Senate Public Hearing for the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 held in Canberra on the 2nd of November, 2017.
There were two versions of the program for the day, there is the published one, and there was a second version emailed to participants to the proceedings which was slightly more up to date. The times on the program should match the recording, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find any a particular session if you are after it.
ParlView Video Recordings:
Hansard transcript is available here, with a PDF version here. There have also been additional documents tabled, including answers to questions put on notice, tabled documents and correspondence, but this is all currently from the 12th October Kalgoorlie public hearing.
You can either watch the recordings directly from the ParlView page, or download the entire or portions of the recordings.
If you just wish to see the Hinkler or BAG segments, I have downloaded just those sections of the day’s proceedings:
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
Oh, sorry, still can’t get over Pauline Hanson’s latest demonstration of the excellent general knowledge our parliamentary representatives have… that multi-million dollar submarines can only go underwater for 20 minutes at a time!
The Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee has been hard at work, and are up to 54 submissions that have been publicly released. They have again skipped a few submissions, as 50 was released all on it’s lonesome a few days ago, but now the missing 46 – 49 have been added. However, now 52, 54 & 55 missing, so unless they are confidential, they’ll probably turn up in the next batch.
I would summarise this batch as all the submissions being damning of the Cashless Debit Card (Trial), and the lack of evidence to support Income Management being effective whatsoever in curbing issues of alcohol, gambling and illicit drug dependence. And some submissions have gone as far to suggest or even show evidence that negative outcomes such as an increase in poverty, domestic violence, aggravated crime and child neglect will and have increased in this trial and in others.
As always, you can view the tracker spreadsheet here (now with three graphs on the second sheet for those who like graphs), view or sync with my cache of the submissions, or you can get them directly from the Senate Inquiry submissions page.
This batch brings with it submissions from some of the biggest critics of the card, who have been there right from day one when it was proposed as the BasicsCard. We have Professor Eva Cox, an Adjunct Professor from Jumbunna UTS, who wrote a piece for the Guardian to highlight the flaws in the ORIMA evaluation of the CDC. Then there is Dr Elise Klein from the University of Melbourne, who only happened to have undertaken a research project into the Cashless Debit Card based on thirteen months of field-based research in the East Kimberley region – so she has first-hand experience in what the CDC looks like, and how it was implemented.
Then there is a submission from Dr Janet Hunt of the Australian National University, who has rubbished the ORIMA Wave 1 basically from the day it was released, as when she read the report, she discovered that it was extremely flawed and did not provide adequate evidence to draw the conclusions that had clearly been drawn by the Minister, Alan Tudge, in that the trial was a success and should be continued indefinitely. UNICEF Australia weighed in also and was a bit naughty with a whopping 25-page submission, none of which had anything good to say about the card or compulsory income management in general. Rather amusingly, they reference Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s statement about this being “an exercise in practical love” and respond with
compulsory income management in the form of the Cashless Debit Card model may not help build individual capacity or long-term community change, and may in effect build a dependency on welfare support
There is a submission by Professor Jon Altman from Deakin University, who has always opposed blanket income management, and was there at the what he refers to as the hastily convened Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs Inquiry into the Provisions of the Northern Territory Emergency Response Bil 2007 and Associated Bills, highlighting then research in the USA showed that measures controlling the spending of welfare benefits have a high cost and limited benefits.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has unsurprisingly suggested
that the Bill should not be passed without broader community consultation to ensure the full effects of the trial, including on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, are properly understood.
The Mayor of Logan also made a submission, in which he highlights concerns that there were no consultations with organisations representing medical professions or drug treatment providers
who have stated they believe the proposed trials as currently crafted are unlikely to have the impact being sought and instead will result in negative and unintended outcomes rather than behavoiural change.
There was a submission from a former trial participant (wait for it!) who became former because they challenged ORIMA and the DSS as to whether it was ethical for them to evaluate a trial where participation is mandatory and participants have not given genuine informed consent – and 20 minutes later was informed they are exempt from the trial. Then, there was the minor detail of Orima Research only getting approval from an ethics committee five months INTO the trial, in clear breach of the guidelines. And then there is the small issue of the documented proof of the card being able to be used to purchase alcohol, both in Kununurra and at the Parliament House gift shop! More disturbing, and indicative of how out of touch this government is was this statement:
When I told the Department of Social Services that I was now homeless and sleeping on the street, they did not offer me any assistance or advice.
And finally there is a submission from our very own friends, Say No To The Cashless Welfare Card Australia/ Hinker Region on behalf of the 6000+ members of the group, in which there is a much-needed recount of the change in attitude that has been seen in this region already since the announcement that Hinkler is to be next:
Since the announcement of the card coming to the Hinkler region we have seen public attitude based on misleading information, constant bullying online towards people and families who have not committed any crimes, branded drug addicts, drunks and bludgers, constantly attacked for standing up for themselves. Our people do not deserve to be treated as second class citizens as we see one section of the community going through their fight for equality at law, we are now seeing another section of our community at risk of losing their equality at law
The Cashless Welfare Debit Card is nothing more than financial apartheid
Blaming people who cannot defend themselves is cruel. Meanwhile the working people just carry on, drinking, drugging and mismanaging their incomes, still partaking in domestic violence and the like, whilst at the same time pointing the fingers at people on social security payments;
I firstly need to get some administrivia out of the way. I have changed the name of the third category which I have been assigning submissions that don’t appear to be adopting a position from ‘Unclear’ to ‘Other’. This was due to when I first chose the category name it was based on a submission that was exactly that – unclear, and I have come across other submissions since which are more advisory, and hence are not adopting a position for or against the CDCT, hence go into that now ‘Other’ category. Consequently, I have also moved one submission out of the Other category, the “ME, CFS and Lyme Association of WA” one, as it is against the CDC, even if it is only for its particular group.
So, 17th of October, and just under a month to go before the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs is due back to the dreaded Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017. Between this release of a further eleven submissions and the last batch, there has also been the first of two public hearings – the Kalgoorlie, WA one on the 12th of October. I have yet to fully review that hearing, but the little bit I did hear for a ‘for the card’ submission was not going well for them – with a Senator grilling them on evidence of community consultation and informed community consent to the card being implemented in their region. It was also satisfying to hear the Chair also instruct Senator Pauline Hanson to focus on questions, rather than grandstanding (although they were admittedly not the words used, but the meaning was quite clear). If you missed the live audio, I have a partial recording of it uploaded which you can listen to whilst we wait to see if a transcript is released (UPDATE: Blind me… it was there already!).
However, the eleven submissions released today. This batch was a mixed bag… four submission have been relegated to the ‘Other’ category – although having said that, they still outline issues with the CDCT, and are hence not singing praises of the currently policy. There are six more submissions that are strongly against the bill/CDC, and finally one in favour, thus bringing support for the CDCT to a staggering 4 submissions out of the 45 released thus far. Thus the ‘score’ so far is 4 submissions for, 6 other, and 35 against. Twiggy and Co must be fuming by now!
And as before, you can view the tracker spreadsheet here (with two graphs on the second page for those who like graphs), view or sync with my cache of the submissions, or you can get them directly from the Senate Inquiry submissions page.
Of particular significance in this batch is the release of the Council of Single Mothers and their Children Victoria submission, which has attached at the end what they referred to as “Anna’s story” – which is the first-hand recount of how one single mother was impacted by the CDC’s restrictions – being unable to buy second-hand goods, unable to make that quick visit to the shops because of minimum EFTPOS purchase amounts, delays in the balance being update on her card and in the app, which was costing too much in data fees to use anyway. It is a much-needed demonstration of how the CDC does nothing to achieve its stated goals, and how it can drastically impact the lives of those who are already struggling.
For the rest, there were a lot of excellent points raised, even by the more ‘neutral’ advisory submissions. I’ll finish this post with some of the more interesting excerpts I cam across, in no particular order.
For communities experiencing entrenched disadvantage, the CDC is one option to help combat this disadvantage, however it is not a panacea. An investment in job creation, particularly in regional areas of Australia, is needed over the long term to support those on the CDC to transition into meaningful economic participation.
Queensland Advocacy Inc:
Create jobs, not stigma … punitive and presumptive card … [t]he Card is a retrograde step, further eroding a system that already is frayed at the edges.
Law Council of Australia:
… questions of whether there is a rational connection between the cashless debit card and the harm it seeks to prevent, and whether it is a proportionate restriction on human rights …
Council of Single Mothers and their Children Victoria:
the Cashless Debit Card deviates from all the best evidence available in fields such as behavioural economics, behavioural change, addiction studies and public health, by exerting strong external power over not only an affected individuals income, and thereby, their ability to manage their lives, but that of a majority segment of a community
limitations placed on individuals’ ability to purchase certain items when using the card that would have no impact in reducing levels of harm associated with alcohol consumption, drug use and gambling
National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples:
evaluations of the BasicsCard under the Stronger Futures measures have shown that the policy does not work, the CDC represents even more dictatorial measure in that it restricts a higher proportion of income
No evaluation has found that compulsory forms of income management have resulted in medium or long-term behavioural change at the individual or community level
And finally, I leave you with this enlightening quote from the sole submission for the Bill for this batch, from the Cape York Institute:
Any suggestion that the introduction of cashless debit cards, supported by local reformminded leaders, is worsening the situation or that the cards themselves can be causally linked to the suicide epidemic, is seriously misconceived.
Senate Public Hearing for the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 held in Kalgoorlie on the 10th of October 2017.
As the Community Affairs Senate Committee was not sitting in Canberra at the time, there is no video, but the audio was live streamed at the time. I have a few minutes recorded of the mornings proceedings until morning tea, and then from after morning tea until the end of the day. Apologies if there is any dings or chimes as I didn’t have time to ensure that all notifications were disabled on the machine doing the recording…
Edit 1: Some additional documents have been uploaded, which are answers to questions that were put on notice at the hearing.
Edit 2: I have since been in touch with the Australian Parliment House’s ParlAV division, and they have made available their audio for the public hearing.
The second batch of submissions dropped sometime this afternoon, and after spending about an hour and half working my way through the next set of 14 submissions (21-34 for those of you keeping track)… the ‘score’ in the Alan Tudge & Andrew Forrest vs the People of Australia debate is looking even worse for Tudge and co before… it’s up to 28 against the CDC, and still only 3 for it thus far. The number of unclears is up to 3, with the two additions to that category either insisting that funding to support services is essential if the CDC is to continue to be expanded and extended, or that if it is implemented, it should not apply to a particular section of the community (i.e. not a blanket ‘against’).
Most revealing in this drop is the organisations such as the Queensland Teachers Union, which have condemned the CDC on behalf of their 44.500 members, due to issues ranging from the cost of implementation (in contrast to the rewards), the fact that the card “will humiliate the recipients and further denigrate those who are the most vulnerable in our society” and that “[p]roponents of the cashless welfare card have argued that the fact that children access school breakfast programs is a sign of the need for this initiative. This gross oversimplification ignores the extreme rates of unemployment in the region and the fact that welfare payments keep the income of most recipients below the poverty line.” It also fails to take into account children that travel long distances so don’t have breakfast before they leave, those children that have second breakfasts, and those children that see school breakfast programs as a social event! Hence “[i]t is shameful that these breakfast programs are used in a political way to justify the introduction of the cashless welfare card.”
Consumer Law Action Center have made multiple submissions over the years, starting with the 2015 Bill when the CDC was first announced. As far as they are concerned, nothing has improved since then, and in fact, the situation has worsened. For example, they close their submission with “[I]t is apparent that Indue is not concerned to engage with organisations that represent consumer interests, and thus we question the appropriateness of its involvement with the CDCT.” Why did they make this statement? Because, “In June 2016, Consumer Action wrote to the CEO of Indue seeking a dialogue about certain concerns. That letter attached correspondence sent to the Australian Bankers Association and the Customer Owned Banking Association (members of the latter are also the owners of Indue Ltd, i.e. certain credit unions and mutual banks). A response was received effectively dismissing any concerns and referring us to the Department of Social Services.” They also raised issues with the DSS upon hearing of the potential expansion of the card… and those concerns have not been addressed… but they do at least have an acknowledgement receipt!
The Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission have also written rather scathing submissions about the CDCT, and have also made submissions in the past, both at the inquiry for the previous Bill, and also in other reviews of the CDCT. They are both also rather enlightening and informative reads (which is the case for pretty much all of the submissions in general).
However, I want to draw attention to one final submission – which summarises a conversation which is contained in a submission that has yet to be released. This is a story that puts a human face on the issues that people who are placed on the card suffer, which supporters of the card claim is not the case. It’s probably best if I just include it in closing as an excerpt.
The National Council of Single Mothers and their Children (NCSMC) is keen to share a conversation that we had with a year 12 student who resided about 250 km outside of Alice Springs. The implementation of the CDC, meant that she could no longer purchase food and goods nearby her small community but needed to go to the additional cost and the time to travel to Alice Springs. This trek was commonly completed once per fortnight, but there were times when they needed to include a weekly visit. The CDC reduced her access to fresh food and it has resulted in local markets disappearing. It was during one of their shopping expeditions that she encountered humiliation at the hands of a supermarket chain. The groceries included a mouthwash. This item was put aside whilst the cashier, over a speaker, checked if this purchase was allowable because it contained alcohol.
NCSMC seeks that the Committee will read Anna’s story which is contained in the submission presented by the Council of Single Mothers and their Child (Victoria). It is hoped that Anna’s willingness to share her experience will influence the Committee.
Today it appears that the first batch of submissions for the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs have been publicly released.
What is the inquiry about? It’s basically a review of the proposed legislative amendment, and gives all the stakeholders a chance to make their positions heard. As it’s in regards to a legislative amendment only, there is no terms of reference for this inquiry – the submission is solely about the proposed amendment – and the impact that it will have if implemented. This particular amendment is rather simple, but also very far reaching. It’s probably easiest to reuse a picture I threw up on facebook over a month ago, which visually shows what the amendment does.
So as you can see… it is a pretty simple amendment . But it will have some far-reaching effects if it is passed, as there will no longer be an overall duration and ending to current and new ‘trials’. Nor will there be a cap on the number of trial sites or number of participants. The Minister for Social Services, Alan Tudge, justifies this as needed to extend and expand the trials… but wouldn’t he have simply amend the limits if that was truly the case? However, that’s not the focus of this post.
So, submissions for the Senate Inquiry closed last Friday (29th September), and yesterday 20 of the submissions were publicly released. As I have been following this saga from day I heard that my electorate had been proposed as a site, I lodged a submission myself, and have been waiting to see what the other submissions were. To make it easier to track what is happening with the submissions, I made a Google Docs spreadsheet so I could collate a list of submissions for and against the CDC. I added a third category, unclear, on reading one submission that was intending to make a more formal submission at the second public hearing. I’ve decided to make this spreadsheet public to make it so that others who don’t want to suffer and read through them all can get an idea as to what the submissions are about, and what the consensus is thus far. There is also a cache/copy of all the submissions as I download them and skim them… which anyone can access as a shared folder if they wish.
Thus far, what I am henceforth going to refer to the ‘score’ in the Alan Tudge & Andrew Forrest vs the People of Australia debate stands at 3 / 16 with one unclear, making the first drop of submissions clearly in our favour!! I hope to see this ratio stay somewhat similar as more submissions are released in the coming few days. Then of course there are the public hearings in Kalgoorlie on the 12th of Oct and Canberra on the 2nd of November. And unless an extension is needed, the report from the Inquiry on the 13th of November. I know there will be a dissenting report from the Greens… that is a certainly, but I’m also hoping to finally see the ALP take a position, and also have a dissenting report as well.
So, I know it has been absolute ages since I posted last, mainly due to life, illness or study getting the way. So, I thought it was time for an update, and what better way to update than to discuss my latest toys, or projects.
So, I have recently become involved in four kickstarter projects. One scored me a 3D printer, another was for a more stable ESP8266 wireless MCU, and the other two were for some ‘cheap’ SoC (System on a Chip) computer boards – one for $9, and the other for $29.
For this post, I’ll focus on the last one. So you’ve probably heard of the Raspberry Pi by now… these days, just about everyone has. It really is a great board… small, inexpensive, well documented, and is more than just a computer. With the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi, you can also dabble with some electronics, and make things like home automation projects. It is especially good when you would want the beefier processing power of a computer, but don’t want the size and power-hungriness of it. However, unless your needs are relatively undemanding, it won’t be replacing your desktop computer anytime soon… it’s not THAT powerful… but it is getting better with every revision.
So what’s so special with the $29 computer board I gottten (shown right) since the Raspberry Pi’s so great? Well, a couple of things. But to clear something up first, technically it was a $15 board, but I got the one with double the memory, and with the wifi module, hence $29. And in doing so, I have hinted at one of the advantages the Pine64 has over the Raspberry Pi – it has a a built-in wifi module. One of the things a lot of people get for the Raspberry Pi is a Wifi adapter, and in doing so, depending on which model you get, you loose 1 of 2 or 1 of 4 USB ports immediately. Not so bad with the 4 USB port models, but can be painful for the 2 port models.
Then you say “but most of the Raspberry Pis have an ethernet port”… so connecting to a network is easy if you have a ethernet cable nearby. That is true, but there is another catch… the ethernet and USB share the same chip (I’m not sure if this changed for the Raspberry Pi 3, but this was the case until at least then)… meaning if you had wanted to do something like have a raspberry pi share files over a network from a USB drive… then don’t hold your breath… not only was it slow… but the ethernet would shut down every now and then. The pine64 doesn’t have this issue as it has a separate ethernet control chip (as does the Cubietruck, which is the board I currently use as as network attached storage (NAS) drive).
Another advantage is hinted in the name. The pine64 has a 64bit processor, whereas the Raspberry Pi, and most other SoC boards have a 32bit processor. This is starting to change, as there are a few other boards starting to come out on the market now. However, the pine64 is one of the first, cheapest, and feature rich I have seen to date. Why does 64bit matter? Well, it only matters if you want to be able to proces a lot more data more quickly, or be more power efficient than it’s 32bit cousins when processing the same amount of data.
Just like the Raspberry Pi, the Pine64 has support for a directly connect LCD and camera, so you don’t loose those options if you want them. It has a Raspberry Pi compatible header (the 40 pinout), as well as it’s own Euler bus and an expansion header for power switches, LEDs and the serial console. It boots from a microSD card, so that makes switching operating systems as easy as swapping out the microSD card. If you need to be able to run it from a battery, there is even built-in support for that… just plug in a compatible batter, and move a jumper, and you’re set.
So, I’ve been singing praises about the Pine64, so what’s the catch? Well, the Raspberry Pi header isn’t 100% compatible, but so far, the variances are only minor once you’re know about them, and can be easily remedied. The gigabit ethernet (another big plus if you want to transfer a lot of data fast) appears to have issues with some setups – if this is software fixable is yet to be determined. Probably the biggest failing point of the Pine64 is the documentation, or the lack thereof. For instance… unlike other boards… the new user will probably get the board, and then go to the forum asking “where do I start?”. There is no “getting started” guide. There is no friendly walk-throughs on getting your new toy up and running. Not even a video tutorial to show you what all the different ports and sockets do. What you will find is a random collection of information scattered all throughout the forum, two wiki pages, and a site that backer created which will hopefully fill a lot of that gap up.
Now, since this was a kickstarter project, the thing that happens to nearly 90% of tech related kickstarters happens… they were way behind schedule. And providing timely updates wasn’t a strong point of this project, so there are several threads where people are understandably upset over why they don’t have their board, and hadn’t received any responses to emails. However, shipments are nearly done, so that phase is nearly over. People have their boards, and are starting to ask questions about how to get this and that working. This is unfortunately another problem arises… whilst some people on the forum are very helpful, some others just aren’t. They think they are, and they do have a lot of valuable experience to share, but also can give beginners completely wrong, conflicting information, or sometimes respond when they don’t know anything, but want to make it appear that they do. Unfortunately, this individual is a moderator, and when confronted, likes to wave that authority. So until the dust settles, and more people come on board, the forum is a bit of a train wreck waiting to happen.
To change things up a bit, I’ve done a voice recoding for this last entry. The player should be visible just below this text (after have a brief but futile (on my normal file sharing sites part – it is currently not in my good books) argument about whether it would actually share the audio!). There are also two documents – the first is a quasi transcript, and the second is the completed questionnaire for the end of Torts B.
Now that we are finally at the end of week 10, and the major assessment pieces have now all been submitted, this is a good time to reflect over the past few weeks. There is no denying that teamwork is not challenging, however I have to admit that my partner for this assessment has made this process very enjoyable as we were able to talk things through and come to a common understanding as to how to approach assessment and what the end result would look like. Thus negating the hardest part of this sort of assessment as right from the start we both knew what we wanted the final product to look like.
The first assessment piece was relatively easy as we decided that since it was really an overview or a summary of the second assessment that we would attack the second one, do the all the research and write the script and arguments, and then come back and write the first assessment piece. Meaning the hardest part of the first assessment piece was keeping it succinct yet still understandable.
The second assessment piece was the harder of the two due to the nature, mainly due to the fact that it was a recorded/oral presentation rather than a written assessment piece. And, unsurprisingly, it is easy to write three or four pages of material, and then find out that you can only say two pages of that material in the allotted time. However the approach we took to that was to simply to write arguments out in full and then start the process of culling material once we were sure we had all the material and arguments that we might want to use. Right from the start we used Google Docs which allowed both of us to work on the latest version of the assessment piece at any given time, and also work on the assessment simultaneously making it much easier to work on the assessment when we have a zoom session running at the same time so that we could talk about the material we were working on.
Upon practising and rehearsing the presentation, both of us watched the other presenter and then gave feedback as to how to improve the presentation and what’s elements to keep. For me the hardest aspect was to maintain a good balance between reading the script and still keeping eye contact with the camera (or the bench as it may be). That plus trying to tone down the Italian style hand gestures due to nervousness. 🙂 However that is to be expected since this is the first oral/video submission so far in the program, so hopefully I’ll get some useful feedback on how to improve and move forward. I had two video assessments this term… so that should be… interesting!
I did enjoy the peer review aspect of the second assessment item as it gave me a chance to see how another student had approach the assessment and how well their delivery of the assessment had gone. The challenge in writing the peer review was not knowing the reasoning or the end goal for the student to be in the law program, and trying to tailor the feedback to be beneficial to them rather than just generic feedback. For instance if someone was doing the law only to do in-house law, then the presentation skills may not be so important, instead the quality of the argument would be of importance to them. But then again that’s thinking outside the boundaries of the assessment which was simply to review the presentation and considered the coherency of the arguments, if they were factually correct, and the professionalism and the body language demonstrated in the presentation.
Group work is not a new thing for me, so I simply did what I normally do… try to keep in touch as much as possible, and do what work I can as early as possible so as to not hold the group up. My partner did the same, and it worked well, even considering we both went AWOL at different times during the period, and then resurfaced a week or even two weeks later. Keeping in touch by email and and using a service like Google Docs made this possible and allowed us to be a very effective team. Plus talking everything through first, and working out who was to do what 🙂
If we had more time, we probably would have left the assessment for a few days, and then worked on tightening the arguments and making it all more concise… as I’m sure we said way more than we needed to… and that there are a few bits that didn’t seem to fit properly, and probably became disjointed due to the major culling process, but we really didn’t have time to put it down and come back anew and do a second or more re-writes.
Just a quick post as an addendum to the last. The Zoom session this week with Anna, which very much appreciated considering the pain that she must be in… really helped in showing how all the different elements of Negligence fit together. The Prezi that Anna put together is great, and really works through all the different aspects of the negligence topic in depth, and helps you answer the question of ‘is this a negligent act that can be actioned?’. That plus the A4 flowchart that I spotted the other week are excellent. It would have been a bit confusing had I seen that back in week 1-2, but now that we’ve discussed most of the elements, it helps fit them all together.