Australia- New law to quarantine all welfare payments

  • Matthew Franklin, Chief political correspondent
  • The Australian
  • November 25, 2009

WELFARE recipients across Australia face compulsory income-management under a Rudd government move to ensure their payments are not being wasted on alcohol, drugs or gambling.

Under legislation to be introduced into the House of Representatives today, the government will have the power to require that 50 per cent of a welfare recipient’s payments be quarantined for spending on food and the essentials of life.

The significant welfare reform, in part an extension of elements of the government’s controversial intervention into indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, is designed to protect children from neglect and reduce family violence.

Families Minister Jenny Macklin’s legislation will embrace income-management as a central element of the welfare system in perpetuity.

And the minister will also announce she will maintain the government’s intervention into Northern Territory indigenous communities, including bans on alcohol and pornography.

The Howard government put the so-called Northern Territory Emergency Response in place in 2007 after declaring that violence and abuse of children in Aboriginal communities was a national emergency.

The Rudd government has continued the tough-love approach, but Ms Macklin’s rewrite of the legislation that created the NTER delivers on her promise to make the measures compliant with the Racial Discrimination Act.

Her new laws will retain all elements of the NTER, some with minor changes, with the government insisting they qualify as exemptions under the act because they are aimed at benefiting a particular racial group.

But on income-management, Ms Macklin’s solution to make it comply with the RDA is to extend it nationwide.

“It will be a non-discriminatory approach,” the Indigenous Affairs Minister told The Australian last night.

“There are a number of people around the country who will benefit from income management.

“It doesn’t have anything to do with whether they are Aboriginal people.”

She said income management was clearly helping disadvantaged Northern Territory communities, with families spending more on food and communities becoming more peaceful.

Under the changes, the existing income-management system in operation in the Northern Territory, as well as in trials in Cape York and parts of Western Australia, will continue until next July.

But in the first step of a national rollout, the new scheme will apply to those existing areas until the end of 2011, after which they will be assessed for their effectiveness.

The measures will then go national.

The new legislation will allow Ms Macklin to activate income-management measures by declaring any area subject to disadvantage.

When activated, the restrictions would apply to people aged 15 to 24 years in receipt of specified welfare payments for more than three of the previous six months, people aged over 25 on payments such as Newstart Allowance and Parenting Payment for more than one year in the previous two years and people assessed by Centrelink social workers as requiring income management because of vulnerability to financial crisis, domestic violence or economic abuse.

Measures linking income management to child protection and school attendance, which have been trialled on Queensland’s Cape York and in parts of WA, will also be part of the new scheme.

Exemptions will be available for some welfare recipients if they can demonstrate responsible behaviour. For example, young people will be able to apply for exemptions if they are in full-time study or training or are engaging in paid work, as will parents who can demonstrate they are ensuring their children attend school or, for non-school-age children, are up to date with childhood immunisations.

Long-term dole recipients without children could receive exemptions if they have a history of engaging in work, even if it is not permanent work.

Ms Macklin said the new scheme would be supported by financial counselling and money-management services worth $53 million over four years.

There will also be incentives for people who complete the money-management courses, including up to $500 for household goods such as refrigerators. She also said elements of the NTER would continue, including alcohol and pornography restrictions, which she said had improved life in communities, particularly for children.

Five-years leases over indigenous land would also remain in place along with licensing of community stores and special law enforcement powers.

4 responses to “Australia- New law to quarantine all welfare payments

  1. Where are we heading? We seem to be coming more and more like the U.S.A. I am on a Disability and unable to work But am I a bad Parent? No not at all. I can not and do not agree in what this government’s now going to do. As far as I am concerned this is another way to claw back what they gave out in 2008 to all Australian my opinion only. I do agree if people have been identified and pointed out by agencies as abusing what is given and unable to manage there finances by going to get help all the time to pay for rent , food then yes I may agree this could be a good idea for the government to step in and pay there rent, electric bill but to take our freedom away our dignity, our freedom I can not agree with at all.

    They said that 50 per cent of welfare recipient’s payments will be rantined for spending on essentials items to ensure their payments are not being wasted on alcohol, drugs or gambling. Yet the working class who also get the F.T B for there children are not effected. They can support there habit, like alcohol, drugs, smoking or gambling, with out being effected. This is out right discrimination towards people who are unable to find work or able to work

    So here, we have a family who is not working and have always done the right thing by there children over the years striving to give the best they can with the little they get to make sure there children do not miss out on what other children get. But now they are the targets by this government who knows they have failed in the NT but to stay face they want us to believe this is all about protecting our children? What a joke or children will be worse off not better off.

    So if this bill is past we will need to say our children when they want to go out for day at the beach or with a friend for the day, and want have take away now and then, or go to the movie, Go on holidays, or if we want to hold a birthday party or even go to a friends party we will need to say sorry kids no more parties we are not allowed as we are on welfare and this is not an a essentials item sorry you will need to miss out. So now who is being affected? My children.

    We go to the Supermarket, shops and so forth they will now know we are on welfare. This will be so degrading for us as a family If this government really cared for our Children’s welfare as they clam it would be applied to all Australians receiving any centerlink payments not just the ones who do not work..

    I would like to know how it will work. When they say it is only to be used on essentials items how do you define what is classed as essentials items? What about when I go shopping and there is now only.30cents left over what then? I cannot spend .30cents on essentials items can I. A government who was so happy to at the last election happy to make us think they were out to protect the mums and dad out there already doing it tuff. Well guess what if this is how they are looking after us bring back the last government because since they been in power we have been finding living a lot tougher then before the last election. If we take a look around the world you will see this has not stop the drugs violence, poverty, It will not work. I hope it has not been past and I hope to see them voted out of office in the next election.

  2. Many people in the US, especially the homeless, who receive disability checks, food stamps etc could use some help with check cashing/mail receipt/budgeting/service referrals since the poor are seen as fair game and preyed on without mercy.

    That said, “help” is very different from control. Once we allow the state to control people’s lives to this extent, any pretense of freedom is gone. And only those who have written-off a population entirely would consider such a new law: they need to have a serious “there except for the grace of Gawd” moment and retract this fascist nonsense.


    see tues 1st december for a download of the publics discussion on this.
    Racist, yes, why?
    cos they can!
    some communities actually did improve, but the shame and restrictions on the many for the faults of a few are..
    it is proposed to cost 7 Million! to oversee ( read employ white clerks) to oversee the WA version.
    someones getting rich and profiting from this.
    same old same old.
    problem, we DO have communities living in cars and humpies, some do that by choice, many have been given homes, they smash them up. nurses and teachers get raped and bashed so they wont go there to “assist” can’t say I blame them.
    Many are wanting homes NT govt was given Millions to build them, in 2?+ years. NOT ONE home is built.
    Costs are wildly overinflated, builders wont go there..
    a huge issue.
    dont fret -when more WHITE people also realise they plan to do it nationwide and regardless of race wise.. the shit will splatter!
    and yes we have mutigenerational unemployed drug fucked and drunk white folks who beat their kids and wives too. they so far have escaped.. they may not for much longer:-)

  4. That article a while back about 500 years of colonialism was right on target, tho most of us can’t see the forest for the trees. The predators suck off the natural resources, destroy cultures, then blame the victims for wanting to self medicate or being angry.

    And you’re right about alot of angry white men standing on the corner- going to get a good education real fast now that they see their seat isn’t reserved on the gravy train.

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