Questions Without Notice - Remote Jobs and Communities Program
(14:53): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to the current rollout of the new Remote Jobs and Communities Program. Given that the RJCP starts on 1 July, why were six remote Indigenous communities still waiting to learn who had been awarded funding deeds at the time of budget estimates on 7 June, and why were others only told in the recent weeks before that who their new employment services provider would be? Now that we are barely 10 days from the start date, can the minister advise whether all of these six remaining providers have now been confirmed?
Senator WONG (South Australia—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:54): I thank Senator Payne for another very specific question in this area, and I will attempt to provide her with as much information as I can. If there is more information that we can provide subsequently, I am happy to do that. As the senator would be aware, the government did announce some significant reforms in employment participation and community development. These commence on 1 July 2013. The reforms will see a flexible and integrated service being delivered to people who live in remote areas of Australia, 85 per cent of whom are Indigenous. The reforms are the result of extensive community and industry feedback since 2011 and represent a $1.5 billion investment by the government over five years.
I am advised that providers have been announced in 56 of 59 remote regions. I think the senator indicated a slightly different number. I am also advised that the remaining announcements will be made shortly. Whilst there has been some delay in the announcement, I understand it was critical to the long-term success of the program that the review committee was able to have adequate time to best assess the detailed applications, and the care taken by the government and the committee in selecting providers underscores the importance the government places on providing people in remote Australia with the opportunities to get jobs and to fully participate in their communities.
Senator PAYNE (New South Wales) (14:55): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for that information. For the remaining three areas, can the minister advise as of today, 20 June, what infrastructure, what physical offices and what staff are in place in preparation for a 1 July commencement—in 10 days time?
Senator WONG (South Australia—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:56): It would be unsurprising to know that in a representing portfolio I do not have the information on three out of 59 contracts, but I am happy to take the question on notice and respond to the chamber.
Senator PAYNE (New South Wales) (14:56): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister indicate how she thinks there could be any infrastructure, offices or staff in place for three unannounced providers for a program which starts in 10 days? Given that the Indigenous Employment Program itself was oversubscribed, underresourced and badly managed, how can stakeholders in this area—especially Indigenous jobseekers—have any confidence that the RJCP will be any different?
Senator WONG (South Australia—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:56): I think that is an expansion plus some comment on the first supplementary. I do not have the information, as I indicated previously, on the contracts to which Senator Payne has referred. I will take the question on notice and provide the information.