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Michele Madigan 5-2-10

Michele Madigan - 5 February 2010

Dear All,

Sadly I need to make a response to this email from ..., by urging the opposite.

I would have to make the counter plea to people on the email list - Please don't allow this legislation to pass in its present form.

I don't know how familiar people on the email list are with the Bill itself. Unfortunately it has some very disturbing elements.

* I have to point out that simply nullifying the Racial Discrimination Act- for example by extending blanket Income Management to non Indigenous people as the Bill intends, is not a justification for then being able to reinstate such an Act. It seems surely that discrimination is merely extended to become also class discrimination Of course with the NT as the first declared 'area of disadvantage' there will be far more Aboriginal people affected by the legislation as well as the original 16000 under the 73 'prescribed areas' of the NT Intervention.

* the Government declares that there were 100s of consultations carried out re the NT Intervention - consutations which having been held then allows the Racial Discrimination Act to be reinstated while measures which are discriminatory (otherwise why have to suspend the RDA in the first place?) be kept on. 'Special measures'.

* Unfortunately a reading even of the government's own reports of the 5 combined meetings at Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and one other show that there were many dissenting voices, problems and complaints voiced And once again apparently a process just gone through

*Unfortunately there is no indication in...flyer of serious underpinnings and implications of the present proposed legislation that the Bill gives unfettered powers to the Minister

To quote

'The Minister may by legislative instrument, determine that:
(a) a specified State; or
(b) a specified Territory; or
(c) a specified area;
is a declared income management area for the purposes of this Part

This of course means that

firstly the Minister may simply declare any area/State/Territory an 'area of disadvantage'
and then (with the exclusion apparently of Aged Pension and some disability benefits) -
all others on Social Security Entitlements such as youth allowance, newstart, special benefit, pension PP (single) or benefit PP (partnered) automatically come under a blanket Income Quarantine with all the restrictions this will bring into their lives.

Allowed only to shop at certain shops which are fitted with BasicsCard facilities - so not able to go for example to second hand charity shops for clothing; fish and chips shops (a side issue of how small businesses are affected)

Extreme difficulties for people in remote areas in travelling to Centrelink facilities to make appointments, then travel in to keep appointments, then to actually shop. The occasional technology failures leading to real deprivation in remote regions

Difficulties with paying bills - phone, fines etc with the non discretionary funds not enough available Difficulties with getting to funerals, with Aboriginal people keeping up important cultural obligations. Separate lines in shops in busy areas as basicscard apparently takes longer to process
Put simply they are no longer really in charge of their own lives. (Voluntary management eg Centrepay is a completely different thing)

Exemptions are possible but bound by so many clauses so in practice would be difficult cf section 123UGC

The extraordinary wastage of money on bureaucratic management - last budget $7000 to income manage an average income of $11000. Why not put instead to useful, needed services - to protect and help women and children as is often cited as a priority

Even if the Bill is passed Aboriginal Aged pensioners in the NT prescribed communities which the Government is declaring to be trying to protect, the Gov admits to their protestations by allowing them to come off Income management voluntarily - however not for another 12 months.

Ask ourselves perhaps as a congregation how we would fare if this legislation applied to us. There is only a certain amount single people without dependants need to eat or for clothes and most don't pay rent. Yet the quarantined amount - 50% cannot be accessed if not used for these stipulated needs.

These are practical things but finally - the principle - is this the Australia we want? This Bill on top of the NT Intervention is making serious structual change in the lives of poor and disadvantaged Australians including the First Australians.There is so much one could say - communities like Pilawuk's in the NT who are so demoralised...

Why a Bill which simply negates democratic principles further.

This is a serious even watershed in our country's legislation. In conscience I cannot urge anyone to vote for this Bill.

yours sincerely

Michele Madigan


Reproduced with the kind permission of Michele Madigan.