AUSTRALIA POLITICS: The Case for Welfare Card Takes Center Stage

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By Politicoscope September 1, 2017 11:50
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Bill Shorten said he could see pluses and minuses with the welfare card:

“The one thing I know about trials is they have to be genuine trials. We have to make sure that the community supports it. We have to make is that you are if people are suffering from addiction there is all the support to help them break the cycle of the addiction, as opposed to just the heavy-handed terms of this card. Labor is going to wait until we see all of the results. We’ve got an open mind but the community has got to want to support it. What I don’t want to see is genuine people who are down on their luck being treated with hard measures just to get a headline in the big cities.”

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AUSTRALIA POLITICS: The Case for Welfare Card Takes Center Stage

Bill Shorten says he has concerns that the Turnbull government’s cashless welfare card could see genuine people who are down on their luck being treated harshly “just to get a headline in the big cities”.

Malcolm Turnbull described the card as an “act of compassion and love” to help welfare recipients with drug and alcohol addictions spend their money on necessities, as he and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge visited the West Australian Goldfields town of Kalgoorlie to announce the extension of the cashless welfare card to trial to the region.

The Greens have slammed the move as taking control and agency from welfare recipients, despite independent figures showing a large drop in alcohol abuse and family violence in areas where the card has already been trialled.

The figures, revealed in The Australian, found almost half the 2141 welfare recipients in the remote trial communities of East Kimberley in West­ern Australia and Ceduna, South Australia, reported significantly cutting their drinking, drug and gambling dependence after being required to use the card.

Mr Shorten said he could see pluses and minuses with the card.

“The one thing I know about trials is they have to be genuine trials,” the Opposition Leader said.

“We have to make sure that the community supports it. We have to make is that you are if people are suffering from addiction there is all the support to help them break the cycle of the addiction, as opposed to just the heavy-handed terms of this card.

“Labor is going to wait until we see all of the results. We’ve got an open mind but the community has got to want to support it.

“What I don’t want to see is genuine people who are down on their luck being treated with hard measures just to get a headline in the big cities.”

Asked what he made of Mr Turnbull’s declaration that the card was an exercise in love and compassion, Mr Shorten said he wasn’t sure that someone on $265 a week wanted to be lectured by the Prime Minister on how they “just need to lose money”.

“I’m not sure that that doesn’t sound a bit hollow and insincere,” Mr Shorten said.

“What the government should do is talk about the results, let’s see what the results are.”

“Just as there are some people who probably this scheme would benefit, there are plenty of others who are down on their luck through no fault of their own and I don’t think they should all just be lumped into the same basket and suffer hardship.”

Welfare card ‘act of love’: PM
Mr Turnbull said earlier today that the card was an exercise in compassion and love.

“If you love somebody and they are spending all their money on booze and drugs, what are you going to do? You are going to try to stop it and get them to spend it on foods and clothes and necessities of life,” he said.

“If you looked into the eyes of the children who are suffering from foetal alcohol syndrome, who are suffering from neglect, who are suffering from violence at home because their parents are on the grog all the time, you wouldn’t hesitate to say that this card is an act of love”.

Mr Turnbull said the card did not specifically target indigenous people.

“In the Goldfields, most of the people who will be on the cashless card are non-indigenous,” he said.

The PM said that in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder local government area, about two-thirds of card users would be non-indigenous.

“We believe across the whole of the Goldfields it is about 58 per cent non-indigenous.”

Mr Tudge said the figures from the East Kimberley and Ceduna trials showed almost 41 per cent of cardholders said they were now drinking less as a result of the card.

“Forty-eight per cent of people are saying they are taking fewer drugs, 48 per cent of people are saying they are gambling less,” he said.

“In Ceduna, the poker machine revenue in the region is down 12 per cent. That translates to almost $700 per card participant.”

“Hospitalisation admissions are down. The number of people being arrested on the streets for drunk and disorderly is down.”

Greens would oppose welfare card if it ‘solved world peace’: Tudge
Earlier, Mr Tudge said the Turnbull government’s cashless welfare card “could solve world peace” and the Greens would still be ideologically opposed to it.

Labor is yet to commit to supporting the extension of the trial, and Mr Tudge said opponents were motivated by ideology.

“Welfare is not there to be spent on booze, on gambling, on drugs. It is there to fund the basics when you’re down on your luck, to fund your accommodation, your food, et cetera, and that’s what this card does,” he told 2GB.

“It allows spend welfare dollars on whatever you like, but it restricts you from spending it at the bottle shop, at the gambling house, you can’t take cash out from it, you consequently can’t purchase illicit substances.

“I would hope that the Labor Party will support our legislation that adds the expansion, they did initially and I hope they do, but the Greens will never support it.

“This card could solve world peace and the Greens still wouldn’t support it because they’ve just got an ideological objection to this.”

Mr Tudge said that as well as reductions in alcohol, gambling and family violence, communities where the card has been trialled had seen other side benefits.

“For example, about half the people said they’re better able to look after their children now and that they’re better able to save some money because they’re not blowing it on things which they should be spending their welfare dollar on, so they’re really good indicators for us,” he said.

“It’s not the panacea for all the problems here, but it’s certainly making a difference.”

Mr Tudge said support from national indigenous leaders such as Warren Mundine, Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton, as well as indigenous and non-indigenous leaders in the trial communities had been integral.

“The people that I really take my hat off to, to be honest, are indigenous leaders particularly who put their hands up and have worked with me and the government hand in glove to implement this, and they’re the ones that show the real courage here, and when you’ve got strong leadership in these communities willing to take tough action like this, it is amazing what you can achieve and we’re seeing the results now,” he said.

Greens attack welfare card extension
Greens community services spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said the move was “extremely disappointing” because it took control and agency from welfare recipients.

“I am concerned about the impacts this will have on people in the Goldfields community, particularly those on a working age payment who are on a shoestring budget and cannot afford to have their income quarantined against their will,” Senator Siewert said.

“There is divided opinion in the community about the card being trialled in the region so this announcement will no doubt be distressing for those that spoke up and said they did not want it.”

Senator Siewert said key crime statistics had risen in Kununurra, in the East Kimberley trial site.

“This may be an indication that people are finding other avenues to access cash,” she said.

“Before anybody can do any analysis of the final evaluation report, the third site has been announced.

“The previous report was flawed, I lack confidence in the government’s analysis.”

Mr Tudge said the government had chosen Kalgoorlie because there was a demonstrable need in the community, particularly given the harm caused by drugs.

“And secondly because there’s community leadership support here for it,” he told the ABC.

– AAP



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By Politicoscope September 1, 2017 11:50
Since You’re Here, We Would Like to ask You for Help
There are more readers worldwide reading the Politicoscope daily news content than ever before. Unlike many other news media organisations that charge their readers subscription fees for the same daily news content and features we offer you for free, we do not charge all our readers to pay any fee. We depend on online advertising to generate the revenues to fund all these great news content and exclusive features provided to you for free. Currently, advertising revenues are quickly falling which is affecting our ability to offer you free online news content.
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