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Tag Archives: Cashless Welfare

The Jobless Did Not Ask For This!

Who is responsible for jobs? Should we punish the jobless? Is welfare a right or a privilege? These are the questions the Government is too gutless to ask. By accepting the Government’s answers to these issues without question, it may be shaping a future we haven’t asked for. The Jobless didn’t ask for this!

The term “welfare” is often touted as synonymous with the word “problem”. The question we are not asked is, “Is welfare a problem?”

The Government is asking us to argue vehemently over answers to a question they are too gutless to ask. We should ask the Government questions.

Welfare Reform is a complex issue. However, the wider narrative has a huge impact on how we address reform in this space.

Welfare ‘Reform’

The Welfare Reform Bill currently before the house, is focused on using punishment as a blunt force to solve the ‘welfare problem.’ The Government is quite brazen in no longer hiding punishment as a measure.

One system of punishment is a demerit point system. Another is drug testing. Therefore, the Government has predetermined, that the jobless ‘do the wrong thing’.

The Liberal National Coalition have successfully chipped away at society, along with the opposition in some respects. That is, to create a sub-human welfare class who society appears comfortable to punish.

Punishment sits well with a large section of society. This is due to continuous stigma aimed at the jobless. In the words of Erving Goffman, we have actively inflicted upon the jobless a ‘spoiled identity.’

The Labor opposition opposes these measures. However, since the late 1980’s the Labor party has joined with the Liberals with the same mantra.. That is, the onus is on the jobless to find a job, rather than the responsibility of Government to sustain an economy offering jobs for all.

In short, the narrative over the last 30 years is that jobseekers need a paternalistic guiding hand to motivate them. Therefore, the Government shuns the notion of the jobseeker’s own intrinsic motivation.

Who is Responsible For Jobs?

The answer given to us over the last 30 years is that the jobless are a problem. The Government(s) place the burden on the jobseeker to find jobs, although these jobs may not exist. Where jobs do not exist, the Turnbull Government believes the jobless should create their own job. For ideological reasons, the Government shuns Government intervention and job creation.

The Government(s) have given us answers without asking any questions. They assume that we, in society, simply agree that the jobless are a problem.  The Government assumes that we agree that the Government is blameless. They assume we are completely happy with the amount and types of jobs available.

The questions the Government(s) are too gutless to ask is:

“Is the Government doing enough to ensure there are enough jobs for the people?”

“Is the Government skilled enough to implement the right solutions to increase available jobs?”

“If the Government does not believe it is their role to create jobs, is self-determination to create our own job by starting our own business, a practical solution for all?”

“Do we aim for a society where large pockets of ghost towns exist, along with a number of over-populated vibrant cities for workers to transition to, or do we aim for a society where the Government places the same commitment to develop all regions equally?”

Should We Punish the Jobless?

The answer given to us over the last 30 years is the we should punish the jobless. The punitive approach intensified during the Howard era, particularly financial penalties. The level of punishment today is very paternalistic and draconian. 

The problem posed is that the jobless lack motivation. The assumption is that inaction by the Government is acceptable. However, the Government does not ask us if we agree.

Over the Abbott-Turnbull period, the level of punishment aimed at the jobless is unacceptable. From the jobless starve for six months policy, to the demerit system, to restrictions on volunteer work for over 55’s, cashless welfare and drug testing are aimed to develop a society, I do not recognise as an Australian society. This causes me a deep level of concern.

The questions the Government(s) are too gutless to ask is:

“Is it fair to punish the jobless, if the Government fails to provide enough jobs?”

“Should the Government punish the jobless, if they do not have the skills or capital to start their own business, if they cannot find a job?”

“Is it fair to punish the jobless if the Government has not provided an adequate jobsearch system to support the jobless to match them to available jobs?”

“Although studies show that extrinsic motivation factors such as punishment, affect psychological well-being, hinder job search and not assist it, is it acceptable to punish the jobless?

Is Welfare a Right or a Privilege?

The punitive approach of successive Governments aim to reduce spending in the welfare space. It is evident that the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s aim is to reclassify those on welfare into a sliding scale. This scale appears to bracket those on welfare from ‘acceptable citizens’ to ‘bludgers’ to ‘drug addled sub-humans.’

The Government had one other criteria “genuine jobseekers”, prior to this bill. However, all jobseekers now fall into the realm of bludgers. Every measure in the current bill, is underpinned by a suspicion the jobless individual may be prone to deviant behaviour.

The punitive measures in the current reforms are very much focused on financial penalty. They seek to exclude or restrict access to unemployment benefits. This is done by classifying welfare recipients into normal behaviour (reward) and deviant behaviour (exclusion).

In short, to save money on the welfare bill (which we all pay for, including the jobless), the Government has provided us with the answer of normals and deviants.

They haven’t asked us the question. However, it is clear their answer is ‘normals and deviants’.

The Government knows that Australians will always apply the ‘fair-go’ to normals, but not deviants. In short, it is a simple equation.

Jobless+30 years of stigma = Deviants
Normals-Deviants = Less welfare spending

This question I have left until last because it is crucial to how we see our future as a society.  Most importantly, I ask readers to please ponder upon this question. This is because the Government tells us everyday who we are. We need to stand up and tell them who we want to be.Therefore, it is crucial to argue if welfare is a right or a privilege. This is intrinsic to who we are as a society.

The question the Government(s) are too gutless to ask is:

Menzies Welfare

As you can see from the excerpt above, unemployment and sickness benefits were introduced in Australia as a right, not a privilege.  Three generations later, the Abbott-Turnbull Government speaks of welfare as a privilege and not a right. They have changed the definition whilst we were not looking. Additionally, they again, provided us with an answer without asking us a very important question.

“Should Welfare continue to be available as a right to all people in society, from the recently redundant to the most disenfranchised in society, or do we aim for a society, where the poorest class are further divided by the Government into entitled humans and excluded sub-humans?”

Real Reform

Real welfare reform will begin with asking confronting questions and shifting away from arguing over the answers the Government provides without them posing an actual question.

If the Government took on the burden instead of the jobless, our conversations around the dinner table, would be very different. Importantly, these tiny conversations are powerful enough to shape public policy.

It is evident from some of the emotive speakers within the Labor opposition and crossbenchers, speaking to this bill, that the punishment regime has gone way too far. However, after 30 years of placing the burden on the jobless and praising punishment as a motivator, why is anyone speaking to this welfare bill, angry or shocked?

Real Welfare Reform can only happen when a leader dares to stand apart from the pack. This leader will remove the burden from the jobless. They will lead us by being brave enough to take ownership and responsibility for job creation. Most importantly they will not stand idly by and allow the jobless in our society to suffer from stigma in silence. They will unite us and not divide us.

They will look back over the last 30 years, look back to us and with true emotion say “Under a Government I lead, the jobless will never be punished again.”

House Music: Income Management QLD

Income Management is a hot topic of concern. This week, in “House Music” I discuss Income Management and the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs. I will also discuss the FRC in Cape York. The FRC is the Families Responsibilities Commission. This commission has input into income management restrictions in their community.

House Music is a weekly blog where I discuss various Bills, Committees, Petitions and try to raise awareness of the valuable resources on the APH website.  

Income Management Bill (QLD Commission)

The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs considered the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Queensland Commission Income Management Regime) Bill 2017. This Bill passed through both houses on 26th June 2017.

This Bill amends the Social Security Act (1999) and it includes an extension to income management in Cape York, Queensland until 30 June 2019. Cape York communities are participants in the Cape York welfare Reforms.

Cape York Income Management areasThe communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge are the original participating communities from 2007. The community of Doomadgee was added in 2015.

This Bill enables Family Responsibilities Commissions (FRC) to make a determination regarding income management for individuals in their community.

Cape York Welfare Reforms

Cape York Welfare Reform

Cape York Partnership Empowering Families

 

The Cape York Welfare Reforms initially commenced in 2007 through the Cape York Institute’s federally funded project headed by Noel Pearson.  This legislated reform commenced in 2008, once Pearson secured Government support. Therefore, this reform had tripartite support between Cape York Institute, QLD Labor Bligh Government with the support of the Rudd Labor Federal Government.

In addition, the outgoing Howard Government was very supportive of this project. The Howard Government funded the initial trial project, including funding for additional housing.

Four communities partnered with the Cape York Institute and the Queensland and Federal Governments in a Welfare Reform Partnership.

The main aim of this reform is to enable people in these communities to have empowerment and personal agency. Primarily, the aim is to achieve this through Indigenous authority, developing a culture of social norms and positive behaviour and improvements in living conditions.

A theme I discuss often is the negative narrative of the Government and their labelling of people on welfare.  The Cape York Partnership sums up powerful decision makers as they negatively describe those on welfare as ‘bludgers.’

This mentality is also shared by bureaucracy that sees people on the ground as incapable. Instead of simply providing resources and facilitating decision-making and action at the ground level, it hoards power and responsibility.

However, I personally do not agree with the term ‘passive welfare’ which the Cape York Institute uses in their final report. It is my view that welfare dependency is not about passivity because welfare is within a system of power which disables empowerment, agency and personal power.

A Different Type of Income Management

The theme of community driven self-empowerment is evident in the FRC reports.

A number of reports have been issued since 2011 about the progress of the reforms, including an ABC Four Corners documentary.  Moreover, the contrast of comments in the 2011 report to the current FRC reports, shows that years later, more of the community members are on board than at the time of implementation. In addition, a key theme in the 2011 consultations was that this needed to be a long term approach. ‘Things won’t happen overnight’.

Chris logan.JPG

 

 

“It is great for us to finally have income management in Doomadgee. We have issued 28 conditional income management orders to our clients and they have been well received.

 

and.. We know that income management is a necessary tool to see our community grow and we look forward to seeing the positive results it has for our clients.

 

We know we have many challenges ahead, but our team is strong and we will continue to work together to improve the lives of and prospects for the children of Doomadgee.”
Doomadgee Commissioner Christopher Logan

Family Responsibilities Commission

The Family Responsibilities Commission is a Statutory Authority under the Family Responsibilities Act 2008 (QLD). Respected leaders or Elders within the community make up the FRC. Importantly, the FRC has consultations or conference with community members to reinforce positive social norms.

The aims of the FRC are:

FRC objectives

The FRC receive notices from various departments about a breach of community standards, i.e. a child not attending school.

Decisions made at the conference are made fairly and with the best interests of the client and their family in mind. At the conclusion of the conference, Commissioners may decide that no action is necessary, reprimand the client, encourage the client to enter into a Family Responsibilities Agreement (FRA), direct the client to relevant community support services or place the client on a Conditional Income Management (CIM) order.

The key difference between this Income Management Program and the blanket roll out of income management that is being discussed at the moment, for example in Hinkler; is that the community owns and runs the program.

In the Senate Committee Hearing it was noted regarding ACOSS’ conclusion:

For example, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has acknowledged that the Cape York model of income management was not imposed by the government but was developed by the affected communities and that the FRC plays a unique role in case management, assessment and only refers individuals to income management as a last resort.

Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs

senate committees

The Community Affairs portfolio coverage includes Health and Social Services (including Human Services).

The Committee convened to consider the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Queensland Commission Income Management Regime) Bill 2017 [Provisions] on 22nd June 2017.

Committee Members

Senate Committees include representatives from various parties.

Chair, Senator Jonathon Duniam Tasmania, LP
Deputy Chair 
Senator Rachel Siewert, Western Australia, AG;

Members
Linda Reynolds (Senator) Western Australia, LP
The Hon Lisa Singh (Senator) Tasmania, ALP
Dean Smith (Senator) Western Australia, LP
Murray Watt (Senator) Queensland, ALP

Legislative Scrutiny

Other Committees also report through Committee in regards to the Bill.  The Scrutiny of Bills Committee had no comment on the Bill.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights made comment on the Bill. They noted that income management limits equality and non-discrimination, the right to privacy and family. They noted that the Cape York Reforms are different to the Northern Territory’s income management.

The Human Rights Committee also noted:

Notwithstanding this, the human rights committee noted that the application of income management in Cape York may be compulsory rather than voluntary and therefore drew the Parliament’s attention to the human rights implications identified in the 2016 Review of Stronger Futures Measures report.

An excerpt from the Stronger Future Measures Report states:

A human rights compliant approach requires that any measures must be effective, subject to monitoring and review and genuinely tailored to the needs and wishes of the local community. The current approach to income management falls short of this standard.

Consideration of Submissions Received

The Committee received seven submissions and all submitters supported the Bill and extension of the reforms to 2019. The Committee heard through submissions that the crucial role the FRC’s play in the reforms and the community, the increase in school attendance and child well-being, including better nourishment, were some of the main drivers behind continuing the reforms.

Extension to the Reforms

Since 2007, Cape York Communities have extended income management four times.  A crucial aspect is, under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) only the FRC can impose income management on an individual.

The Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku Aboriginal Corporation supported the extension:

When the time does come, the people of Mossman Gorge need to be empowered to drive what happens next so that we can stay on this road of positive change. The government can’t just suddenly decide to end Income Management and the FRC, without letting us plan so that we keep going forwards and don’t go backwards after making such hard won gains.

Income Management

The Committee considered the component of income management as a key measure in the Bill.  In addition to ACOSS’ comment above, all submitters agreed income management should continue.

This is not rolled out across all of Cape York. The submitters impressed that it only applies to at-risk individuals in communities as determined by the FRC.

Also, the FRC noted that individuals lose the right to ‘choice’ however, it is the FRC’s view that the benefits outweighed this. 

The Department of Social Services also agreed with the Bill and advised that a previous review of the reforms showed that 78% of individuals surveyed agreed that it had improved their lives.

The Committee recommended the Bill to be passed.

A Significant Bill

The Liberal National Coalition Government is pushing to roll out income management in more trial areas.There is an active protest against income management in the communities of Ceduna and Hinkler. The community I live in, Rockhampton, QLD has had income management in the form of the Basic’s card for some period of time now. However, this does not work the same as the Cape York Reforms. Instead, Centrelink determines who is income managed.

I felt that this is a significant Bill to include in this series because there is a variety of contemporary opinion regarding income management. In addition, as a regional Queenslander, I also think it is important to promote the positive work community organisations do in regional and rural communities. Unfortunately, this is largely unrecognised by the wider media.

Political Positions

The other reason is this can also clarify the position of at least three political parties. The Liberal and National Coalition, Australian Labor and the Australian Greens, all have different positions on income management. 

The Coalition Government is clear they want a blanket roll out of income management. In short, they are keen to implement cashless welfare widely. However, not in the same manner as the Cape York Reforms, but as a Government controlled and imposed measure.

Labor‘s position is that they do not support a blanket roll out of cashless welfare. However, as clarified by Senator Gallagher, they will work with communities that say they want cashless welfare, such as this program.

In contrast to the Coalition, Labor will not support cashless welfare in communities where community members do not want cashless welfare.

Whereas, the Greens oppose all forms of cashless welfare. This includes opposition to programs such as the Cape York Reforms.

A few weeks ago, the Australian Greens misrepresented Labor and implied Labor supported cashless welfare and voted down a Greens motion to stop it.  This erupted into quite a massive social media furore of attack after attack towards Labor.  I clarified Labor’s position, as per above, here.

Australian Greens’ Dissenting Report

The only opposition to the Bill within the Committee was from the Australian Greens. The Green’s reported to the Senate Committee that they have opposed this measure since it was implemented by the Howard Government. Therefore, they do not support this Bill.

One reason was that they believe it is not right for some people to have to conform to ‘somebody’s version’ of social norms. and this “promotes the idea that disadvantage is primarily a result of the individual’s failure to demonstrate the necessary social values and norms.”

I find it very confusing how the Greens argue that this is “somebody’s version’ of social norms. Clearly, from its inception, the people of the Cape York communities are the people who defined the social norms. Also, it is noted that a key success is that the communities own and drive this reform.

Apples and Oranges

The Cape York program of income management is different to other income management programs in Australia.

A recurring theme is that these reforms are viewed as a temporary measure. In addition, some argue that income management is another form of dependence.

Importantly, there is a long term view for communities to work together to the next stage beyond income management.

While income management has had a positive influence on Cape York communities, submitters acknowledged that it would be some time until it could be removed and that more progress could be made.

Discussions surrounding income management should take into account that there are different models. Models such as the Cape York reforms are supported by the community as well as by the people who have their welfare quarantined.

Anti-cashless welfare advocates (of which I am one), should acknowledge that every community is different. In addition, this is largely an Indigenous reform. However, every Indigenous person is also an individual. The commissioner’s approach to individual rights is especially relevant. 

Governments should note that a macro-view one size fits all approach of imposing income management on groups in a blanket fashion does remove agency and choice. Government regulated and forced income management is destabilising and stigmatising without the drivers of community and participant support.

Originally published on The Red Window

Cashless Welfare – Enough is Enough!

Yesterday I watched Bill Shorten’s address on the McKell Institute’s Report ‘Choosing Opportunity’ where he spoke passionately about equality and a fair go. However, to achieve real opportunity, the first thing we must acknowledge is that stigma and discrimination are not conducive to equal opportunity.

Income Management, Cashless Welfare and Basics Card all have the same aim.  The aim is a paternalistic approach of a ‘guiding hand’ to set those unfortunate enough not to have a job on the path to ‘wholeness.’

The aim of income management is to enforce a patronising approach which places the burden of shame and stigma on the unemployed, because the Government cannot be bothered to engage in job creation; because oh! that’s right, “the market will sort it all out.” Bullocks!

The aim of income management is to inconvenience, stigmatise, and label the unemployed as ‘others’ who are not part of the ‘normals’ in society.

The aim of income management is to conduct surveillance of the unemployed (Dee, 2013).

The aim is to extend a measure that was originally aimed at reducing alcohol abuse and child abuse in remote communities and now has extended to so many.  The current and previous Governments have placed control measures on those who do not need controlling. That is not the “Fair Go” Australians long to return to.

With the NT having more than four times the number of all the other income management sites combined, it really begs the question if this measure is indeed racist and the extension of this measure is to appear ‘not racist!’

The McKell Institute explains three types of welfare models in their report:

“The study identified three main forms of welfare state: the ‘liberal welfare regime,’ which emphasised market efficiencies and demonstrated limited government interventions; the ‘corporatist regime’ which is committed to preserving the traditional family, and invest in social insurance programs that encourage motherhood and provide benefits that encourage mothers to return to work; and finally the ‘social democrat’ model which pursues equality.

If the underpinning construct of Bill Shorten’s speech and the McKell Institute’s report is equality; then income management simply must be high on the list to be abolished.

With donations reform and perks for politicians in a huge big glaring spotlight; Australians should be rising up and screaming about situations such as the excerpt below, instead of getting reeled into the agenda set by the media.  I’ve seen an overwhelming amount of people absolutely fixated on the Dastyari saga and counter-attacking with dodginess from the Liberals. Meanwhile, in the land of cashless welfare, people can eat plastic or starve!

cashless-welfare

It is time for change. It is time to stand up now. It is time to stand up for the jobless, the homeless, the disadvantaged, and the disabled, who have their income managed by the Government.  These are the people who matter.  These people. The innocent, the vulnerable, the labelled and stigmatised.

Enough is enough.  If you truly believe in a Fair Go. If you truly believe the Fair Go underpins everything we believe as Australians, please write a letter to the following insisting on the abolition of mandatory income management for welfare recipients in Australia.

Minister for Social Services
The Hon Christian Porter MP

Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services
Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Members representing your electorate
Your local MP

Senators in your state
Senators

Enough is enough!

Originally published on Polyfeministix

Dee, M 2013, ‘Welfare Surveillance, Income Management and New Paternalism in Australia’, Surveillance & Society, 11, 3, pp. 272-286.

 

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