Monday, March 22, 2010
Summary of problems for women if current Bills to extend the Income Management to a wider population are passed
There is a very toxic change that is on the way for the welfare system and it has particular significance for women. The following is a brief summary of the effects of proposed changes on women. The Government is pushing the legislation through the senate in a couple of weeks and, as the Opposition has agreed, it will go through. The Greens have opposed it and continue the fight.
The income quaranting program has consistently been justified by Minister Macklin by claiming it is supported by women and protects them from violence. This is echoed in the majority (ALP Senators) report on the senate inquiry released last week. However, the evidence does not support these claims and both the original actions against prescribed communities and the proposed extension to the NT, and then the rest of Australia, have serious implications for women.
The Bills extend the income management system that was imposed on 73 communities in the NT. Now it will be applied to non-Indigenous welfare recipients as well, first in the NT and then in the rest of Australia. This will allow the Government to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act by putting unfair measures on other welfare recipients as well. The Government will be able, amongst other things, to impose compulsory income quarantining to non-Indigenous welfare recipients who live in certain areas, regardless of how well they are managing their income.
Sole parents, those on Newstart which now covers many people with disabilities and recently arrived immigrants, will have half their Government benefits put onto a plastic card that can only be used for approved products at approved (big) stores. This card will be administered by Centrelink. If they want to be exempted they have to prove to the bureaucrats that they are good mothers or good job seekers. This is deeply offensive and often difficult for women who already have to manage with limited funds and being scape-goated.
The Bill is in the senate, which completed an inquiry. This has reported full support for the Bills from the ALP senators, despite serious doubts about the effectiveness of the measures in the NT. The Greens dissented because the measures are both unfair and don't work. The
Coalition members originally opposed the Bills as it was seen as too soft because it omitted age and disability pensioners. They have now changed their mind because they want to toughen their welfare stuff further when they get back in.
It is puzzling that government members supported the Bill, except that it is government policy. There were over 90 written submissions to the Inquiry and many appearances at hearings, and almost all of these opposed the changes and/or were critical of the so called evidence that income management worked.
At best, 5 agencies supported the Bills, including the NT government and a couple of agencies from Central Australia. Most big welfare agencies, such as St Vinnies, Anglicare, ACOSS etc are very clearly opposed to the extension and the original program as were other women's groups such as a DV group and the Sole Parent Union.
They were very worried about its effects on sole parents and victims of violence and with NAPCAN, couldn't see how the changes did or would protect children
This is an example of both bad policy making, (ignoring evidence) and persecution of the vulnerable.
If you want to help stop this, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or make contact at the conference.