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Community Affairs Legislation Committee

HASELDINE, Mrs Suzanne, Private capacity

PAV, Mr David Paul, Private capacity

PAV, Mr Peter, Private capacity

THISELTON, Mrs Susan, Private capacity


Evidence was taken via teleconference—

CHAIR: Welcome. Could you confirm that information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you?

Mrs Thiselton : Yes

Mr D Pav : Yes.

Mr P Pav : Yes.

Mrs Haseldine : I am not sure.

CHAIR: It would have been emailed to you, I am told.

Mrs Haseldine : Right. I have not accessed my emails for a couple of days, sorry.

CHAIR: It is just important to be aware of that information. Before we move to questions, would anyone like to make a short opening statement?

Mrs Haseldine : The short statement I have is that, as a community member, I am very concerned about what is happening in our community and the way things are being done without total community consultation.

CHAIR: Okay. Does anyone else have an opening statement?

Mrs Thiselton : As a concerned community member I am worried about the violation of human rights on a large scale within our community.

Mr D Pav : I am concerned about the open transparency and consultation. I am concerned about how people are going to manage under the proposed amendment. I am very concerned about human dignity, because under this amendment it is being attacked.

Mr P Pav : I am appalled at how everything has been clouded by a BasicsCard, and nobody knew the overextended powers that are coming in with this new card. To me, it has all been like a smokescreen. That is it.

CHAIR: We had earlier evidence in relation to a few Facebook sites. I want to put that to you, to start with, and get your response. We heard from the mayor and were told that there are a few Facebook sites that have been set up purporting to speak for the council, which, I understand, are not authorised by the council. There are questions as to who may have put those sites together. If anyone would like to respond, I am interested in whether these are sites that anyone appearing has had anything to do with.

Mr P Pav : Yes, that is me.

Mrs Haseldine : I do not even know what Facebook is properly, so it is not me.

CHAIR: Sorry, I heard Mr Pav saying something.

Mr P Pav : That is correct, yes. I put them up.

CHAIR: You put them up?

Mr P Pav : I am quite entitled to do so.

CHAIR: The mayor was concerned that it was purporting to be the council. You are not speaking for the council. Is it a bit misleading for people who might by checking that site and thinking that the council has a view, which obviously it does not?

Mr P Pav : No more misleading than the council saying that it consulted people when it did not.

CHAIR: We will get to the consultation, but it does undermine your credibility, a little bit, as a witness when you are putting up Facebook sites that claim to be speaking for a council that has not authorised them.

Mr P Pav : Perhaps they are not actually to mislead, perhaps they were to poke the council in the eye and say there are more people than just them who live here.

CHAIR: I would suggest there might be better ways of doing that than impersonating the council on Facebook.

Mrs Thiselton : I understood that the site was more put up as a place for people to air their concerns, rather than say it was the council.

CHAIR: One of the sites says it is the district council of Ceduna.

Mrs Thiselton : I have not seen it; I have not—

Mr P Pav : I might interject there. The site actually says this accounts for Ceduna, but what does it say on the site?

CHAIR: I have only seen a screen shot. You can tell me; you set it up.

Mr P Pav : It says 'talk to' the district council of Ceduna, doesn't it?

CHAIR: That is not the picture I saw. I will just try and bring it up. It appears to be purporting to be the district council of Ceduna.

Mr P Pav : Does it? You must have got the other one. That is an in-house joke.

CHAIR: Sorry, I did not get the in-house joke.

Mr P Pav : The people who know the page do.

Mrs Thiselton : Anyway, can we go on?

Senator SIEWERT: Chair, I ask that we go on but that they look at the comments and do the normal adverse-comments thing.

CHAIR: There have been critical comments made, and I am not surprised. You are certainly free to look at the transcript and can respond to that if you would like to. There are procedures for doing that, if you would like to.

Senator SIEWERT: This is a question to all of you. What level of consultation were you involved in for the debit card?

Mrs Haseldine : I am an Aboriginal from the Ceduna area, and I had no level of consultation.

Senator SIEWERT: Are you a member of any organisation that could have been consulted, or was consulted?

Mrs Haseldine : Not to my knowledge am I a member of any organisation that signed off on it and did not consult me. But as an ordinary Aboriginal person living in Ceduna I have had no consultation with anybody.

Senator SIEWERT: Did you know that there were any consultations going on?

Mrs Haseldine : No. I did not see anything advertised. Maybe that is because I am not on Facebook or email or things like that, but I did not know.

Senator SIEWERT: When was the first time you heard that Ceduna was being considered as a trial site?

Mrs Haseldine : Not that long ago. A couple of weeks ago maybe, at the most.

Senator SIEWERT: So you only found out about it after the public announcement?

Mrs Haseldine : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: What about the others?

Mrs Thiselton : I did not hear anything about it until we heard about it through the media.

Mr D Pav : I did not hear anything about it until the formal announcement that it was a done deal. There was no consultation with me. Since that media announcement I have been in email correspondence with the mayor, and he has told me that the council is not required to consult on these matters. I do not know how I was supposed to be kept informed; I do not know how I was supposed to object; I do not know how I was supposed to make any submissions or have any input into anything, if I am being told by my mayor that the council is not required to consult on these matters.

Mr P Pav : I was always under the impression that it was the BasicsCard that was coming in. That is why I mentioned it all being clouded by it. This new card has further and greater powers than I ever expected.

Senator SIEWERT: So you had heard the debit card was coming, or was that because there has been broader discussions in South Australia about the extension of income management and the BasicsCard beyond Playford and to the APY Lands et cetera?

Mr P Pav : The first time we heard of the trial of this card that is supposed to be trialled here was when it was announced that it had been signed off on.

Senator SIEWERT: For those of you who get an income support payment, was there any notification or contact from the Department of Human Services or Centrelink?

Mr D Pav : Not to me. Not until after the event. We received a flyer saying an income trial was going to be introduced here next year. We got no notification from Centrelink or any other government agency of a proposed trial or anything like that, or any way to make a submission or bring up objections or even suggestions. There was no chance for any input whatsoever.

Mrs Haseldine : I listened to the word of mouth going around town, and then I went into Centrelink itself to find out more about it. But, as to being notified about anything—no.

Senator SIEWERT: What did Centrelink say when you spoke to them?

Mrs Haseldine : They just said that this is what is happening with all Centrelink recipients except for the old-age pensioners, and it is pretty well a done deal. But, as far as I am concerned, it is not a done deal, and it is very, very wrong for a few people to be able to take the law into their own hands, the human rights law into their own hands, and say, 'You are going to do it,' because it me that sounds like dictatorship.

Senator SIEWERT: This morning we were speaking about the fact that this is going to be different to income management. It is going to be a bit more like the Cape York proposal, which had the family commission. The legislation talks about a community body under the legislation being designated as the body that can make decisions around how much of your income support could be on the debit card. At the moment it is 80 per cent. That is the figure that everyone—

Mrs Thiselton : But you will not be able to meet with that body until after it has started. I have read through the memorandum of understanding, and it said that the body is the same people who have signed off on it and that they have to 'adhere to the attached guidelines'. Well, I could not find any guidelines. Really, people should not have to go to a committee of people and tell them their financial situation. That is private. There are many, many people on all sorts of benefits that this is going to affect. If you are a disabled person or a carer or a foster carer—or to give children school money. There are so many things that it is going to interfere with. And then we have to wait until they are ready to hear you, if you want to ask—plead—for more of a percentage of your money to be given to you in cash.

Senator SIEWERT: I just want to go back to the comment that you made that it was in the MOU because I just asked the mayor about that, and he said that there had not been a decision.

Mrs Thiselton : In paragraph 4.2, it says that the person is adhering to the committee's expectations and then, in brackets, 'as specified in the guidelines'. Where are the guidelines?

Senator SIEWERT: We have not seen the MOU, so we are obviously going to have to look at the MOU to try to work out if we are talking about the same thing or whether we are talking at cross-purposes. It was our understanding—

Mrs Thiselton : A community panel.

Senator SIEWERT: You are saying that the community panel is the body that has already signed off on this whole process?

Mrs Thiselton : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: That is your understanding?

Mrs Thiselton : To my understanding, yes.

Mrs Haseldine : To my understanding, that community panel is just a few people from various organisations. Where are the ordinary people that this is going to affect?

Mr D Pav : The people who have signed off on that have nothing to lose at all. In my situation, I am a mortgage holder; I just about own my own home; and I am being told by somebody else that, if I need to change anything or whatever, I basically have to go and beg to change my finances around so that I can afford to manage them in a way that I need to. I have chronic illnesses and things like that. I do not know how to put it. My self-worth is already down, let alone having to go and beg for some variances to money that I am already entitled to.

I have managed my finances well over the years. I worked up until the last three or four years—it was probably four years ago, I think, when I finished work. Now I am going to be hamstrung. The tools that I use to teach my kids, which are pocket money—if they do exceptionally well at school, I might give them an extra $20 bonus for their pocket money for getting an A on their end-of-year report—and all these things are being taken away from me. We managed perfectly well—

Mrs Haseldine : You might buy furniture from a garage sale. Most poor people buy second-hand furniture. That is just another example.

Mr D Pav : To me, this whole thing has been written up by people who have nothing to lose and who are out of touch. If you earn $100,000 a year or more, you have no idea what it is like to be on $20,000 or $30,000 a year and how people make ends meet.

Senator SIEWERT: I wanted to go back to the issues around consultation and I think, Mr Pav, it was you who just said that the people are making these decisions. I sort of touched on it, I think, with my questions with Mrs Haseldine. What the mayor and Mr Redford said in their presentation before you is that there has been a lot of consultation, that Parliamentary Secretary Tudge has done a lot of consultation and we have spoken to a lot of organisations. They are going to send us a list of all the organisations, but it sounded like they were talking about nearly 100.

Mrs Haseldine : You are speaking to the few people out of an organisation, you are not speaking to the people, the community. You are just talking to a few people that it would never affect anyway unless they got awfully sick and had to go on a Centrelink payment.

Senator SIEWERT: This is what I wanted to go to. If you are speaking to an organisation, are you aware of what processes those organisations have undertaken to consult their members or the people they are speaking on behalf of?

Mrs Haseldine : The answer to that is no.

Senator SIEWERT: No, you are not aware of it?

Mrs Haseldine : No, I am not aware of any of it.

Senator SIEWERT: Okay. Is anybody else aware?

Mrs Haseldine : No.

Mr D Pav : I am not aware of anything, but I am also not of Indigenous heritage, nor do I identify with it. Obviously those organisations are not going to consult with me and my mayor has not consulted with me. Where was my representation?

Senator SIEWERT: Mr Pav, the point there is that the card is applying to everybody in the categories—

Mrs Haseldine : Of working age.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, working age payments—

Mrs Haseldine : Everyone that is of working age.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. So you would think that the consultation—and we have not seen the list—would be broader than just Aboriginal organisations?

Mr D Pav : Of course. One would hope so, but I do not know if it has been.

Senator SIEWERT: Okay.

Mrs Haseldine : Yes, I would say it should have been.

Senator SIEWERT: I have heard what you have said about your not knowing about it until it was announced. Have you subsequently found out whether those organisations have consulted? Mrs Thiselton, also have you? I am asking everyone.

Mrs Thiselton : Well, we have been speaking to people around the town and the area since this was announced and nobody knows of any consultation. So it is only through word of mouth that we have found out. There are quite a lot of people on benefits out here and all of them say the same thing, that they were not consulted.

Senator SIEWERT: The mayor just said that he thinks about 95 per cent of the community is supportive.

Mrs Thiselton : I disagree with that.

Mrs Haseldine : I disagree with it too.

Mr D Pav : And I would disagree with it.

Senator SIEWERT: On what basis would you disagree with it?

Mrs Haseldine : In speaking to people down the street, there are a lot of non-Aboriginal people who do not realise that, if they are on Newstart, or a carer, or a disability pensioner, they are targeted as well. They think it is just an Aboriginal thing. They are finding out now that they are targeted as well.

Mrs Thiselton : With the different people I have spoken to—whether they are gen Ys or on benefits—the majority of them think that it is just a continuation of what has been happening with the BasicsCard, which is targeted and voluntary. They could just make that better and it would work, but they want carte blanche. The thing is, the majority of the people think that it is still going to be the old way. They do not realise that it is going to cover everybody. That is the impression that I have. There have been no notices in the paper. There was a meeting a week or so or ago but that was for business people only, and that is the only meeting that I have ever heard of.

Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, I am trying to write it down. What do you mean 'there was a meeting with business people?

Mrs Haseldine : To tell them how it was going to be set up.

Senator SIEWERT: Was it not open to members of the public?

Mrs Haseldine : I am not sure, because it is only by word of mouth that I found out about it.

Senator SIEWERT: We can ask—

Senator MOORE: We asked Mr Suter what their consultation process was.

Senator SIEWERT: Mr Suter is coming back with the details of the consultation process. So if it is not clear from that, we will ask for further details. Sorry; I am taking up a lot of time.

CHAIR: We have another five minutes.

Mrs Haseldine : We only have half an hour here. With our half an hour, we want to get it through to you that we are not happy. We have not been consulted.

Mrs Thiselton : And we are worried about the repercussions with the crime that is going to happen in the town, which has not been mentioned up until now. If people are going through the DTs, they are going to want money. They are going to be assaulting people to get money, assaulting the elders to get their money. All sorts of rorts can be done by swapping groceries for cash to buy whatever they want. There will be more crime. We already have a problem with prostitution out here. There will be more of that. I am only guessing this but, to me, it looks obvious: there is already begging for cash in the town anyway, and it is going to make that worse.

Mrs Haseldine : In my opinion, this card is targeted at maybe 30 Aboriginal people who we know are a problem. But we also know that this card is not going to fix that problem; it is just going to make it so that they get less of their money anyway, because they will pay extra if there is a sly grog run. They will be paying extra for the alcohol. Why target the whole lot of us just to try to control a few?

Mr D Pav : Yes, we are probably concerned more about the shotgun or blunderbuss approach to dealing with the problem rather than a surgical attack on the problem. There are 40 to 100 people who are considered as hard-core drinkers and problematic. The mayor has been on record countless times saying that. Why are we attacking the problem with a shotgun rather than targeting those people who are at risk and are the problem?

Mrs Thiselton : And we badly need a rehabilitation centre out here.

Senator SIEWERT: You have a sobering up centre.

Mrs Thiselton : Yes, but that is only for a few hours and then they go back out.

Senator SIEWERT: You do not yet have the rehab centre?

Mrs Thiselton : We have never been promised one. We have been asking for one for a long time.

Mr D Pav : Outside of town, preferably.

Mrs Thiselton : Yes.

Mr D Pav : On a property out of town.

Mrs Thiselton : Yes, so they cannot be tempted.

Mrs Haseldine : Yes. I am not worried about the people themselves; I am worried about the temptation that they will see somebody with a beer or something and they will be tempted to jump the fence and go and join them. It is the temptation that I am worried about. That is why I suggest out of town.

Mr D Pav : We have had a long-term problem, as you are all aware, in the town with alcohol or whatever else. I do not deny that and I am the first one to admit it. The issue is that we have had a lot of initiatives to try to deal with it. We had a dry area introduced, and that was considered as taking away people's rights. Then we had ID detect, where they had to prove identification and had to hand over identification which was scanned in the hotel—

Mrs Haseldine : Which in a way is like privacy theft.

Mr D Pav : Then we had limits on the amount of alcohol we can take away. All the time, for these 100 people, the whole town has been losing their rights and their civil liberties—for 100 people for the last 20-odd years.

Mrs Haseldine : I would like to see the 100 people because I do not think that number is correct. I think it is less than that.

Mrs Thiselton : Allan Suter has been quoted as saying it is 20 to 30 people. That is more like the number.

Mrs Haseldine : I would agree with that.

CHAIR: We have run out of time. Thank you to each of our witnesses for their evidence.

Mrs Thiselton : Can I ask you something please? We are preparing a petition to be signed around the town and I would like to know who we address it to.

Senator MOORE: If you go on to the parliamentary website there is a format there for how petitions can be drawn up and to whom they can be sent.

Mrs Thiselton : Okay; thank you very much.

Mrs Haseldine : Will we hear from the committee again? Or is this the end of our consultation?

CHAIR: No, we will not be bringing witnesses back, but you can certainly send other things in writing to the committee, if you would like to.

Mrs Thiselton : Sue and I have written a submission, which we will be posting off today.

CHAIR: Okay, we look forward to receiving that.