I’ve been meaning for a while to write about the way our government (and to a lesser, but not sufficiently lesser, extent, the media) has been increasingly pushing the idea that people who are poor have miserable lives because they deserve them. Apparently, our unemployed people are too busy taking drugs, protesting climate change, eating avocado toast, and refusing to move to the country where jobs are supposedly plentiful, to actually job hunt properly and that’s why they remain in poverty. (Incidentally, if you were considering moving to the country for work, please read this article first. It turns out that this is bad advice, because moving house can get you cut off from Newstart unless you are very lucky.)
(Incidentally, note how disabled people are sort of… missing from this picture entirely. Much like the $4.6 billion that wasn’t spent on NDIS funding, so that our budget could be balanced this year.)
On the other hand, the government is full of (fully funded) empathy for the hardship endured by small business owners forced to pay penalty rates, and is indeed wondering whether superannuation ought to be optional for lower-paid workers, too. I’m sure this won’t place more pressure on the Aged Care pension in the long run. And speaking of pensions, the government which can’t afford to raise the rate of Newstart can apparently afford to spend $6 billion a year on franking credits, a frankly unsustainable rebate only available to people who have sufficient savings to invest in shares (and the figures attached to this article suggest that the overwhelming majority of these people have savings of $1 million or more).
There are many, MANY, things to write about when it comes to this government’s attitude to poverty. Hell, I haven’t even started on Robodebt – that’s a whole other post. But right now, there is a Bill under consideration to expand the Cashless Debit Card trial to cover the entire Northern Territory, Cape York and parts of South Australia, with the goal of eventually expanding the card to all unemployed people, and possibly people on other forms of social security. There’s a pretty good summary of the situation and how the Bill will work here, or you can read the amendments in their entirety here (honestly not that useful, I found), and an explanatory memorandum here. The latter goes into some detail regarding concerns about the human rights of people on the card:
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights conducted a review of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, which notes that the Cashless Debit Card engages and limits three human rights: the right to social security, the right to a private life and the right to equality and non-discrimination.
But concludes that it’s all fine and definitely non-discriminatory, even though the areas in which the expansion is taking place are all areas with high indigenous populations (according to this article, more than 80% of those affected will be indigenous Australians). Fascinating. Especially as, for all the talk of community consultation, no Australian government in my lifetime has been particularly stellar when it comes to listening to Aboriginal communities. No colonialism going on here, clearly.
I’m going to cut to the chase – the government is accepting submissions regarding the expansion of the Cashless Debit Card up until October 18, and you can make a submission here. There are some guidelines on how to do so here.
Since I’m sure that many of you know far, far more about this than I do, and some of you will have personal stories that are relevant to the submission, I didn’t want to make you read through all my ramblings. But if you want some numbers and stats and arguments for your submission, as well as a few more other ways to take action on Newstart, keep on reading. I suspect some of these will form the basis of my own submission. Continue reading