Senate debates

Monday, 26 September 2022


Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022; Second Reading

7:04 pm

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price (NT, Country Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I have not been in this chamber very long but it is not hard to see the trickery, deceit, and the length this Albanese Labor government will go to to maintain lies and shallow election promises that were only ever about attempting to secure woke votes. The saying 'if you repeat something enough times it becomes the truth' should be Labor's motto, as this is exactly how this government have demonised the cashless debit card in order to justify their election promise to abolish it. We've heard from out-of-touch Greens senator Rice, who, I realise, had her fingers stuck in her ears when vulnerable Aboriginal Australians told her in the inquiry they desperately need the cashless debit card. We have heard from Senator McCarthy from the Territory talk about the Intervention and how it supposedly shamed adults, but she failed to admit it was the Northern Territory Labor government of the time that she was a minister of that sat on and did nothing about the Little children are sacred report. It was this report, highlighting the astronomical rates of child sexual abuse and STIs found in Aboriginal children, which was the trigger for federal action. Labor and the Greens continue to this day to ignore the suffering of vulnerable children instead of favouring the rights of abuses, perpetrators and adults controlled by addiction.

It hasn't mattered a single iota that this was a grassroots initiative in its very first instance, that the origins of the card came about because of the calls from vulnerable communities for a tool to curb spending on alcohol, drugs and gambling by vulnerable community members, nor the fact that alcohol in these regions desperate for the card had some of our nation's highest rates of child sexual abuse. We know because the evidence—not a repeated lie but the evidence—tells us that alcohol has played a colossal role in child sexual abuse in Aboriginal communities. The stark evidence tells us loud and clear that alcohol plays an astronomical role in the rates of violence and abuse in Aboriginal communities—the very reasons these communities called for the development of the cashless debit card in the first place. I hear very little about the concern for children from across the chamber. How ironic that a grassroots initiative is now being scrapped to satisfy the uninformed demands of the elites.

I know these communities are far from the comfy lives that many of the members of this government live. We're told regularly that this government respects Aboriginal culture. We're told every single day you all acknowledge elders past, present and emerging, whatever that actually means, yet this government doesn't actually know Indigenous culture because none of you have lived it—really lived it or really lived in it. You think you may have been witness to it, but it's more than just parading around in animal fur, more than just putting some paint on one's face or playing a didjeridu, an instrument that belongs only to the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land. It's more than just walking through a bit of smoke. In fact, smoking ceremonies were never traditionally used at every single occasion and get together. They were precisely only used after the death of a relative, for medicinal purposes or to strengthen a newborn baby.

This government romanticises what it doesn't know and pays lip service when it's convenient. It's not just this government; the Greens all the time. Some cultural truths I know it will be hard to comprehend for many here: what it's like to constantly have your income demanded from you by addicted relatives on a regular basis; that everything you own, including the clothes on your back, can be taken from you because 'cultural protocol' dictates that you have to say yes and hand over your income, even if it means your kids go hungry. It is hard to comprehend that saying no to these demands is a breach of cultural protocol. The consequences of such culturally unacceptable refusal can lead to violent punishment. This is fact, people. Fact. I lived this culture, but this is the lived cultural experience of many. This is the protocol that has been embedded into one's psyche and passed down through generations. Members of this government could not fathom the oppressive actuality of not being encouraged or empowered to stand up for one's self and be able to say no. Communal living means consent does not belong to you as an individual. Many here will never understand, because our Western based democratic Australian culture upholds our individual rights, our Western based democratic Australian culture gives you freedom of choice, our Western based Australian democratic culture gives you the freedom to turn a blind eye in the name of political correctness to the oppressive elements of culture that belongs to our most vulnerable citizens. In fact, this government encourages and promotes separatism—the us and them mentality which sustains the breeding ground for cultural dysfunction. The favourable choice is niceties in reinvented cultural acknowledgements to country; strategically placing the Aboriginal flag in this chamber, or behind oneself at every speaking opportunity, to display ones virtues while ignoring the glaring and the disturbing intrinsic reality that plagues the lives of vulnerable Australian citizens—Australian citizens that I have been burying all of my life in communities that are far removed and out of sight, out of mind from the privileged circumstances we're all a part of here.

The only way a member of this government might feel pressured into giving the shirt off their back or all the money in their account to an addict, to the detriment of themselves or their children, is if they're under duress, in a toxic relationship, the victim of domestic violence or if they're an enabler themselves, but certainly not because it's their cultural obligation to do so.

Imagine receiving an urgent and dreadful call from your mother that she has been informed that your aunt, a woman you've loved all your life, a jovial and warmer character but an excessive drinker in her late 30s, has dropped dead on the town campground after spending consecutive nights drinking. Imagine arriving in the town camp to find she still lies in the same place on the dirt where she collapsed and died. Your other aunt is letting off heart-wrenching screams over her body. Other family—aunts; uncles; cousins; children; your young nieces and nephews, some as young as four, some in their teens—watch on. Some are in distress at the scene and some are unemotional—probably numb from the hysteria and the sight of yet another death of a loved one.

Imagine now your own children witnessing something like this. You think to yourself that it's not right that the little ones should be witnessing this. The police arrive. You are told politely that it might be best, given the circumstances, for family members to lift her body into the body bag and onto the stretcher. You want for your aunt to have dignity in those last moments. You want to get her off the ground but you also know she has now been taken away forever. This is one of many of my lived experiences of destruction by alcohol—the way in which it has taken away the lives of my family. I have many more stories to share but I won't today. Instead, I will fight to support the measures that are pertinent to curbing the destruction of alcohol where it collides with a culture that we're continually told is the world's oldest living culture, a culture I've lived. I've come to understand that during the thousands of years of its existence it has not yet developed the tools and mechanisms to successfully overcome addiction.

Addiction is a human affliction. The triggers for it within Aboriginal Australians have come from modern environmental influences; hence, why there are no cultural preventions for it. However, it becomes even more dangerous when cultural obligations are exploited by addicts and abusers. These are the very reasons why it is our responsibility as lawmakers in this nation to: (1) seek a deeper and more honest understanding of the authentic cultural practices that influence, and at times dictate, the lives of the vulnerable (2) make sound and sometimes tough decisions that work to uphold the human rights of the vulnerable as a priority before those who would destroy their lives and the lives of others. One life lost is one too many. It is not good enough to sacrifice any lives in the name of political correctness or for the shallow exercise of winning votes.

It has been an educational experience so far learning of the procedures we undertake to determine outcomes for our nation and the approaches we are confined to by way of committee. The cashless debit card repeal inquiry was strategically and deliberately rushed through by this government, leaving little to no contribution from vulnerable community members unable to access the support needed to provide a submission. People whose first language is not English and whose level of education impedes their ability to communicate efficiently and swiftly, but who need the cashless debit card the most, were effectively excluded from participating. This came as no surprise, given that Labor primarily give access to and heed only the voices of educated conformists who reflect their values and support their endeavours. I've come to understand that calling a swift inquiry with a short time frame and minimal opportunity for travel to affected remote communities allows for the stacking of submissions in favour of a particular position.

There were many calls for funds reserved for operation of the cashless debit card to be transferred to social service providers instead. When I questioned a service provider on the specifics how their service might be a better alternative to the cashless debit card, a detailed and precise answer could not be given. Noel Pearson made some poignant remarks during the delivery of his evidence and pleas to maintain the cashless debit card. He said:

… services are important—what people most need, what families most need, is more opportunity. Give them opportunity directly. We only think of services because it's the only way we think about how we support poor people. The bureaucrats see a problem, they design a program, they allocate a bureaucrat or a service deliverer with a four-wheel drive, a fax machine and everything else, but it doesn't do anything.

…   …   …

You've got to remember, we're urging you: service delivery is parasitic too. It's parasitic on the disadvantaged. It sees the disadvantaged people as a cause for a program and a job, and it doesn't do much to change their situation … So when you use the words 'service delivery', some of that is crucial mental health services and a whole lot of child protection services—they're really important—but a lot of it is rubbish too. It actually is feasting on disadvantage.

I learnt that despite the many invitations and pleas made by one of the shire mayors of a trial site to meet Minister Rishworth and Minister Burney to discuss the critical need for the cashless debit card, in the end they were simply ignored. I also learnt that Minister Rishworth met Aboriginal women from remote communities during her rushed consultations who told her they were grateful for income management, that it was a lifesaver for them. Possibly, despite the representations of pious inner-city academics far removed from the lives of the marginalised and their culture, despite the demands from service providers in favour of income management abolition and redirecting funds, the few voices of the deeply concerned and vulnerable might cut through. Perhaps this government can no longer maintain the con that demonises the cashless debit card. After all, if the card was not working, then why is the government making it voluntary? Why abolish the cashless debit card in favour of maintaining the inferior and restrictive technology of the BasicsCard?

Over the weekend, I read that Labor plan to replace the CDC with another card. This card will have updated technology and, no doubt, a whole new bright shiny name. So the government want us to believe it is scrapping the cashless debit card, as was the election commitment, when in fact it is keeping it and pretending to create a new one. The time and resources invested by the former coalition government to make immense improvements to the BasicsCard by way of introducing the cashless debit card have been completely overlooked for ideological reasons by the government and its supporters. On the same basis, they disregarded the 2021 University of Adelaide evaluation that found a quarter of the people on the cashless debit card reported they drank less frequently, and 45 per cent of recipients said it had improved their lives.

The cashless debit card works, and it always has, but the government must continue its con. Once you start a lie, you have to stick with it. It evolves and takes on a life of its own, as we have come to see. Again it's been a waste of our time and resources watching on while Labor rearrange the deckchairs on the sinking ship of Aboriginal community life, knowing full well that pulling the rug from clean under these vulnerable people, in the name of political correctness, is going to destroy lives. It's all smoke and mirrors. Albanese is the ringmaster of this circus, Rishworth is the illusionist and, with their colleagues, they put the heads of the vulnerable into the mouths of the lions while the taxpayers watch on, either cheering with approval or, like those with any real comprehension of the danger, gasping in dismay. Only when your intentions are driven by your concern for this nation and its people instead of your disdain for the opposition and hunger for votes will you actually find some real solutions for Indigenous people. (Time expired)


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