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Religious profit: Expanding the cashless welfare card ties in with Morrison’s beliefs

The philosophy of the cashless welfare card is the perfect marriage of neoliberal ideology and evangelical Christianity, both of which pathologise, criminalise and individualise poverty as a lifestyle choice.

The concept of the Cashless Debit Card, known as the “Indue” card after the company that oversees its administration, was brought to us by the obsessive efforts of mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest who decided that the solution to what he perceived as the “welfare dependency” of Indigenous Australians was income management. The Australian government agreed with him and in 2014 legislation to implement the card in selected communities for a trial period passed federal parliament.

The stated purpose of the card was to prevent Centrelink recipients spending money on drugs, alcohol and gambling. However, whether you engage in those activities or not is irrelevant: if you live in a trial site, eighty per cent of your government payment is quarantined and you are permitted access to only twenty per cent of your money as cash.

There are now four trial sites: Ceduna in South Australia, East Kimberley, the West Australian towns of Kununurra and Wyndham, and most recently, the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region of Queensland.

The so-called “trials” are now entering their fourth year, and in 2018 were extended into June 2021, despite there being little satisfactory data available on their success. While the trials now include non-Indigenous groups, they are still the majority of cardholders.

In 2019 the LNP government decided to extend the Indue card to every person already on income management in the Northern Territory from January 2020, by moving those already using the marginally less onerous BasicsCard onto Indue. There is considerable chatter on social media that the government’s endgame is to extend the card to aged pensioners and veterans, as well as everyone on Newstart, and that the roll-out will be national. Legislation is already in place for this roll-out.

Indue receives some $10,000 per annum per person from the government, for what is claimed to be “administrative costs.”

The demeaning assumption by the privileged that people living in poverty are incapable of managing meagre government handouts and so must be infantalised, is but one aspect of this class war. Another paternalistic assumption is that anyone in receipt of government assistance is a “welfare cheat” or a “dole bludger,” and their spending habits must, therefore, be surveilled and controlled in an effort to protect “worthy” taxpayers from exploitation.

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a visit to the Yalata community, described the card as an exercise in “practical love”, a variation on the concept of “hard love” once advocated as a means of dealing with people addicted to substances.

The implication that the poor are morally inadequate while the wealthy are, solely by virtue of their wealth, morally superior, nicely intersects with the beliefs of Pentecostal Christian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s prosperity theology, which understands God’s love and favour to be primarily expressed in wealth and material comforts. If you are poor, God doesn’t love you, and you haven’t loved him enough either.

The philosophy of the Indue card is the perfect marriage of neoliberal ideology and evangelical Christianity, both of which pathologise, criminalise and individualise poverty as a lifestyle choice, with nary a thought for underlying structural causes. Poverty becomes a question of character, rather than a consequence of capitalist social organisation.

The card is stigmatising. Whenever you produce it to buy food, for example, everyone who sees it is aware that you’re being managed as if you have a problem with gambling, alcohol or drug consumption, all addictions that are concealable if you’re middle or upper class, but highly visible if you’re poor and receiving income support. The card is punitive. It is intended to be, at the very least, a powerful and humiliating reproach to people who receive government assistance.

The shame it evokes only demonises Centrelink recipients.

If the card is rolled out to everyone on income assistance, the division of society into the comfortable worthy and undeserving unworthy will be stark. It is a profoundly troubling backward step to a time when poverty was widely held to be a moral failing.

At the same time, Indue receives some $10,000 per annum per person from the government, for what is claimed to be “administrative costs.” Were the card to be rolled out to every recipient of Centrelink assistance, including all pensioners and veterans, Indue earnings would be considerable, and the cost to the government equally considerable. It is reasonable to question whether these funds could not be better spent in disadvantaged communities, rather than channelled to Indue Ltd and its shareholders.

Then there are the National Party connections with the company. Former National Party MP and Party President, Larry Anthony, was deputy chairman of Indue until 2013.

Nationals MPs are pushing for the widespread roll-out of the card, as are Liberals. The ALP appears, at first blush, to be more reluctant to both continue and broaden the card’s distribution, however, we are fast approaching the point where it is becoming necessary for Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to clarify his party’s stance on the issue.

This piece was originally published on The Big Smoke. You can find them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TheBigSmokeAU/) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/TheBigSmokeAU).

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30 comments

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  1. RomeoCharlie29

    Good job Jennifer. This is Ideological warfare against the needy. And yet another example of LNP gifting millions to mates. And they are coming for me.

  2. Bert

    Jennifer, all true. The need to punish and control others is central to this issue, a malignant trait found in the holier-than-thou political class more than other groups. Compassion does not compute, nor should it in their jaundiced eyes.

    The INDUE card is also a foot in the door for going fully digital and all that entails. Look to China and its social credit system to see where this is going. Work is in progress to have in place in all countries crypto system of payments by this time next year.

    Communism is the new black, or is that Communtarinism?

  3. Alc

    Look at how rich that snake oil salesman Brian Houston is, and he is the Prime Ministerial mentor. As Clive James rightly opined, “ Religion is an advertising medium for a product that does not exist.”

  4. DrakeN

    “The rich man in his castle,
    The beggar at his gate,
    God made them high and lowly,
    And ordered their estate.”

    It’s their idea of a kind and loving fatherly God.
    Poverty is your lot – get used to it.

    Religions are the longest running and most successful confidence tricks ever played on humanity.
    All in the name of wealth and priviledge for the few who claim to be that god’s spokespersons.

  5. jamie

    So spot on. A billionaire Mother Earth rapist and despoiler dictating to the hoi polloi for of course: PROFIT.

    What we have here reminds us of a ‘puritanical’ mania for control, punishment: sociopathic psychopathy by the Twiggeeze. So many parallels to the following:

    Puritan punishments varied in terms of their severity. Most minor offenses resulted in monetary fines, but many individuals paid for their unorthodox behavior in other, more humiliating ways. Authorities forced guilty parties to spend several hours in the public square, locked into the stocks or pillory or placed in the gallows with a rope around their necks. Passersby would spit, laugh or throw garbage at the offenders. In some instances, unfortunate individuals were forced to wear a sign detailing the crime or wear a symbolic letter — such as a “D” for drunkard or an “A” for adulteress — that reminded the community of the misdeed. Some crimes led to imprisonment, banishment or the infliction of significant physical pain, including whipping, branding and cropping — or cutting off — the ears.

    Murderdochh: the ear cuttah

  6. David Stakes

    If they try rolling that out to Aged pension and Centrelink recipients, that should guarantee the LNP a quick exit from Gov, Trouble is they would lock it in in some way so it cannot be rolled back. Tricky bastards they are.

  7. leefe

    It’s a typical LNP response to a minimal problem: pay a private company run by a wealthy donor/supporter a shit-tonne of money instead of actually addressing real issues with targeted programs that put the money where it can make genuine change.

  8. Dianne

    Yes ALL the money from government should be available as cash so the whole amount (not just the 20%) can be pissed up against a wall or gambled on the pokies and the like. Sound like a winning policy that Labor will take to the next election. Lol. Perhaps someone should tell Albo. Then duck.

  9. TuffGuy

    How many times have we heard scummo telling the press “we are not here to tell people how to spend their money”??? He was only saying that the other day talking about tax cuts. Once that welfare money is in people’s bank accounts it is their money and the government should not be telling them how to spend it.
    As for the owners of the card being ex Nationals and Lieberal donors – that is just corruption. There was no tender or proper process, it was just given to their mates.
    How does a piece of plastic cost $10k each per year in admin costs??? How much are the admin costs per year for a bank to manage a credit card??? Nowhere near $10k I would bet. The fact that people on the card attempt to set up auto payments for things like rent and the Indue company does not process the payments says to me they are not earning that $10k in admin costs.
    The simple fact that card holders can only use the card at businesses that have registered with Indue is abhorrent at best. This forces people already on low income to pay much higher prices for daily items. If the card were to do its job properly it should accept or deny each purchased item and not be based on an entire store and what it sells. IE. if a store sells alcohol then it cannot be registered for use with the card, pure insanity. If someone wants to buy milk or bread that transaction should be acceptable at any store. But then again scummo tells us it is not for the government to tell people how to spend their money…….
    If the card has to be there at all it should be completely voluntary, for those who have issues and want to use it. And for that matter it would make complete sense economically and ethically for any card to be administered by a bank, not an incompetent Lieberal donor mate.

  10. Christopher Peel

    You missed a trial site. The Goldfields region of Western Australia is also subject to this punitive measure of Coalition bastardry.

  11. Andrew Smith

    When it comes to the philosophy creating a ‘welfare’ card one should aks who is manipulating whom?

    Answer lies in the where radical right libertarians see ‘welfare’ as unconstitutional, and evangelical Christians (especially those worshipping the ‘prosperity gospel’) have been leveraged and used to encourage other Christians to think, or better, vote similarly; Christianity is the ‘delivery system’.

    Complaint about ‘welfare’ from arch libertarian Republican Ron Paul via Cato Institute (Kochs):

    ‘By reading the General Welfare Clause in isolation, therefore, Wallace and others turn the Constitution on its head. Rather than a document aimed at limiting government, it becomes a document authorizing unlimited government.’

    https://www.cato.org/blog/ron-paul-general-welfare-clause

    Same old obsession or objective of decreasing size of government, services and budgets for tax cuts……

  12. leefe

    Dianne:

    If it’s good enough for rich people, why not poor people? Franking credits don’t come with a proviso that they must be spent responsibly, after all. Nor do subsidies in industries such as child care or aged care come with concomitant requirements that they must maintain an appropriate level of quality or working conditions for staff.

    Also, what about the vast majority of social security recipients who DO spend their money responsibly, who DO budget carefully, who don’t waste it on alcohol, other drugs or gambling? Why should they be penalised because of the irresponsible (or incapable) few? That would be like … oh, I dunno, sacking the entire misgovernment just because one MP has been found to have done something shifty … (OK, that’s a remarkably tempting scenario, but not even I would go quite that far).

    And how do you justify the expense of around $1,000 per month, per person, when banks and super funds can administer far larger amounts for the less than $10 per month?

  13. Dianne

    leefe – These recipients are not taxpayers. They are spending taxpayers money.

  14. Carina McNaughton

    Diane. The recipients were most likely once taxpayers, even if they were not nobody in a rich country like Australia should be left with so little to live on, I know plenty of people who receive welfare because there are simply not enough jobs to go around,who budget and use their money wisely. How humiliating to Be forced to use the Indue card so that everyone knows you survive on income support. What a waste for the government to give 12,000 dollars to a private company to administer each card.surely money that would be better given to the people receiving income support. The Indue card is a pox on society. Here’s an idea we treat everyone equally. I would hate to need income support. I pay my taxes to support those who need a helping hand. Stuff the LNP tax cuts, use the money for caring for the aged, public housing. End negative gearing and franking credits for those who pay no tax. What is wrong with society when we have people who are not paying tax getting a refund. One rule for the wealthy another for the poor, who are forced into poverty. Albo summed up the LNP dirty deeds done dirt cheap. I will think otherwise when the richest companies in Australia pay some tax, murdoch pays none yet receives 10 million from the federal LNP. Lnp good at looking after their mates stuff the poor.

  15. leefe

    Dianne:

    Like the people who get a tax “refund” due to franking credits but who pay no income tax? Or the companies that, through tax minimisation schemes and various technical loopholes, pay no tax in Australia, but still receive subsidies?

    Besides, it is virtually impossible to not pay tax – remember GST? Utilities, processed or prepared food, clothing, fuel, etc all are subject to GST.

  16. Dianne

    leefe and Carina McNaughton – thank you for your responses. So you really think that Albo will get rid of this Card and wear the cost at the ballot box because it is popular among women and even though the Chair of Indue (Dawson Petie) has been a lifetime member of the ALP and has been appointed by Labor to many Boards.

    http://www.dawsonpetie.com/about-1

  17. Carina McNaughton

    Diane Which women is Indue popular with? Not from what i have read on get ups updates.

  18. Michael Taylor

    Yes to what Carina said, Dianne. A link would be useful.

  19. Zathras

    Demand that politicians also charge their Travel Allowance to a card rather than be given a tax-free payment and watch them back-track at great speed.

  20. Robin Alexander

    Dianne think you should be aware pensioners 80/90yrs plus have worked hard physically for over 50yrs in harsh conditions mostly no air conditioning years ago or all the other better workers conditions today? Also many people on Vet. Pensions fought for this country came home straight into back breaking work providing for families that was how it was my days, also paid 7.5% weekly wage all our working life towards our pensions when retired from work? When Pensions introduced into Parliament both leaders stood before full house both repeated individually an oath “PENSION MUST NEVER BE CALLED WELFARE” this is on Hansard understand Law! Secretly AG CHRISTIAN PORTER has changed that wording to WELFARE! Pensioners not aware of fact! WHY? To enable his bill a quick passing in Parliament hoping majority of Ministers Senators not aware Bill for Indue Cards for ALL WELFARE DEPENDENTS has hidden under that heading Pensions! What other viable reason could he produce he hasn’t any that’s why fact is kept quiet! Pensioners are good living people not addicted junkies to be subjected to this Evil card last very few years of life we have shows true vileness non compassionate party they are!my view after reading now for nearly 2yrs letters sent to Senator Rachel Siewert ferocious fighter for vulnerable letters she showed on twitter her Facebook account people desperate fights with Indue of failings of card truly heartbreaking & cruel vulnerable people due to circumstances beyond their control I truly fear these 80/90yrbold plus old people will never grasp vast change to their finance &long standing arrangements for payments for utilities no longer available on card requires holder to ring Indue to forward payments every time! Just so much stress misery await these old people contributed so much this country not capable with high tec business many just go bank withdraw money they require don’t use efpos at all do you honestly tell me Over 4million persons will be excited by card of total control in regional areas very few businesses remain for easy use card especially if on line purchases need to be made ie; shoes no shoe shop now my town only available way to buy! Not allowed by Indue it is goung cause much human distress misery humiliation its obscene LNP should even be condidering it?

  21. leefe

    Dianne, would you be happier if I just crawled into a quiet corner somewhere and topped myself so I am no longer a “burden” to “the system”?

  22. Robin Alexander

    Dianne how dare you accuse all people who have & will be placed on Indue card as Druggies alcoholics? whatever other description you like to besmirch all receiving Welfare!Obviously you sit nice comfortable have never experience nor want to ever look into lives of average man experiencing bad times in life many no fault theirs also remarks are to Aged of population!as Aged 83yr old pensioner worked physically hard since 15yrs while having my 3children over period 10yrs or so took in ironing then dressmaking business sitting at machine 12/14hrs day but also always kept neat home garden cooked good meals always baked cakes tin always full! slept maybe 4/5hrs night? my husband 12yrs my senior always had 2jobs very kind generous never charged enough for his work? to old for Super when introduced main place employment so as parts salesman Federal award less state? Closed in 90recession not paid weeks,wage waited 2years entitlements $8000 after 46yrs service!I cared for him 3/4yrs passed,away 92yrs,age waiting on his,stage 4high priority package?now live on pension! HOW DARE YOU SIT judgement in YOUR CASTLE CAST BRICKS AT US? who not for want of always working daylight to dark we accepted our life were happy enough happy on Pension! but to be treated as an addict my age placed on restrictive card after my & my husbands contribution to building this country all those lo g working years is obscene! as is your summation of us all for accepting Welfare payments! hope Karma visits you my dear BIG? You may grow tiny bit compassion for less fortunate grow a heart!

  23. Michael Taylor

    Dianne, you must be mixing with the wrong people if you think that welfare recipients only want to piss their money up against a wall or throw it into the pokies.

  24. Kronomex

    If they want to put everyone who is on some sort of gubmint benefit on Twiggy Card shouldn’t that also include politicians as well? They receive payment from the tax payers so…

  25. Jack Cade

    It seems to me that contrarian commentators come and go from this site with predictable regularity. I don’t mind contrary comments – you don’t learn anything if you only talk to or listen to
    people who agree with you: that’s mental constipation. But suggesting ‘these people are not tax payers’ (NB – News Corp is not a tax payer – it is a revenue bleeder ) and therefore of no consequence is not offering constructive comments, it is the sort of thinking that sets up ‘special places’ for people you don’t want to help.

  26. wam

    Christian beliefs are by men for men.
    They block the idea that Aborigines are capable individuals in favour of lowest common denominator being considered the norm. By privatising welfare they remove public servants with responsibility and some accountability and leave the poor with the profit motive. No incentive to help indeed the opposite puts cash to the shareholders and at $12000 minimum a head that’s a lot of cash. Should the card not be used that is a hell of a lot of cash.
    Aboriginal people who, like me, have problems with the card are likely to leave the system and gift their payment to the company. Surely twiggy in his enthusiastic support for Aboriginal people would have ensured there are mechanisms to seek out these who have fallen through the net(is there a net??) and to redress the situation???
    Not only does the card suck but the xstians, there are millions of Diannes in Australia who have no problems punishing the whole class for an alcoholic a gambler, a thief or a racist profile.
    These people, shamefully, wont even look at opt in or out provision and they suck.
    Sadly when I remember macklin’s efforts in the aftermath of howard’s intervention I have no faith that labor will move against indue.

  27. Jack Cade

    Wam

    Never forget that the Catholic Church supported Hitler, Mussolini, Caetano and Franco. To the hilt.

  28. wam

    right, jack, but they are catholic countries like spain, argentina and brazil who were supporters and gave sanctuary to nazis and in those days the jews were christ killers. now we realise they were under orders from god to kill himself or something like that.
    Did you see cahill and ebert on port the most successful club having it s150 years celebration???
    ps
    hope lynch and crotchin get a bath this week and the geelong cheats get caught.

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