Income Management or social engineering
The Australian government and their new policy of” income management”, currently operating in the Northern
Territory will be trialled in a number of metropolitan locations across
The concept is based on a form of increased social engineering,
where government will tell you how and where you spend your money, the first
five locations are: Bankstown, (NSW), Logan, (Qld), Rockhampton, (Qld),
Playford, (SA) and Shepparton, Victoria. In addition, Kwinana in Western
Australia, one of the other trial sites, has had Child Protection and Voluntary
Income Management in place since April 2009.
The Government has stated that
these communities have been selected because of the high level of unemployment
and disadvantage. The trials begin on 1 July 2012.
The decision to extend income management into metropolitan areas
has gone somewhat un-noticed. The initial trial will be based on high needs so
the “big sell” of the program goes, starting with a determination by social
workers and centre link itself, but where it will finish is anybody’s guess,
the amount of money that has already been spent paints a picture of increased
participation, and I doubt that will be by the will of the people themselves.
The Media has yet to say a word, and the government are also
remaining silent, and we all know why, the trial will be forced on those with
the least ability to go public, so before we know it, this new social
experiment will be in everyone’s lap, with reports of its great success, sound
familiar? Also consider the timing, with the introduction of the Carbon tax we
were promised we would not endure by the same government, being introduced on
the very same day.
A report by the “Women’s Equality Rights Alliance”, examining
the experiences of more than 180 women on income management in the Northern Territory,
shows that the vast majority of women surveyed wanted to exit income
management. The report also documents a disturbing range of problems within the
Those chosen to enter the “income management scheme” have no
avenue to leave, so will fall victim to another’s choice, with South Australia already
having extensive lists of businesses that are able to accept the new “Basics
card” such an extensive list paints a picture of an expectation of increased
numbers to be issued the new card, including in the most Coles, Woolworths and
their many subsidiaries.
Compulsory income management was introduced to many Aboriginal
communities in 2007 in the Howard Government’s Northern Territory Emergency
Response (NTER). Income management works by quarantining a proportion of
person’s social security payments which are directed to a special account. This
money can only be used to buy ‘essentials’ such as food, clothing, expenditure
on housing etc.
The proportion of fortnightly payments allocated to the income
managed account is said to be around 50% but roomers ensure it will quickly
rise to 70%. Income managed funds must not be spent on prohibited items, such
as alcohol, tobacco, gambling and the like. Recipients must negotiate
arrangements with Centrelink to pay bills using the quarantined amounts.
The big issue confronting our future with socialist ideals like
this is our ability to support both local business and producers, with smaller business
possibly unable to make the list of accepted suppliers, will second-hand items
and Red-cross shops, be able to accept the new card, let alone local producers
who sell their produce at cheaper prices direct?
The card is used like an EFTPOS card and is used to buy
groceries and other items from approved stores using income managed funds. With
only certain shops licensed to accept the Basics Card, many small retailers are
not included in the scheme, which forces Centrelink customers to shop at larger
retail chains such as Coles and Woolworths, the very same organisations that
are already being exposed as having too much control over our dwindling
suppliers and producers.
At this stage, licensed
stores are only listed on-line, which not only makes it difficult for people
affected by income management to travel interstate for such things as visiting
a sick relative or attend a family funeral. In order to check how much balance
a person has on their card they must ring Centrelink or use facilities yet to
be made available, these devises will somewhat resemble ATM machines, making
the costs of this schemes introduction expensive to say the least, making the
ideal of its expansion a definite long term goal.
This Big Government measure, which is supported by both the Labor
and Liberal party, comes at a massive cost. Estimates provided by the
Government indicate the new trials will cost the Government $117 million over 5
years. The Australian Council of Social Service
has noted, for example, that the NT scheme
(total expenditure of $402 million over 5 years) and covering
about 20,000 individuals, amounts to a cost of $4,100 per person. Put in
perspective, this is 1/3 of the allowance paid to unemployed people over a year
($11,600 per annum), or 8 times the amount provided to employment service
providers to address barriers to work for long-term unemployed people ($500 per
annum), money better spent on increasing services and employment, rather than
Russian style social intervention.
While the Government is
committed to expanding the policy of income management across Australia there
is very little evidence to show that it works. Despite what some conservatives
may believe Government bureaucrats cannot fix complex social problems through
punitive social measures.
Rebates on what the
government deems correct, baby bonuses, feed in schemes, home buyers grants and
a host of recent ideals, are more so a case of being over taxed in the first
place, and then handed money back when and for what the government decides,
rather than allowing any genuine freedom of choice or rewarding those who put
in the hard yards.
So what is the likely
outcome of this bureaucratic experiment? Well if I was to take an educated
guess it will be yet another failed experiment. The millions of taxpayers’
dollars that have already gone into the pockets of lawyers, publicity experts,
IT contractors and bureaucrats to get this system up and running and the usual can’t
be wrong position of the federal Labor party, ensures this ideal will continue
to rape the taxpayer bank balance far beyond any failures the system will undoubtedly
This is only likely to grow and the same supposed
experts, who have developed the ideal, will come up with all kinds of reports
about how wonderful the system works in order to keep the dollars flowing, and
maintain their increased control of our Dailey lives.
On the other side of the
fence of course is the thousands of Centrelink customers already struggling to
cope with their current circumstances who will be stigmatised and
inconvenienced by the new rules and regulations, others will no doubt find ways
around the rules, like making legitimate purchases then selling them for cash,
let alone those with addictions like tobacco and alcohol, who will be forced to
resort to crime.
So what is the answer to
complex social problems? Well that’s the million dollar question, but I can
assure you that the best policies are always ones where the local community are
consulted and involved, where respect and inclusion go hand in hand, If only
the conservatives spent more time listening and consulting with we the people
and less time moralising about our problems, just maybe they would get it
right, and we the people would respect their hard work.
Government is supposed to
be about managing the economy and the supply of essential services, not about
dictating every aspect of our lives, services to help those in need when in
fact they want help is one thing, but forced social engineering and the abhorrent
intervention in every aspect of our daily lives is unacceptable.
Mark M Aldridge
Community advocate and