Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019; Consideration in Detail
The Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019 is a rotten bill. We said that at the outset. These amendments confirm how rotten it is. I have said, when I've had the opportunity to: why would you do this without actually talking to people—sitting down, negotiating and giving them the opportunity to say yes, they agree, or no, they don't?
Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory have been smacked around by successive governments for 12 years, and they are sick and tired of it. When we see these amendments being put at the third reading speech summing up the legislation, all it demonstrates is the lack of any intent by this government to act in any way which might have been seen as bipartisan in trying to get our support—let alone going and talking to people prior to it.
We've had Aboriginal people in this parliament this week lobbying the crossbenchers and talking to people about the lack of consultation that's taken place over this piece of legislation. The BasicsCard was bad enough, and it's still poor. It's still dreadful. It was imposed in the same way in which this is being imposed. Why are we treating Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory as if they're not citizens? Why are we treating Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory as if they just don't matter? Why are we saying to them that the assumption behind all of this is: 'You're all on the grog or on drugs, or are gamblers, and you can't look after your kids'?
Nothing could be further from the truth. We have seen very effective alcohol measures in the Northern Territory. Alcohol consumption has come down, violence against the person as a result of alcohol aggravated assault has gone down—not because of these cards but because of deliberate decisions by the Northern Territory government to introduce a floor price on alcohol and ban certain people from accessing alcohol. That's what's happened. That's made a material difference. They've had police on bottle shops stopping people from drinking alcohol who shouldn't get access to alcohol. They are the things that have made a difference.
This will not make a difference except to scar people further. I can't understand, as I said previously in this debate, how people in this place who believe in democracy could actually sit here and say to us that they believe they should impose this sort of legislation on people in Australia today without them having an option to get out of it. This should be optional. People might want to have their income managed—they're entitled to do so—but to have a blanket approach, a universal approach, which is what is being proposed by this government, is nonsensical, hurtful and harmful, and it means that we show absolute disrespect for the First Nations people of this land. It is about time we wake up to ourselves, and that's why I think it's very important that we oppose these amendments, just as we're opposing the legislation.