Contributed from Queensland
The Australian government is so determined to press ahead with the cashless welfare card, that it hired a private company to carry out a review outside its own Department of Social Services. This is the sort of thing governments like to do, when they have already determined the result they want to have.
Consultancy firm Orima was awarded a lucrative 12-month contract to do the job.
The findings of the evaluation have been contradicted by the auditor general’s report published on Tuesday. The main charge is the omitting of relevant data. The report found that the approach to monitoring has been “inadequate,” and that “as a consequence, it is difficult to conclude whether there had been a reduction in social harm and whether the card was a lower cost welfare quarantining approach.”
In other words, the finding that the card has resulted in the reduction of anti-social behaviour and reduced the cost of welfare at the trial at Ceduna in the Kimberly region in south Australia, as claimed by the commissioned firm, is not based on fact.
The cashless welfare card, otherwise known as the Indue card, takes control of 80 percent of the welfare payment of the individual, and restricts what it can be used for and where. A major criticism has been that the inability to make choices has forced recipients into having to spend more on needs, because one cannot shop around for the best prices. . But the most heated opposition, has been over the denial of a basic human right that we all expect for ourselves, and the classification of a whole community as undeserving.
Unperturbed, the government is planning further trials in the Western Australian gold fields, and there is a fear that this could eventually become the national norm for recipients of Centrelink payments.
The Card has been introduced in the context of a general assault on welfare payment in Australia, which extends from the unemployed to the disabled. Every day produces new stories of individuals falling victim to a harsh system and merciless punishment. Payments have been kept so low, that many Australians are finding it extremely difficult to survive.
Government welfare policies govern a process of ongoing and step by step removal of the welfare system, and turning those in need towards private charity. In the view of the government, it should have the most minimal role, if any, because to do so distorts the operation of the market. This is based on a claim that if allowed to operate freely, the market will provide a place for all.
Even older Australians who are supposed to be in retirement after a lifetime of work are being caught in the dragnet.
We are hearing of the growing numbers being forced into homelessness and the bigger number at risk of homelessness, because the Age Pension is not enough to meet the high cost of housing, paying for utilities and buying food.
Take the case of 69-year-old Patricia Andrew, who says she has often had to go without food. She is only one case of many.
Crystal McDonald, from the Housing for the Aged Action Group (HAAG) says, that the average cost of a one-bedroom, private rental for a Melbourne-based pensioner who receives the full age pension is 79 percent of their income.
Despite the mountain of evidence showing that a rising proportion of Australians are falling into poverty, the government continues to refuse to raise the level of benefits to a basic likeable level, which is driving a range of community organisations to advocate more strongly and campaign for a change.
Like the other measures, the cashless welfare card is about the collective punishment of those finding themselves in need of help. If for no other reason, this is a good one to scrap it.