NSW Labor condemns federal party policy on income management

The annual NSW state Labor conference, staged at Town Hall in Sydney.

IN A SIGN that the political cracks are starting to appear, the NSW Labor Party’s annual state conference has passed a resolution calling on federal Labor to abandon compulsory income management across the nation, and instead direct funding to boost social services and job creation.

The NSW branch of the Australian Labor Party is holding is annual state conference at the Town Hall in Sydney.

The move comes just weeks after the Gillard government, with the support of the federal Opposition, passed legislation which will force people living in ‘trial communities’ around the nation to have their government benefits compulsorily managed.

Under the scheme, which was launched by the Howard government in 2007 as part of the Northern Territory intervention, people deemed ‘at risk’ by social services have half of their welfare entitlements quarantined.

The money can only be spent on goods the government considers essential, such as food and clothing.

Purchases on items like tobacco, alcohol and gambling are forbidden.

The ‘trial’ is being conducted in Playford (SA), Shepparton (VIC), Bankstown (NSW), Rockhampton (QLD) and Logan (QLD). Income management in these areas began on July 1.

The Gillard government has been widely accused of rolling out the scheme in select communities to hose down international condemnation – including from the United Nations – over the Northern Territory intervention, which specifically targeted Aboriginal people, and thus breached the Racial Discrimination Act.

The government’s defence has been that the program is no longer racially discriminatory, because it’s being run in white communities as well.

The motion, passed at the conference a short time ago, called on the Gillard government to repeal the imposition of compulsory income management in favour of a voluntary scheme. It also called for people already caught up in “the system” in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory” to be allowed to “exit compulsory income management”.

“Conference calls on the Federal Government to halt the imposition of compulsory income management in Bankstown or in any community. Conference calls for a revision of the ‘Stronger Futures’ legislation and repeal of current provisions in the Social Security Act that facilitate income management.

“Conference calls for the redirection of all funds earmarked for administering compulsory income management into programs that will provide real and much needed support for people in the community that are vulnerable or struggling, including increased funding for social services and job creation.

“Conference calls for the right to immediately exit compulsory income management to be granted to all people in the NT, WA and Queensland already on the system.”

The motion was moved by Sally McManus of the Australia Services Union, and seconded by Russ Collison of the Australian Workers Union.

* Chris Graham is an Australian journalist specialising in Aboriginal Affairs. He has twice won the Human Rights Award for his reporting, and is a Walkley Award and a Walkley High Commendation winner. He lives in Glebe, Sydney.

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