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Thursday, 28 June 2012
Page: 4940

Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (22:51): I am not going to detain us for too much longer. We have been at this first amendment on the first sheet of the first bill for just under an hour now, but I have a couple of remarks that I want to address. My reason for spelling out the amount of time that we have dwelt there is that in all of that time, with well-meaning questions from across the chamber, the minister and his advisers have been unable to present the Senate with a single piece of evidence that income management works. I think that is extraordinary. If it is not here, and let us assume that if it was in the possession of the advisers who have come across from the minister's office it would already have been turned over to the Senate, I ask the minister to take on notice whether he can provide for us anything at all; not about the broad stuff—not about health care, child care, youth-care workers, police or well-meaning stuff dropped out of helicopters onto people's communities—just income management. If there is anything at all which you can provide us with which shows that income management is working and therefore should be consolidated, extended and entrenched, I would greatly appreciate it.

There is not a great deal of dignity in having control of your day-to-day finances micromanaged by Centrelink. I want senators to visualise, just for a second before this question is put, that you come in here in the morning and have in your pocket a little BasicsCard which controls exactly how much you get to spend on certain things and which is issued by some people in Bidyadanga, up on the north-west coast, whom you have never met. How humiliating and how weird would you find it? That is what we are effectively doing to communities scattered across the continent which most of us could not even name or find on maps. It is absolutely shameful. We have made the point repeatedly about evidence—whether this is evidence based policy or faith based policy or policy based on something else. What we are really after is some evidence that it works, and I do not feel that that is too much to ask.

I have a couple more quick quotes. Ms Cox from Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning said:

My conclusions were that the studies and statistics available showed no valid or reliable evidence of measurable benefits of income management to individuals or communities.

Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory made similar comments. They said:

It is disappointing that the government is seeking to expand the operation of income management without a clear evidence base that demonstrates its success in achieving its objective of protecting vulnerable women and children and encouraging socially responsible behaviours amongst welfare recipients.

I invite the minister to address these comments with provision of anything at all which could help the chamber make its mind up, but I disclose at this point that my mind is made up. If you had evidence, I presume you would have presented it by now. I commend the first amendment on sheet 7229 to the chamber.