Batch 2 of submissions
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.