Compulsory income management of disadvantaged welfare recipients was slammed by speakers at a forum at the Bankstown Arts Centre on April 11.
The forum, organised by the Say No to Government Income Management: Not in Bankstown, Not Anywhere campaign coalition, attracted about 40 people to hear representatives from unions and Aboriginal, migrant and youth groups call for a campaign to stop the extension of income management from July 1 this year.
Income management “disempowers people”, John Dowd QC, from the Community Restorative Centre, told the audience. He condemned the federal government’s plan to extend compulsory income management to newly released prisoners from the beginning of July.
Income management began as part of the Northern Territory intervention affecting Aboriginal communities, involving the quarantining of part of Centrelink social security payments onto a Basics Card, available only for food and other essentials at selected shops. Income management has caused serious problems for Aboriginal people, limiting their independence and ability to control their own lives.
Income management was extended to selected “trial sites” and categories within the general population, including at Bankstown, over the past few years. The NSW Public Service Association imposed work bans on the implementation of income management in Bankstown from July last year.
As a result of this, and opposition to the income management process around the country, few Centrelink clients have so far been placed on compulsory income management, the forum was told.
The NSW ALP conference in July last year also called on the federal Labor government to “halt the imposition of compulsory income management in Bankstown or in any community”.
Eamon Waterford from Youth Action opposed the planned extension of compulsory income management to another group, youth affected by homelessness. “Income management doesn't work, does not produce good outcomes for the people involved, and is very expensive,” he told the forum.
Paddy Gibson from the Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney explained that the NT intervention and associated income management had “rebuilt the old Aboriginal Protection Board”, to maintain paternalism and control over Aboriginal communities.
Lou Bacchiella from the Migrant Resource Centre said that income management “has done nothing to solve the real problems of migrants and refugees. It takes away basic rights, and makes no economic sense.”
The forum ended with a call to step up the campaign to oppose income management and its extension.