More than 30,000 mostly Indigenous people will suffer “immediate consequences” for their “passive welfare behaviour” if they fail to work for the dole five days a week, 12 months a year, according to leaked briefing notes for the government’s new remote jobs scheme.
The government has announced it will make immediate changes to the remote jobs and communities program (RJCP) because it says the current scheme, introduced by the former Labor government, is a “disaster” and a “comprehensive failure”.
The Indigenous affairs minister, Nigel Scullion, has said the remote scheme will require people to work five days a week, 12 months a year to get the dole, compared with the six months the government will require of benefit recipients in urban and regional areas.
Details of the policy, obtained by Guardian Australia, reveal the extremely strict fine print, as well as the government’s rationale for the changes.
The documents show job providers will be “contractually obliged to report non-compliance” and will no longer have any discretion over whether to report unemployed people who are not meeting all their requirements.
“The changes proposed will ensure RCJP job seekers do attend their appointment or feel the consequence of their passive welfare behaviour more immediately,” a briefing document titled “defensive questions and answers” says.
“Job seekers will learn the behaviours expected of workers, for example by there being immediate consequences for passive welfare behaviour.”
It says the continuous work for the dole for all 18- to 49-year-olds, is being introduced only in remote Australia, because in those areas there are “limited or no real labour markets, as well as unique social problems that stem from passive welfare. These social problems stem from idleness and are making communities unsafe and dysfunctional.
“We need to set expectations in remote communities that build the same behaviours and norms of workers in ordinary Australian workplaces.”
But it also says the government is cutting payments to job providers for job seekers completing basic certificate I and II training courses because this is usually “training for training’s sake” and “training must be linked to real jobs”.
The current scheme has helped 618 people in the past 15 months get a job, but Scullion has argued it is a failure because in the 2013-14 financial year only 277 job seekers found jobs for longer than six months. He has not said whether the changes will result in savings from the allocated budget for the program of $1.5bn over five years.
Job providers will get $12,450 a year for job seekers undertaking work for the dole. But existing payments to help job seekers buy clothing and equipment for training will no longer be available.
The changes are the government’s first response to the Indigenous employment report from mining magnate Andrew Forrest, and will be rolled out between July 2015 and July 2016. Workers will be moved onto the new scheme from the old Community Development Employment Projects, which offered almost $40 a week more for 10 hours fewer a week.
“This will place every eligible job seeker in remote Australia in an equivalent environment with regards to payments, expectations and requirements,” the briefing notes say.
“The reformed RJCP will give job seekers the opportunity to be continuously engaged in work for the dole activities, five days a week, all year round – just like a real job.”