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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee—Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021 [Provisions]—Report, dated October 2021


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October 2021

The Senate

Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee

Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021 [Provisions]

© Commonwealth of Australia 2021

ISBN 978-1-76093-297-8

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.

The details of this licence are available on the Creative Commons website: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

iii

Members

Chair Senator Claire Chandler LP, TAS

Deputy Chair Senator Tim Ayres ALP, NSW

Members Senator Kimberley Kitching ALP, VIC

Senator Matt O'Sullivan LP, WA

Senator James Paterson LP, VIC

Senator Malcolm Roberts PHON, QLD

Substitute Members Senator Malarndirri McCarthy ALP, NT

(for Senator Kitching on 23 September 2021)

Participating Members Senator Lidia Thorpe AG, VIC

Secretariat Sarah Redden, Committee Secretary Kate Campbell, Principal Research Officer Trish Carling, Senior Research Officer Michael Finch, Senior Research Officer Brooke Gay, Research Officer Michaela Keating, Administrative Officer

Website: www.aph.gov.au/senate fpa

PO Box 6100 E-mail: fpa.sen@aph.gov.au

Parliament House Ph: 02 6277 3846

Canberra ACT 2600 Fax: 02 6277 5809

v

Contents

Members ............................................................................................................................................. iii

List of Recommendations ............................................................................................................... vii

Abbreviations ..................................................................................................................................... ix

Chapter 1—Introduction and background ..................................................................................... 1

Referral .................................................................................................................................................. 1

Conduct of the inquiry ........................................................................................................................ 1

Context of the bill ................................................................................................................................. 1

Community Development Program ..................................................................................... 2

2021−22 Budget update ............................................................................................................ 3

Purpose of the bill ................................................................................................................................ 4

Co-design and pilot programs ................................................................................................ 5

Payment...................................................................................................................................... 5

Discussion paper ....................................................................................................................... 7

Key provisions of the bill .................................................................................................................... 8

Part 1―Main amendments relating to the Remote Engagement Program ...................... 8

Part 2―Contingent amendments to the Remote Engagement Program payment ....... 11

Part 3―Main amendments relating to the CDEP scheme ................................................ 11

Part 4―Contingent amendments relation to the end of the CDEP scheme ................... 12

Commencement dates ....................................................................................................................... 12

Financial implications ........................................................................................................................ 12

Human rights considerations ........................................................................................................... 12

Consideration by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights ...................... 13

Consideration by the Standing Committee for Scrutiny of Bills ...................................... 14

Chapter 2—Key issues and committee views .............................................................................. 17

Support for the bill ............................................................................................................................ 17

Concerns with the bill ....................................................................................................................... 18

Supplementary payment ....................................................................................................... 19

Rights of participants ............................................................................................................. 20

Pathways to employment ...................................................................................................... 21

Pilot programs and trials ....................................................................................................... 23

vi

The consultation and co-design process ......................................................................................... 23

Committee views ............................................................................................................................... 27

Additional Comments - Australian Labor Party ......................................................................... 31

Dissenting Report - Australian Greens......................................................................................... 35

Appendix 1—Monetary benefit of the REP ................................................................................. 41

Appendix 2—Submissions and additional information ........................................................... 43

Appendix 3—Public hearings and witnesses .............................................................................. 45

vii

List of Recommendations

Recommendation 1

2.61 The committee recommends that the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021 be passed.

ix

Abbreviations

ACOSS Australian Council of Social Service

AHNT Aboriginal Housing Northern Territory

AHRC Australian Human Rights Commission

APO NT Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory

Bill Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote

Engagement Program) Bill 2021

CDP Community Development Program

CDEP Community Development Employment Program

CLC Central Land Council

Committee Senate Finance and Public Administration

Legislation Committee

CPSU Community and Public Sector Union

HRLC Human Rights Law Centre

ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and

Cultural Rights

MORs Mutual Obligation Requirements

NAAJA North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency

National Agreement National Agreement on Closing the Gap NIAA National Indigenous Australians Agency

NTCOSS Northern Territory Council of Social Service

PJCHR Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights

RASAC Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation

REP Remote Engagement Program

Social Security Act Social Security Act 1991

Streamlining Participation Act Social Security Legislation Amendment (Streamlined Participation Requirements and Other Measures) Act 2021

1

Chapter 1

Introduction and background

Referral 1.1 On 1 September 2021, the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021 (bill) was introduced and read a first time in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the

Hon Ken Wyatt MP.1

1.2 On 2 September 2021, pursuant to a recommendation of the Senate Selection of Bills Committee, the Senate referred the provisions of the bill to the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee (committee) for inquiry and report by 14 October 2021.2

Conduct of the inquiry 1.3 Details of the inquiry, including links to the bill and associated documents, were placed on the committee’s website at: www.aph.gov.au/senate_fpa.

1.4 The committee wrote to a number of relevant organisations to notify them of the inquiry and invite submissions by 20 September 2021. The committee received 13 submissions, as listed at Appendix 2.

1.5 The committee held a public hearing for the inquiry in Canberra on 23 September 2021. Witnesses that appeared at the hearing are listed at Appendix 3.

1.6 The committee thanks the organisations that assisted the committee’s inquiry through written submissions and by providing evidence at the public hearing.

Context of the bill 1.7 Remote communities face unique and complex employment challenges,3 including having fewer businesses, less employers and being located away from larger job markets. Less than two per cent of Australian businesses are

located in remote areas,4 and many people are unable to relocate to areas with more work opportunities for ‘cultural, family and financial reasons’.5 Many

1 House of Representatives, Votes and Proceedings, No. 143, 1 September 2021, p. 2182.

2 Journals of the Senate, No. 121, 2 September 2021, pp. 4086−4087.

3 National Indigenous Australians Agency, Submission 9, p. 1.

4 The Hon Ken Wyatt MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, House of Representatives Hansard,

1 September 2021, p. 15.

5 National Indigenous Australians Agency, New Remote Engagement Program: Discussion paper,

August 2021, p. 6.

2

people in remote areas have the ‘skills and experience needed obtain long-term employment’ but remain underemployed or unemployed.6

1.8 In introducing the bill, the Minister recognised the ‘lack of employment opportunities that people, including Indigenous Australians, face in some of the most remote parts of Australia’.7 The Minister highlighted the need for collaboration with remote communities on the design of the Remote Engagement Program (REP):

Achieving sustainable change in remote communities can only be done by working together, including by listening to Indigenous experience and expertise to develop a new approach. Working in partnership to pilot innovative approaches, learn and review, and develop the new program will be key to our future shared success.8

1.9 The Minister also stated that the government had heard stakeholders’ views on the current Remote Employment Program and acknowledged ‘remote communities want changes so that future employment services better match place based economic circumstances and labour market opportunities’.9

Community Development Program 1.10 The Community Development Program (CDP) is Australia’s current remote employment and community development service which was introduced on 1 June 2015 to support:

…job seekers in remote Australia to build skills, address barriers to employment and contribute to their communities through a range of flexible activities.10

1.11 Approximately 40 000 Australians participate in the CDP.11 The CDP operates across 60 remote regions, and in over 1000 communities, that have ‘weak labour markets’ which makes it hard for job seekers to find work and develop skills.12 In some CDP communities there are ‘fewer than 20 residents’.13

6 National Indigenous Australians Agency, New Remote Engagement Program: Discussion paper,

August 2021, p. 7.

7 The Hon Ken Wyatt MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, House of Representatives Hansard,

1 September 2021, p. 15.

8 The Hon Ken Wyatt MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, House of Representatives Hansard,

1 September 2021, p. 15.

9 The Hon Ken Wyatt MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, House of Representatives Hansard,

1 September 2021, p. 15.

10 National Indigenous Australians Agency, The Community Development Program (CDP), accessed 28

September 2021.

11 National Indigenous Australians Agency, The Community Development Program (CDP), accessed 28

September 2021.

12 National Indigenous Australians Agency, Community development and regions list and map,

September 2021.

3

1.12 While the CDP is not specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, a high proportion of CDP participants identify as Indigenous Australians. In October 2017, over 80 per cent of the then approximately 33 000 CDP job seekers identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and 65 per cent of CDP providers were Indigenous organisations.14

1.13 Under the CDP, a person becomes a ‘declared program participant’ if they have claimed or are receiving a relevant payment and are serviced by a CDP provider.15 CDP participants are bound by mutual obligation requirements (MORs), which include:

 agreeing to a job plan;  attending appointments and interviews;  meeting job search requirements;  accepting suitable paid work when offered; and  not voluntarily leaving suitable employment.16

1.14 For CDP participants engaged in work for the dole activities, it was previously required that they engage in 20 hours’ activity per week.17 CDP participants who fail to comply with MORs face penalties, including, in certain circumstances, having their income support payment withheld.18 As part of the 2021−22 Budget, MORs for the CDP were modified to make CDP activities voluntary for participants, while retaining the abovementioned MORs.19

2021−22 Budget update 1.15 On 11 May 2021, the government announced that its 2021−22 Budget would include reforms to support:

…Indigenous Australians into quality and long-lasting jobs, strengthening Indigenous businesses and community organisations, and backing its

13 National Indigenous Australians Agency, CDP operational guidance: overview, July 2021, p. 3.

14 Australian National Audit Office, The Design and Implementation of the Community Development

Programme, 31 October 2017, pp. 15, 17.

15 Social Security (Declared Program Participant) Determination 2018, cl. 5.

16 NIAA, New Remote Engagement Program: Discussion paper, August 2021, p. 10.

17 Department of Social Services, Guides to Social Policy Law, Social Security Guide: Work for the dole -

CDP (3.11.3.120), version 1.286, 27 September 2021.

18 Department of Social Services, Guides to Social Policy Law, Social Security Guide: Consequences for

not meeting mutual obligation requirements - CDP job seeker compliance framework (3.11.14), version 1.286, 27 September 2021.

19 Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Measures: Budget paper No. 2 2021-22, p. 176; NIAA, The

Community Development Program (CDP), accessed 28 September 2021; National Indigenous Australians Agency, New Remote Engagement Program: Discussion paper, August 2021, p. 10.

4

commitment to transform the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.20

1.16 Central to the Budget announcement was the introduction of the REP to ‘ensure employment services fit the changing job market in remote Australia and meet the unique needs of job seekers in remote communities’.21 The Budget confirmed that the REP would replace the CDP in 2023, and provide funding for four REP pilots to commence in 2021.22

Purpose of the bill 1.17 The bill seeks to:

…provide a framework for piloting new approaches to delivering employment services in remote communities ahead of implementing the Government’s Budget announcement that the Community Development Program (CDP) will be replaced in 2023.23

1.18 It is intended that the bill will build on Priority Reform One of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap by creating ‘stronger partnership arrangements and joint decision making authority’ between Indigenous Australians and the Government.24

1.19 The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) advised the committee of the complex employment challenges facing remote communities, and noted that communities wanted to co-design an employment service for remote areas, in partnership with the Government. The NIAA continued that the bill would enable:

… the piloting of new approaches to delivering employment services in remote communities. The Bill is not pre-empting the outcomes of a co-design process, but instead is providing one building block that communities can choose to use as they design their program with Government. Other building blocks will include access to non vocational support, like family or mental health services; vocational skills and training; support in finding jobs and apprenticeships.25

20 The Hon Ken Wyatt MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, ‘2021-22 Budget: Jobs and education

to secure future for Indigenous Australia’, Media release, 11 May 2021.

21 The Hon Ken Wyatt MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, ‘2021-22 Budget: Jobs and education

to secure future for Indigenous Australia’, Media release, 11 May 2021.

22 Commonwealth of Australia, Budget Measures: Budget paper No. 2 2021-22, p. 176; The Hon Ken

Wyatt MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, ‘2021-22 Budget: Jobs and education to secure future for Indigenous Australia’, Media release, 11 May 2021.

23 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendments (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 3.

24 National Indigenous Australians Agency, Submission 9, p. 1.

25 National Indigenous Australians Agency, Submission 9, p. 1.

5

1.20 If enacted, the bill will support the establishment of the REP to build the ‘skills and vocational capabilities of people in remote communities’.26

Co-design and pilot programs 1.21 Pilots of the program will be co-designed with remote communities. The Explanatory Memorandum (EM) to the bill outlines the government’s commitment to co-designing the pilots with communities, viewing this process

as critical to the success of the pilots.27 The EM states that:

The Government will take the time to work together and listen to communities in the pilot sites about what they think could work in their community in relation to the amount of payment to be provided, the hours of engagement to be undertaken in return and what eligible job seekers are required to do to continue to receive the payment. This will also better allow for adjustments during the pilots as lessons are learned.28

1.22 Mr Ryan Bulman, Group Manager of Economic Policy and Programs Group at the NIAA, advised that the structure of the bill was unique, in that can apply flexibly in a pilot area. Mr Bulman made clear that:

Having an option for pilots, as we co-design, to fill in legislative instruments to work with us on the next step of the bill. If parliament passes this bill, it will be quite a unique framework for co-design groups to put in place arrangements for their regions to test and trial only up until 2024 into the social security system. I don't think we've ever had that, as far as I can recall, in our history. 29

1.23 The EM also notes the importance of trialling different approaches in different sites. Lessons from pilot communities will then inform the design of the REP and legislation will be revisited prior to a national rollout of the program in 2023.30 The scheme will initially run under a voluntary model for two years.

Payment 1.24 The bill provides for a new, supplementary payment which will be available for eligible jobs seekers in pilot communities who engage in an REP placement. It is estimated that around 200 eligible job seekers across the pilot sites will

volunteer for the REP payment. Placements will be in roles that provide

26 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 3.

27 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 3.

28 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 3.

29 Mr Ryan Bulman, Group Manager, National Indigenous Australians Agency, Committee Hansard,

23 September 2021, p. 22.

30 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, pp. 3-4.

6

participants a pathway to employment and that deliver ‘public goods or services to benefit local communities’ (for example, a teacher’s aide or park ranger).31

1.25 The NIAA advised that eligible job seekers will voluntarily participate in a role in government services or community organisations for between 15 and 18 hours per week, to build important skills and experience. Participants will be able to voluntarily leave the REP at any time.32

1.26 The EM advises that:

To give effect to the Government’s commitment to work in partnership with Indigenous communities, the Bill sets out the basic parameters of the payment, with other elements such as the qualification criteria and the exact rate of payment to be set out in detail in legislative instruments and policy guidance. These legislative instruments will be informed by the outcomes of a co-design process in the pilot sites.33

1.27 The new payment would be paid at a fixed fortnightly rate and would be additional to certain primary income support payments and other supplements for eligible job seekers. The new payment would not be subject to the income test in the Social Security Act 1991 (Social Security Act).34

1.28 Specific details provided for by Parts 1 and 2 of the bill include, that it will:

 establish the new REP payment, of between $100 and $190 per fortnight, for a maximum continuous period of 104 weeks;  establish the high-level qualifying criteria for the payment;  establish that participation in the REP is voluntary, and that a person can

opt to leave a program placement; and  enable the Minister to make legislative instruments relating to the program’s qualification criteria and the program payment.35

1.29 The EM explains that the REP payment will be time-limited under the bill’s provisions, meaning that the legislation will need to be revisited ahead of the national roll out of the new Remote Engagement Program. This will ensure continuing Parliamentary scrutiny.36 To this end, the bill provides that the REP

31 National Indigenous Australians Agency, Submission 9, p. 1; Explanatory Memorandum, Social

Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021, p. 3.

32 National Indigenous Australians Agency, Submission 9, p. 1.

33 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 3.

34 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 4.

35 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 4.

36 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 3.

7

payment will not be payable after 30 June 2024, which allows sufficient time to test and trial the approach.37

1.30 The bill also includes provisions that remove obsolete provisions in the Social Security Act relating to former jobs programs.38

1.31 The policy intent and monetary benefit of the REP is illustrated in Appendix 1.

Discussion paper 1.32 On 26 August 2021, the NIAA published a discussion paper that provided the first opportunity for consultation on the REP, and called for submissions by 30 November 2021.39

1.33 The paper identified key issues in relation to the REP’s design for discussion:

 program placements―including the types of placements that assist participants gain ‘in-demand skills’ in their local communities and how placements can be designed to encourage participation;

 rob-ready participants―including how to assist job-ready participants in the jobs application process and assist applicants to succeed in the workplace;

 vocational training―including how vocational training can best support participants to obtain work and opportunities for providers to increase their cultural awareness; and

 MORs―including effective approaches for supporting participants to meet their MORs, and ways that providers can take to assist participants to meet MORs.40

Consultation 1.34 The discussion paper noted that a second phase of consultation on the REP - focusing on the early learnings from the program pilots - was proposed to be conducted from late-2021 to April 2022. A third, final phase of consultation,

focusing on communicating the details of the REP’s implementation, is

37 National Indigenous Australians Agency, Submission 9, p. 1.

38 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 4.

39 National Indigenous Australians Agency, New Remote Engagement Program: Discussion paper,

August 2021, pp. 4−11. The NIAA has responsibility for leading and coordinating government policy development, program design and implementation, and service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. See, National Indigenous Australians Agency, The Agency, accessed 30 September 2021.

40 National Indigenous Australians Agency, New Remote Engagement Program: Discussion paper,

August 2021, pp. 6−10.

8

anticipated to be conducted between July 2022 and the commencement of the program in 2023.41

Key provisions of the bill 1.35 The bill’s provisions are presented in one schedule which is divided into four parts. Parts 1 and 2 of the bill make provisions for the REP framework and Parts 3 and 4 remove provisions relating to discontinued jobs programs.42

Part 1―Main amendments relating to the Remote Engagement Program 1.36 The bill’s main provisions are contained in Part 1 which proposes amendments to the Social Security Act and the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999.43

Amendments to the Social Security Act

Item 1 - definitions 1.37 Item 1 of the bill inserts definitions relating to the new, supplementary REP payment (i.e. the Remote Engagement Placement payment), as follows:

 qualifying remote income support payment―defined as the payments listed at proposed section 661B of the bill;  remote engagement placement―defined as part of the program determined by the Minister by legislative instrument (proposed subsection

661A(2)). For a participant to receive an REP payment, the Secretary ‘must be satisfied that the person has agreed to participate, and is participating for at least 15 hours per week’ in a placement;  remote engagement program―meaning an arrangement determined by the

Minister by legislative instrument (proposed subsection 661A(2)); and  remote engagement program provider―meaning a person or organisation in an agreement with the government, or receives government funding, to

deliver the REP.44

Item 2 - specified provision 1.38 Item 2 provides that the REP payment is deemed a ‘specified provision’ to extend the period that a person may receive a social security payment.45 This

41 National Indigenous Australians Agency, New Remote Engagement Program: Discussion paper,

August 2021, p. 5.

42 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 4.

43 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 7.

44 Explanatory Memorandum Social Security Legislation Amendments (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 7; Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 1 (proposed subsection 23(1)).

45 Explanatory Memorandum Social Security Legislation Amendments (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 7; Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 2 (proposed paragraph 23(4AA)(ae)).

9

provision ensures a participant’s entitlement to an REP payment is not impacted by changes in their employment income for a period of up to 12 weeks.46

Items 3 to 6 - notes on income support payments 1.39 Items 3 to 6 insert notes at the end of relevant sections of the Social Security Act to state that a person in receipt of a certain income support payment, and also in receipt of employment services from an REP provider, may qualify for

the REP payment.47

Item 7 - Remote Engagement Program payments 1.40 Item 7 makes provisions for the REP payment in three divisions:

 Division 1―provides for the REP payment qualification criteria (Subdivision A) and the payability provisions (Subdivision B);  Division 2―provides for the rate of the REP payment; and  Division 3―provides for miscellaneous matters.48

Qualification criteria 1.41 Division 1, Subdivision A provides that a person qualifies for the REP payment if all of the following criteria are satisfied:

(a) the person is receiving a qualifying income support payment; (b) the person is receiving employment services from an REP provider; (c) the Secretary is satisfied the person has agreed to participate, and is participating in an REP placement for at least 15 hours per week; and (d) the person satisfies any criteria determined by the Minister by legislative

instrument (per proposed subsection 661A(2)).49

Qualifying income support payments 1.42 Income support payments that qualify a person to receive the REP payment,50 i.e. the qualifying remote income support payment,51 are the:

46 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendments (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 7.

47 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendments (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 8.

48 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendments (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 8; Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 7 (proposed Part 2.13).

49 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendments (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 8; Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 7 (proposed section 661A). Note: decisions made by the Secretary under proposed paragraph 661A(d) are reviewable under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999.

50 Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 7 (proposed section 661B).

51 Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 1 (proposed subsection 23(1)).

10

 Disability Support Pension;  Parenting Payment;  Youth Allowance (excluding recipients in full time study);  Jobseeker; and  any other income support payments as determined by the Minister by

legislative instrument (per proposed subsection 661A(2)).52

1.43 The bill provides that the inclusion of each qualifying income support payment in the REP is contingent on the existing participation requirements, and exemption provisions, of those payments in the Social Security Act.53 Participation in the REP will be limited to people who are able to work.54

‘Payability’ of the Remote Engagement Program payment 1.44 Division 1, Subdivision B provides that an REP payment is not payable to a person:

 in circumstances determined by the Minister by legislative instrument―to imbed ‘flexibility’ in the design of the REP;55  who has received the payment for a continuous period of 104 weeks―to time limit the REP payment, as the payment ‘is not intended to be a long-

term arrangement’;56 and  after 1 July 2024―to limit the timeframe of the pilots, inclusive of a one-year grace period ‘to accommodate any delay’ in the start of the REP.57

Rate of the Remote Engagement Program payment 1.45 Division 2 provides that the Minister may determine, by legislative instrument, the fortnightly rate of the REP payment of an amount between $100 to $190.58 The Minister’s power to make such a determination is discretionary, and is

intended to ‘allow flexibility’ in determining the rate of the REP payment. This is in response to feedback received during the community co-design process.59

52 Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 7 (proposed section 661B).

53 Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 7 (proposed subparagraph 661B(1)(b)).

54 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendments (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 9.

55 Explanatory Memorandum Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 11; Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 7 (proposed section 661C).

56 Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 7 (proposed section 661D).

57 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 8. Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 7 (proposed subsection 661D(2)).

58 Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 7 (proposed section 661E).

59 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 11.

11

Miscellaneous matters 1.46 Division 3 makes consequential amendments to ensure that a person who undertakes an REP activity is not taken to be a worker or employee for the purpose of certain Commonwealth laws.60

Amendments to the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999

Item 8 - Participants not required to make a claim 1.47 Item 8 provides that an REP participant is not required to make a claim for the REP payment.61 The REP payment will be paid in addition to a participant’s existing income support payment.62

Part 2―Contingent amendments to the Remote Engagement Program payment 1.48 Item 9 makes a contingent amendment to give effect to the REP payments provisions proposed at Item 7. In the event that the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Streamlined Participation Requirements and Other Measures) Act 2021

(Streamlined Participation Act) commences before the bill, subsection 661B will repeal and substitute the qualifying remote income support table in Item 7.63

Part 3―Main amendments relating to the CDEP scheme 1.49 Part 3 of the bill, containing items 11 to 54, proposes amendments to the Social Security Act, the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 and the Aged Care Discrimination Act 2004 to repeal provisions relating to the former Community

Development Employment Program (CDEP) and the Northern Territory CDEP transition payment.64 As the provisions of the CDEP are ‘spent’ they are required to be removed from the legislation to ‘avoid confusion over their status’65

60 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, pp. 11-12; Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 7 (proposed section 661F).

61 Schedule 1, Part 1, Item 8 (proposed section 12AG of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999).

62 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 12.

63 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 12; Schedule 1, Part 2, Item 9 (proposed subsection 661B(1)). The Streamlining Participation Requirements Act is intended to simplify the participation requirements of certain income support payments, including payments relevant to the bill. See, Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendments (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021, p. 16.

64 Schedule 1, Part 3, Items 10 to 57.

65 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 13.

12

Part 4―Contingent amendments relation to the end of the CDEP scheme 1.50 Part 4 of the bill, containing items 55 to 57, make contingent amendments to the Social Security Act that will apply if part 3 of the bill is enacted prior to the Streamlined Participation Act.66

Commencement dates 1.51 The proposed commencement dates for the bill are as follows:

 Sections 1 to 3―will commence the day after the bill receives Royal Assent;  Schedule 1, Part 1―will commence on a day to be fixed by Proclamation, however if the provisions to do commence within a period six months after the bill receives Royal Assent then Schedule 1, Part 1 will commence the day

after that period;  Schedule 1, Part 2―will commence immediately after the later of:

(a) the commencement of Schedule 1, Part 1; or (b) the commencement of Schedule 1 to the Streamlined Participation Act. Note, the provisions in Schedule 1, Part 2 will not commence if Schedule 1 to the Streamlined Participation Act does not occur;

 Schedule 1, Part 3―will commence the day after the bill receives Royal Assent; and  Schedule 1, Part 4―will commence at the same time as Schedule 1, Part 3 (i.e. the day after the bill receives Royal Assent). Note, the provisions of

Schedule 1, Part 4 will not commence if Schedule 1 to the Streamlined Participation Act does not occur on or before the date the bill receives Royal Assent.67

Financial implications 1.52 The EM states the cost of the measure ‘will be absorbed within the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.’68

Human rights considerations 1.53 The Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights identifies that the following five human rights are engaged by the bill:

 right to work;69

66 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 16.

67 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 6.

68 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 5.

13

 right to social security;70  right to an adequate standard of living;71  right of equality and non-discrimination;72 and  right of persons with disabilities to work on an equal basis with others.73

1.54 The EM concluded that the bill is compatible with human rights as the bill promotes the rights it engages, and to the extent that any rights are limited those limitations are ‘reasonable, necessary and proportionate’.74

Consideration by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights 1.55 The committee received a submission from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which drew attention to concerns it had previously raised in relation to the CDP, regarding the rights to social security, equality

and non-discrimination.75

1.56 The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (PJCHR) reviewed the bill and drew its human rights concerns to the attention of the Minister and the Parliament.76 The key aspects of the review of the PJCHR are summarised as follows.

Potential promotion of human rights

1.57 To the extent that the bill introduces a new, supplementary social income support payment, and provides work-related opportunities for REP

69 Per Article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);

Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021, p. 18.

70 Per Article 9 of the ICESCR; Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment

(Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021, p. 19.

71 Per Article 11 of the ICESCR; Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment

(Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021, p. 19.

72 Per Article 2 of the ICESCR; Articles 2, 16 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and

Political Rights (ICCPR); Article 5 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and Article 5 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD); Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021, pp. 19-20.

73 Per Article 27 of the CPRD; Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment

(Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021, pp. 19-20.

74 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 20.

75 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission 6, p. 3.

76 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Report 11 of 2021, 16 September 2021, pp. 42−53.

14

participants, the PJCHR considered that the bill may promote the rights to work, social security and adequate standard of living.77

Rights potentially limited 1.58 The PJCHR also considered that the bill could limit human rights. The PJHCR noted the bill specifies certain income support payments as REP qualifying payments, and that the REP may therefore disproportionately impact people

with certain protected attributes, such as people with disability.78 This engages the right to equality and non-discrimination and the PJHCR noted there may be a risk of discrimination if the REP lacks reasonable mechanisms to engage people that traditionally have difficultly accessing social security.79

1.59 The PJHCR also considered it likely that the bill will have a disproportionate affect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and noted the view of the former Special Rapporteur on the right of indigenous peoples that the CDP is ‘discriminatory’ towards Indigenous Australian job-seekers.80

Assessment of potential limitations on human rights 1.60 The PJCHR observed that the bill’s objectives ‘may be capable of constituting legitimate objective for the purposes of human rights law’ but that it ‘must be demonstrated’ that a limitation on a right has a rational connection to the

measure’s objective.81

1.61 The PJCHR considered that, as many of bill’s detailed aspects will be determined by legislative instruments, it is not possible to conclude that the bill would be effective in achieving its objects, nor is it possible to conclude the bill ‘would permissibly limit’ certain human rights, such as the right to equality and non-discrimination.82

Consideration by the Standing Committee for Scrutiny of Bills 1.62 The bill was considered by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills (Scrutiny of Bills Committee) which made comment on the bill’s provision for significant matters to be addressed in delegated legislation.83

77 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Report 11 of 2021, 16 September 2021, pp. 42−43,

52.

78 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Report 11 of 2021, 16 September 2021, p. 47.

79 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Report 11 of 2021, 16 September 2021, pp. 47−48.

80 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Report 11 of 2021, 16 September 2021, p. 47.

81 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Report 11 of 2021, 16 September 2021, p. 52.

82 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Report 11 of 2021, 16 September 2021, p. 52.

83 Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Scrutiny Digest 15, 16 September 2021,

pp. 24−26.

15

1.63 The Scrutiny of Bills Committee noted that the bill provides for the following circumstances to be determined by the Minister by delegated legislation:

 the qualification requirements for a person to receive the REP payment (proposed paragraph 661A(2)(c)); and  where an REP payment is not payable to a person (proposed section 661C).84

1.64 While the EM provides explanations for the delegated legislation provisions, which were broadly based on providing flexibility in co-design of the REP, the Scrutiny of Bills Committee stated it has generally not considered ‘administrative flexibility’ as a sufficient justification for leaving significant matters to delegated legislation.85

1.65 The Scrutiny of Bills Committee considered it was ‘unclear’ as to why high-level guidance on the qualifications requirements, and the circumstances where an REP payment is not payable, could not be included in primary legislation. The Committee also considered that:

…providing the minister with the ability to determine that a remote engagement program payment is not payable in circumstances where there is no guidance on the face of the primary legislation provides the minister with a broad discretionary power.86

1.66 The Scrutiny of Bills Committee sought advice from the Minister regarding the delegated legislative provisions in the bill,87 however at the time of reporting a response from the Minister had not been received.

84 Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Scrutiny Digest 15, 16 September 2021,

pp. 24−25.

85 Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Scrutiny Digest 15, 16 September 2021, p. 25.

86 Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Scrutiny Digest 15, 16 September 2021, p. 25.

87 Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Scrutiny Digest 15, 16 September 2021,

pp. 25−26.

17

Chapter 2

Key issues and committee views

2.1 This chapter considers the key issues raised in submissions and evidence to the inquiry, including:

 support for the Remote Engagement Program and its supplementary payment and cessation of the Community Development Program (CDP);  the adequacy of the engagement conditions for volunteers in term of payment and workers’ rights;  the pathways to future employment at the conclusion of REP participation;

and

 concerns around the co-design and consultation process.

Support for the bill 2.2 Submissions to the inquiry generally welcomed the government’s decision to cease the CDP, and instead introduce the new Remote Engagement Program (REP). Submitters particularly welcomed the fact that the Social Security

Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021 (bill) would be co-designed with remote communities.1

2.3 The government has acknowledged that the CDP has not fully addressed key challenges raised by stakeholders, including that there are often not enough jobs in remote areas, and that many people are unable to relocate to areas with more jobs.2

2.4 Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT) welcomed the decision to abolish the CDP, saying it had failed to address a lack of employment opportunities in remote communities, with an overemphasis on compliance while placing downward pressure on job creation.3

2.5 Representatives of the Central Land Council (CLC) welcomed the decision to replace the CDP by 2023, seeing this is as important and positive step, with the bill before the committee appearing to have good intentions. The CLC urged

1 See, for example, Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation, Submission 1; Australian

Human Rights Commission, Submission 6, p. 4.

2 National Indigenous Australians Agency, New Remote Engagement Program: Discussion paper,

August 2021, p. 6.

3 Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 2. See also, Northern Territory

Council of Social Service, Submission 11, p. 2.

18

for the opportunity to now make a real difference to remote Australia to not be squandered.4 5

2.6 The Coalition of Peaks commended the government for taking steps to replace the CDP, and was encouraged by Minister Wyatt’s statements about the legislation in terms of consultation, co-design and financial and economic security.6 Mr John Paterson of the Coalition advised the committee that it supported moving the framework from a ‘welfare based approach to a real-jobs focus’, and said that:

The Coalition of Peaks commends the government for taking steps to replace the current Community Development Program. The need for real jobs and the building of local economies is essential to closing the gap in remote communities. The aspirations of systemic change, working in partnership and rewarding and sustainable employment, are shared by us as well.7

2.7 Despite the CDP coming to an end, Jobs Australia stressed that CDP providers, the majority of which were Indigenous owned and controlled organisations:

 remain committed to achieving results under the Closing the Gap framework;  are among the largest employers of Indigenous Australians - particularly in remote and regional areas; and  are key to the development processes for the new CDP.8

Concerns with the bill 2.8 Despite welcoming the new REP program, some submitters raised concerns about the potential design of the program, including suggestions that the bill does not provide for adequate consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait

Islander communities, nor does it address the underlying issues of unemployment in remote Australia.9

2.9 APO NT argued that the main cause of unemployment in remote areas is lack of available jobs, and therefore a lack of opportunity to acquire skills and experiences. APO NT suggested that the bill ‘does not address this challenge’

4 Dr Josie Douglas, Executive Manager, Central Land Council, Committee Hansard, 23 September

2021, p. 12.

5 See also, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, and the Human Rights Law Centre,

Submission 7, p. 4.

6 Coalition of Peaks, Submission 4, p. 4.

7 Mr John Paterson, Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Committee Hansard, 23

September 2021, p. 16.

8 Jobs Australia, Submission 13, p. 4.

9 See, for example, Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 1.

19

and that it instead ‘allows people to work in jobs that would normally be paid while remaining on income support’.10

2.10 Jobs Australia also suggested that raising the income payment rate and helping someone with hosted employment would have considerably less chance of being successful than if the issues ‘upstream’ of employment, including housing, health, language, numeracy and literacy, were not addressed at the same time. Jobs Australia further recommended that any changes to the CDP should ‘not result in the redundancy of any Indigenous Australian employee’.11

2.11 This point was also made by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which said that the government needed to implement ‘structural reforms to target systemic inequality, discrimination and full-time employment opportunities’, and to do so:

… together with programs that involve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples such as those introduced by the Bill. The Government should ensure that steps are also being taken to address the lack of economic and job opportunities in remote areas.12

Supplementary payment 2.12 One of the bill’s aims is for an eligible job seeker’s income support, plus the new payment, to be approximately equivalent to the minimum wage for the hours of participation in work-like activities. The new payment will be paid at

a fixed fortnightly rate and will be additional to certain primary income support payments and other supplements for eligible job seekers.13

2.13 CDP provider My Pathway indicated its support for the proposed supplementary payment, submitting that it may help to secure participation in trial activities intended to enable real and sustainable jobs.14

2.14 My Pathway agued, however, that the parameters of the payment should be carefully set to allow flexibility while ensuring it did not displace current workers or replace paid employment. Ideally, funding would support a broad range of activities that would test the most effective ways to assist participants into employment and help employers to recruit remote workforces locally. 15

10 Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 1.

11 Jobs Australia, Submission 13, p. 4.

12 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission 6, p. 5.

13 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 4.

14 My Pathway, Submission 2.

15 My Pathway, Submission 2.

20

2.15 My Pathway suggested that a limit of two years would incentivise participants to actively track towards an employment outcome, and argued that while it is clear that limiting the payment does align with the introduction of a new REP, it may also avoid a continued cycle of activity with no progress or goals.16

2.16 Emeritus Professor Jon Altman et al. pointed out that it was not clear as to whether any additional earnings made by volunteers, over the legislated amount for the program, would be income tested. The submission also called for urgent clarification from the government on whether the payment would be subject to the existing income management arrangements (like the Cashless Debit Card).17

Rights of participants 2.17 Submitters had concerns about the status of volunteers in the scheme, and that they were not considered ‘employees’. For example, Emeritus Professor Jon Altman et al. remarked that:

While the EM does not say so explicitly, it seems that the volunteers will still be classified as ‘unemployed’ with the aim of the REP being to enable their transition to paid employment (when such standard employment conditions will be made available).18

2.18 APO NT similarly noted that the bill explicitly states that ‘workers would not be treated as employees for the purposes of industrial legislation or superannuation’, and that those in receipt of the supplementary payment would remain in the income support system and would not have the entitlements, rights and protections afforded to other workers and minimum wage employees.19 APO NT continued that:

Workers in these new roles would receive substantially less than people working the same hours in government and community services elsewhere, even if we assume that they receive the equivalent of the minimum wage (not guaranteed under the legislation).20

2.19 The AHRC considered that job seekers should be compensated with wages for the time spent participating in the program, ‘at the national minimum wage together with other employee entitlements, such as superannuation and leave’.21

16 My Pathway, Submission 2.

17 Emeritus Professor Jon Altman et al., Submission 10, p. 4.

18 Emeritus Professor Jon Altman et al., Submission 10, p. 2.

19 Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Submission 3, pp. 3, 4. See also, Northern

Territory Council of Social Service, Submission 11, p. 2; Dr Josie Douglas, Executive Manager, Central Land Council, Committee Hansard, 23 September 2021, p. 12.

20 Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 3.

21 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission 6, p. 4.

21

2.20 The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) also raised concerns about the rights of those engaged in the REP. The CPSU expressed concern that the while according to the bill, people could engage with the program voluntarily, the EM:

… explicitly states that payments are intentionally being kept low at the minimum wage to “enable transition to paid work”. The Bill also denies access to paid sick leave, workers compensation and superannuation to those in the pilot as they will be exempt from those relevant federal laws.

Given the Explanatory Memorandum states “eligible job seekers will voluntarily participate in a role in government services or a community organisation for between 15 and 18 hours per week building important skills and experience,” those in the pilot should be classified as workers with access to leave and work health and safety protections. They should be paid at the equivalent award or enterprise agreement rate for the type of work they will do, and it should be a genuine pathway to employment and should recognise Caring for Country activities.22

2.21 The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) and the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) contended that if people were working, they should be employed, and receive all the normal protections and benefits of employment as ‘anything less would risk undervaluing the labour of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities, and would risk repeating the wage injustices of the past’.23

2.22 Jobs Australia members were opposed to any program for Indigenous Australian people that is discriminatory, and continued that:

Providing hosted employment and paying less than the minimum wage for that contribution is unacceptable. The proposed notion, put by representatives that the hosted employment is “work-like” is profoundly rejected. Indigenous Australian people, like all non Indigenous Australian people are to be included under the Fair Work Act Australia and paid wages for their contribution to the work place.24

Pathways to employment 2.23 The bill aims to build the skills and vocational capabilities of people in remote communities, with a view to providing a pathway for jobseekers to find a job.25

2.24 The RASAC, while supportive of opportunities to develop the skills and experience of jobseekers, called for the government to consider the implementation of ‘flexible employment, training and support arrangements’

22 Community and Public Sector Union, Submission 8, p. 1.

23 North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, and the Human Rights Law Centre, Submission 7,

p. 4.

24 Jobs Australia, Submission 13, p. 8.

25 Explanatory Memorandum, Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement

Program) Bill 2021, p. 3.

22

in order to meet the needs of ‘very disadvantaged job seekers in the most remote communities’.26

2.25 Similarly, the Coalition of Peaks urged that reforms to remote engagement programs do everything possible to be ‘creating real jobs and reducing welfare dependency’.27 The Coalition of Peaks noted, however, that there was a lack of visibility around the program given more detailed aspects of it will be set out in legislative instruments and policy guidance.28

2.26 APO NT went further and suggested that there was no employment pathway provided for by the bill, such as traineeships or apprenticeships, and the bill failed to ‘recognise that many who are in the CDP scheme have worked, and get work when it is available’. APO NT concluded that:

Against the backdrop of historical exploitation this Bill would re-establish a basis for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to do similar work, but receive less reward, than other citizens.29

2.27 Similarly, Professor Altman and others observed that job outcomes were not guaranteed by the program, and suggested that:

Even if volunteers participate in the trials for two years and can build important skills and experience, there is no guarantee provided by the REP Bill that they will have a paid job at the trial’s completion. This approach does not, therefore, make suitable paid work available.30

2.28 In appearing before the committee, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) also noted that there was ‘no financial commitment to investment in job creation in the legislation’, and that there was ‘no clear link between this initiative and any job creation programs in remote communities at all’.31

2.29 ACOSS also expressed concern about the interaction between the supplementary payment and the income support compliance framework, which uses a ‘no show, no pay’ penalty regime. ACOSS noted it was unclear from the bill as to whether volunteers in the program would still be subject to those arrangements. ACOSS therefore recommended that non-attendance under the REP should be ‘dealt with through workplace relations provisions, not income support compliance penalties’.32

26 Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation, Submission 1.

27 Coalition of Peaks, Submission 4, p. 4.

28 Coalition of Peaks, Submission 4, pp. 5-6.

29 Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 3.

30 Emeritus Professor Jon Altman et al., Submission 10, p. 5.

31 Dr Simone Casey, Senior Policy Adviser, Australian Council of Social Service, Committee Hansard,

23 September 2021, p. 3.

32 Australian Council of Social Service, Submission 5, p. 3.

23

Pilot programs and trials 2.30 There was a mix of views on the benefits of the trial process, to be in place before the 2023 full implementation of the program.

2.31 For example, My Pathway saw significant benefits in ‘conducting place-based trials or pilot projects to test the best possible solutions’.33

2.32 Dr Douglas of the CLC observed that there was a lack of information and consultation regarding the trial process, including the potential locations, saying:

We don't even know where the trials are going to be taking place. Four trials have been identified. In terms of the consultation that supposedly happened, we don't know where the trial sites will be. There could potentially be one in the Northern Territory—in the Barkly—but nothing's been confirmed. The issue is that there is no co-design in those trials.34

2.33 The AHRC also noted that the bill does not indicate how many pilot programs there will be, or where they will be located. The AHRC agreed with the comments in the EM that ‘it is important that there is capacity to trial different approaches in different sites, provided they comply with basic human rights requirements’, and recommend a sufficient number of pilot programs be established in a range of locations across Australia.35

2.34 While open to the use of trials to test elements of the new scheme, within an agreed national framework (such as the National Agreement on Closing the Gap), APO NT was concerned that there was insufficient time to consider ‘early learnings’ from pilots, saying:

… consultations over the ‘early learnings’ from these pilots are scheduled to end by April 2022, before the program is finalised in July 2022. In other words the processes of co-design, implementation and findings from the trial must be completed in less than 6 months.36

The consultation and co-design process 2.35 As noted in the EM, the bill allows for the development of pilots of the program, which will be co-designed with remote communities and the outcomes of the pilots then informing the further design of the REP prior to a

national rollout of the program in 2023.

2.36 There were a number of views put forward in evidence about consultation around the new REP and the co-design process, and the role that the National

33 My Pathway, Submission 2.

34 Dr Josie Douglas, Executive Manager, Central Land Council, Committee Hansard, 23 September

2021, p. 13.

35 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission 6, p. 12.

36 Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 5. See also, Emeritus Professor

Jon Altman et al., Submission 10, p. 6.

24

Agreement on Closing the Gap could play in the continued development of the REP.

2.37 For example, the Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation (RASAC) suggested that the co-design process ‘must provide the opportunity for communities to have input’ into how the REP supplementary payments are applied.37

2.38 The Coalition of Peaks suggested that for such significant reforms as the new REP, it was important that the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (National Agreement) be ‘used as a guide on how to progress’, as it ‘provides a negotiated position between Australian Governments Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people not just on measuring progress but on how to do things differently’.38 The Coalition of Peaks went on to note that as the new REP would primarily impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it was important to:

Ensure that community led solutions that have been in development for many years such as the Fair Work Strong Communities Scheme be considered in design of the program given the large numbers of community-controlled organisations involved in its development.39

2.39 Aboriginal Housing Northern Territory (AHNT) submitted that there is currently no mechanism for genuine, shared decision making with Indigenous people and their representatives (as is required under the National Agreement). However, it supports the Government’s intention to engage in genuine co-design.40 AHNT suggested that over the last few years many of the decisions made about remote employment programs have been made by government officials. AHNT indicated that this has sometimes happened without warning, and ‘usually without listening to what Indigenous people and their representatives are saying’.41

2.40 The Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) also drew attention to the National Agreement, and suggested that it was clear that the bill had not been designed in collaboration or consultation with Aboriginal people, communities or representative bodies. NTCOSS argued that it therefore fell short of addressing the lack of access to paid employment in remote communities.42

37 Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation, Submission 1.

38 Coalition of Peaks, Submission 4, p. 1. This submission provides a comprehensive review of the

development of the National Agreement and its Priority Reforms.

39 Coalition of Peaks, Submission 4, p. 4.

40 Aboriginal Housing Northern Territory, Submission 12, p. 2.

41 Aboriginal Housing Northern Territory, Submission 12, p. 2.

42 Northern Territory Council of Social Service, Submission 11, p. 2.

25

2.41 Jobs Australia indicated its members view’s that any model, pilot, or other re-imagined employment services program needed to be ‘intrinsically linked to the Closing the Gap framework’, as well as the metrics used to evaluate the new program's performance. Jobs Australia contended that it was also vital that any new program continued to use the current CDP providers and their Indigenous employees, ‘as part of the assets required to bring about sustainable change’.43

2.42 The NAAJA and HRLC did not support the bill on that grounds that it:

 dishonours the Federal Government’s commitment to formal partnerships and shared decision-making contained in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap; and

 would pre-determine a welfare-based framework for the pilot programs with payment of a small supplement for at least 15 hours of ‘work-like activities’ per week.44

2.43 APO NT contended that the bill provides ‘no mechanism for shared decision making with Indigenous people and their representatives, as is required under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap’.45

2.44 APO NT also took issue with the consultation process thus far, suggesting that the despite public comments around co-design and piloting a range of options, the bill had been ‘tabled without discussion with Indigenous representative organisations, and includes only one option to be piloted—an additional income support payment’.46

2.45 Further, Mr Paterson of APO NT told the committee that APO NT did not support the bill in its current form, and advised of the organisation’s concern that elements of the final program appeared to have been pre-determined, without consultation. Mr Paterson advised that:

We think this bill pre-empts decisions on some elements of any new program and, as such, the opportunity to design and develop this new system has already been missed. Neither the Coalition of Peaks members in the regions operating CDP nor any other community controlled organisations appear to have been part of designing the process for the program change, pilot sites or this legislation. That is of concern to us.47

43 Jobs Australia, Submission 13, p. 6.

44 See also, North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, and the Human Rights Law Centre,

Submission 7, p. 4.

45 Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 1.

46 Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 5. See also, Aboriginal Housing

Northern Territory, Submission 12, p. 3.

47 Mr John Paterson, Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Committee Hansard, 23

September 2021, pp. 16, 17.

26

2.46 Similar views were put forward by Dr Josie Douglas of the CLC, who, when asked whether the program development involved co-design, said:

It absolutely is not co-design. The government has committed to co-designing the program that will replace CDP, yet the government has not engaged with key representative bodies—for example, Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory—or the Coalition of Peaks, prior to the introduction of this legislation.48

2.47 The views of APO NT and Dr Douglas were shared by the Coalition of Peaks, which submitted that neither its members:

… in the regions operating CDP nor any other community-controlled organisations appear to have been part of designing the process for the program change, pilot sites or this legislation is however of concern to us. To our communities it suggests the new program has already been agreed.49

2.48 APO NT put forward a number of recommendations for the government to consider in the design of a new remote program, under its Fair Work Strong Communities proposal, including:

 administration by an agency that is Indigenous led;  social security and mutual obligation arrangements that are no more onerous than those applying in non-remote areas;  systems and processes that are fit for purpose for remote Australia; and  greater local capacity to exempt people from participation where they

have been unable to access proper assessments.50

2.49 The NIAA advised the committee that as part of the co-design process, there were a ‘number of building blocks that communities can draw upon when co-designing their pilot’, of which the Remote Engagement Program payment was one. Mr Blair Exell, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the NIAA, went on to explain that:

This bill provides another of those building blocks: an option for a new incentive payment in the social security system for jobseekers to take on a placement in a local community service, such as a school or in local government, to build their skills and experience and put them on a pathway to employment in the open labour market. However, it is

important to stress that we don't want to pre-empt the outcomes of co-design. Some pilot sites might choose to test this approach; others might not.

… The bill should not be seen as pre-empting co-design, either of the programs or of the final program. The bill has been specifically designed to

48 Dr Josie Douglas, Executive Manager, Central Land Council, Committee Hansard, 23 September

2021, p. 12.

49 Coalition of Peaks, Submission 4, p. 4.

50 Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 3.

27

facilitate co-design. The legislative instruments are an important feature that will be informed by the outcomes of co-design in the pilot sites.51

2.50 Mr Exell also pointed out that the co-design process was yet to commence, but when it did there would be two layers of co-design—an ‘immediate local pilot and a national co-design process’, and that:

Both layers of co-design will draw from the principles agreed under the Closing the Gap agreement. For the local pilot, we will be inviting relevant community controlled sector organisations to nominate a member to join a co-design working group. We will also ask the relevant state or the Northern Territory government to nominate a member to the working group. We will also write to broader stakeholders, inviting them to express an interest to join that group. This might include local service providers, local governments or land councils. Then we will repeat this process at the national level, convening a national co-design working group. The Coalition of Peaks will be central to this, as will other Indigenous organisations, businesses or groups. Then we intend to publish the outcomes of that co-design process to support full transparency.52

2.51 Mr Bulman of the NIAA further confirmed that the NIAA intends to publish and make available the outcomes of co-design in each pilot, and will do so again when the national co-design process is underway.53

Committee views 2.52 The committee offers its support for the aims of the bill and the benefits of the program in helping people on a path to rewarding employment, that they may not have otherwise had. The REP will provide a flexible approach to the

development of vocational skills in remote areas.

2.53 The REP properly takes into account the unique challenges of the labour market in remote areas to engage people in the program and ensure they develop the necessary skills to explore further employment pathways further to their participation in the REP.

2.54 The development of the REP has been a result of ongoing reviews of previous programs, including the CDP, to ensure the new program, once implemented, will take the lessons from such programs. The government will continue to engage in extensive consultation to determine the employment and support needs of remote communities, throughout the two-year trial period.

51 Mr Blair Exell, Acting Chief Executive Officer, National Indigenous Australians Agency, Committee

Hansard, 23 September 2021, p. 20.

52 Mr Blair Exell, Acting Chief Executive Officer, National Indigenous Australians Agency, Committee

Hansard, 23 September 2021, pp. 21, 22.

53 Mr Ryan Bulman, Group Manager, National Indigenous Australians Agency, Committee Hansard,

23 September 2021, p. 22.

28

2.55 It is clear that the NIAA has a forward program of consultation and engagement to advance the co-design process. The committee commends the NIAA for undertaking co-design at both a local and national level, and for advising that it will make the outcomes of the co-design in each pilot program publicly available.

2.56 The pilot programs as supported by this bill will provide a vital step in ensuring that what works and any lessons learnt are taken into consideration when developing the final program framework for 2023. By listening to, and engaging with, the Indigenous experience and expertise in these areas, the government will be able to develop an effective new approach, via the REP, of providing real jobs and building local economies.

2.57 The committee sees the bill as striking an appropriate balance between establishing the legislative framework for the pilot programs to commence and the co-design process to continue, and giving further consideration to the program’s qualification criteria and payment structures moving forward towards more permanent implementation in 2023.

2.58 The future legislative instruments and other policy guidance issued for the program will therefore offer flexibility in finalising it in a way that is properly informed by the outcomes of a co-design process in the pilot sites, and nation-wide.

2.59 Some concerns were raised during the inquiry that the REP would not address some of the underlying issues with the availability of employment in remote areas. The committee notes, however, that the REP is but one of several mechanisms available to communities in working with government to co-design and develop employment pathways, operating alongside other programs such as non-vocational support, vocational skills and training, and support in finding long-term employment and apprenticeships.

2.60 The committee acknowledges the support put forward during the inquiry for a new form of a remote engagement program, noting the cessation of the CDP, and recognises the key role that the National Agreement on Closing the Gap has played, and will continue to play, in the continued development of this and similar programs. In light of the significant benefits to remote communities in implementation of the REP, the committee recommends that the bill be passed.

29

Recommendation 1

2.61 The committee recommends that the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021 be passed.

Senator Claire Chandler Chair

31

Additional Comments - Australian Labor Party

1.1 Labor Senators note the serious concerns with this Bill identified by a range of stakeholders who made submission and gave evidence to this inquiry.

1.2 As noted in the Committee report, on 11 May 2021, the government announced its 2021−22 Budget would include reforms to support:

… Indigenous Australians into quality and long-lasting jobs, strengthening Indigenous businesses and community organisations, and backing its commitment to transform the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.1

1.3 Labor Senators contend that evidence from submitters and witnesses demonstrate that the trial provided for in this legislation will not support nor create quality, long-lasting jobs in remote Australia. Neither does it transform the way Governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as laid out in the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap. It is a missed opportunity to fundamentally reform CDP, or trial models that will genuinely contribute to job creation.

1.4 The Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the NT (APONT) expressed its concerns at continuing an income support rather than job creation model in its submission:

Across remote Australia the main cause of unemployment is lack of available jobs. Lack of opportunity to work and, through that, to acquire skills and employment experience, entrenches long term poverty and social exclusion. Remote Aboriginal communities need more jobs so that more people can secure work and the benefits work brings. This is particularly the case for young people many of whom are leaving education with no option other than ‘working for the dole’. This Bill does not address this challenge. Instead it allows people to work in jobs that would normally be paid while remaining on income support.2

1.5 The Coalition of Peaks in its submission explained its concerns with the process that resulted in this legislation aimed at replacing a major Government employment program:

That the Coalition of Peaks members in the regions operating CDP nor any other community-controlled organisations appear to have been part of designing the process for the program change, pilot sites or this legislation is however of concern to us. To our communities it suggests the new program has already been agreed. It is unclear to the Coalition of Peaks how the Priority Reform Area 2 of the National Agreement has been

1 The Hon Ken Wyatt MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, ‘2021-22 Budget: Jobs and education

to secure future for Indigenous Australians’, Media release, 11 May 2021,

https://ministers.pmc.gov.au/wyatt/2021/jobs-and-education-secure-future-indigenous-australians

2 Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 1.

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enacted in the development of the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021 or any related future activity in reforming the remote employment program.3

1.6 Dr Josie Douglas from the Central Land Council gave compelling evidence to the Senate hearing about the lack of consultation and co-design:

To receive a letter from NIAA on Monday 20 September—the day submissions were due in and the day the inquiry is happening—tells me there's a level of desperation. They are telling the public and telling themselves that there has been consultation and co-design. In all honesty, there has been no consultation, there has been no co-design and there has been no shared decision-making. It's a complete farce.4

1.7 Labor Senators are disappointed that after years of clear criticism and constructive proposals from the community, the Government has brought forward a bill which merely establishes ‘activities and placements that are like having a job’.5 This legislation does not include a program that creates jobs in remote communities, nor does it create a pathway to employment for participants. It does not provide for conditions that would apply to a job. Emeritus Professor Jon Altman et al.’s submission explains:

Under a new section 661F, the volunteers will receive payments approximating award wages, and they will not be deemed an employee for the purposes of the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992; the Work Health and Safety Act 2011; or the Fair Work Act 2009. In short, the volunteers will not be eligible for compensation, superannuation, or fair work provisions.6

1.8 APONT expressed these concerns strongly:

Those in receipt of the payment would remain in the income support system. They could be subject to income management. While they would do work that is ‘like a job’, they would not have the rights and protections of other workers. While ordinary workers have a legal relationship with their employer, these workers’ rights and conditions would be determined by Centrelink.7

1.9 Labor Senators believe that the replacement of the failed CDP is long overdue. But this Bill does not go far enough, and is a squandered opportunity to make a real difference to jobs and the economy in remote Australia. Dr Josie Douglas from the Central Land Council argued this forcefully to the hearing:

3 Coalition of Peaks, Submission 4, p. 4.

4 Dr Josie Douglas, Executive Manager, Policy and Governance, Central Land Council, Proof

Committee Hansard, 23 September 2021, p. 13.

5 Social Security Legislation Amendments (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021, Explanatory

Memorandum, p. 3. Emphasis added.

6 Emeritus Professor Jon Altman et al., Submission 10, p. 2.

7 Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory, Submission 3, p. 3.

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Aboriginal people are tired of the endless cycle of poverty, punitive welfare and policy changes that just come out of the blue. In the 21st century it's simply not good enough to have the bureaucracy design yet another version of a failed program.8

1.10 Dr Douglas further explained the shortcomings of this legislation in job creation and employment:

Instead, it would create a category of people who do work that looks like a job but isn't. They would stay on income support. They would not have a legal relationship with their employer. They would not get superannuation or leave or other entitlements They would be income managed. The government have said that these jobs would be voluntary and they would let people get skills and experience that could lead to a job, but what jobs? The last six years of work for the dole and CDP show that work for the dole does not lead to more jobs. In fact, it leads to fewer jobs because people end up doing work that should be done by paid workers. We are asking for jobs, not more work for the dole.9

1.11 Evidence given in the Senate inquiry showed that this legislation risks undermining successful jobs on Country, including programs such as Indigenous Rangers. Dr Douglas in her evidence said:

It could be a cheaper version of the current ranger program on offer … We want to make employment the new normal in communities, but this legislation could possibly crowd out other work and crowd out the creation of jobs, because organisations and services will say, 'We've got CDP workers there.' I've been in meetings talking about service provision and have heard, 'We can get CDP workers to do that.' Hang on a minute. If a job needs to be done, it should be paid as a proper job. There should not be the scenario we have now where CDP workers are used to do the work that's a normal job—a job offered by an organisation or a service provider.10

1.12 Labor Senators share the concerns of the Scrutiny of Bills Committee around the significant matters raised in this legislation, such as qualification requirements and the circumstances where an REP payment would not be payable, that are left to delegated legislation and leave the Minister with broad discretionary powers.

8 Dr Josie Douglas, Executive Manager, Policy and Governance, Central Land Council, Proof

Committee Hansard, 23 September 2021, p. 11.

9 Dr Josie Douglas, Executive Manager, Policy and Governance, Central Land Council, Proof

Committee Hansard, 23 September 2021, p. 12.

10 Dr Josie Douglas, Executive Manager, Policy and Governance, Central Land Council, Proof

Committee Hansard, 23 September 2021, p. 14.

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Conclusion 1.13 Labor Senators note that while the Bill will potentially facilitate increased payments for some trial participants, the Government has so far announced that only a limited number of people will benefit.

1.14 Labor Senators call on the Government to urgently partner with local communities and replace the whole CDP with a new program that will create real jobs with proper pay and conditions, as well as stimulate economic development in remote Australia.

Senator Tim Ayres Deputy Chair

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Dissenting Report - Australian Greens

Purpose of the Bill 1.1 At the 2021-22 Budget, the Government announced that the Community Development Program (CDP) would be replaced in 2023. The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Remote Engagement Program) Bill 2021 (the Bill)

intends to provide a framework for piloting new approaches to delivering employment services in remote communities in line with the Government’s Budget announcement.

1.2 The move to replace the CDP has been welcomed by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which has been critical of the CDP since it was introduced.1 The Commission has previously raised concerns that the CDP could be inconsistent with this country’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).2

1.3 This Bill purports to work collaboratively with communities to develop a flexible program that will build the skills and vocational capabilities of people in remote communities. However, many of the more detailed aspects of the approach, including any protections for people participating in any employment scheme will be set out in legislative instruments and policy guidance.

1.4 We are told that this is to allow flexibility for communities to implement the program locally through their own approach.

1.5 In summary, this Bill:

 Establishes a new payment under the remote engagement program which will be set at a rate between $100 and $190 per fortnight, for a maximum continuous period of 104 weeks.

 Establishes high-level qualifying criteria for the remote engagement program payment.  Establishes that participation in the remote engagement placement is voluntary and a person can volunteer to leave the placement at any time if

they choose.  Enables the Minister to make legislative instruments that specify additional qualification criteria, determine circumstances in which the remote

1 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission 6, p. 6.

2 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission 6, p. 3.

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engagement program payment is not payable, and fix the rate of the remote engagement program payment.

1.6 The new payment will be made to participants in the remote engagement program pilot communities. The Government states that these pilots will be co-designed in partnership with these communities and that these communities will trial the new payment alongside other approaches to supporting people into work or training.

1.7 However, s661A of the Bill states that someone will only qualify for the new payment under the program if:

 They are receiving a qualifying remote income support payment; and  They are receiving employment services from a remote engagement program provider; and  the Secretary is satisfied that the person has agreed to participate, and is

participating, in a remote engagement placement for at least 15 hours per week under the remote engagement program; and  They satisfy other qualification requirements as determined.

1.8 This new payment will be ‘topping up’ other income support payments that participants may receive.

Concerns with the Bill

Co-design 1.9 The Government has not announced which communities will trial these programs, how they were selected, or if indeed they are freely choosing to participate at the time of writing.

1.10 Therefore, it is impossible to say at this stage whether the principle of free, prior, and informed consent as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been met or followed.

1.11 In their submission, the Human Rights Law Centre and the Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency noted that:

The Bill dishonours the Federal Government’s commitment to formal partnerships and shared decision-making in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The introduction of the Bill itself demonstrates a concerning lack of commitment to partnership - we understand that key organisations, such as the Coalition of Peaks and APO NT, only learnt about the Bill when it was tabled in Parliament. While co-design is referred to in the Explanatory Memorandum, the Bill does not itself guarantee a co-design process for the pilot programs or future national framework.3

3 Human Rights Law Centre and the Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Submission 7,

p. 4.

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1.12 The Australian Council for Social Service (ACOSS), in its submission, noted that:

Under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap the Commonwealth Government committed to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It committed to:

 partnership and shared decision making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;  building the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled service sector; and  sharing access to data to support Indigenous communities to make

informed decisions.

The Government has not followed this approach in developing the proposed Remote Engagement Program.4

Significant matters in delegated legislation 1.13 At this stage it is difficult to fully assess the merits of the Bill as there are significant matters that will be in delegated legislation and do not appear in the Bill. The Government states that this is to provide administrative flexibility

so as to allow for co-design with impacted communities.

1.14 This includes:

 Proposed subsection 661A(1) sets out the circumstances where a person will qualify for a remote engagement program payment. This includes that the person satisfies the qualification requirements determined by the minister, by legislative instrument, under proposed paragraph 661A(2)(c).

 Proposed section 661C provides that the minister may, by legislative instrument, specify the circumstances in which a remote engagement program payment is not payable to a person.

1.15 The Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, in Scrutiny Digest 15/21, wrote that:

The committee's view is that significant matters, such as when a person will be eligible or ineligible for a payment, should be included in primary legislation unless a sound justification for the use of delegated legislation is provided.5

1.16 The Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, in Scrutiny Digest 15/21, noted the Government’s desire for administrative flexibility in the design of the program and stated that:

The committee has generally not accepted a desire for administrative flexibility to be a sufficient justification, of itself, for leaving significant matters to delegated legislation. It is unclear to the committee why at least

4 Australian Council of Social Service, Submission 5, p. 2.

5 Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Scrutiny Digest 15/21, p. 25 (at 1.77).

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high-level guidance in relation to additional qualification requirements and the circumstances in which a remote engagement program payment will not be payable to a person cannot be provided on the face of the bill. Additionally, the committee considers that providing the minister with the ability to determine that a remote engagement program payment is not payable in circumstances where there is no guidance on the face of the primary legislation provides the minister with a broad discretionary power. The committee notes that a legislative instrument, made by the executive, is not subject to the full range of parliamentary scrutiny inherent in bringing proposed changes in the form of an amending bill.6

Human Rights Concerns 1.17 At the public hearing and through submissions many organisations raised concerns that this pilot program does not properly provide participants with appropriate wages or industrial protections.

1.18 ACOSS submitted that:

ACOSS does not support the Bill because it replicates one of the main flaws of the CDP - requiring people to undertake work without proper pay and workplace protections - and is fundamentally inconsistent with the Fair

Work Strong Communities model. This is especially important because this Bill is the beginning of a process in which the Government must demonstrate its genuine commitment to the goals of self-determination and community-based governance.7

1.19 Further, the Australian Human Rights Commission submitted that:

The Commission broadly agrees that compensation should be equivalent to the minimum wage for the hours participating in work like activities. However, it is unclear to the Commission how this has been calculated by the Government. If 30 hours of work in a fortnight may result in a supplementary payment of $100, even factoring in income support payments, it is unclear how this is equivalent to the national minimum wage of $20.33 per hour for these hours.8

1.20 And the Human Rights Law Centre and NAAJA submitted that:

The Bill creates a social security supplement framework (that will expire on 1 July 2024) that requires people to work at least 15 hours per week, while expressly stating that participants are not to be considered employees. In this sense, the Bill creates another work-for-the-dole framework and is a missed opportunity to trial genuinely alternative approaches based on creating jobs and promoting the right to fair and just conditions of work. The framework established by the Bill, predicated on

6 Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, Scrutiny Digest 15/21, p. 25 (at 1.79).

7 Australian Council of Social Service, Submission 5, p. 2.

8 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission 6, p. 16.

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the concept of conditional welfare, thus risks repeating many of the mistakes of the CDP.9

Lack of opportunities in remote areas 1.21 There is nothing in the Bill that outlines how the Government will address the underlying issue underpinning under-employment or unemployment in regional, remote, and very remote areas of the country: the lack of economic

and job opportunities.

1.22 The government should not only enable people to be ‘ready to work’ but also create good economic opportunities for people to be able to have a job that pays a living wage, a failure to do this will turn this program into another version of the failed and harmful CDP.

A different approach 1.23 First Nations communities, Elders, leaders and organisations have long demanded that all levels of government, Commonwealth, state/territory and local, work in true partnership to create sustainable jobs that pay a living wage

in remote communities. Self-determination, sustainable jobs with living wages, social, cultural and economic empowerment have been at the heart of the calls to abolish the CDP.

1.24 The Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the NT have put forward their proposal Fair Work Strong Communities to address the lack of good, sustainable jobs in remote communities. Under this plan, 12,000 jobs in community-controlled organisations would be created while valuing the strength, resilience, cultural, environmental and community care work that is done every day in these communities.

Recommendations 1.25 The Australian Greens do not support the Bill in its current form and, given the above outlined concerns, recommend that:

Recommendation 1

1.26 The Government begin the process of negotiating a Treaty or treaties with First Nations people.

1.27 A Treaty, or treaties, between the Traditional Owners of the land - people of the oldest living cultures on earth - and the state that imposed its authority violently upon First Nations people without their consent, has never been negotiated. A Treaty or treaties with First Nations people will, among other things, address the underlying factors that cause under-employment and unemployment for First Nations people living on Country or on homelands.

9 Human Rights Law Centre and the Northern Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Submission 7,

p. 5.

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Recommendation 2

1.28 The Government engage in a co-design process for the follow-on program of the CDP from the very beginning, including for any proposed trial programs, to ensure the program is community-designed and endorsed.

Recommendation 3

1.29 The Government to include significant matters, such as the eligibility and detailed program conditions in the primary legislation rather than delegated legislation.

Recommendation 4

1.30 The Government should ensure that participants of any employment or training program are at least paid the minimum wage, receive superannuation payments and leave entitlements and enjoy workplace protection according to the industry standard.

Senator Lidia Thorpe Greens Senator for Victoria

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Appendix 1

Monetary benefit of the REP

Figure 1.1 Monetary benefit of the Remote Engagement Placement

Source: National Indigenous Australians Agency, Submission 9, p. 3.

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Appendix 2

Submissions and additional information

Submissions 1 Regional Anangu Services Aboriginal Corporation (RASAC) 2 My Pathway 3 Aboriginal Peak Organisation of the NT 4 Coalition of Peaks 5 Australian Council of Social Service 6 Australian Human Rights Commission 7 Human Rights Law Centre 8 Community and Public Sector Union 9 National Indigenous Australians Agency 10 Emeritus Professor Jon Altman et al. 11 Northern Territory Council of Social Service 12 Aboriginal Housing NT (AHNT) Aboriginal Housing 13 Jobs Australia

Additional Information 1 Correspondence dated 19 September 2021, from the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) to the Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT), regarding the cessation of the Community Development

Program (received 29 September 2021).

Answers to Questions on Notice 1 Answer to a question taken on notice on 23 September 2021 by Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT). Answer received 29 September 2021.

2 Answer to a question taken on notice on 23 September 2021 by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA). Answer received 29 September 2021. 3 Answer to a question taken on notice on 23 September 2021 by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment. Answer received 1 October 2021.

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Appendix 3

Public hearings and witnesses

Thursday, 23 September 20211 Committee Room 2S3 Parliament House Canberra

Australian Council of Social Service  Dr Cassandra Goldie, Chief Executive Officer  Ms Simone Casey, Senior Policy Advisor, Employment

Northern Territory Council of Social Service  Ms Tessa Snowdon, Policy Officer

Jobs Australia  Mr Richard Butler, Policy Advisor

Central Land Council  Dr Josie Douglas, Executive Manager, Policy and Governance

Coalition of Peaks  Mr John Paterson, Governing Group Member

Aboriginal Peak Organisation of the NT  Mr John Paterson, Governing Group Member

National Indigenous Australians Agency  Mr Blair Exell, Acting Chief Executive Officer  Mr Ryan Bulman, Group Manager, Economic Policy and Programs Group  Ms Kate Phipps, Branch Manager, Remote Employment Policy Taskforce

Department of Education, Skills and Employment (via teleconference)  Ms Benedikte Jensen, First Assistant Secretary, Labour Market and Workforce Policy Division  Ms Carmel O'Regan, Assistant Secretary, Labour Market Policy Branch

Department of Social Services  Mr Matt Flavel, Deputy Secretary, Social Security  Ms Jo Evans, Group Manager, Participation and Family Payments Group  Ms Kath Paton, Branch Manager, Participation and Supplementary

Payments

1 All witnesses appeared via videoconference unless otherwise specified.

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 Ms Tarja Saastamoinen, Branch Manager, Disability Employment Services Reforms Branch