I WOULD LIKE TO ADDRESS THE COMMITTEE ON BEHALF OF ALL THOSE WHO DO NOT MEET THE CDCT TARGET GROUP CRITERIA YET RECEIVE A CENTRELINK PAYMENT CURRENTLY ON THE CDC TRIGGER PAYMENTS LIST.
According to data provided in the Orima Research Group evaluation, in trial zones, this group of “participants” who do not meet target group criteria makes up 77% of the entire cohort currently on the CDCT*. In the event of wider roll outs, this could include up to 97%* of people currently accessing income support payments on the trigger list.
We would like to state from the outset, that the Human Rights Commission (HRC) has stated that the current trial program and the amendment bill before this committee, do not meet Human Rights Standards.
As noted in the Human Rights Council’s initial report in 2015, impositions upon Human Rights where they must exist, must be strictly qualified, they must be targeted for purpose and exist for a specified duration. Without these stipulations, and even with them, legislation can otherwise be considered an overreach of authority and be in breech of Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Laws.
As we understand them, stipulations regarding human rights encroachments in the current CDC legislation are therefore, very specific to the context of a dedicated trial with a dedicated focus and end date. These impositions upon ordinarily protected rights have been justified solely due to the stated intention of the trial, being to address the alleged needs of the target group ie: people who are drug addicted, malignantly unemployed, alcoholic, problem gamblers, fiscally unmanaged or legally and socially delinquent and those persons intimately effected by people who are.
Yet we who do not meet that target group criteria, even those of us who share a centrelink payment with those that may, a group I will call for the sake of brevity ‘The Rest Of Us”, have never had the issue of our human rights addressed or assessed at all, and this unqualified impingement upon our rights and legal protections remains a topic strangely absent from the debate overall.
As a group, “The Rest Of Us” do not benefit from this card and are not assisted by this program or its services funding and the trials paternal intentions in any way. We are though, harmed by it, and bear the full cost, personally, economically and socially of the human rights infringements this legislation imposes.
There exists no qualifying Human Rights statement within the proposed amendment Bill, that is applicable to our life circumstances. We are just being expected to ‘cop it sweet’ that our legal rights are being dismissed and diminished, and our freedom within society curtailed for no apparent reason. Many of us have already had to bear public and private ridicule, abuse and increasing community scorn and resentment due to being unfairly labelled ‘rorters, bludgers, addicts and abusers’ by ministers in the media.
We have also had our status as previously unclassified and equal citizens of Australia, summarily altered without notice or debate; finding ourselves today reclassified by this legislation into a made up construct called ‘ the welfare class’. It is this reclassification of all centrelink recipients under this header that has permitted government to present the CDC to the public as a needs based call to action.
This new classification of ‘welfare class’ however, is a uniformed misnomer of the status of Centrelink recipients as a cohort within Australian society, as much as for “The Rest Of Us” as a group within it. We are not people who generally access social welfare services or require welfare agency interventions in our lives on a daily basis and when we do, these are self led temporary contacts.
While remaining empathetic to those centrelink recipients that do require more complex government and welfare agency supports, it remains that for “The Rest Of Us” , we have our own social supports that we access for and by ourselves without assistance or government interference.
This new classification then, in its collectivism, is demeaning and patronising. It’s blind inclusiveness appears dangerously misinformed and when used and abused by media, it openly vilifies the character of hundreds of thousands of every day Australians who are just simply making use of a government service.
In the roll out of the CDC, the Minister has not been making any economic rationale. In promoting issues of addiction, delinquency, criminality and social violence as justifications for the need for CDC roll outs as a national priority, the Minister has ignored our existence within the Centrelink recipient cohort completely, and has set about instead, engineering a public perception of what all social security recipients are “like” and what we collectively “need” based on the results of presumptive vilification rather than hard evidence.
These crafted perceptions are not flattering or supportive to anyone in receipt of centrelink payments, and they are certainly not justified by fact or supported by data.
This reclassification of millions of Australians, along with constant repetition in media that the trial is an act of paternal benevolence to the sick and injured ‘welfare class’, has been very useful to the department in gaining wider public agreement to enforce the CDC agenda. It is however, dishonest.
Centrelink recipients are as diverse as the rest of the population, and being in need of a centrelink payment does not auto equate to being in need of psychosocial welfare support or being a person who is morally or socially delinquent in any way.
“The Rest Of Us” are the ‘elephant in the room’, the unspoken collateral damage everyone expects will remain fearfully subservient; we are an embarrassing oversight in legislation, one that no one appears willing to address.
We ask this committee now, to please recognise “The Rest Of Us” as a distinct group within the centrelink recipient cohort, and we ask that you seriously consider the impact and imposition of this program on our lives, as equally as you would consider the impact for those that may meet the CDC’s target criteria.
This Bill demands that we quietly accept the restriction and forfeiture of our full and free access to human, economic, civil and privacy rights and protections; and do this without fuss, giving up our current level of freedom within our communities. It demands we permit government to take control over our lives. We are grown adults, we are Australians, and it is conceited and illogical to expect us to simply accept this demand without protest.
Social Security Payments, are a national, legally protected income support provision inalienable under law, available to any citizen meeting the Departments criteria and regardless of their social position or life circumstances. They are also an international Human Rights obligation under four separate conventions.
“Social welfare” is a collective term, and while Social Security payments are embraced under this umbrella, actual welfare service provisions are governed by separate Acts of parliament. Social Security payments have their own governing Act for a reason.
The Social Security Act does not presume to address, or to assume a persons wider social needs or circumstances beyond their need for income support – just as it should be in the delivery of a service that was designed from the beginning to promote the maintenance of individual human dignity and collective social stability.
Sanctioning “The Rest Of Us” via the use of forced income management devices, is punitively penalising us as citizens for simply accessing our legal entitlements. To instigate a program that actively presumes all centrelink recipients have the same problems is naive, to demand that we all be whipping boys for the choices, actions or inactions of a relatively minor few is inconsistent with reason and common sense. It is an unreasonable demand to make. Some people commit crimes in our society, we do not put all people into jails
By definition, to restrict an entire ‘class’ of people, from free access to the national cash economy is an act of segregation, which in itself is evidence of an ideological judgement at work, politics, rather than an evidence based research policy in action. And the CDC’s economic and social restrictions do segregate us as an entire “class” and do so regardless of life our individual circumstances and predominantly against our will.
They will also remove us from the full measure of Human Rights protection under law currently enjoyed by the rest of the Australian population. Worse, they do this from a base that presumes collective social delinquency and with no individual assessment that could provide justification to the claim.
This is wrong.
Our protected rights are not paper weights or, as they have been labelled by pro card activists, “horse manure”. They exist for purpose and represent the educated wisdom of the lived experience of our mistakes and failures over centuries. They are standards we do not walk past, secular boundaries we have set down for our societies based on our highest most informed moral awareness. More, they are articles of law, and this legislation remains subject to that law.
Given the CDC’s myopic focus on addiction and social welfare issues that has ignored “ The Rest Of Us” since the beginning, no one has been able yet to answer the question “Why us ?”
If we are all equal citizens under law in this country, then the “Rest of Us” , who are not being served by this program, and are being harmed by it, are simply being treated unequally and being penalised for no just cause. And to make matters worse, our personal autonomy; the primary vehicle we possess to aid us overcoming poverty and the social inequalities we do experience due to being on limited income, is being removed from us by force. This, despite the fact we have committed no crime in accessing Social Security payments, and we remain law abiding solvent tax paying citizens, compliant with the structure and expectations of the Social Security Act.
At this time, there is no statement within the current legislation or contained within the proposed amendment Bill, that actively addresses our situation or our human rights concerns ongoing. While we have until now, fallen loosely within the perimeters of the CDC human rights statement, given the structure of the CDC as a trial for purpose, with an end date. External to those perimeters, our rights will simply be impinged upon with no protection and no recourse.
So we ask this committee directly; Given the Ministers stated intention of the CDC program, and in light of the HRC’s statement that the CDC is incompatible with Human Rights Standards, under what justification will this government be permitted to impose forced income management upon “ The Rest Of Us” as a majority cohort, when legislation is in direct contravention of our human rights and anti-discrimination protections?
Until the government can satisfactorily answer this question and demonstrates under all relevant Acts how it can and will justify continued encroachment upon the protected rights of Australian citizens, then this bill should not proceed. Simply being a person in recipient of a centrelink payment, under existing Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination law is not enough.
– Addiction itself is a health issue, not an income issue. In the case of illicit drug addiction it is also a national crime issue and certainly not a problem exclusive to the centrelink recipient cohort.
– Similarly, domestic violence and sexual abuse are crimes. They are a national social violence problems and issues of predominantly male violence against women and children. These are not experiences that can in any way be considered predetermined or qualified as being due to a persons access or lack of access to cash.
– Furthermore, for tough love to be useful and effective, and not just another form of abuse, it has to be metered out by people with intimate knowledge of the issues being faced and not by those who’s only power and evidence is opinion. Tough Love has to hit the intended target cleanly and stem from those with the authority of experience, from a position of equality, mutual respect and with the greatest comprehension of consequences possible. When ‘tough love’ is forced upon those who have no need for it, it is simply an act of violence.
– The “ welfare class” reclassification makes no needs based distinctions and because it ignores that there are distinctions that do need to be made if only for the efficient placement and expenditure of resources and energies, it is also dangerous and lazy.
* [above %’s edited to reflect current research ]