The anti-intervention campaign has received a boost from the union movement. The Australian Services Union (ASU) put the motions listed below to their national conference. They were all passed unanimously today.
1. Income Management
The ASU opposes compulsory Income Management or any Centrelink program which restricts inalienable rights to social security.
Conference notes that $105 million was allocated in the 2009/10 federal budget to administer programs of compulsory Income Management in the Northern Territory. The ‘Closing the Gap Monitoring Report NT’ released in October stated that $150.3 million of Centrelink Income was ‘Income Managed’ over this period.
Conference condemns the excessive waste of this punitive program when resources are badly needed in these communities for employment and social services.
Conference endorses section 27 of ACTU ATSI policy passed at the 2009 Congress which states:
“Congress calls on the government to work with communities to develop voluntary, agreed programs which support communities in all aspects of social life including financial literacy, parenting and caring responsibilities.”
The Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2010, which passed through the Senate in June, has allowed for the expansion of compulsory Income Management across the NT and authorises the future imposition of compulsory Income Management on communities across Australia. Conference notes the opposition to this legislation from a broad cross section of the community, including the Australian Council of Social Services, the ACTU Indigenous Committee and both the Central and Northern Land Councils. Conference calls for the repeal of this legislation.
2. CDEP and Aboriginal employment:
Conference notes the enormous damage to Aboriginal communities and employment in the community sector done by the decision to begin closing down Community Development Employment Projects (CDEPs) across Australia.
Conference condemns the ‘reformed’ CDEP program which are coercing people in remote communities to work for Centrelink entitlements, 50% of which are ‘Income Managed’ for workers in the Northern Territory.
Conference calls for massive investment in job creation, with proper salary packages, in all Aboriginal communities, to replace the jobs lost through cuts to CDEP.
Conference endorses the statement ‘Jobs with Justice’ published in the Australian newspaper on July 29 2010 and supported by the SA, NT, NSW and ACT branches of the ASU (Appendix 1) and commits to a campaign to advance the demands of the statement.
3. NT Intervention:
Conference notes that the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) ruled in August 2010 that Intervention legislation provides clear evidence of “embedded racism” against Aboriginal people in Australia. The UNCERD report also said living conditions had deteriorated for Aboriginal people under the Intervention through loss of land, property, employment, legal rights and opportunities for cultural development.
Conference endorses section 18 of ACTU ATSI policy passed at the 2009 Congress which states:
18. Congress rejects that changes and proposed changes to Aboriginal Land Rights Acts, the elimination of permit systems in Aboriginal communities, and the forced acquisition of Aboriginal title to land, have any relationship to genuine measures to protect children. Congress calls on government to cease its policy of making communities trade their land rights for the provision of essential services which are fundamental rights in all other Australian communities.
Conference condemns the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) to implement discriminatory Intervention measures. Conference also notes submissions made by a broad range of organisations including the Australian Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International which outline how amendments to NTER legislation passed in June still deny Aboriginal communities access the full protections of the RDA.
Conference calls for the repeal of all discriminatory NTER legislation. Addressing the acute social crisis faced by Aboriginal communities in the NT will require the ongoing commitment of significant resources to improve community life. Aboriginal people must be empowered to shape the direction of service delivery and economic development in their communities.
Statement published in ‘The Australian’ newspaper on Friday October 29:
Stop the NT Intervention – Jobs with Justice for Aboriginal workers
Worse than Workchoices
The NT Intervention promised to deliver ‘real jobs’ for Aboriginal communities. Instead, thousands of waged jobs have been lost and Aboriginal organisations have been crippled as Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) close down.i
Under the new CDEP scheme designed by the federal Labor government, Aboriginal people no longer receive wages. They are being forced to work providing vital services such as rubbish collection, school bus runs, sewerage maintenance, construction and aged care in exchange for quarantined Centrelink payments.ii
People are compelled to work 16 hours a week for $115 cash, plus $115 credit on a ‘BasicsCard’ which can only be used on ‘priority items’ in government approved stores. Aboriginal workers have described this as a return to the “ration-days’ when they were paid in food instead of cash.
Centrelink is threatening to cut off payments entirely if people do not participate. Unclear guidelines and the vulnerable position of many workers have seen cases of people working 30 hrs or more for no extra money.[iii] This is far worse than anything the Liberals inflicted on workers under Workchoices.
The Labor government committed to halving the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in a decade. But due to a continuation of Howard era policies such as the Intervention, Indigenous unemployment has drastically worsened from 13.8% in 2007 to 18.1% in 2009.[iv]
500 ‘real jobs’ created to replace some of the lost CDEP positions in remote NT shire councils face the axe next year. The Commonwealth is refusing to guarantee ongoing funding of $8.5 million per year needed by the NT government to keep the jobs.[v] Many Aboriginal communities serviced by these shires already suffer atrocious living conditions – 500 more job losses will be devastating.
The NT Intervention shames Australia. Despite recent amendments, the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) ruled in August that Intervention legislation provides clear evidence of “embedded racism” against Aboriginal people. [vi ] The UNCERD report said living conditions had deteriorated for Aboriginal people under the Intervention through loss of land, property, employment, legal rights and opportunities for cultural development. [vii]
Rather than abandon failed policy, the government is planning to spend $350 million (over 4 years) to expand income management across the NT.[viii ] This money is desperately needed to create real jobs in Aboriginal communities and ensure the provision of basic services.
The government must act immediately to:
Guarantee the 500 threatened Shire jobs
End compulsory income management
End current CDEP arrangements forcing people to work for the BasicsCard
Turn all CDEP positions into fully waged jobs
Provide massive investment in job creation and service provision in all Aboriginal communities.
Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Inc, Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia (ALSWA), Aboriginal Support Circle – Older Women`s Network, Aboriginal Support Group Manly Warringah Pittwater Amoonguna Community Council Inc., ANTaR Armidale, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, Australian Nursing Federation, Australian Services Union (SA,NT,ACT&NSW branches), Brisbane Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association, Communist Party of Australia, concerned Australians, Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Ethnic Child Care Family and Community Services Cooperative Ltd, Greens (NT & NSW), Gurindji stop-work meeting (October 20), Hoeroa Robert Marumaru (Maori ethnic community Brisbane), Intervention Rollback Action Group Alice Springs, La Perouse Botany Bay Aboriginal Corporation, Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, Leichhardt Council, Liberty Victoria, Maritime Union of Australia, Melbourne Unitarian Church Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ecumenical Commission, National Association of Community Legal Centres, National Tertiary Education Union, Ngoppon Together Inc, NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Peace & Social Justice Network VRM Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Australia (AYM office Qld) Socialist Alliance, Socialists Alternative, Solidarity, Solidarity Choir, South Coast Labor Council, Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney, Tangentyere Council, The Greek Orthodox Community of NSW Ltd, The Network of Immigrant and Refugee Women of Australia Inc, Tribal Warrior, Unions NT, UQ/QUT Students for Indigenous Rights, Urapuntja Aboriginal Corporation, Women for Wik, Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, Prof. Jon Altman, Gil Appleton, Assoc. Prof. Barbara Baird, Prof. Larissa Behrendt, Judith Gamper, Vivi Germanos-Koutsounadis OAM, Dr Peter Gibson & Cathy-Anne Grew, Don & Estelle Gobbett, Rev. Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM,Marcia Guild, Brian Johnstone, John Leemans, Ian MacIndoe, Jeff McMullen, Wendy McMurdo (Greens Councillor Hornsby Shire), Sandra Milne, The Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC, George Newhouse, James Oaten, Christine Olsen, Linda Pearson, Stephen Sewell, Rachel Siewert (WA Greens Senator), Associate Professor Gracelyn Smallwood, Warwick Thornton,Anne Vadiveloo, Sam Watson, Bethany Wheeler, Alexis Wright, Josephine Zappia
[i] There were approximately 7500 CDEP participants receiving wages in the NT before reforms that came with the Intervention. See Altman, J. Neo-Paternalism and the Destruction of CDEP, Arena90, September 2007 athttp://www.federalintervention.info/docs/issues/Altman_Paternalism.pdf
] See Gibson, P. Working for the BasicsCard in the NorthernTerritory, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning UTS Briefing Paper at http://www.jumbunna.uts.edu.au/publications/pdf/JIHLBP12.pdf
[iii] The Age, June 16 2010, http://www.theage.com.au/national/for-some-workers-the-struggle-will-never-end-20100615-yd9p.html
[iv] Crikey, June 4 2010, http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/06/04/closing-the-gap-rudd-overpromised-on-indigenous-unemployment/
[vii] A full copy of the UNCERD report is available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/co/CERD-C-AUS-CO-15_17.doc