Additional Comments from the Australian Greens

Additional Comments from the Australian Greens

1.1The Australian Greens support the recommendation made by the committee. It was made clear through evidence provided to the committee, that in developing these legislative instruments, the Labor Government had no regard for transparency, human rights, or working in partnership with First Nations communities. We understand that implementing this recommendation is an important measure to improve the overall transparency of the enhanced Income Management Scheme.

1.2However, the Australian Greens are of the firm view that all forms of compulsory income management should be abolished. We share the view expressed by the Australian Council of Service (ACOSS) during the inquiry,[1] that amending these instruments would fail to address the core problems associated with mandatory regimes.

1.3While this inquiry only examined six legislative instruments in Australia’s income management system, it reinforced a long history of evidence showing compulsory income management schemes are ineffective and incompatible with human rights.[2]

1.4For example, the Central Land Council wrote in their submission:

…while Indigenous poverty rates are decreasing (albeit to a small degree) across most parts of the country, in remote NT and the West Kimberly, they are escalating – significantly. In these regions, poverty rates are more than 50 per cent, and in some cases, much higher. This level of poverty is unparalleled elsewhere in Australia and evidence of serious policy failure – and income management is a wholly inadequate policy to address it...[3]

1.5They go on to suggest:

…Genuine efforts to address the poverty crisis in remote NT will focus on policy measures that are preventative, strengths-based and systemic – designed with Aboriginal people and their representative organisations, consistent with the commitments under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap[4]

1.6Mr Christopher Arnott, Director of the Kulila Research and Advocacy Institute similarly told the committee:

If you put someone on income management because they're suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, then taking away the ability to access cash isn't going to fix the problem, because addiction is a medical issue…You can't just remove cash and not expect people to find other means. You're not addressing the problem. You're not going to treat anyone. If you go to a doctor to deal with a medical condition—you can't just take away one component and not treat the underlying cause.[5]

1.7Mrs Leaann Ramsamy, Chief Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory commented:

When we put a blanket over things and we make it mandatory, that's when we start to breach people's human rights around managing their own money. Even if it is unemployment, it's still part of their economy while they're unemployed…Income management should be a choice. Someone may opt in and may find it very beneficial, but we can't say that that's going to be the majority. Legislation cannot decide what's best for the majority of women. Not all women and not all families need their income managed.[6]

1.8Dr Elizabeth Moore, President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists said:

We have advocated for the abolition of welfare quarantining because schemes like this are inherently flawed in their logic and the research indicates they don't actually reduce the purchasing of prohibited items. They have a range of impacts, some of which are negative rather than positive. In fact, the research shows that some of the earlier schemes did not reduce the impact of children not going to school. These schemes failed to support people with concurrent addiction and housing and employment issues, and they failed to support them in bringing around behavioural change; we've heard this from previous speakers. Positive reinforcing strategies and the fulfilment of mental, emotional and social needs have been shown to be much more effective. There is also concern around stigma, discrimination and disempowerment. They may in fact exacerbate grievance, unrest and retraumatisation, especially of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.[7]

1.9Ms Charmaine Crowe from ACOSS told the committee:

So the compulsory income management policy that is operating in the Northern Territory and in a select few other areas essentially discriminates against people on the basis of where they live and the difficulties they may have in securing a job. That's essentially what you're doing. As has been—for quite some time now—found, it doesn't do anything to increase people's chances of getting paid work. Therefore, why are we subjecting people who are long-term unemployed to this very stigmatising and paternalistic policy that, particularly now—but it has always done so—grossly discriminates against First Nations people?[8]

1.10Public Health Association Australia wrote in their submission:

Compulsory income management has been proven to have a substantial negative impact on the mental health of individuals who are subjected to it. Many participants experience mental exhaustion, anxiety, and depression as a result. Additionally, people who are subject to income management often report feeling a sense of shame and stigma that can have a negative impact on their overall wellbeing. It is evident that compulsory income management policies are causing significant difficulties for numerous Australian benefit recipients. Despite a few instances of success on an individual level, research has shown that compulsory income management has not been able to achieve its intended objectives. In fact, its impact has been more harmful than beneficial.[9]

1.11The evidence presented to this committee is clear: compulsory income management does not work. Rather, it is a punitive and harmful regime that disproportionately targets First Nations people.

1.12As noted, this Inquiry builds upon years of evidence pointing to the failures of compulsory income management approaches. It also reinforces the ongoing calls from First Nations organisations for preventative measures and services that genuinely support people living in poverty and who potentially face addiction issues. Services that are First Nations led and co-designed.

1.13Before the 2022 Federal Election, the Australian Labor Party made a clear commitment to end all forms of compulsory income management.[10] Disappointingly, the Labor government broke this promise when they chose to maintain the Income Management Regime and established the enhanced Income Management regime. The Australian Greens urge the Labor government to honour their commitment and listen to the voices of First Nation communities, social service organisations and those impacted by these punitive policies, and end all forms of compulsory income management.

Recommendation 1

1.14The Australian Government immediately abolish all forms of compulsory income management and fund place-based, community-driven support services developed in collaboration with First Nations-controlled organisations and people.

Senator Janet Rice



[1]Dr Cassandra Goldie, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Council of Social Service, Committee Hansard, 22 January 2024, p.1.

[2]See, for example, Australian Human Rights Commission, Social Justice Report 2007 - Chapter 3: The Northern Territory 'Emergency Response' intervention,, p. 2017; J Rob Bray, Matthew Gray, Kelly Hand and Ilan Katz, Evaluating New Income Management in the Northern Territory: Final Evaluation Report, September 2014, p. Xxii.; Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, 2016 Review of Stronger Futures measures, 16 March 2016, p. 61; Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Human rights scrutiny report: Report 14 of 2020, 26 November 2020, p. 52; Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Human rights scrutinyreport 11 of 2023, 18 October 2023, p. 43.

[3]Central Land Council, Submission 14, p.3.

[4]Central Land Council, Submission 14, p.3.

[5]Dr Christopher Arnott, Director, the Kulila Research and Advocacy Institute, Committee Hansard, 22 January 2024, p.21.

[6]Mrs Leeann Ramsamy, Chief Executive Officer, Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, Committee Hansard, 22 January 2024, p.19.

[7]Dr Elizabeth Moore, President, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Committee Hansard, 22 January 2024, p.11.

[8]Ms Charmaine Crowe, Program Director, Australian Council of Social Service, Committee Hansard, 22 January 2024, p.3.

[9]Public Health Association Australia, Submission 6, p. 2.

[10]Luke Henriques-Gomes, ‘Cashless welfare: Labor vows to end compulsory use of basics card’, The Guardian,19April2022, See also: The Hon Amanda Rishworth MP, the Hon Linda Burney MP, the Hon Justine Elliot MP, ‘Cashless debit card repeal, support services, The Voice’, press conference transcript, 28 September 2022, Parliament House.