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Guest worker scheme widens the gap in indigenous disadvantage.

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The Hon SUSSAN LEY MP Federal Member for Farrer

Shadow Minister for Housing Shadow Minister for Women

21 August 2008

MEDIA RELEASE For immediate release

Guest worker scheme widens the gap in indigenous disadvantage

The guest worker scheme being put in place by the Rudd Labor Government neglects Australia’s long term unemployed and puts indigenous disadvantage in the 'too hard' basket according to Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley.

Ms Ley said around 600,000 Australians are unemployed and Mr Swan is continually telling us our economy is poised on a knife edge. Treasury estimates also have unemployment increasing.

“I am concerned that the Government has not fully considered the consequences of opening up our immigration system to unskilled labourers from a very select group of countries,” she said.

Ms Ley said since the Rudd Labor Government were elected they have been actively winding back the Welfare to Work program, which sees job seekers attending fortnightly face-to-face interviews with Centrelink.

“Ultimately, they are giving up on our long term unemployed. All levels of government must try harder to get people who are out of the workforce back in jobs,” she said.

"They have failed to continue the intervention in Northern Territory at the level needed to turn around the appalling cycle of abuse and neglect. Where is the Government’s plan to give young Aborigines real opportunities in the real workforce?”

“There are genuine success stories and positive ideas about getting Aboriginal communities back on track and I believe indigenous youth could benefit from having the dollars that are allocated to this program spent on them,” she said.

“The last thing I want to see coming from this program is a re-enforcing of the stereotypes that Aboriginal youth ‘won't work’, ‘can't do the job’ or ‘prefer to get sit down money’,” Ms Ley said.

Ms Ley’s electorate of Farrer, which takes in horticultural regions on the NSW Murray, Murrumbidgee and Darling Rivers, also includes significant indigenous communities in Albury, Broken Hill, Hay and Wentworth.

“I have great sympathy for horticulturalists who struggle to get workers and we do need to help them but this is not the way,” Ms Ley said pointing to the successful employment and integration of recently arrived refugees and immigrants who have entered rural industries, moved to rural towns and formed part of the long term future of the regions.



Media contact: Georgina Wilson (02) 60213264 0428 213264