The Australian Greens have taken concerns about the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program (SIHIP) to the Senate, questioning the Government over reports that Aboriginal workers are being underpaid and unfairly treated.
Senator Rachel Siewert, Greens spokesperson for Aboriginal Issues raised the issue in Question Time today after reports that CDEP participants are being used in preference to providing real job opportunities in local communities.
“The Government claimed the SIHIP program would provide actual paid work to local Aboriginal people at proper industry award rates, in order to meet its 20% Indigenous employment target,” Senator Siewert said today.
“It now seems that a large portion of that target is made up of CDEP workers or work experience placements, rather than positions for which people are being paid a real and fair wage.
“This means that some of the workers are having their income quarantined - 50% of it is ending up on basics cards. How is it fair that Aboriginal people working full-time renovating houses are having their income managed via the Basics Card?
“Our information suggests workers have been underpaid for the hours they’ve done on SIHIP renovations, have not received 'top-up’ pay that they had been promised, and have seen rates of top-up pay diminished over time.
“What is the Minister doing to address this significant problem with the $672 million Commonwealth program?
“We will be submitting detailed Questions on Notice to the Government to ensure all the information is publicly available.
“Aboriginal workers are working real jobs in construction and renovation next to people who are receiving full wages, and yet they are a long way from receiving the real wages they deserve.
“We should be encouraging willing workers into real jobs – not discouraging their efforts and ripping them off.
“This appears to continue the Government’s systemic failure to deliver effective programs and services to Aboriginal people,” Senator Siewert concluded.