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For a clear account of problems with the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Legislation, a list of possible unintended bad consequences, and some solutions to some of the problems, go to the Submission of the Human Rights And Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) to today's public hearing on the legislation by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Committee.

Here are just a few of the possible bad consequences they note:

35. Phasing out CDEP is likely to result in increased unemployment. Currently, there are approximately 7,500 people in the NT on CDEP. The ideal situation would be that those 7,500 people would be transitioned through Newstart to jobs in the open workplace.

36. However, the government expects that only about 2,000 CDEP participants will get ‘real work’.[16] It follows that the remaining 5,500 people are not expected to find sustainable employment and will remain on Work for the Dole.[17]

40. HREOC is also concerned that the removal of CDEP and lack of alternative employment options in Indigenous communities could lead to some people deciding to move into urban areas such as Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs. This would exacerbate the current pressures in those areas in relation to available and appropriate housing and other essential services. Darwin already has the highest rate of homelessness in an urban setting on a national scale.

41. HREOC also notes that once CDEP participants leave that scheme and become welfare recipients, they will lose their ability to accrue superannuation.

42. It is well known that unemployment can create additional family pressures and general social unrest in a community. It is therefore possible that increased unemployment in communities will increase, rather than decrease, the risk of family violence.


It's not as if I'm deliberately looking for a hidden agenda in any of these policies, on the contrary, I'm trying as hard as I can to understand them and see their benefit in light of the problem, that is, the apparently high rates of child sexual abuse. But most of the time, finding a good reason for a policy in this current swag of legislation completely eludes me and I'm left only with hidden agendas.

So, having said that, the only reason I can deduce for the government's removing CDEP, especially with figures like these, is that the proposed Commonwealth work-for-the-dole, or whatever it will be called, will be able to be subject to quarantining, while CDEP is not.

Perhaps I'm too cynical.

The terrifying thing, Jangari, is that Brough has stated that the fact they couldn't quarantine the CDEP money was a GOOD reason for bringing forward the abolition of CDEP. He doesn't see the problems that the loss of jobs and accompanying services will cause.

The responsible person in FACSIA, when questioned in the one-day public hearing yesterday, said blithely that of course they hadn't sought advice from Wild and Anderson during the 6 weeks between the announcement and the legislation. They had the report, so they didn't need to talk to them.

And they didn't bother to invite Wild and Anderson to appear at the one day Senate public hearing! No notice!

I went to about half an hour - Von Doussa and Calma's HREOC submission. In the gallery there were about 10 other people, average age 55. The hearing was quiet and measured.
The most impressive questioner was Andrew Bartlett - who's been writing about it on his blog.

Mal Brough thinks the hearing is a waste of time; he doesn't want to hear about any potential problems, he doesn't want to make any changes that would avoid those problems. He just wants to wade in now.

It is terrifying to know that tens of thousands of people are about to endure social engineering on a large scale, and the engineer won't take advice, won't listen, and doesn't have the imagination to see what the consequences.

I have tried to go through the bills, and what I see is a lot of attention given to ensuring that everyone will be controlled and that no one can escape, but no attention paid to avoiding the likely bad consequences.

Brough has openly stated that he is dismantling the CDEP because, as a quasi-welfare source of cash, often being paid to 'workers' who aren't supervised and do little if any work in certain situations, it needs to be quarantined and at least partly managed in those cases where it is substantially used for buying alcohol or cannabis, or gambling, and thus contributes to child neglect.

You are not being cynical, as this is what he has said. And there is a respectable argument to be made along these lines.

The real problem, obviously, is that there is also a large subset of CDEP workers who do very useful work, some of it highly skilled, meeting needs that governments are extremely unlikely to fund very much, if at all, through their normal channels.

My concern is that normal channels are usually subject to the whims of sometimes ignorant politicians and mainly uninterested faraway public servants for whom the urgency or need for flexible roles in the school, clinic, language centre, art project, feral weeds program etc is often neither apparent nor of any particular interest or concern to them.

Brough and Hockey and Scullion's fantasy that most of these positions can be easily transferred into mainstream funded jobs is the problem part of this.

Cynical is such a loaded word, isn't it? Often with pejorative connotations. But if a distrust of the stated altruistic aims of politicians counts as cynicism, it is quite possible that the majority of us are cynics. Further, one would expect politicians as a class to contain a far higher percentage of cynics than the community as a whole given their daily exposure to politically motivated rhetoric and machinations.

To use a classic collocation, the Howard government's intervention demonstrates a cynical disregard with respect to the hopes and aspirations of indigenous people, through intervening so drastically in their lives without so much as a pretence at consultation.

That's where the real cynicism lies in this situation.

A cynic is merely an idealist's name for a realist.

A few anecdotes from the bush- perceptions of the state of the intervention:
1. The police are here to protect the army FROM the community (who might want to hunt them away)
2. The army is going to separate 'young' married couples and put the men in jobs as soldiers and doctors and put the women and children in separate accommodation
3. Everybody is going to get nice clean new houses
4. Alice Springs is now a dry town - no grog at all. People feel a bit sorry for the police, who do not know the myriads of backroads.

The fact that money earned by participants in CDEP programmes may sometimes not be used wisely, can’t in any way justify the scrapping of the program, of course. If such an intervention were to be applied universally, rather than to a disempowered (drastically further disempowered as of this week) ethnic minority, there would be an outcry, not least from those, including governments, who profit enormously from the addictive behaviour of a large percentage of the general population with regard to drugs (including alcohol) and gambling. Given that such behaviour is not specific to indigenous people, as is also the case with child sexual abuse and a myriad of other forms of exploitative behaviour, how could it ever be acceptable to apply any remedy selectively to them?

I don’t believe that Brough is ignorant of the creative and positive uses to which CDEP money has been put, often filling funding gaps in education and elsewhere. This is assimilation, pure and simple. People are going to have to get ‘real jobs’, or go on the dole , pay ‘real rents’, or live in the long grass, sink or swim. Welcome to the age of TINA, Margaret Thatcher’s infamous statement that ‘There Is No Alternative’, which heralded in the brave new world of corporate dictatorship. Let the market decide.

Right. Just like the fact that the permit system has not stopped all undesirable entrants, such as grog-runners, is not a sufficient reason to downsize the permit system altogether (I'll concede that the numbers show they're not 'scrapping' it per se, though they were government figures). The problem with the permit system was that it was too bureaucratic; a T-O, a police officer and someone from the relevant land council had to be present to eject someone (as was my understanding). The obvious measure would be to strengthen it, not get rid of it.

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