Divine Intervention

We all love being told what to do, don’t we?

Same sex couples love being told they are not normal and can’t marry. Asylum seekers love being told they are human scum by a vile opposition leader and his motley crew. Climate scientists love to be told they are tin foil hat wearing freaks, especially by those with no idea like Barnaby Joyce and Alan Jones. And us, well, we like to be told we are stupid for thinking things like this are important….

Well, maybe not…

Imagine being told then what you can and can’t spend your money on. I’m not talking about illegal things like drugs or guns, I’m talking about your groceries, and what you spend when you go out.

When The Coalition, under John Howard, initiated The Northern Territory National Emergency Response, better known as The Interventon, it caused outrage, both here in Australia, and abroad.

I am not going to go into the first intervention, as to be honest, I am not an expert, and there is plenty of material online about it for those interested.

I do not pretend to understand the first thing about the issues facing Indigenous Australians, so I won’t delve into that area. All I really know is that too many have delved into it before knowing little more than I do, and made a mess of it.

What I do want to talk about, is the “Stronger Futures” legislation that is due to be passed through the Senate soon. Many are referring to this as The Intervention Part 2….

What the “Stronger Futures” policy is about is income management. Government approval on how your money is spent.

Here is a brief rundown on how it all works….

Income Management is a policy which “quarantines” 50 – 70 per cent of Centrelink payments onto a thing called a BasicsCard. The BasicsCard can only be used to buy “priority items” at stores in which the government has pre-approved.

Welfare recipients assessed by Centrelink to be “vulnerable to financial crisis” will have 50% of their payment quarantined. Parents and legal guardians referred to Centrelink by child protection authorities (Community Services) will have 70% of their income quarantined.

I would have assumed that most living off benefits would be considered “vulnerable”.

One question immediately jumps out at me. If someone loses their eftpos card, they can get another one quickly, or go to a bank with ID and access their account. If someone loses their BasicsCard, what happens? No groceries that week? Go without that medication?

I do hope replacement cards are available within 24 hours.

This scheme is to be rolled out to the following area’s over the next 5 years, affecting an estimated 20,000 people:

Bankstown, New South Wales

Logan, Queensland

Rockhampton. Queensland

Playford, South Australia

Shepparton, Victoria

One can only imagine the problems this will cause in these communities. It will create a black market mentality with people trading off necessities for things like cigarettes and alcohol. As everybody knows, little emergencies happen from time to time, unexpected visitors etc, this scheme does not allow for that. The damage done to these people’s self esteem will be beyond measure.

This is before you look at the doors this will open for corruption. Companies will compete to be approved on the BasicsCard will be tempted to offer bribes to low paid public servants.

Also, what impact will this have on small businesses?

For example, Coles and Woolworths are already approved places for the BasicsCard to be used. However, what about Joes Deli, or Franks Fruit and Veg, Pete’s Meat and so on? Is there a process to have these independent stores added on, or do they just lose a chunk of their business to the major chains? We should be encouraging small business in theses area’s, not sending their customers elsewhere. That’s the type of policy Clive Palmer would support.

And this is before you look at the costs involved with the schemes administration.

In Bankstown, according to Ms Randa Kattan, Executive Director of Arab Council Australia, only $2.5Million is being allocated by the govt to community resources, yet $23Million is being allocated on Income Management. I don’t know about you, but that seems just a little backwards to me….

In the Northern Territory, Income Management costs around $4,400 per person to administer, each year. That’s about $85 a week that would make their finances a bit easier to manage, it would also put that extra $85 a week back into the community.

Whilst I understand the good intentions of this scheme, it is my opinion that the big stick approach rarely works, and that is what this scheme really is. Whilst there may be the occasional success story, the overall result will be causing those in our society who are suffering more misery.

There are those out there who are trying to paint this as a racist policy, and it is easy to understand why. However, as tempting as it may be to leap to that assumption, I don’t believe it is true. Poverty does not choose a race. There are people of all races affected by this policy, Black, White, Asian… to go down the race path is to unnecessarily confuse the issue.

The issue here is education, these people need to be educated, not punished. For a fraction of the cost of this policies administration, the govt via Centrelink could provide incentives for those who find employment, or for those who improve their education. This, I believe would be far more effective than labeling them too stupid to look after themselves, and then taking away their freedom of choice.

Reward for making good life decisions, rather than punishment for bad decisions that the government assumes you will make. That sounds logical to me.

There could also be training programs put in place for the long term unemployed. Those who have limited skills could be better educated and learn new skills, with incentives for completing courses. Employers could be offered greater incentives for giving these people an opportunity, as many of these people would be grateful for an opportunity to better themselves, and would be extremely loyal workers.

I once read an autobiography of a man who goes by the name of Ice T. He is a well know rapper, and is also an actor, probably best known as one of the lead characters on Law And Order SVU. Ice T owned a large luxury and sports car dealership in Los Angeles. What set Ice T’s dealership apart is he only hired ex-prisoners, blokes most would not give a second chance to. According to the Ice man, he had never had anything stolen, ever. His workers were the most loyal and hardest working you could wish for, because they appreciate being given a chance. It is all about respect.

This policy takes away any remaining respect these poor people may still have.

What has really dismayed me, is that this policy may roll out under a Labor Government. As I said, I understand the good intentions, however you can’t unscramble an egg. Once this goes through it can’t really be taken back….

Even if this policy works well, despite its immorality, it still leaves us with a major problem.

With a Labor government in place we can be assured that the BasicsCard system will be run fairly, and with the minimum of distress. However, do we really want this in place for a Coalition government?

Can you imagine a poor Afghan family relying on someone like Sophie Mirrabella, or Scott Morrison’s goodwill when it comes to what they can and can’t buy? I shudder at the thought.

I hope we can stop this ridiculous policy decision before it is implemented.

I hate the cliché, but this one actually does smell a bit like class warfare….

You would think this would cause an outrage in our parliament, however what little debate there has been, has been done quietly. Those speaking out about it are coming from the Labor Left, and the Greens. I hope that the Independents will also speak out against it, and try to block it in the senate. After all, this policy looks to me like a disaster in the making.

Fairness and decency, it’s in our hands…..

78 comments on “Divine Intervention

  1. You seem to be missing a point here. It is not government money – the government doesn’t have any money. Nor is it Centrepoint’s money – they don’t have money either. This money is taxpayers’ money who have earned it by working for it but which is then forcibly and compusorily taken from them by the government and distributed to those who are unable to earn an income. It is perfectly reasonable in such circumstances that taxpayers should expect those receiving their money to spend it in a responsible manner. It is an unfortunate fact that there are people who are receiving taxpayers’ money in this way but would rather spend it selfishly on alcohol, gambling, and drugs for themselves, rather than to feed, clothe, and educate their children and to keep them healthy. `The Intervention’ for which you hold such contempt was primarily to protect children from abuse and domestic violence largely brought on by the wasting of taxpayers’ money on such items. Perhaps you would rather that children starved, went unclothed, suffered sickness and abuse, and were uneducated, while the persons receiving such taxpayers’ money spent such money on themselves?. Your concerns should be to ensure children are protected and not with adult rights to be irresponsible and wasteful.

  2. I concur with Migs, great post Wixxy. And Migs, with you being the expert on indigenous matters, I will be greatly looking forward to reading what you have to say on this matter.

  3. Jarl, thanks for your input, however…
    I did say that I can understand the good intentions behind the policy, and I agree nobody wants to see children suffer, however this is not the way to do it.
    The baseball bat approach does not always work, even in the song it says, “You’ve got to be cruel to be kind, and IN THE RIGHT MEASURE….”
    This just strips away ones dignity, we are supposed to offer a hand up, not a slap in the face…
    There has to be a better way than this…

  4. Wixxy you go out and earn money, pay your income tax and what is left over you can piss up against a wall for all I care.

    The government takes some of my income as tax, so I have a say in how they spend it. At this point I wish the government would step in to the ABC with a baseball base (my money being wasted).

    I have watched money being spent on Indigenous programs for the last thirty five years and have seen their life getting worse. Throwing unconditional money into the problem does not work.

  5. I agree Lunalava, but I think this is just more wasted money that will only make the problem worse…
    As for the ABC…. I’m quite a fan of David & Margaret 🙂

  6. Great post. In terms of providing an incentive for people getting education, surely well-payed employment is an incentive in itself? It’s weird because I agree with the premise of the legislation but the big stick is a bit much. As you point out, I’d be very worried about disadvantaging small groceries. How about downsizing the stick? What if the card worked everywhere (like a credit/debit card) except for ‘blacklisted’ locations/or businesses – the casino, liquor land etc. A problem with the card in general is that I presume you cannot withdraw cash money off it like an atm. So people receiving welfare payments can’t buy from anywhere without eftpos facilities?

  7. Wixxy – you say … ” ….. this is not the way to do it.” and “I think this is just more wasted money that will only make the problem worse…”.
    I don’t see your posting offering anything which is substantially better nor exactly how what is being done will make the situation worse. How much worse can it be for children to be regularly and frequently abused and neglected?. How much worse can it be for them to live in situtaions of continuing domestic violence, usually arising because the family income has been mispent.?.
    Explain your “Rewards for making good life decisions” – and hasn’t this been necessary because some people cannot make `good life decisions’ and therefore it is necessary to intervene firmly and strongly.?. You espouse a lot of rhetoric Wixxy, but nothing of substance. If you are going to be critical, then be constructively critical.

  8. From my reading wixxy, this isn’t part of the “Stronger Futures” legislation which applies only in the NT. I could be wrong here, so please correct me if so.

    As I understand it, this is actually part of the “Building Australia’s Future Workforce” initiative announced in last year’s budget:

    Building Australia’s Future Workforce package:

    * rewards work through improved incentives in the tax and transfer system
    * provides new opportunities to get people into work through training, education, and improved childcare and employment services
    * introduces new requirements for the very long-term unemployed, Disability Support Pensioners, young parents, jobless families and young people
    * takes new approaches to address entrenched disadvantage in targeted locations.

    The last of these is the “Place Based Income Management” you mention:

    Maybe under Labor it’s not all stick – there’s is a little bit of carrot in there as well 😉

  9. Michaelangelica, it’s a bit like a cartoon I saw where these white reporters approached a group of white people suggesting they ask ‘those people what’s best for Aborigines’.

  10. Wixxy, I know of communities which were already being rorted by the stores..for example charging $10.00 for a punnet of half rotten strawberries. Then these same stores were given the commission of helping manage people’s welfare payments.

  11. Wixxy and Welfare recipients assessed by Centrelink to be “vulnerable to financial crisis” will have 50% of their payment quarantined.

    I would put forward that ANYONE on welfare is “vulnerable to financial crisis”.

    Just going by eldest, daughter B* who works for a private provider one of the biggest disincentives is the come down tough on attitude. There should be far more leeway in allowing welfare recipients to pick up casual and part-time work without having to go through a nightmare of paperwork. Centrelink stuffs it up so frequently that people become afraid to take a part-time/casual job just in case they end up having to repay hundreds of dollars.

  12. Min – they define “vulnerable to financial crisis” more clearly than that.

    This model of Income Management will apply to:

    * parents who are referred by state or territory child protection authorities – this will be done in cases where it is considered to be a useful tool in addressing child neglect and building life skills, and
    * people assessed by Centrelink Social Workers as being vulnerable to financial crisis – this could include people referred to a Centrelink Social Worker by public housing authorities because they are at risk of homelessness due to rental arrears.

    Centrelink customers in these locations can also volunteer for Income Management.

    If those on Income Management wish, they can avail themselves of financial counselling services to learn to better manage their money, perhaps leading to getting off the Income Management merry-go-round. i really don’t think this is as evil as is being made out (or as evil as the NT intervention equivalent.)

    I agree though that Centrelink should be a little less ‘big stick” in their approach. If someone can get part-time or casual work and inadvertently ends up with a Centrelink debt, repayment should be over a reasonable timeframe to ensure no extra hardship…

  13. Bacchus and If someone can get part-time or casual work and inadvertently ends up with a Centrelink debt, repayment should be over a reasonable timeframe to ensure no extra hardship…

    Instead of as at present, having your payments cancelled for weeks and then having to go begging to charities such as the Salvos for food.

    I know of a couple who moved with the promise of employment, the job was cancelled. They attempted to go on the dole and were told that they were inelligible because they had moved to an area of higher unemployment than the region that they had left. Completely broke (having spent all of their cash reserves on moving) and homeless, some good folk took them in until they could get things sorted.

  14. Yep Min – that should never happen. The purpose of welfare is to support those who end up in dire situations, sometimes through no fault of their own. Some make bad choices (alcohol, drugs etc.) but they still need support.

    I know if I were to be overpaid at work, my employer gives me the option of deciding if I wish to pay it all back in a lump sum, or paying it back at a set rate per pay over whatever reasonable period I can – perhaps $20/week for a year for example. Surely Centrelink could extend that sort of arrangement to those who need it much more than I would…

  15. Jarl, I don’t need to wrire a good policy to know a bad one when I see it.

    I don’t claim to have all the answers, or many of them at all actually, but I can’t just bite my tongue and watch a disastrous policy be put into practice.

    You don’t need to be a doctor to know that amputation is not the best solution for a sprained ankle….

  16. Bacchus, I didn’t know of the other parts, I’m gald there is a bit of carrott in there also.
    Thanks for sharing that 🙂

  17. Your’e right Min, given the opportunity there are elements who will have no problem staeling from the already poor…

  18. Bacchus, no matter what, this card will have a stigma attached to it, using it will not be pleasant in any way, shape, or form. Most would consider it like walking up to a checkout at the supermarket and declaring themselves a loser, or someone who mistreats their children…

    as for “people assessed by Centrelink Social Workers as being vulnerable to financial crisis’ Lehman Bros bank was vulnerable to financial crisis, Greece was vulnerable to financial crisis, the UK Government has shown itself to be vulnerable to financial crisis…. I’d say it is a pretty open category.

    I don’t pretend to have the big answers, but I can see big problems afoot….

  19. Bacchus and Some make bad choices (alcohol, drugs etc.) but they still need support. And say for example, if it’s one of the parties who stuffs it drugs, alcohol or gambling then Centrelink punishes the entire family.

    It is far too simplistic to say that, for example the wife go along to Centrelink and request income management when they are likely to get a good clip around the ear and worse for doing so.

    My concern with this program, in spite of it’s worthy intentions is that it sends the problem underground, where (again an example) an abused partner might be very fearful of reporting the problem when a likely consequence is Income Management.

  20. Wixxy, you have it again..another consequence:

    Bacchus, no matter what, this card will have a stigma attached to it..

    And if it’s a reasonably small community such as Shepparton it will not take long for the word to get around. I worry about the consequences for the children in this regard, to be stigmatised this way.

  21. Agreed wixxy. That card will carry with it a very negative social stigma for people with already-low self esteem. maybe that’s a problem with how society views people on welfare though, rather than a problem with issuing cards.

  22. While I am on this subject. Why is it that people worry about the stigma for white communities, but Aboriginal communities are supposed to accept it all as being for their own good.

  23. Luke, imagine every single time that you go to do your shopping you have to show A Card indicating that your family is in need of income management. It’s a constant reinforcement that you are dirt.

  24. But they’re not dirt. And it’s wrong that they see themselves that way. But i agree min. The card will only perpetuate this perception.

  25. About 5000 people have volunteered to go on Income management – perhaps the stigma is not in their heads at all 😉

    When my wife pays for our groceries, she pulls out a card and puts it in the eftpos machine, enters her PIN, and magically she is allowed to take our groceries home. If you’re paying with a Basics Card, you pull out your card, put it in the eftpos machine, enter your PIN, and magically you’re allowed to take your groceries home.

  26. Lehman Bros or Greece wixxy? A slight touch of hyperbole? IMHO, OTT assertions like that harm your argument, not support it…

  27. Of course when you phrase it like that Bacchus it doesn’t seem like a problem. But prejudice is an irrational thing. And it occurs often with little cause. I personally think people on welfare need to be held accountable for what they spend government money on but I think wixxy had done a pretty good job at poking holes in the basics card idea.

  28. Peter I had my doubts about one point you made – that it’s not a racist issue. I went researching and copied and pasted the results I found around the internet…

    Logan – highest Pacific Islander population in Queensland.

    Rockhampton – Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander population is 5.9% compared to 2.3% nationally,

    Bankstown – other than English, the most common languages spoken at home are Arabic 23.1%, Vietnamese 16.2%.

    City of Playford – “The population comprises of a diverse range of ethnic and indigenous and non-indigenous communities. The demography indicates that the area is truly representative of an Australian multi-cultural society” – SA Police. 268 overseas immigrants settled in Playford during 2009-10 with 51% from Asia and 29% from Africa.

    Shepparton, Victoria – the largest Aboriginal population outside metropolitan Melbourne with approximately 10 per cent of the population being of Indigenous origin.

    Interesting hey?

  29. I agree lukechircop. There is an element of “devil’s advocate” in what I’m saying here, but I don’t think the Basics Card as implemented as part of the “Building Australia’s Future Workforce” initiative is quite as nasty as some here are claiming 😉

  30. Valentine, my daughter in law is TSI and a more wonderful family you could not meet. There is definite stigma against our indigenous people.

    Bacchus, an Income Management card will be noted.

  31. Perhaps you’d also like to crosscheck those places with the rate of welfare dependency Valentine. I live in Logan and am very well aware that some suburbs here have some of the higher unemployment rates in the country, of all races…

  32. An Income Management card says, You are unable to handle your own affairs and other (white) people have to do it for you.

  33. And maybe that is correct Min – perhaps you can’t 😉 A big difference to the NT case though where everyone was put on income management whether they could manage their finances or not!

    Not everyone in Logan who is on some form of welfare is going to be placed on Income Management – only those who have been recommended by Social workers and Law enforcement agencies as not being able to properly handle their finances…

  34. And the race card here is meaningless – how do you know the Social worker isn’t of Chinese origin?

  35. Wixxy, your comment “I hate the cliché, but this one actually does smell a bit like class warfare….”

    The same thing came to mind for myself. If say a North Shore couple waste several hundred dollars a week on the pokies, should they also be in need of Income Management.

  36. Bacchus, exactly..

    Not everyone in Logan who is on some form of welfare is going to be placed on Income Management.

    So therefore when Harriet goes to pay for her groceries, every man and his dog is soon going to learn that Harriet’s family is on Income Management. If you haven’t been at the school pickup lately..the news will soon get around.

  37. Everyone at the school pickup is probably already tut-tutting, saying “The Browns should be placed on income management – look at the state of Mrs Brown’s hair, her kid’s clothes. Did you know her husband is an alcoholic?”

    I really don’t see this card making any difference to those who already look down their noses at the less well off in society. It may also be a blessing to some (most even?) of those placed on Income Management…

    How much stigma is here? This is usually shown on local TV too, with people interviewed:

  38. Kingston, where that church is situated, has an unemployment rate of 21.7%. Neighbouring suburb Woodridge, 21.8%

  39. Bacchus, the Card is a confirmation of the rumours. And also it’s a misconception that Mrs Brown’s kids look unkept and neglected. Many people are keeping up appearances and struggle to maintain their dignity under trying circumstances.

    I believe that there are more discreet ways of helping people rather than making the wife front up to the supermarket and have the checkout chick roll her eyes when she presents an Income Management card. And remember, it is in the vast majority of cases going to be the woman of the family who has to do this thing.

  40. Min, I don’t accept your contention that “the checkout chick will roll her eyes.” For a start, she doesn’t have to see the card at all. To her, it’s just another card being put in or swiped through the machine by the customer which she probably sees 100s of times a day.

    If she does notice the card – if she’s got an ounce of decency about her, she’ll have sympathy for the woman with the Basics Card, rather than looking down her nose at her (or rolling her eyes.) As I said earlier – perhaps the stigma is not in their heads at all.

  41. Bacchus, as a disability advocate for a number of years..believe me, everybody knows. Gossip is human nature.

    Well maybe, but imagine if Mrs Bacchus had to front up to her local Coles or Woolies and present the card. She of course would be hoping like hell that nobody noticed..maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t.

    I think that there has to be a better way.

  42. Did you read that link I put up earlier to the church giving away food parcels? While I’d possibly be too proud to be seen in that line, Mrs Bacchus wouldn’t, if that was what was required to feed her family…

    I think that there has to be a better way.

    Ahh – now that’s something we can agree on. Perhaps more carrot before applying the stick? Personal and/or financial counselling before being forced to become income managed?

    I did find it interesting though that about 5,000 people have voluntarily placed themselves on Income Management – it can’t be all bad 😉

  43. Bacchus, as a disability advocate and working alongside organisations for a number of years, I’m coming from the other side of it. Dignity is such an important thing and yes of course people would come so us to do anything to be able to put a meal on the table for their family that night..this is Australia and the number of homeless people and those relying on charity is a national disgrace.

  44. It is an unfortunate fact that there are people who are receiving taxpayers’ money in this way but would rather spend it selfishly on alcohol, gambling, and drugs for themselves, rather than to feed, clothe, and educate their children and to keep them healthy.

    I take it then, Jarl, that you are in favour of limits being placed on pokies.

  45. What if these cards were the same design as a normal credit card to avoid the stigma? And blacklisted gaming venues (disallowing the bad) instead of allowing a limited number of well known retail giants? Would that solve our problems?

  46. Min @ 6.52pm, I like your selection. A little help from friends is what makes the world a better place. 🙂

  47. Lots of people are getting hooked up on what people are spending their dole checks on.. what they are forgetting is that it is none of their business what other people choose to spend their money on.

    This has sweet fuck all to do with assisting the poor to manage their finances and everything to do with control. This experiment is aimed at people from minority groups, in areas where they are seen as “problems” by the white Anglo-Saxon majority. If the money it is costing to implement this draconian system was spent on community development, it would be considerably more likely to resolve poverty in Indigenous and migrant societies.

    It is a form of apartheid.

    Where income management is in place in the NT intervention, people are forced to line up in a separate line at the shops for their food. It is dictated which shops they go to, so they are unable to travel. Aboriginal people are unable to go out to their homelands and live a healthier lifestyle if they want to collect any form of income assistance. They are forced to remain in poverty in towns. It’s the mission system all over again for Aboriginal people.

    Personally, I’m totally fucking outraged that our government can do shit like this to Australian people in the 21st century.

  48. Apartheid?? Not a slight exaggeration valentine? I think when people spend there own money they can squander it as they please. But when they are being propped up by the nations wealth the nation should be able to express concern if it is being wasted…

  49. Agree 100% Valentine, when it comes to the NT intervention and the schemes devised by Noel Pearson. This however is far removed from what is happening where this scheme is mooted for regional Australia. NT intervention was unquestionably racist. Income Management across areas like Logan, Bankstown, Rockhampton, Playford, and Shepparton is based on social disadvantage rather than race – that’s the important difference. The wider this program becomes, the less racist it’s scope.

    This experiment is aimed at people from minority groups, in areas where they are seen as “problems” by the white Anglo-Saxon majority.

    This is where I disagree vehemently. Labor is trying to get rid of the racist element of the original Howard government programs. This scheme applies to anyone and everyone who can’t properly provide for their families, regardless of race.

    FFS I have people living in my street who IMO would be advantaged by being placed on this scheme, and they’re part of the “white Anglo-Saxon majority.”

    By the same token, there are also Islander an Aboriginal people in the area who are doing very well for themselves. The race card here is BS! A cop out even!

  50. So my list above of racial demographics in those areas has no bearing? Forgive me if I differ 🙂

    I don’t trust Labor as far as I could kick them with race issues. They used to be very different than Liberals, but not any longer. I say that as a reluctantly ex-lifelong-Labor voter.

  51. Min ~ “I take it then, Jarl, that you are in favour of limits being placed on pokies.” Min the problem is not the pokies ~ if they were reduced or removed, then other ways would be found to misspend money which had been given for other purposes such as feeding and clothing their children.
    Valentine !~ “what they are forgetting is that it is none of their business what other people choose to spend their money on.”. That is the fundamental error in your argument ~ it is not `their’ money. It is other people’s money earned by their efforts and donated, sometimes reluctantly but more often resentfully because it is depriving their own families of that income, to help people during a period of low income earning capacity. It is an enormous generosity of the majority of the Australia people that they are prepared to give a part of their income to help those who are unable to provide their own income. That is why so many are seeking to immigrate to Australia to take advantage of Australian generosity.
    Unfortunately there are some people who see it as their right to take other people’s money in this way and not be accountable for its spending. There are others who see it as their permanent right to be maintained and subsidised by other people all of their lives, without making any effort to earn their own living. Yes there are a small minority who can never earn their own living due to disability or chronic ill health, but there are a majority who see it as their right to demand these income subsidies and not be accountable for its dispensation.
    So yes it is my business and that of every other taxpayer to ensure that their monies which they have forfeited and deprived themselves and their families of, is spent on the purposes it was intended.

  52. I’ve been following this discussion and been loath to comment because I’ve had a strongly emotional response to all the issues that have come up. In the end I am still very much of Bacchus’s opinion. That this new legislation is

    A big difference to the NT case though where everyone was put on income management whether they could manage their finances or not!

    I have always sympathised with Jenny Macklin and Labor’s efforts to soften the ghastliness of Howard’s NT Intervention but somehow retain any feature of it which would help families who are victims of hardship caused by alcohol or other addictions of one or other of the parents.

    Issues of pride, racism etc. are secondary when children are hungry and suffering other abuse and deprivation. Mothers need our support and if we give them a card which helps them keep even half of their welfare payments quarantined for their family’s food, clothing and school needs then I’m all for it. I think you’ll find the card holders and their children are for it too.

    Seventy years ago I lived in what would today be described as a ‘dysfunctional family’ where Friday night was pay night. We five children knew all about where our dad’s wages went. We would watch him shave in the little mirror above the kitchen sink where he’d have his weekly wash. When he left the house with his one clean
    cap and white silk scarf knotted at his neck he was a handsome fellow and we should have been proud of him. Instead we hated that ritual which was the start of a nightmare Friday night and all day Saturday and sometimes Sunday too if his mates were generous or still needing company. Not only his wages as a coal porter went with him at weekends, but on weeknights too whatever he could find of my mum’s meagre cleaners pay which she hadn’t managed to spend straight away on food or other necessities..

    I don’t think my mum, or any us kids either, would have given a second thought to pride or self respect in our village shop if were known as a family whose Dad’s weekly wage was quarantined. At least we would have had shoes and not been hungry. Still bruised possibly.. Who knows though, perhaps being fed and better dressed we could have stood up to him sooner. And perhaps with less money he mightn’t have got so drunk.

    If I still believe this about money earned as a wage you can understand, that I might feel even stronger about money assigned to support families with their living costs. Welfare payments spent on alcohol, drugs or gambling are not supporting families. They are sustaining their deprivation, humiliation and abuse. .

  53. So Jarl@9:18am what do you think about Clive buying a mine for $37mil. and then claiming for depriciation on that mine of $500+mil and getting a $138mil tax cheque back!
    . I, like you, dislike how them bludger sterotypes are getting a free ride on ‘our’ monies.I, like you want to see ‘our’ tax $ being used to help ‘our’ families, not bolster someones chosen lifestyle.
    But unlike you I dont overly mind paying my tax, my share, I hope and trust that my tax $ is being used to help my country and all of its people and not some sterotypical bludger type.
    And speaking of sterotypes Jarl, I guess your the type that ‘just dosn’t like paying Tax’.

  54. So my list above of racial demographics in those areas has no bearing?

    Probably not Valentine. Did you bother to check the unemployment statistics for those same areas? You’re claiming the areas were chosen because of race – forgive me if I differ 🙂

    Logan, for example, has an unemployment rate of 7% – no big deal, but pockets of the community here have an unemployment rate of nearly 22% across all races. You said Logan has “highest Pacific Islander population in Queensland.” That’s probably true, but it most likely has the biggest Somali population in Qld, the biggest Romanian population in Qld as well. Logan is amongst the most culturally diverse areas of the country…

    There would be other statistics that the government would have access to also – like the rate of social services intervention in the various communities. I really can’t see that this is targeted at race. Sure, the areas chosen may have larger populations of some demographics, but IMO that’s not the reason they were chosen, just a coincidental fact…

    I’m surprised CU hasn’t had an input into this topic with her experience with DOCS…

  55. What is wrong with these schemes, is who decides is dysfunctional and what redress do they who are accused have.

    It is impossible for someone sitting behind a desk to do this. Things are rarely as seen in any family.

    Not feeding and providing for your children is child abuse. It should be treated as.

    We have state agencies that fulfill these roles. They have the power, duty to investigate and take what action is needed.

    In fact these agencies must prove before a court, the allegations.

    It is the court that makes the decision as to what action is taken.

    The card would be a wonderful tool in these situations. It should never be mandatory.

    These agencies do not take all matters to court. They have another role, to give assistance where accepted and needed. Once again the cards would be invaluable.

    The courts last resource is to remove children. It is possible to get parents to agree to undertakings that put in place protections for the children. The cards again would be invaluable.

    There are already many tools used by child protection workers, that can either be voluntary or imposed by the court.

    This includes, having bills paid from their bank accounts, such as rent, power and other ongoing expenses,

    It is not the role of Centerlink, to take over this role. It is the role of Centerlink and all other agencies to work with the likes of docs. This is because only they have the powers and ability to investigate allegations of abuse.

    It was not fair as they did, to force this process on all, whether young or old, whether they had children or not, whether they were good parents or not.

    Accusing parents of abusing their children is a serious matter. It should be taken lightly or pushed aside by political ideology.

    It is an attack on the lower rungs of society.

    We do not hear Gina being condemn for what looks like stealing from her own children.

    That is just plain wrong.


  56. I must add, decisions made in the Children’s Court are not made public, to protect the children and the family.

    The same goes for agencies such as DOCs.

    This is the way it should be.

    What the Feds intend to so, is in reality being used where it is deemed necessary. It is once again the Feds taking over from the States, but without the necessary safeguards.
    Where is Centerlink going to get it’s information from. From many years experience, family and neighbors are unreliable. This even applies to some working in other agencies. Many notifications are value laden. More about what they believe should be done, than what needs to be done.

    Everyone has their own ideas, as to how children should be reared.

  57. A thought. There are clearly people who do require assistance in managing their finances. Perhaps an idea would be a little more carrot – that is, for those identified as being in need of assistance via the provision of a BasicsCard, that those who volunteer for this assistance be for example, allowed to earn additional money via part time/casual employment.

    My concern is that IF the government takes over and does everything for them, then they will never learn how to manage themselves.

  58. Cu, and Where is Centerlink going to get it’s information from. From many years experience, family and neighbors are unreliable.

    I agree absolutely. In my time as a disability advocate giving due regard to the fact that this pertained mostly to children with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome, I have seen parents who have been labelled “bad parents” because of their child’s learning difficulties. That is, a person can be trying their hardest, doing everything which they can imaginable..but sometimes things don’t work out the way you would want.

  59. Min says

    My concern is that IF the government takes over and does everything for them, then they will never learn how to manage themselves.

    I don’t think that ‘taking over everything ‘ is anyone’s intention or a likely outcome of the quarantining of part of welfare benefits for food and necessities in certain extreme cases. No one is capable of managing themselves if they are not eating staple foods and are suffering physical abuse at the hands of a violent alcoholic, or if they are themselves an inveterate addict. Children certainly aren’t capable of learning the most basic of life skills if they are poorly fed and clothed and at risk of bodily harm.. The shame and degradation they suffer in these circumstances by far outweighs any humiliation of seeing their mother buy food at a particular store with special colored cash card.

  60. Patricia, it is not about the card. It is about who decides who needs one

    There would be many that would seek assistance.

    What I am saying, there is no way or need for Centerlink to replicate agencies that already responsible for assessing families at risk or in need.

    It is simply about politics and value laden politics at that. There are no simple answers to dysfunctional families. One thing I found out quickly, while working for DOC’s , that every case was different.

    There are many reasons and causes that families find themselves in this position. Very few are there because of their own fault. Even behind alcoholism and drug taking, there are many roads to getting there. We must never leave out of the equation, illness, both mental and physical. Even tragedies such as losing a parent, can lead to disaster to many. Losing work etc, can also be added.

    Poverty still plays a big part.

    I would like to say, the present agencies, such as DOCs are not perfect.

    This is impossible because working with human beings, need and causes are always changing.

    What we do not need, is Federal agencies being set up to compete with and undermine the state bodies.

    Keeping the child safe and within the home should be the aim of all, while realizing that this is not always possible.

    Mandatory managing of ones income is useless on it’s own, especially if it is not addressing pr even acknowledging the cause that got them to this position.

    As far as I know, Centerlink along with all other state authorities already have a duty to refer any family they believe to be at risk.

    Everyone in the community have this obligation.

    Many are making comments that seem to be saying, these situations are not being addressed.

    Vouchers and such do not change anything.

    The voucher or food obtained can and is sold by the person given assistance.

    This has been the case for decades as far as I know. I have seen people do it in front of my eyes. They then go into the nearest TAB and pub for the rest of the afternoon.

  61. Howard’s program where selected welfare recipients were issued with food vouchers (the value of which was deducted from their Centrelink payments) failed miserably.

    A scan of the regional NT newspapers in early 2008 revealed that, according to the Army, people were selling $50 vouchers for $20 cash, which they could use to but alcohol.

    Alcohol cannot be purchased under the new card system, introduced by the Rudd Government.

  62. Patricia and The shame and degradation they suffer in these circumstances by far outweighs any humiliation of seeing their mother buy food at a particular store with special colored cash card.

    There is no guarantee that a Coles or Woolies voucher will guarantee that children will be well nourished..there is an awful lot of cr*p food in supermarkets. Obesity is of course far more prevalent in lower socio-economic groups who are the predominant consumers of fast food and processed foods rather than fresh food.

    I am thinking of a time, long ago..at Canterbury Girls’ High School. “Everyone knew” who the poor kids were because of the color of their socks.

    Some kind soul had taken donations of used socks, taken them home and dyed them, but they ended up a sort of greenish blue instead of the pale blue of the school uniform. Kids who wore these socks were able to be immediately identified as “the poor kids”.

    Status means a lot to kids, a matter of acceptance by one’s peers.

  63. LOVO – At least Clive has earned his income by his efforts and has paid his taxes and has received a refund in accordance with tax laws. You may say his earned rewards are extreme or excessive, but you are not therefore comparing like with like.
    It is not a matter of “Jarl, I guess your the type that ‘just dosn’t like paying Tax’”, it is a matter of the extremely high level of taxation in this country and the wasteful use of those taxes after collection which is the major concern. And of course the very clear attitudes in some contributors to this column that it is their inalienable right to a share in other people’s earning and without being accountable in any way as to how they may wisely spend or foolishly waste that unearned income.

  64. PATRICIAWA – You have summed up the situation in a nutshell, “Welfare payments spent on alcohol, drugs or gambling are not supporting families. They are sustaining their deprivation, humiliation and abuse.”. And that is regardless of the ethnic group to which they belong, no matter how much LOVO would like to turn this into a race issue.

  65. No Miglo – it is a distorted perception that sees this as a race issue. It was recognised that a particular ethnic minority group within Australian society was suffering individual and collective disadvantage because of a number of factors. The symptoms of their deprivations were poor health, poor educational opportunities, poor quality housing, and very serious issues of domestic violence and child abuse. Attempts to provide assistance, and very considerable financial support, had been unsuccessful due to the insistence by this ethnic minority group to manage their own affairs through ATSIC and the self-styled and self-appointed leaders (Elders). The consequences of such a system proved to be disastrous and the poverty and deprivations worsened. It was absolutely necessary for the collective benefit of that ethnic community that firm and decisive action should be taken and the management to be taken out of the hands of those who had managed it so incompetently. Quite naturally those who occupied those positions of privilege and power within that ethnic community protested loudly when they were supplanted and some still are, but your decision is whether you want to return to that dysfunctional system of self-government for what seem to be mainly ethnic cultural reasons, or whether you will support the external efforts to improve the life chances and the health, education, and safety of the thousands who have suffered under that previous regime.

  66. Jarl, ATSIC was a flawed model, though it was driven by the best of intentions.

    Its biggest flaw was corrupt Regional Councils. I saw Councillors in the media demanding that something be done about the conditions of Aboriginal communities, but when it came to dishing out money they ignored the needy to feather their own nest.

  67. ATSIC was flawed in my opinion, because it was asked to take over state responsibilities.

    It was always under funded.

    The distribution and administration of many things such as housing, health and education should have been the role of the Territory and Federal government.

    ATSIC role should have been of a supplementary nature, topping up what was being supplied.

    Figures given for ATSIC should not ever have included what was given to all other Australians.

    It was built to fail.

    It transfer the responsibility for Aboriginal care from the government, to the people themselves.

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