Thursday, 28 June 2012
Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011
The Greens oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:
Schedule 1, page 3 (line 1) to page 13 (line 4), Schedule TO BE OPPOSED.
This relates to income management. I addressed the basic issue of income management in my speech on the second reading, but I would just like to make some remarks now on the way through. Just to be clear, this amendment removes the schedule relating to income management entirely. If this amendment fails and it is the chamber's view that income management should remain—it is strongly the Australian Greens view that it should not—I do propose to debate a number of amendments that Senator Siewert thought would be a wise way to go. There are some ways that we could certainly improve the policy. We may get to debate those, but if this first amendment is carried then that will not be necessary. This amendment simply abolishes schedule 1.
We do not support the expansion of income management and we believe that the entirety of schedule 1 should be removed. To date, the bill for the current income management process in the Northern Territory sits at around $450 million, nearly half a billion dollars, in order to provide people, many of them impoverished, with little plastic cards telling them what they can and cannot spend their money on. In an area where basic services in many instances are lacking, we spend nearly half a billion dollars telling people how they can manage their income.
This policy remains one of the most criticised across the Northern Territory. If you travel into the prescribed areas and say to people that you have heard about the intervention and ask them what it is all about, income management generally is in the top three issues that people wish had simply never occurred. The money that is used to income-manage people would produce far better results if it were directed to services and programs based on collaboration, community involvement and partnership.
I notify the chamber that I certainly intend to put this amendment to the vote. I find it extraordinary that it is controversial that just under half a billion dollars would perhaps be better spent on the kinds of services that these communities are crying out for and that the Little children are sacred report identified: grassroots services and simple forms of helping communities rebuild themselves. Imagine how far half a billion dollars could go into providing those services. But, no, they have the little plastic cards to tell you what you can and cannot buy.
Claims continue that income management is designed to break the vicious cycle of welfare dependency by ensuring that welfare should not be a destination or a way of life. I acknowledge at the outset—and it seems awfully familiar from the Muckaty debate—that Senator Evans is here in a representational capacity, that this is not his bill, so none of this is intended to be taken personally. But I would like the minister, if he could, to provide us with any evidence whatsoever that income management has been a successful policy that deserves to be continued.