Many politicians have no idea what it is like to be dependent on welfare.
They have no understanding of what it’s like to do it tough - to be forced, through no fault of their own, to scrimp, save and struggle - just to get through to the next payday.
So that’s why I approached the Cashless, Healthy Welfare Card very cautiously. The potential for harmful unintended consequences is great – if the roll-out of this card is not managed well.
However, after visiting a trial site at Ceduna in SA twice now, and listening to many different views from the community – I believe that under the right conditions – the Cashless, Healthy Welfare Card would work anywhere in Australia, including Tasmania.
I hope both the Liberal State and Federal Governments will take on board my ideas (which are really from the community) – because we’ll be able to take something from being good – to great.
Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore with Senator Lambie and the Ceduna Hospital Sober up unit
5 Conditions for Lambie’s - 100% support of the Cashless, Healthy Welfare Card
1. Introduce laws which give parents the right to detox their children if they become hooked on ice and other drugs. We also must back up law changes with more resourced / funded rehab facilities and medical professionals.
• This is early intervention at its best - and treats drug addiction as a medical condition rather than a criminal matter. We have involuntary mental health orders; the same medical process, moral and legal principles which apply to serious mental health breakdowns, also can - and must apply to ICE drug addiction.
2. Establish a special economic zone (zero payroll tax) which encourages our existing, successful Tasmanian employers to create more jobs in the areas covered by the Cashless, Healthy Welfare Card.
• Payroll tax is a hand-break on successful businesses employing more workers and becoming more successful. Government help and intervention for business in the form of payroll tax exemptions already exists in an ad hoc basis for some favoured Tasmanian Businesses.
• The Tasmanian State Government also collects about $400M annually in payroll tax – while releasing back to the economy about $400M to select businesses in state jobs package.
• Stop the costly bureaucratic merry-go-round! Make Tasmania the first state in Australia to become a payroll tax free zone – step back and let private industry do its thing.
• The ensuing wave of positive national and international publicity created by Tasmania becoming a special economic zone, payroll tax free - with a special focus on trade apprenticeships and traineeships for our young people – alone would be worth a boost of $400M a year to our state’s economy.
3. Reform and Revolutionise TAFE - so that trade apprenticeships and traineeships are awarded and taught to young Tasmanians, who are not yet employed.
• TAFE has been run into the ground, while the private jobs system has rorted billions of dollars of public funds. Under the current system young people must find employment and apprenticeships before TAFE will accept them.
• Create a new system of TAFE where a certain number of Apprenticeships and Traineeships in critical areas – each year are offered and guaranteed to those who want to learn those skills, regardless of employment status.
• This historic boost in TAFE teaching resources and learning opportunities should be complimented by a doubling or tripling of Trade Apprenticeships and Traineeships in our Australian Defence Forces and Scholarships at UTAS.
• Note Contemporary Defence Apprentice numbers are difficult to establish. Parliamentary Library Research shows that:
The Army Apprentices School operated from 1948 to 1995. In this period 9,412 people enlisted and 7,515 apprentices graduated.
The Royal Australian Air Force also ran an apprenticeship scheme from 1948 to 1993. By the time the scheme concluded, 6,151 tradesmen and technical specialists had graduated into the RAAF.
The Royal Australian Navy operated the RAN Apprentice Training Establishment (RANATE) from 1956 to 1993 and trained apprentices in a number of trades. These trades were ETC & Radio Fitter Mechanic, ATC (Electronic Communications), ETS Radio Fitter Mechanic, ETP Electrical Fitter Mechanic, ETW Electrical Fitter Mechanic, MTP Fitter and Turner, MTH Boilermaker/Welder, ATA Aircraft Maintenance, Engineer (Mechanical), ATWL Aircraft Maintenance and Engineer (Electronics).
However, the Number of Army Apprenticeships expected to finish training in 2016 will be 302 according to Defence advisors. This year under training, the total number of Army Apprentices is 904.
- Australian Army Apprentices Association, ‘Important dates’, Australian Army Apprentices Association website, accessed 4 February 2015.
- Australian Army Apprentices Association, ‘Army Apprentices fast stats’, Australian Army Apprentices Association website, accessed 4 February 2015.
- RAAF Airpower Development Centre, ‘First intake of apprentices marched in’, accessed 6 February 2015.
- 4. R Ray, ‘Answer to Question upon notice: Defence: Trade and Training Accreditation’, [Questioner: J Newman], Senate, 19 June 1995, accessed 6 February 2015.
4. Federal Government waives $200M of Tasmanian state Public Housing Debt.
• Most Tasmanians will be shocked to learn that approximately half or $17M of Tasmania’s public housing budget is paid back to the Commonwealth Government to service a debt of $200M. There is a very long public housing waiting list (3700 people) and the State Government is way behind on its housing maintenance.
• It’s now time to waive our public housing debt - so that the Tasmanian battlers and our homeless have some hope of securing public housing. The Commonwealth Government forgave this historic debt in South Australia so they can do it for Tasmania.
• The Commonwealth Government has ripped off Tasmania for decades. They’ve had a foot on our state’s economic throat with unfair RET fees, Bass Strait Freight and Passenger charges for years. We’ve paid the penalty with Australia’s highest unemployment and worst indicators of social disadvantage.
• Before the Cashless, Healthy Welfare card is introduced, Canberra must give back to the Tasmanian people in a meaningful way that will do some immediate good for poor people who struggle to put a roof over their families’ heads.
5. A $200k Fast Cat Feasibility Study
• A $200K Fast Cat Feasibility Study is a crucial first step in a journey, which could create a new sea-link between Northern Tasmania - Victoria and thousands of new jobs and a billion dollar boost for our economy.
• Labor Leader Bill Shorten has recognized the importance of exploring this new sea-link option and has committed in writing to funding a $200K Fast Cat Feasibility Study.
• A modern fleet of super fast, multi-hulled passenger and freight vessels (built in Tasmania by Incat) which are able to reduce the crossing of Bass Strait from 12hrs to less that 5hrs – would immediately weld Victoria’s prosperous and fast growing economy to that of Tasmania’s.
• Every primary wealth creating industry in Tasmania (Mining, Manufacturing, Farming and Tourism) would benefit, therefore the conditions for those people stuck on welfare to find full-time employment would be created.
Ceduna Mayor Suter & council members
Ceduna Trip Lessons and Observations
The majority of the people I spoke with in Ceduna support the Cashless, Healthy Welfare Card. That’s not to say, its roll-out is not without its challenges, however a number of important facts spoke the loudest to me:
Some of the Positives
• The Ceduna Hospital has seen a 20% reduction in presentations since the card has been introduced. Patients presenting to A & E are less aggressive.
• Medical professionals in charge believe the card has made a positive difference.
• Local police based in Yalata (community outside of Ceduna) have noticed a reduction in cash and alcohol coming into the community, and a perceived reduction in violence as a result; there has been a considerable drop in sexual assaults and offences in the two months following the beginning of the trial. This is very early data, but if this continues, then it will be a huge breakthrough.2
• There is strong evidence of more food being purchased and consumed. For example, there is a doubling of the number of food-trucks now going to the small town of Oak Valley. Local Ceduna businesses report an increase in trade, including an increase in spending on food items in the local supermarket. Participants in Ceduna spent $367,964 in July 2016 and $315,927 in August 2016 on groceries. This compares with a normal monthly turnover of groceries of about $170,000 per month. The Yalata-Ceduna bus driver has reported that he has had to buy a trailer for his bus because more people are bringing food supplies back to Yalata.
• The Ceduna Mayor, Allen Sutter, reports that the town is the quietest it has been in a long time saying that "I am delighted at the improvements in the lives of many people - both Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal as a consequence of the start of this trial. It is easily the best initiative that we have seen.... It is fair to say that some lives have been improved greatly because of it."
• The Ceduna Koonibba Aboriginal Corporation has reported that since the rollout of the card, more children are walking around in cleaner, newer clothes, and while parties still occur at night, they are finishing earlier.
• The Ceduna Koonibba Aboriginal Corporation has also reported about a quarter of trial participants have utilized the opportunity to create budgets for their personal finances as a result of our financial counsellors on the ground in both trial communities.
• Local pub revenue dropped by 30% in the first month.
• Pokies revenue from the only gaming venue in the Ceduna region has dropped by 30 percent. This is an extraordinary figure given that only one in five in the region have the card.
• Not as many complaints about pokie players “hogging the machine.”
• Ceduna Op Shop has had a huge increase in business and they received a subsidy to get eftpos machines in their store.
Senator Lambie with Ceduna local at Town Camp
Some of the Challenges
• There has been a surge in drug and grog running. There has been a big effort for some to find a way to get around the alcohol rules.
• Binge drinking is still a problem. Large cash payouts from tax returns and superannuation payouts, shared by community, have allowed the purchase of large quantities of alcohol.
• The police are aware of who and where the “Grog Runners” are, but at the moment the State laws do not allow Police to prosecute or charge “Grog Runners”.
• State laws are due to change in the future, which will place a limit on the amount of alcohol for personal use. It gives the police a legal means to control “Grog Running”.
• Ice is still an issue. It is cheap and at $10 a hit - can satisfy an addiction for 2 days.
• Known drug dealers are only carrying enough for personal use so as to avoid prosecution as a dealer.
• Jobs are not readily available – when the community agreed to be a trial town there was meant to be an action plan for industry to grow so having more jobs available - this has not as yet happened.
• Is the card owned and operated by a foreign company – and if so why?
• Cardholders have found it difficult to access card balances. These totals can be accessed via mobile phone and a promise has been made that all ATM’s will be able to give a balance.
Senator Lambie with Koonibba Aboriginal Community Council CEO Corey McLennan
Other Observations from Ceduna
• Card users can apply through the Ceduna Community Committee for cash and credit percentages to be modified.
• The card starts at 80% credit - 20% cash setting. Out of the 700 people using the card only 162 have chosen to apply for a variation on that percentage.
• I was told that it is very rare to get a 50/50% breakdown. The highest amount of cash percentage made available by the Ceduna Community Card Committee is 40%.
• Aged pensioners are not required to use the card.
• Card users who want to vary their credit percentage apply through the Ceduna Committee via a form - which asks specific questions in relation to card user’s criminal record and drug and alcohol usage.
• School services can be paid with the card – school lunches and trip fees.
• All bills can be paid using the card. If the cardholder has an upcoming expense which needs cash, they can apply for $200 to be transferred to your card for a cash payment.
• Power outage was a problem but not only for those on the card but for the whole community – businesses that had generators kept trading however once the Telstra service dropped out all businesses had to close.
• Local Council has plans to establish a fish processing plant which will generate employment and training opportunities
• The Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation report that training which doesn’t lead to a job is pointless - and there is a need to focus on Indigenous tourism and other work opportunities.
• The Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation’s Youth Hub is working to engage with Indigenous youth. The staff want to educate Indigenous young people about the dangers of alcohol and drugs.
• Ceduna’s Aboriginal Corporation has Community Officers who are a prominent and vital part of day-to-day life in the community.
Senator Lambie at Koonibba Community Aboriginal Corporation
Street Beat is a initiative based on an American Program - The Ceduna Council has invested $150,000 into this program which gives immediate and one-on-one support to those in need.
- The need can be anything - be it accommodation, sober up unit, water, health and help with court issues - perfect opportunity for community to engage and support each other. This service is manned by volunteers sourced from local businesses and organizations. The volunteers are organized through a roster.
Dept. Social Services – have been very supportive. They’ve found solutions for faults in the program. Most issues were solved within 24 – 48 hours. They source Government funding for Indigenous programs that have been “lost in bureaucracy.”
• Walking around the business district there was at least three jobs advertised on windows. Most, if not all of the staff in the stores that we went into were non-Indigenous.
•Koonibba Community is made up of approximately 250 people. They have a primary school that shows high attendance rates. The school provides breakfast and lunch for the kids. It means that the students are physically better prepared to learn and participate in school activities.
• There’s no store in the Koonibba Community. People still need to go into town for supplies.
• The community normally police themselves. If someone is drunk or drug affected and causes trouble, family members or elders intervene and sort it out.
• Opens 9 – 5 each day. They will extend opening hours in next few weeks to include Saturdays and will be open until 8pm once daylight savings starts.
• The clients are 98% Indigenous but non-Indigenous clients are welcome and are included in all activities. The ages for the Hub ranges from 18 – 25 years
• The youth hub has only been funded on a twelve month basis. It has been given extended funding however, the dollars for this period has been reduced.
• The hub is a safe space for young people. Staff take them on group activities where they teach leadership skills, so as they can help others and create better futures for themselves.
Senator Lambie at Ceduna Youth Hub
Healthy Welfare Card Closing
The Cashless, Healthy Welfare Card will create safer, happier and more productive non-Indigenous and Indigenous communities – if the Government truly listens and works with those communities during the card’s rollout.
There are many challenges to overcome as the card is put in place. Some of which I’ve highlighted in this report. The first is for Governments to create the right economic and bureaucratic conditions – so that existing private business can grow and create more jobs.
That’s why the Government must also embrace the concept of attaching special economic zone status to those communities which agree to the card’s roll out. The creations of zero payroll tax zones and other financial incentives from Government for private industry is vital for the success of this card.
In communities covered by the Cashless, Healthy Welfare Card, young people in particular, who are stuck on welfare – must have the opportunity to further their education or undertake meaningful training so that they can experience the pride and excitement of earning that first pay check.
The Federal and State Government can introduce more University scholarships, TAFE Training , more trade apprenticeships through their education and defence departments – in order to help young Australians become skilled and employed full-time.
These young Australians, mainly from regional and rural areas, should be able to enjoy the same bright futures that their city cousins experience – free from the chains created by welfare dependency.
And importantly, parents along with family doctors must be given the right to use early medical intervention – and involuntarily detox their children who become Ice addicted.