Interview

Senator Nigel Scullion Responds to ACTU Criticisms

Senator Nigel Scullion addresses the Senate

“It’s a flag people wave…”

…93 per cent of those [CDP penalties handed out to participants] are not a breach… and 93 per cent of them have been completely waived.

Senator Nigel Scullion

Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs

Senator Nigel Scullion, the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, talks to Charles in response to criticisms levied against the Government following recent changes to the Community Development Programme (CDP)

by Charles Pakana

Following last week’s interview with ACTU National Campaigns Manager Kara Keys, the Minister spoke to Charles to clarify a number of what he referred to as “flags that people fly when they’ve run out of things to say”.

When asked about the amount of large amounts of money being spent on administration of the Programme, Senator Scullion explained that a large percentage of what might be considered “administrative expense” was actually “engagement funds”. In expanding on this, he said: “This is about economic development. For each participant there’s equipment, there’s supervision, because the whole principal around the CDP is that there isn’t a normal economy; and we’re trying to grow that economy.”

One of the major changes to the Programme, was a revamp of the assessment process for participants. This had been a significant bone of contention within the community and according to Senator Scullion, assessments are now measured against the individual’s capacity rather than a one size fits all approach.

“It’s important you have an assessment against your capacity,” he said. “We’ve streamlined the processes… and it can be done at your local service provider.”

One of the major concerns expressed by the ACTU during last week’s interview was that CDP participants were working for “for profit” organisations and therefore not receiving appropriate award wages for their work. When asked about this, the Minister stated that while the Government was subsidising employers for minimum wage, it was a “contractual obligation” on the part of those employers to pay the difference between that and award wages and cover superannuation and all other entitlements under the appropriate award.

“The Fair Work Act would apply just as it would under any other workplace,” Senator Scullion said. “These subsidies [to the employers] will make real wages… and an opportunity for long term employment.”

It is common knowledge that since the CDP was introduced in 2015, approximately 360,000 fines have been applied to participants, of which there are approximately 33,000. This equates to over 10 fines per participant. When asked if the changes to the CDP would bring about a reduction in this number, the Minister stated that 93 per cent of those fines had been waived.

“I have said that 93 per cent are not in breach, but to get in contact with us. As soon as they get in touch they [the fines] are waived. it’s a flag people wave when they’ve run out of things to say.”

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