By ERWIN CHLANDA
This maybe is the last question Warren Snowdon will not be answering in his 31 years in Federal Parliament: “How come, year after year, locals are getting Job Seeker – or the dole – while fruit picking labour is being imported into Central Australia?”
A short time before the left faction pollie announced this afternoon that he will not be re-contesting the Seat of Lingiari at the next election, we put that question to him, as we have for many years.
We emailed CLP Senator Sam Macmahon at the same time and with touching bi-partisanship she didn’t respond either.
Yet the issue is crystal clear: You reject a job that is offered and your welfare payment is at risk.
This is how the media people at the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment explain it: “As a condition of receiving unemployment related income support payments, such as JobSeeker Payment, most recipients must actively look for work and be prepared to accept any offer of suitable employment.
“This includes any work that the person can do, not just work a job seeker prefers.
“Job seekers who refuse an offer of suitable employment without a reasonable excuse may face financial penalties, including loss of their income support payment for a specified period of time,” says the department.
“The penalty which applies depends on whether the person is subject to the Job Seeker Compliance Framework (which applies in the Community Development Program or CDP that operates in remote Australia), or the Targeted Compliance Framework (which operates in other employment services).
“Under the Targeted Compliance Framework, job seekers who refuse suitable work may have their income support cancelled and be ineligible to receive further payments for four weeks.’
So how come grape growers on Undoolya and horticulture businesses around TiTree and Ali Curung must rely almost entirely on imported labour?
The absence of replies to questions such as these has earned the Canberra veteran the nickname of Seldom Seen Snowdon.
But none of that kind of thing has driven him into painful self-doubt: “Having secured two seats in the House of Representatives for the Northern Territory, today I announce that I will not be re-contesting the seat of Lingiari at the next election. It’s time to roll up my swag and move on.”
What? No-one else had anything to do with preserving the second seat?
Mr Snowdon was first elected to the House of Representatives for the seat of Northern Territory in July 1987: “With a short break, I have served in the parliament for 31 years,” he said in a media statement today.
But life in politics wasn’t all beer and skittles, with agonising decisions along the way: “This has been an intensely difficult decision for me as I remain fiercely dedicated to the people of Lingiari, the most interesting and diverse electorate in Australia.”
Mr Snowdon acknowledged today that a lot remains to be done between now and the next election, possibly as soon as August 2021: “Fix jobs, fix Australia’s childcare system, repair social housing, act on the environment and climate change, and policies for the development of Northern Australia, insure the Constitutionally entrenched First Nations’ Voice to the Parliament as well as a Makarrata process for Treaty making and a process for truth telling.”
Warren Snowdon usually got the numbers right. He’s pictured on 2016 NT election evening with Dale Wakefield whose narrowest of margins in Braitling evaporated this year.