrelink, now have a practice of employing Indigenous people not through the Public Service but on the CDEP scheme, which makes them work for their benefits, as we have discovered in a recent answer to a question on notice? Minister, can you explain why Indigenous Australians are not given the same remuneration and employment benefits as non-Indigenous employees in the Public Service? Also, will you be using this discriminatory employment method in your Cape York partnership announced today, the question for your reference?

Mr Ross Cameron —Wind it up.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Parramatta. He seems to feel he has the right simply to interject. If he wishes to draw the Speaker's attention, he will rise and seek the call.

Mr ABBOTT (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I accept that, as the member for Fremantle says, Indigenous unemployment is terribly, horribly high; I accept that. I also accept that Indigenous unemployment would be even higher but for the 30,000 or so Indigenous people who are employed under Community Development Employment Program jobs; I accept that. But the last thing I want to do is make the Indigenous unemployment situation worse rather than better, and that is why I do not propose to tamper with the CDEP scheme.