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Monday, July 23, 2007

Economy where, employment when??

It comes as no surprise - the Minister's announcement regarding the abolition of the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP). CDEP schemes operating in Aboriginal communities in various regions across Australia were precursors of Work for the Dole schemes in mainstream communities.
Miss Eagle has made her suggestions previously on economic participation in and by Aboriginal communties:
  1. All weather roads to Aboriginal communities. Without this basic lifeline of transport and communication no community, black or white, can begin to build an economy.
  2. Air strips - for similar reasons.
  3. Building communities which specialise in the delivery of community services. Employment classifications for Tennant Creek are dominated by the number of people employed in community services. This is duplicated across the nation in rural Australia. With investment, intentionality, mentoring and direction, Aboriginal communities - just like white communities - can build themselves up economically as a service centre. Services can be commercial, health, educational, or tourism.
  4. Such participation should go far beyond the Work for the Dole schemes. Work for the Dole schemes should be seen as transition schemes of basic economic participation - not as ends in themselves
The Minister says the CDEP will be progressively replaced by real jobs, training and mainstream employment programmes, complementing the work already in train to lift remote area exemptions.
Radio interviews with the Minister earlier this evening indicate that the Government plans have an initial focus on local indigenous replacement in local positions where outsiders (can one read hear non-indigenous outsiders rather than indigenous outsiders?) are presently employed.
This, in principle, is a reasonable idea - but it is clearly one that has been implemented as far as possible by local indigenous organisations. Aboriginal organisations have been active in or actively managing and sponsoring training schemes for many,many years. Is the minister merely re-branding previous ATSIC-funded programs? Is he going to stand up and take credit for operational modes currently in place with strong indigenous organisations?
But, the question to be asked above all is this:
Is the Howard Government going to fund basic economic infrastructure such as transport and public utilities as well as the buildings and staffing levels for public service provision regarded as the norm in mainstream communities?
The Howard Government has been a poor steward in provisioning infrastructure replacement and development in mainstream communities preferring to fund endless tax rebates and refunds to individuals for personal spending rather than stewarding (or should one say quarantining?) the money and channelling it into economically productive infrastructure.
Governments, Federal and State, seem to be establishing public projects which can be built by Thiess and privatised by Macquarie Bank.
If the Howard Government does not come to the party with funding for economic and service infrastructure will it turn to the Mac Bank and the BOO (build-own-operate) schemes to establish infrastructure in regional and remote Australia?
But if none of this happens and people who cannot be placed in meaningful work end up on Work for the Dole schemes rather than the abolished CDEP schemes (as the Minister's media release seems to indicate) what will all this mean? Just more venal grandstanding by Howard and Brough?