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Mar 3, 2014

No discrimination protection in Coalition ‘Green Army’

The Coalition's Green Army program specifically removes protection against sexual, racial, disability and other forms of discrimination.

The 15,000 young people who intend to work in the Coalition’s “Green Army” will have no protections against racial, religious, sex or other forms of discrimination during their six months in the program, and will not be protected by workplace bullying provisions.

Fairfax newspapers revealed on the weekend that under the Social Security Legislation (Green Army Programme) Amendment Bill 2014, participants would be paid as little as half the minimum wage for working up to 30 hours a week. OH&S and other workplace protections would not be available because participants would be exempted from the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, and, most importantly, the Fair Work Act.

The original Liberal Green Army policy, which emphasised the opportunity for “on-the-job training” in the program, envisioned projects being carried out by “local land care groups, bush care groups, foreshore communities, Natural Resource Management (NRM) Groups, local catchment authorities and councils”. But these will only be “project sponsors” under the program arrangements — participants will actually be employed by “Service Providers”.

They will be private sector bodies selected through a request for tender process that, according to the Department of Environment’s website, “will identify and appoint service providers who are experienced and capable of delivering the programme’s administrative components. Services providers can be single, multiple or part of a consortium to deliver services required to help implement the programme.”

Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s office argued that state and territory workplace protections would apply in the program and there would be insurance arrangements covering participants. Injuries under the Howard government’s Work for the Dole scheme, on which the “Green Army” is based (it will be an alternative to the revived Work for the Dole scheme) were common, and in one case a service provider was forced to pay nearly $200,000 to a program participant after the participant was injured erecting fencing on a wildlife refuge farm.

The Green Army bill, which is mainly related to the welfare payment status of those participating in the program, also removes participants from coverage by the Fair Work Act, so there will be no protections against discrimination by service providers or their staff under s.351 of the act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of “race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin”. The program is aimed particularly at young people between 17 and 24. There will also be no protection against workplace bullying, which is also covered by the Fair Work Act.

Hunt’s office provided the following response to Crikey this afternoon:

“All applicable legal protection, such as Australia’s anti-discrimination and work health and safety laws, will continue to apply.”

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16 comments

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16 thoughts on “No discrimination protection in Coalition ‘Green Army’

  1. The Hood

    Will the Green Army experiment provide the blue print for for the lunatic right’s vision of a competitive Australia? Workchoices mark 2 coming sometime after the next election.

    I suspect if any of these young people are injured in their “deregulated” workplace we will be having a Royal Commission of inquiry whenever the ALP forms government.

  2. Nightingale John

    This brings two past programs to mind:
    1.Anyone remember the Whitlam REDS scheme and how much that wasted?
    2. Pink batts: a rush of service providers to get their noses into the trough.

  3. CML

    Round one of slavery!!!

  4. rhwombat

    So…back to the 1930’s. Next stop: chain gangs, then all stations to Gina’s Vision.

  5. billie

    What a mean spirited program!

    Already Newstart recipients roped into mutual obligation activities with registered charities are far too often supervised by people with no regard for occupational health and safety. One large operator of opportunity shops expects their [volunteer] workers to lift heavy loads greater than 22kg, clamber up into 3 metre high bales old used clothing to trample them down.

    Didn’t Kennett hand over Victorian workers to Federal legislation

  6. Interrobanging On

    It’s just a re-animated Green Corps, with even more militarised language. But perhaps without the explicit mutual obligation requirement. Still, it will be useful to artificially reduce the youth unemployment rate.

    I worked alongside some Green Corps teams and they were a mix. Some good, some bludgers, some skive-offers (always sick), some jokers etc. But mostly they didn’t get much done compared to full timers.

    And many were well aware they were being asked to do ‘grown up’ work at kiddie’s wages. And aware that there wasn’t really anywhere to go afterwards for most – it isn’t as if the Abbott Government is going to be funding environmental programs for these now ‘trained’ land management types.

    Some might get useful training eg chemical users certificate, but that is (or was) available directly to the unemployed on a case by case basis.

    Presumably the ‘being seen to do something’ imperative is the main one. Youth picking up litter and planting the odd tree gets seen.

    And for this to be sometimes included as a climate change strategy under Direct Action is wrong, there is no reason many or all things done will worsen climate change. Even weed control at least in the short term.

    At best it is a distraction.

  7. The Hood

    Yes Interro a very expensive work for the dole program mascerading as a climate change initiative. Kids picking up papers, pulling a few weeds, maybe they will fix a few farmers fences as well free of charge and plant some trees, most of which will die after they move on.

    I would much rather they funded the many existing organisations that are battling to restore our battered environment on a shoestring. TFN, Landcare groups, Bush Heritage, rainforest Rescue for example. These groups have knowledge and experience already and commitment!

  8. AR

    Where have i seen “private sector bodies selected through a request for tender process ” before? Oh, yeh when the deservedly forgotten Count Yorga bellowed that Serf-for-Dole was “a resounding success” on the afternoon of its first day of implementation, and all those service providers materialised to offer free enterprise harassment of the wworkshy.

  9. Marrickville Mauler

    Have they thought to remove protection under the Sex, Race Age and Disability Discrimination Acts too?

    Tim Wilson doesnt think discrimination laws should apply to the private sector, perhaps he’ll get his way …

  10. klewso

    Good old Heinrich Hunt – “Arbeit Macht Frei”?