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The standard that you walk past …

Income management isn’t new in Australia, what is new, is the current government’s ideological push to enforce neoliberal policies on an unsuspecting Australia. In 2007, Professor Helen Hughes, wrote ‘Lands of Shame: Aboriginal and Torres Strait “homelands” in Transition.’ A few months before it was published, Hughes gave it to the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (OIPC), the department responsible for indigenous policies. The Minister for Indigenous Affairs was Mal Brough.

The book was published by conservative think tank, the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS). It’s final chapter, reads like a blueprint for what occurs in the Northern Territory (NT) in June 2007. It calls for the closure of Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory (NT); a health audit of all children; the appointment of administrators; private home ownership; and the abolition of communal title customary law; the permit system and Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP). The book was also highly critical of policies relating to self-determination and land rights, branding them failed socialist experiments.

The use of a book, research or reports produced by a think tank, or a foundation, for government policies isn’t a new tactic. The Ronald Reagan policies from 1980’s, were mostly from the Heritage Foundation, which has been heavily financed for years by the conservative elite, and the likes of the Koch brothers.

Before we go any further, I need to provide some background, and a timeline of events. The Howard government, received many detailed reports about the escalating violence in Indigenous communities, but they were never actioned. With thanks to Chris Graham (current owner of New Matilda), Crikey and Michael Brull, for their succinct research over the last decade relating to the Intervention.

So many reports, not enough action

Indigenous academic, Boni Robertson, completed many detailed reports throughout the nineties. Robertson also led an inquiry in 1999, that actually involved Indigenous Australians, with fifty-senior women representing their communities in Queensland (QLD). In 1999, a shocking report about Indigenous violence, was released by Doctor Paul Memmott. The report was suppressed from the media and the public by the Justice Minister, Amanda Vanstone for eighteen months. By the time that the media got wind of it, it was old news and nobody really cared.

All of these reports and inquiries, warned of the numerous problems in Indigenous communities. The causes of family violence stem from a failure of government to provide adequate services, education and housing infrastructure. It’s also a failure from both sides of the political spectrum to acknowledge Indigenous culture and their relationship with the land. Neo-colonialism is still a problem in Australia, despite the fact that Indigenous Australians are the oldest known civilisation on earth. They’ve hundreds of languages and their map of Australia is made up of many nations, not a handful of states. Wanting them to assimilate into a monolingual, mono-cultural society is one thing, the reality is another.

In 2002, the Central Aboriginal Congress prepared a paper showing how the number of Indigenous women being treated for domestic assault had more than doubled since 1999. A year later Howard staged a ‘roundtable summit’ of Indigenous leaders to address family violence. This achieved nothing.

An election was approaching in 2006, and for the government and the media, Indigenous violence was a popular topic. At one point, ABC Lateline had filed seventeen stories about it in just eight nights. Crown Prosecutor Nanette Rogers, was on the show in May that year and spoke of her experience with violence against children, including sexual violence in remote communities. What Rogers spoke about was exactly what Dr Memmott had detailed in his suppressed report, seven years earlier.

The media heats up

Minister Brough appeared on Lateline the next day and told the host, Tony Jones that: “Everybody in those communities knows who runs the pedophile rings.”

Jones: “You just said something that astonishes me. You said pedophile rings. What evidence is there of that?”

Brough said that there was “considerable evidence” but provided none. Claire Martin, the NT’s Labor Chief Minister, called on him to provide evidence of the allegation, he said nothing. Five weeks later on June the 21st 2006, Lateline had an anonymous male, former youth worker on their program. He backed up what Brough said:

“It’s true. I’ve been told by a number of people of men getting young girls and keeping them as sex slaves.”

The youth worker, claimed that he was once based in Mutitjulu, working in a joint community project for the NT and federal governments. The Mutitjulu community are the legal custodians of Uluru, or Ayers Rock.

His identity was hidden with his face shadowed and a digitised voice, and he cried as he detailed how he’d made repeated statements and reports to police about sexual violence, in Mutitjulu. He said that he’d withdrawn the reports after being threatened by men in the community, and that he feared for his life. He also said that young Indigenous children were being held against their will, and that other kids were being given petrol to sniff in exchange for sex with senior Indigenous men.

The next day, Martin announced that her NT government would hold a major inquiry into violence against children in Indigenous communities. Also on that day, Brough finally responded to calls for evidence of his accusations. He released a press statement, saying that information had been passed onto NT police, and that he’d been advised that “for legal and confidentiality reasons, I am unable to disclose detail.”

Questions asked too late, the damage is done

A few weeks later, the National Indigenous Times reported that the youth worker crying about his experience in Mutitjulu on Lateline wasn’t a youth worker at all. He was actually, Gregory Andrews an assistant secretary at the OIPC, and an adviser to Brough. He advised Brough about violence and sexual abuse in remote communities. Later it was revealed in parliament, that Andrews had never made a single report to police about women or children. He also misled a federal senate inquiry into petrol sniffing in 2006 and lied about living in Mutitjulu, he had never even set foot there.

All of Andrew’s allegations were thoroughly investigated and dismissed by the NT police. And the Australian Crime Commission, spent eighteen-months and millions of dollars, and also concluded that there was no organised paedophilia in Indigenous communities.

Martin’s inquiry reported back to her in August 2006. The inquiry’s final report: Little Children are Sacred, was handed to the NT government, in April 2007. It was impressive and was more than 300-pages-long, with ninety-one recommendations. The authors, Pat Anderson and Rex Wild, didn’t have an easy job, but they said that they were:

“impressed with the willingness of people to discuss the issue of child sexual abuse, even though it was acknowledged as a difficult subject to talk about. At many meetings, both men and women expressed a desire to continue discussions about this issue and what they could do in their community about it. It was a frequent comment that up until now, nobody had come to sit down and talk with them about these types of issues. It would seem both timely and appropriate to build on this good will, enthusiasm and energy by a continued engagement in dialogue and assisting communities to develop their own child safety and protection plans.”

But before the Martin government could respond to the report and without any consultation with her, or even his own cabinet. Howard and Brough used the report as a catalyst to launch their Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), or the Intervention.

The Intervention

The Intervention relied heavily on shock tactics. Naomi Klein has covered these extensively in her book about disaster capitalism. It favours a multi-pronged, speedy attack, this helps to create cover to introduce unsavoury or neoliberal policies. The Intervention ticks all of the boxes.

The NT and the Australian Federal Police, were sent into remote Indigenous communities, and the army and business managers were installed into Indigenous communities. Signs were put up declaring bans on pornography and alcohol in towns. It was framed as a “national emergency” and while everyone was distracted, and with a senate majority, the federal government was free to pursue its agenda. NTER (Northern Territory Emergency Response), was a $587 million package of measures, and laws regarding human rights, had to be changed or suspended, to get the new legislation through, these included:

Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.

Native Title Act 1993(Cth).

Northern Territory Self-Government Act and related legislation.

Social Security Act 1991.

IncomeTax Assessment Act 1993.

As a result of the new legislation, regulations were introduced to ban access to alcohol, tobacco, pornographic material, and gambling services. Land was compulsorily acquired by the government in seventy Indigenous communities, this was to ensure that there were no interruptions by traditional owners. An income management scheme was introduced, the BasicsCard, which was actually born out of an Indigenous innovation.

The FOODCard was introduced by the Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation (ALPA) in 2004, the idea came about after community consultations. The main differences between the two cards are that one had community consultations, while the other did not. The terms and conditions for the FOODCard are available in Yolngu Matha and English for example, while the BasicsCard is in English only.

The other key difference is that the ALPA one is voluntary and you can set for yourself how much money to quarantine, whereas the government one is compulsory, and quarantines 50%-80% of income. The FOODCard was rolled out in 2007, but by then the BasicsCard had taken over.

Neoliberal ideology

The government waited a month until it introduced its last measure, abolishing a program called Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP). The CDEP was one of the programs that was working, it allowed communities to pool all of their unemployment benefits together. This was then paid out as a direct wage for local jobs within the community, or within the CDEP organisations.

Participants were counted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics as employed, even though the funds originated from unemployment benefits. A form of self-government, and a good solution for unemployment that empowered many communities, especially remote ones.

Communities were also sent pamphlets from Centrelink, explaining that they now had to do something in return for their Centrelink money. The pamphlet also said that they had to call them with their contact details, or their payments might be stopped.

Dr David Scrimgeour, told the Public Health Association of Australia conference in September, that year that:

‘Most of the recommendations … have been implemented by the Commonwealth Government in the NT under the guise of protecting children, despite the fact that the recommendations are not based on evidence, but on neo-liberal ideology.’

He also said that the think-tank, CIS, that published Helen Hughes’ book, received ‘significant support from large corporations, particularly mining companies, and has close links with the Government and the media, particularly the Murdoch-owned newspaper The Australian.’

Reports ignored or used as political tools

So what does income management look like in the NT, ten years after the Intervention? The authors of the Little Children are Sacred report have both said that the report’s recommendations were ignored and that it was used as a political tool to push for an Intervention. Wild said this year that:

“One of the threshold items of the report is that community consultation is needed to be able to best implement the report and that clearly didn’t happen.”

Since the Intervention, report after report gets written about socio-economic disadvantage, and the negative aspects felt by those on income management, only to be ignored. They all have a common theme, that there is no evidence of value behind income management programs, and that they didn’t change behaviours. Is it the government’s place to modify human behaviour with financial measures?

There is one report though that has been listened to, it was commissioned by the Abbott government and reviewed by mining billionaire, Andrew Forrest. It was released in 2014: Creating Parity – the Forrest Review. Forrest and his Minderoo Foundation, want a new card called the “Healthy Welfare Card” to replace the BasicsCard. It would apply to all working age Australians, around 2.5 million Australians, if you exempt pensioners and veterans. This is consistent with Abbott’s view in his book Battlelines.

Following the BasicsCard money

The BasicsCard started out as store card’s from merchants such as Coles and Woolworths; by direct deduction of funds set up by a merchant; or by Centrelink making a credit card or cheque payment. This was too cumbersome, so in 2008 the federal government started the process of procurement for an open tender of the card. Five tender applications were received and the winner was Indue Ltd.

Indue started out as Creditlink, it changed its name in 2006 a year after Larry Anthony, former Liberal National Party MP became chairman of its board. Anthony was the chairman of Indue until 2013, and he’s been the Federal President of the National Party since 2015. Indue’s win was publically announced in December 2009, the original contract was worth just over $11 million for three-years, it ballooned out to over $25 million.

I’ve gone through the tenders and contracts relating to the card, there are thirteen in total to date. Out of those, seven of the contracts are limited, so none of the finer details are available for the public.

Open Tender, Contract Total:

$31,138,574.50 million

Limited Tender, Contract Total:

$29,064,436.16 million

Total: $60,203,010.66

Cashless welfare card cost, blow-out

The ‘cashless welfare card’ trials were originally slated to cost taxpayers $18.9 million.

According to the government tender, the original contract for Indue was worth $7,859,509 million, (media reports round it up to $8 million), it’s now at $13,035,581.16 million.

That’s just the Indue part, if we add the remaining $10.9 million for the other contracts involved in the income management program, we get a total of $23,935,581.16.

There’s 1,850 participants in the trial which began last year, so the cost of the card works out to be $12,938.15 per person.

Using the maximum Newstart allowance of a single person as an example, which is $535.60 per fortnight; they would receive $13,925.60 for the year. Add the Indue layer and the total is $26,863.75 per person.

A lot of money provided by taxpayers for behaviour change, and of course a nice profit for Indue, especially if it rolls out to millions of Australians. The millions of dollars flying about without any oversight, and the political connections are a grave cause for concern.

Income management rolls out nationally

In 2012, the Gillard government extended income management nationally, and for another ten-years. In the House of Representatives during the debate about the ‘Stronger Futures Legislation’, Senator Nigel Scullion, Country Liberal Party member, said this:

“There is a fundamental thread through most of the feedback we get when we talk about consultation. When we get to most communities any observer would say that Aboriginal people more generally hate the intervention. They do not like it, it invades their rights and they feel discriminated against.”

He still voted with the Gillard government. NTER was renamed, Stronger Futures. He went on to become the leader of the Nationals in the Senate, and Minister for Indigenous Affairs in 2013, and he still holds these positions.

Since the Intervention, the model has expanded from remote communities in the NT to the Kimberley region and Perth in WA; Cape York; all of the NT and selected areas of ‘disadvantage’. The areas that are deemed as disadvantaged are: Logan in QLD, Bankstown in New South Wales (NSW), Shepparton in Victoria and Playford in SA.

Six different income management measures:
  1. Participation/Parenting – NT only, when the government deems you ‘at risk’ if you’ve been on a welfare for a certain amount of time.
  2. Vulnerable welfare – When you’re referred to income management by a Centrelink social worker.
  3. Child protection income management – NT and some parts of WA, a child protection officer refers you to income management.
  4. Cape York measure – People there are put on income management, if they engage in dysfunctional behaviour.
  5. Place based income management – For people living in five targeted communities that have been referred for income management.
  6. Supporting people at risk – People are referred for income management by certain state and territory agencies.

As of 25th March 2016, there were 26,508 on income management programs, 20,941 of those were Indigenous.

Trial sites, and another report

The three-part Orima Report is being used by the government, to not only extend draconian, income management measures, but also to quantify its success. Social and political researcher, Eva Cox sums up the report perfectly in a Facebook post, on The Say No Seven page:

“The whole data set of interviews, quantitative and qualitative, are very poorly designed and not likely to be valid data collection instruments. I’d fail any of my research students that produced such dubious instruments.”

The reports includes a lot of spin, asks respondents for their ‘perceptions’ at times, and includes retrospective responses, for questionnaires. The Say No Seven page, has been following all three of the reports closely, they crunched the numbers at the start of this month, when the final Orima report was released. An example cam be found on page forty-six:

“At Wave 2, as was the case in Wave 1, around four-in-ten non-participants (on average across the two Trial sites) perceived that there had been a reduction in drinking in their community since the CDCT commenced.”

This approach means that the reader focuses on the minority of responses, rather than the majority of responses. Six-in-ten not perceiving any reduction in drinking around town. It reads a lot differently than the latter.

Other places rumoured to be put on the card trial are Hervey Bay and Bundaberg in QLD. One peaceful rally against the card in Hervey Bay involved armed police, with protest organiser Kathryn Wilkes saying:

“There were eight of us women aged between 40 and 60 … We were very peaceful.

“They’re afraid of a bunch of sick women on the (disability support pension).

“If you pushed me over I’d end up in hospital. Most of us couldn’t fight our way out of a paper bag.”

This heavy-handed approach is all too familiar…

Star chambers and regrets

Which leads me to the anonymous, paid community panels that determine whether those put on income management should be able to access more cash from their bank accounts. Meddling in communities like this isn’t new, it’s been happening in Indigenous ones for years. Turning communities against one another is surely not the role of the government. It also allows them to neatly deflect any accountability for the program.

The BasicsCard can also make life harder for those already living in poverty, in that you’re restricted from buying second-hand items with cash, or something cheap online. It also means that things like how you pay your electricity bills for example, is decided by Centrelink, so no more payment plans. That’s what income management is, it’s not about just being put on a card as such.

Two trial sites were chosen to trial the BasicsCard card for one-year in 2016, one in Ceduna South Australia, and one in WA’s Kimberley region. The trials were extended indefinitely this year, before the trials had even finished, and before the final Orima report was released just this month.

One of four Indigenous leaders from WA that originally supported the scheme has since withdrawn his support for the card. Lawford Benning, chair of the MG Corporation, says he feels “used” by the Human Services minister, Alan Tudge. He met regularly with Tudge ahead of the cards introduction over a year ago, and helped drum up support for it. He said that services that were promised in return were not provided until seven-months later, and that what was finally offered was no good.

“I’m not running away from the fact that I was supporting this. But now I’m disappointed and I owe it to my people to speak up,” Benning said. “Every person I’ve spoken with said they don’t want this thing here.”

When Benning heard that the card was going to be permanent and about the roll out of the card at other sites:

“I said hang on, it sounds like you’re trying to get a rubber stamp on something already under way, in an attempt to legitimise something the community doesn’t support.”

“I said to him ‘your minister isn’t showing respect to us’. Prior to introducing the card Tudge was flying here every second weekend to meet with us. As soon as we signed up, we’ve never seen him again.”

Take a drug-test or no welfare for new recipients

The latest legislation currently before the parliament, involves a two-year drug-testing trial for 5,000 people in Bankstown (NSW), Logan (QLD), and Mandurah (WA). If it passes, new recipients of the Newstart and Youth allowance have to agree to be tested, in order to receive their allowances. If they refuse a random drug-test, their payments will be cancelled. If they test positively they will be placed on the BasicsCard program, with 20% of their allowance made available in cash. Twenty-five days later they get tested again and if they test positively again, they will be referred to a privately contracted medical professional.

There is no evidence that mandatory drug-testing will work on civilians despite what Social Services minister, Christian Porter says, this ABC fact-check puts that to rest.

‘Experts say that, rather than lots of evidence, there is no evidence, here or overseas, to show that mandatory testing will help unemployed drug addicts receive treatment and find jobs.’

The City of Mandurah has accused the Turnbull government of using dodgy data to justify being chosen for the drug-testing trial. City chief executive, Mark Newman wrote:

“One statistic used is that there has been an increase in people having temporary incapacity exemptions due to a drug dependency diagnosis rose by 300% from June 2015 to 2016.”

“The number of people concerned was a rise from 5 to 20 out of a total number of 4,199 people in Mandurah on either Newstart or Youth Allowance benefits as at March 2017.”

The standard that you walk past is the standard that you accept

To summarise, this is about neo-liberal paternalism, and human rights being exploited for financial gain, under the guise of philanthropy. The Intervention, and other recent punitive measures (including robo-debt) imposed on us, wouldn’t fly if we had a charter of human rights. We need one desperately. Indigenous Australians need a treaty, the right to self-determine, and a proper voice in politics, similar to what New Zealand has. Because if we don’t fight for our human rights, we won’t recognise this country in a few years time.

Statistics wise, Indigenous incarceration is sky-high, Indigenous youth suicide rates have risen by 500% since 2007-2011.

All that these measures are creating is a subclass of stigmatised Australians. At a time when many countries are talking about universal-basic-income or UBI, we’re still caught up in “dole-bludger” discussions. The reality is there is less paid work out there, and that this trend will continue.

Punishing our most vulnerable and those looking for work as though they’re criminals, with drug-testing, just isn’t Australian. We don’t need to follow America with a welfare system that’s littered with “food stamp” programs, and other neo-liberal ideologies. I believe the abolished CDEP is also a model worth looking at again and not just for Indigenous employment. Work-for-the-dole is just labour exploitation, and most of it is pointless when there aren’t any jobs to be found, in the first place.

And on a final note, remember the fake youth worker? He’s still been around as a public servant, and even landed a cushy job with the Abbott government in 2014 as the country’s first ‘Threatened Species Commissioner’.

(Many thanks to all of the sourced researchers, publications and artists involved in this article).

This article was originally published on Political Omniscience.


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  1. Zathras

    I’m not comfortable with the fact that these cards are being controlled by Indue Pty Ltd – a company with strong ties to the Liberal/National Parties and at a cost upward of $10,000 per card.

    I also don’t like the fact that it can’t be used to pay bills via BPay or other common transactions.
    As was well-stated in another article on this site – “How people pay rent or mortgages, catch trains or buses, buy used goods, get hair cuts, buy goods from unauthorised stores, or send children on school excursions is of no concern to the Australian government”.

    The reported huge rise in assaults and robberies in the trial areas is also a sign of desperation rather than success.

    I’m sure there are work-arounds for the desperate – I can think of a couple already.

    It’s simply a punitive political measure designed to boost the impression of bashing “dole-bludgers” by humilating recipients.

    Until they have the political courage to extend it to aged pensioners as well I’ll regard it as just another political stunt.

  2. JD Anthony (@ranterulze)

    I notice that Indue also underwrite or somehow back the Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank (formerly Credit Union). What have the Australian Education Union got to say about this? @AEUVictoria

  3. Maeve Carney

    Just imagine how much good could be done for indigenous, and other poor, communities if the money being spent on these cash-less cards was given to meaningful projects instead of being handed over to private corporations to ‘manage’ the system. All those millions of dollars wasted, it is almost criminal.

  4. Roswell

    Well-researched and well-written, Mel. Bloody fantastic. I tip my hat to you.

  5. wakeupandsmellthehumans

    Great article. Thank you. This whole affair makes me so sad (and f#cking angry).

  6. totaram

    Maeve Carney: “All those millions of dollars wasted, it is almost criminal.”

    No, no! There is no “waste”. Those millions are going precisely to the people who are supposed to get them. The whole plan is to get govt. welfare, not for the needy, but for the greedy. Please keep that in mind at all times. It is “criminal” in your mind, but completely legal when the govt. legislates it. And 36% of voters thinks that is great. That is life.

  7. wam

    It is hard to forget the disaster of the greens voting with the rabbott to kill the price in 2009.
    It harder to forget macklin’s lack of guts in 2007 to modify brough’s folly even an opt out opt in facility would have made some improvement but she just waddled in his hoof prints.

    Certainly labor last time macklined past the howard standard without a sideways glance and it would seem macklin is short on ideas again.

    Greens senator Rachel Siewert rubbished the Coalition’s move, saying it was being driven by “backbenchers who have swallowed the Kool-Aid”.
    is ly disappointed the Government has expanded these trials,” Senator Siewert said.

    “There’s no evidence base for doing that and it’s a waste of Government resources. They’ve already wasted enough on this so-called trial process.

    “We don’t support a blanket approach to income quarantining,” shadow social services minister Jenny Macklin said.

    Wow right up there with 42????

  8. Vikingduk

    Rumour no more, Bundy and Hervey Bay announced earlier this week as the next sites.

  9. diannaart

    Thank you Mel for this fantastic piece of journalism – my only regret is that I did not read this any sooner.

    I knew the reasons for “the intervention” were spurious, but had little evidence, just the visceral feeling that we were treading the same path again to the disadvantage of vulnerable people. Well it is all here, all the evidence that we are governed by a tiny set of greedy authoritarians.

    As, Maeve, pointed out, the LNP are incapable of spending money where it is actually needed. There seems to be limitless dollars for defence, treating the original inhabitants of this country with contempt while lining their own fat wallets … disgusting.

    A few weeks later, the National Indigenous Times reported that the youth worker crying about his experience in Mutitjulu on Lateline wasn’t a youth worker at all. He was actually, Gregory Andrews an assistant secretary at the OIPC, and an adviser to Brough. He advised Brough about violence and sexual abuse in remote communities. Later it was revealed in parliament, that Andrews had never made a single report to police about women or children. He also misled a federal senate inquiry into petrol sniffing in 2006 and lied about living in Mutitjulu, he had never even set foot there.

    Beyond reason.

  10. Kyran

    “To summarise, this is about neo-liberal paternalism, and human rights being exploited for financial gain, under the guise of philanthropy. The Intervention, and other recent punitive measures (including robo-debt) imposed on us, wouldn’t fly if we had a charter of human rights. We need one desperately. Indigenous Australians need a treaty, the right to self-determine, and a proper voice in politics, similar to what New Zealand has. Because if we don’t fight for our human rights, we won’t recognise this country in a few years time.”

    Senator Pat Dodson penned a piece for The Guardian yesterday, which is entirely complementary to this article. He was providing context and history to the 2007 “UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People”.

    “While non-binding, the declaration benchmarks the standards of global respect and efforts by nation states to help reduce levels of disadvantage and discrimination experienced by many of the world’s 370 million Indigenous people.
    There are 46 articles listed in the declaration, which provide clear guidance for advancing reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the light of their tangled and often unsatisfactory histories. The two elements I see as most pertinent to the Australian reconciliation journey are the right to self-determination and the right to free, prior and informed consent (Article 4 and 19).”

    Not surprisingly, but (as always) disappointingly, Howard refused to sign, preferring to make it a political issue, rather than one of human rights (Sound familiar?).

    ““We do not support the notion that you should have customary law taking priority over the general law of the country.”
    But this was a misrepresentation. This idea that the declaration could cause division within our country ran contrary to article 46 which states:
    Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations or construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.
    Despite this, Howard defended Australia’s decision not to sign, boasting:
    “It wasn’t difficult at all, because it is wrong to support something that argues the case of separate development inside one country.””

    And then there’s this;
    “The intervention under the Howard government disrespected the collective and individual rights of Indigenous people; it sought to ensure that their ability to pursue their own development was stripped; it discriminated on the basis of race and was imposed without any form of consultation with the Aboriginal communities involved. The international declaration posed a threat to a coercive government policy.”

    Senator Dodson cites his brother Mick, addressing a parliamentary meeting;

    “Human rights do not dispossess people, human rights do not marginalise people and human rights do not cause the gaps in life expectancy. It is the denial of human rights that is the large contributor to these things. The value of human rights is not in their existence it is in their implementation. That is the challenge for the world with this declaration. The standards have been set. It is up to us to meet them.”


    As your article chronicles the litany of failures, enacted in the pursuit of political expediency, we are reminded, yet again, this government ‘doesn’t do facts’. It does hyperbole, hysteria, vitriol, shaming, ‘othering’. Anything but fact. They haven’t walked past a standard, they have trashed it. And, ever true to form, it’s everybody else’s fault.
    Has there ever been a greater need to fight for our Human Rights?
    Thank you Ms Mac and commenters. Take care

  11. Michael Taylor

    Hi Kyran. For some reason your comment was caught in spam. Our apologies.

  12. king1394

    Making welfare recipients captive to big retailers such as Coles and Woolworths also will strangle many small businesses in these areas.

  13. Harry

    We can surely agree that drug and alcohol use, and various social ills are rife in certain communities including indigenous. But these ills are mainly rife where there is high joblessness and consequent low income. Alienation and lack of purpose are other effects. Its also well known that this is in turn is linked to mental illnesses. Its good populist politics though as quite a few people will cheer on the quarantining of income provided by “our tax dollars”. I have been trying to get people to understand that their income and other federal taxes do not fund federal spending though an array of smokescreens have been erected to give that impression. (Pl see link below for an explanation).

    That said the Coalition’s approach is both ham fisted, blames the individual. is demeaning and a quite deficient and limited approach to what is a complex situation that requires much more nuanced and long term programs that will be quite resource-intensive.

    A favour a Job Guarantee (JG) for those capable of work and a GBI (Guaranteed Basic Income) for all those not capable of work. People of working age need a role and to contribute to their society.

    The JG would in outline be as follows:

    Any person willing and able to work will be offered a meaningful job by the government at a socially acceptable minimum wage along with training, support and mechanisms for transitioning participants to the private sector if he/she wishes.
    Part time and casual workers can also participate in the job guarantee scheme on a part time basis to “top up” their hours of paid employment
    Government supported modern apprenticeships and traineeships
    Government supported micro and small business pathways and incubators that educate and encourage participants to work together on new and innovative business models that are predicated upon collaboration, cooperation and community

    NB: participation would be totally voluntary. Those unwilling to participate can stay on Newstart but would forego an income of about $1400 a fortnight compare to $540 or so a fortnight on Newstart. The federal government would fund it but local government would administer it. The latter has any number of socially and environmentally tasks that need to be done, both one-off and recurring but lack the funds to do so. The jobs and tasks would be limited only by the imagination.




  14. Freddie Felt

    Thanks Mel. I discovered THEAIMN site about a year ago and I always enjoy the various topics discussed here. Predominately they are balanced and informative – even the ones I may disagree with.

    Up until now I haven’t felt angry enough to comment upon the varied topics that appear here.

    Your work on this article however, is truly the best presentation of the recent history of our complete failure in the area of Indigenous Politics I have seen on any media sites that I access. And our failures are made many times worse by the current neo-liberal coalition that has it’s hands on the steering wheel.

    I am getting too old to do much protesting, but I hope that some inspirational leaders can spring from the community and help us focus on the correct path to take.

    Is this really what modern Australia is???

  15. Kaye Lee


    One of the great things about the AIMN is just the conversation that ensues from articles. The more we discuss, the more we understand that we are not alone, the more information and experiences we share with each other, the better able we are to contribute to the national conversation and to continue the discussion with our families, friends and colleagues.

    Nowadays, politicians listen more to focus groups and advertising people than experts. If we want change, we have to convince the people to lead the politicians.

    Please join the conversation whenever you feel so inclined.

  16. FA

    Interesting article and all that, so congratulations to the author – (pats on the head and the like). Nevertheless, it seems to me, there’s a deeper and more significant issue in play here – of how invalid assertions (presented as facts) and the subsequent attribution of unwarranted meaning(s) central to the resulting ‘story’ and how such bullshit is repeated endlessly.

    Not that anyone would really care to get deep and meaningful

  17. Cartwheel printing solutions

    Thanks Freddie, yes this is what it looks like now, but it doesn’t have to be this way. What will it take for ‘everyone’ to get fired up and say ‘Hey, that’s enough!’ Yes we need better leaders, but the people have to fight this too, all the way, banish it even.

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