Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quarantine and manage profits – not welfare!

Vanguard June 2012 p. 9
Nick G.

(Above: the BasicsCard, first imposed on prescribed NT Aboriginal communities, and now heading to a poor community near you...perhaps your own!)

When compulsory income management (or “welfare quarantining”) was imposed on prescribed Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, this paper warned that it “would become generalised across the rest of the community.”
The measure, which at first applied only to Aborigines, necessitated the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act.  This blatant racism harmed Australia’s image in the international arena.
Labor took Howard’s racist NT scheme and extended it to some non-Aboriginal welfare recipients in the NT, thus deflecting the charges of racism whilst leaving the essentially racist application of the scheme intact.
Labor then announced the Place Based Income Management scheme, imposing five year “trials” of income management to five low SES communities – Playford (SA), Shepparton (Vic), Bankstown (NSW) and Rockhampton and Logan (Qld).   The so-called “trials” will begin on July 1.
The affected communities have been poorly prepared for this.  An online survey conducted in the Shepparton area revealed that 62% of respondents said that they had found it difficult to find out information about the measures, and that 80% regarded the level of consultation between the Government and the community as inadequate.
Sister Michelle Madigan of the Catholic Josephite Order said few income support recipients in the Playford Council area (incorporating suburbs built to provide the workforce for General Motors around the city of Elizabeth) were aware of the five-year long trial, not its start date on July 1.  A spokesperson for homeless services in the region said the scheme would come as a “shock”.
Residents of Bankstown in Sydney are in a somewhat better situation having been the focus of community activists who have brought the experiences of NT communities to public discussions.
There is a Say No to Government Income Management Campaign Coalition with strong roots in the community sector including Aboriginal and migrant communities and held a major seminar on May 26 to discuss strategies for opposing income management.
Ms Randa Kattan, Executive Director of the Arab Council of Australia and spokesperson for the Bankstown Coalition, visited NT communities late 2011 to see firsthand the impact of income management.
“People in the NT told us of the humiliation and degradation of being forced to go on income management and how this hurt their families rather than helped them. 
“The government wants to take the community sector down a path where the relationship between client and worker is about control and punishment.
“From the bush to Bankstown, people do not need income management.  They need job opportunities, higher incomes and improved social services,” she said.
Labor’s extension of the welfare quarantining, Basics Card approach to people who need dignity and self-empowerment comes at the same time as Liberal Joe Hockey’s call to “end the era of entitlement” which attacks the same poor and marginalised communities from yet another direction.
It shows that between social democracy and outright conservatism there is only service to the rich, and punishment for the poor.

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