Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013; In Committee

12:30 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I move Greens amendment (9) on sheet 7462, which relates to schedule 2 of this omnibus bill:

(9) Schedule 2, page 10 (lines 1 to 6), to be opposed.

This relates to income management and, specifically, to the trial in Cape York, with the income management process that is going on there. I think the Greens concerns about income management have been articulated in this chamber on many occasions. We do not believe that this is the appropriate approach. I acknowledge that the income management process and the Families Responsibilities Commission process being undertaken in Cape York are significantly different to those being undertaken in the Northern Territory, however we do not believe that the results up there justify the large expense to deliver that. We do not believe that the impacts that it has on those that are affected by it justify the means. We do not believe that it is worth the investment. We believe a more thorough analysis of that trial should be undertaken, as compared to other approaches that can be taken. And we believe that the broader community needs to have a say on whether they want it to proceed or not.

I also point out that the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, when they reported on the Stronger Futures package, made fairly strong comments around income management and on the fact that it intrudes on people's personal freedom and autonomy. We are concerned that the Abbott government is talking about increasing income management. I understand from estimates that there is a report which, if it has not already been handed up, is about to be handed up to the government, on the place-based trials that are going on around Australia.

I continue to get very negative feedback from communities about the impact of income management. It is an extremely expensive process that does not deliver the results but which impacts on people's autonomy and personal freedom. It is seen by many in the community as paternalistic. It is a very expensive program, and we believe that those resources should be spent in a much more effective manner that consults with people and delivers on long-term change. Income management was originally supposed to be short term—applied for a relatively small amount of time—and, supposedly, aimed at changing people's behaviours.

It is not short term. It has been going on for a significant period of time—in fact, since 2007. People's behaviour, in many cases, has not changed. In fact, they have become more dependent on the process. We need to look at long-term change. The continuation of this particular approach results in more of the same, and not learning from the mistakes of the past. We do not believe that this is an appropriate expenditure of resources. We believe that we can better invest those resources in achieving long-term change that does not impinge on people's personal rights and freedoms, that allows them to change their management approach to their resources, and that is intended to change other behaviours. You do not change behaviours by a punitive approach, and this program is a punitive approach.

I do understand that it is different, but it is not significantly different. People end up being income managed. We do not believe it works. We do not believe it is a good investment. We believe that we should be investing those very scarce resources in programs that do work, on an evidence based approach, because that is what delivers the results—not ideology. Income management was always based on ideology. It does not deliver. It should not be part of a modern approach to helping and supporting the most vulnerable in our community. That is why we are seeking to cut this measure out of this bill and why we oppose schedule 2.


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