Senator Lidia Thorpe's Dissenting Report

Senator Lidia Thorpe's Dissenting Report

1.1In its report, the committee substantially failed to take into true consideration the evidence provided by witnesses and submitters during the inquiry, and unashamedly promoted its own government bill’s purpose.

1.2During the inquiry, we heard almost unanimous testimony of the need to abolish compulsory income management, yet the committee refers only to the government’s plans to reform income management and the need for in-depth consultation for transition arrangements. Interestingly, evidence provided in the inquiry suggested that there might not be a need for any transition arrangements if there was a full shift to voluntary income management immediately as it still provided the option for income management for those who wanted it and found it beneficial. It was also pointed out that every $6 spent on the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) resulted in just $1 benefit, and that its abolishment would save $286.5 million over the forward estimates. These funds would be better invested in supporting the communities and providing social services.

1.3There is also no transparent pathway or timeline for the government’s intention to reform income management, and the lack of a sunset clause of the bill clearly worried stakeholders and communities who are concerned they might just yet again get caught up in an income management system similar to the CDC but in another name. The committee’s suggested review period, while improving on the current bill, falls short of a real commitment to phase out compulsory income management and plan ahead for a transition now.

1.4The scheme disproportionately affects First Nations communities and people and stands in conflict with the government’s purported commitment to self-determination, First Nations rights and ‘Closing the Gap’. Compulsory income management schemes are overwhelmingly rejected by First Nations communities. Any real commitment from the government must urgently abort an attempt to forcibly control First Nations people once again, and listen to our Sovereign voices.

1.5I therefore put forward the following recommendations to address the concerns expressed over the course of the inquiry:

Recommendation 6

1.6All forms of compulsory income management to be abolished immediately.

Recommendation 7

1.7The Income Management Reform Bill be amended to:

make income management through eIM voluntary;

allow participants to exit the scheme at any time;

include a sunset clause; and

remove the extended powers of the Minister.

Recommendation 8

1.8Substantive investment in social services and wrap-around supports for communities, developed through a self-determined approach.

Senator Lidia Thorpe