The federal government’s Community Development Program (CDP), a “work for the dole” program in the Northern Territory, has in less than three years proven to be a racist con-job.
CDP was promoted as an initiative to support long term unemployed. But since July 2015, employment providers have fined and sanctioned the majority Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce more than 400,000 times. With the number of people in the program only 30,000, that averages out to about 13 fines or sanctions per person.
The figures are a huge contrast to the number of fines and sanctions imposed on welfare recipients in non-CDP programs.
Penalties start at $50 docked from a recipient’s pay and can progress to pay freezes of eight weeks or more. Even before any penalty is imposed, the allowance is below poverty level. And get this: the average CDP participant completes three times the hours required in the basic work for the dole program.
The federal government is saving millions of dollars through mass sanctions while trying to push through tens of billions of dollars in tax cuts for big business.
CDP was implemented on the back of one of the most significant attacks on the Aboriginal community, the Northern Territory Intervention. The NT has become ground zero for treating Aboriginal people like guinea pigs, testing unpopular welfare policies on them, such as the cashless welfare card, before rolling them out elsewhere.
With talk of expanding the program to more areas across the country (no doubt highly populated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people), the CDP will only further entrench inequality and destitution.