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representatives vote 2019-11-27#1

Edited by mackay

on 2019-12-27 11:33:12


  • Bills — Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019; Second Reading
  • Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019 - Second Reading - Disagree with the bill


  • <p class="speaker">Matt Thistlethwaite</p>
  • <p>'Do things with us, not to us.' That was the request from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of Australia over the last decade: 'Do things with us, not to us.' The tragedy is that this request, this plea for respect, has been ignored by the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments and their members of parliament. By dismissing the Uluru Statement from the Heart and, indeed, introducing legislation to extend the cashless welfare card, they are doing things to Aboriginal people, not doing things with them. That is a paternalistic, almost a colonial, approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people relations&#8212;implementing this through expanding policies that continue to tell Aboriginal people what is good for them, rather than listening and working with those people.</p>
  • <p>Like my Labor colleagues, I do not support this bill. It is clearly discriminatory. It applies predominantly to First Nations peoples, with 80 per cent of people on income management in the Northern Territory being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background. Twelve years after the Intervention, there's no clear empirical evidence that broad-based income management has worked. There's no evidence that it has got people off welfare and into employment. Once again, communities have not been consulted about this particular change.</p>
  • The majority voted against an [amendment]( to the usual [second reading motion]( *that the bill be read a second time*, which is parliamentary jargon for the House agreeing with the main idea of the bill. This means the amendment failed.
  • ### Amendment text
  • > *That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:*
  • >
  • > *"the House:*
  • >
  • > *(1) declines to give the bill a second reading;*
  • >
  • > *(2) notes that, 12 years after the Intervention in the Northern Territory, there is no evidence that compulsory broad-based income management has worked to improve outcomes for First Nations people; and*
  • >
  • > *(3) calls on the Government not to expand the cashless debit card, and to instead invest in evidence-based policies, programs and services, including:*
  • >
  • >> *(a) job creation and economic development;*
  • >>
  • >> *(b) education, training and TAFE;*
  • >>
  • >> *(c) health and rehabilitation services; and*
  • >>
  • >> *(d) services for women and young people"*
  • <p>Labor's not opposed to income management where communities request it and they are involved in the decision-making. In Cape York, we've had the Family Responsibilities Commission make decisions about the rates of payment that are quarantined, and they've made them variable. One hundred and fifty people have been subject to that particular program. The difference is that those decisions were made by the local community. They were made through government agencies working in consultation with the local community&#8212;working with Aboriginal people, not against Aboriginal people.</p>
  • <p>The cashless debit card has been rolled out in Ceduna, in East Kimberley, in the Goldfields and in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay. Generally, in those areas, 80 per cent of payments are quarantined. Labor sought to make that particular program voluntary; in other words, to make sure that communities had buy-in and that it was effective. Unfortunately, that was unsuccessful. That trial ends in July 2020. It's pleasing to see that the government did agree to Labor's amendment to allow people to come off the cashless debit card if they are effectively managing their finances. But the approach of telling people what to do rather than listening to them is evident in the reform that's before the parliament today.</p>
  • <p>The Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019 seeks to replace the BasicsCard with the cashless welfare card across the Northern Territory and Cape York by the end of 2020. It maintains the current 50 per cent quarantine rate and extends existing trial sites by one year. It removes the cap on trial participants, and the minister can make a non-disallowable rule to increase the proportion of persons on a payment up to 100 per cent. Many people fear this bill is being used as a precursor to a national rollout of a cashless debit card, and some government MPs have suggested that social security recipients under 35 should be placed in similar circumstances.</p>
  • <p>There's been much debate about the effectiveness of income management and the cashless welfare card. In all of that debate, in all of the evaluations and studies that have been done, there is no evidence that it actually works. A UNSW study of income management in 2014 found there was little evidence that the program resulted in behavioural change. In July 2018, the Auditor-General looked at this program. He studied it, and looked at whether or not it had been effective. The Auditor-General concluded:</p>
  • <p class="italic">The Department of Social Services largely established appropriate arrangements to implement the Cashless Debit Card Trial, however, its approach to monitoring and evaluation was inadequate. As a consequence, it is difficult to conclude whether there had been a reduction in social harm and whether the card was a lower cost welfare quarantining approach.</p>
  • <p>That's the view of the Auditor-General.</p>
  • <p>The Queensland Council of Social Services, in September 2017, issued a report after evaluating the cashless debit card. QCOSS said:</p>
  • <ul></ul><ul></ul><p>It went on:</p>
  • <ul></ul><p>It also said:</p>
  • <ul></ul><p>That was the view of QCOSS after it had a look at this piece of legislation.</p>
  • <p>There is plenty of evidence that this program does not work and is bad policy. There's no evidence at all that it has created a single job or that it's got people off welfare payments and into employment, which should be the aim of programs such as this. As I said earlier, it represents this government's ideological approach to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander relations in this country&#8212;that is, doing things to Aboriginal people, rather than working with them by consulting them and working with them on a cooperative basis.</p>
  • <p class="italic">Mr Ramsey interjecting&#8212;</p>
  • <p>In many respects, it reflects the historical colonial approach associated with the conservative side of politics towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander relations in this country.</p>
  • <p class="italic">Mr Ramsey interjecting&#8212;</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Rob Mitchell</p>
  • <p>The member for Grey.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Matt Thistlethwaite</p>
  • <p>It represents that party doing things to Aboriginal people rather than working with them.</p>
  • <p class="italic">Mr Ramsey interjecting&#8212;</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Rob Mitchell</p>
  • <p>Order. The member for Grey will remove himself under 94(a).</p>
  • <p class="italic"> <i>The member for Grey then left the chamber.</i></p>
  • <p class="speaker">Matt Thistlethwaite</p>
  • <p>There's no evidence that this piece of reform has worked, and there's no evidence that an extension of this trial will work. And on that basis, Labor is opposed to it. We have proposed some amendments, that I won't go into in too much detail because time doesn't permit, to basically make the card voluntary in the Northern Territory so that a person is placed on it for a specific reason&#8212;for example, for child protection or by the Family Responsibilities Commission of Cape York&#8212;requiring the minister to demonstrate support for each individual community before rolling out the cashless debit card; requiring further independent evaluation of the debit card; and removing the minister's power to quarantine up to 100 per cent of a person's payment. That is an approach that the Labor Party will take in the Senate in trying to amend this particular piece of legislation. Once again, I reiterate my earlier comments that this represents this government doing things to Aboriginal people rather than doing things with Aboriginal people, and it should be opposed.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>