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Notice given 18 November 2010

213  Senator Siewert: To ask the Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development ( transferred to the Minister representing the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on 29 November 2010 )—I would like to clarify the employment and working conditions for Aboriginal workers employed under the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP), including under what conditions participants in Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program, traineeships or work-for-the-dole programs may be employed. I have received some disturbing reports from communities in central Australia of the inconsistent treatment of Aboriginal workers.

The main allegations I have heard are:

•  Aboriginal workers on CDEP or on incom e management being promised top-up pay that they do not receive or fully receive.

•  Inconsiste nt and diminishing rates of top-up pay for workers, so that workers continuously employed to do the same work for the same number of hours a day receive less pay in subsequent pay packets.

•  A failure to provide pay slips, employment contracts or other documentation to Aboriginal workers.

•  A failure to report on employment outcomes to Job Services Australia (JSA) providers.

•  Minimal training (e.g. 1 day) for extended periods of work (e.g. 3 to 4 months).

•  Aboriginal contractors being asked to include CDEP places to reduce costs, and receiving less work when they refuse to do so.

•  Different workers doing the same work side -by-side, but receiving vastly different pay.


• Over subscription of CDEP workers for the amount of work required (e.g. 15 or 20 put on to do the work of 5 to 6 full-time workers) with the expectation that a number will drop out (and are effectively forced to do so).

I am concerned that, if some or all of these allegations are true, they are undermining the positive employment outcomes that could be achieved by the significant opportunity provided by SIHIP, therefore:

(1) What proportion of jobs on SIHIP is made up of CDEP workers.

(2) Can a breakdown be provided, by community, of the number of Indigenous SIHIP workers: (a) on grandfathered CDEP payments; (b) in receipt of CDEP via Basics Card; (c) on other work experience programs; (d) being paid real wages; and (d) who received top-up wages, including the amount received.

(3) How is it that the promised ‘real jobs for real wages’ under SIHIP are subject to income management.

(4) Which organisations pay CDEP participants who are employed on SIHIP or SIHIP ancillary jobs.

(5) (a) Can the accreditation requirements, workplace agreements and remuneration standards that are required by contractors who are providing construction or maintenance services under SIHIP be clarified; and (b) can an explanation be provided as to how these apply to organisations that are providing CDEP placements, traineeships or work-for-the-dole programs.

(6) Can Aboriginal organisations or organisations employing Aboriginal workers be required to provide a certain number of CDEP places.

(7) If there are accredited Aboriginal contractors willing and able to do construction or maintenance work, can and should they be excluded in favour of CDEP workers.

(8) What are the arrangements concerning top-up pay for workers who are on income support and having their income managed under the Northern Territory Emergency Response.

(9) Are companies providing training or managing CDEP or work-for-the-dole programs required to clearly inform workers up-front as to how many hours they can work and how much top-up money they will be paid.

(10) Should the amount of top-up pay decrease over time.

(11) If there are changes to top-up arrangements or numbers of hours worked, are organisations required to inform workers beforehand.

(12) What can workers do if they believe they have worked a significant number of hours for which they have not been paid.

(13) (a) What are the contractual obligations of Community Enterprises Australia (CEA) and New Future Alliance under SIHIP; and (b) are they required to report on employment outcomes, number of hours worked, rates of pay etc.

(14) What remedy is there for JSA providers who have referred participants to CEA and/or SIHIP but have not received placement or outcome fees due to a lack of reporting.

(15) Which other communities who are in receipt of SIHIP housing or renovations also have, or will have, CDEP and work experience participants working on them.


 (16) What action, if any, is the Government taking to remedy: (a) the underpayment of CDEP workers; (b) the lack of placement or outcome fees for referring JSA providers due to inadequate outcomes reporting by CEA; or (c) the loss of potential wages to Aboriginal contractors paying Aboriginal workers real wages for doing real work, who were overlooked in favour of the cheaper CDEP or work experience option.

(17) In regard to the CDEP program: (a) what proportion of available CDEP positions are now being taken up; and (b) can the latest data be provided on ex-CDEP participants, including: (i) the total number, (ii) how many ex-participants have jobs, and (iii) how many are on income support.