Contributed by Ben Wilson
The move to extend the cashless welfare card by stealth is being condemned from many quarters.
Welfare organisations, indigenous groups, Labor and the Greens have joined to point out the negative effect on people to date, and that a rollout will cause more harm.
Those who have been affected are angry about what is being done to them.
In Ceduna in South Australia, the Northern Territory, East Kimberly and goldfields in Western Australia, the goldfield, the Hervey Bay-Bundaberg region in Queensland, the card has proved to lead to be punitive, increase poverty, paternalism and discrimination.
Although the argument put forward to justify the card is that it pevents expenditure on alcohol and gambling, its greatest effect has been to raise the cost of food and necessities, because the card can only be used in designated place. Those holding it are prevented from shopping around for the best price.
This card is also known as the Indue card. There is a corrupt relationship between the owner and provider , Indue Pty Ltd, and the Liberal and National parties. A connection taking the form of a network of contacts and personal advantages made.
The Morrison government is now proposing to change the law to allow the same system to roll out more widely in the Northern Territory and Queensland.
Scott Morrison is calling the move “compassionate” and has linked it to drug testing all welfare recipients. This is a deliberate misrepresentation of the truth. Both moves are designed to marginalise a section of the Australian population and blame them for being poor.
Even if the reason given was justified, if the intention is truly to combat excessive drinking and gambling by some, it would be applied to those who are drinking and gambling too much. It is being applied to whole communities instead, regardless of the spending habits of individuals.
Some people are being singled out and denied the right to be treated as being equal to others.
It is a continuation of the policy of scapegoating, to divert attention from the fact that the government’s ongoing neoliberal agenda is making the existing economic and social problems worse.
Rather than reduce the incidence of domestic violence, as the government claimed would happen, t the evidence shows that it has increased since the introduction of the card.
The focus has till now been on indigenous people. There is good reason to believe that the intension is to apply it to non-indigenous Australians as well. It is understood that there will eventually be a national rollout.
Farmers facing drought conditions and going through tough times may also find the card forced on them.
It seems like the Centre alliance, Cory Bernardi and Jacqui Lambie crossbenchers are jockeying of favour in return for their support for the rollout. One Nation has already sided with the government. With this they’ll get the numbers to change the law. Labor is making noises of not pursuing the matter.
This persecution continues the war against the unemployed and pensioners of all types. That the move towards the rollout of the card comes at a time when there is a rising debate about the gross inadequacy of Newstart is more than a coincidence.
Nor is it a coincidence that the persecution of those dependent on Centrelink payments comes at a time when the wages share of the national economy is falling. Make things difficult enough for those who are the worst off, and you have a ready-made source of cheap labour to put further downward pressure on wages.
A combination of business interest, an ideology that blames the poor and disadvantaged for the difficulties they face, and an obsession to continue on the neoliberal road, is going to ensure that the nation keeps on going down this road – unless the backlash is strong enough strong enough to put a stop to it.