26 June 2017

Senate Estimates has revealed the Turnbull Government has no understanding of how badly the failed Community Development Program is affecting people in remote communities.

Under questioning, Centrelink officials revealed that since July 1 2016 to March 21 2017 DHS has undertaken a massive 431,150 compliance investigations into CDP participants resulting in an average of 10,500 financial penalties per week.

This figure represents 53 per cent of all compliance investigations done by Centrelink. And this is for only 37,000 CDP participants across Australia.

Despite the large CDP workload carried by Centrelink, there is not even a dedicated Centrelink phone line CDP participants can access. It has been reported to me that CDP participants can wait on the phone for up to 5 hours.

People in the Northern Territory are waiting on the phone for hours at a time and then giving up, falling out of the system, going hungry and remaining trapped in poverty.

Centrelinks own figures tell a grim story of the CDP failures. On average:

  • One in three CDP participants being financial penalised
  • Each CDP participant is investigated about 11 times.
  • Between July 1 2016 and March 21 2017 about 399,000 financial penalties were incurred by CDP participants.

On a recent visit to Central Australia I saw first-hand how broken CDP is and how its affecting the lives of people in remote communities. The hurdles people face dealing with a punitive system leaves them feeling hopeless.

While Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion is finally realising CDP has failed remote communities, he refuses to drop the big stick approach.

The current Senate CDP Inquiry The appropriateness and effectiveness of the objectives, design, implementation and evaluation of the Community Development Program (CDP) is accepting submissions until June 9, 2017 and the hearings schedule is being finalised.

Watch the Senate Estimates hearing here.