• The Federal Government's welfare card has faced no shortage of criticism. (File)
The Greens have taken aim at a trial of the federal government's healthy welfare card in WA's East Kimberley region, saying there are better solutions for welfare reform.
By
Craig Quartermaine

18 Nov 2015 - 5:09 PM  UPDATED 19 Nov 2015 - 1:19 PM

TRANSCRIPT

Natalie Ahmat: The Greens have taken aim at a trial of the federal government's healthy welfare card in WA's East Kimberley region, saying there are better solutions for welfare reform.

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A community in the Kimberley region has refused the federal government's plan to trial its Healthy Welfare Card.

Two communities in the region have been chosen to join Ceduna in South Australia as trial locations for the welfare management scheme.

But the Greens say there hasn't been enough community consultation.

WA Corrrespondent Craig Quatermaine reports.

Craig Quartermaine: Greens Senator and Spokes person for the party on indigenous affairs Rachel Siewert has voiced her concerns over the trial of a new cashless Welfare Debit Car system.

The system is very similar to the one in the Northern Territory and has had varying degrees of success or failures depending on how you look at it I got to speak to the Senator about her concerns

Rachel Siewert, Greens Senator: Well the Welfare card or the health and welfare card, or whatever the government is trying to call it now, is an extension of income management, and we know from the final evaluation of the NT intervention that it didn't work.

 

"We know from the final evaluation of the NT intervention that it didn't work...in fact the evidence suggests that it had a negative impact on behaviour"

It didn't deliver the key priorities the government was after and in fact the evidence suggests that it had a negative impact on behaviour.

The government is now saying, "well take the card and we'll give you these extra services'. Now the point is these communities deserves these services anyway and so they shouldn't have to be subject to a punative approach in order to get these services that every other Australian expects.

"The point is these communities deserves these services anyway and so they shouldn't have to be subject to a punative approach in order to get these services that every other Australian expects"

Craig Quartermaine: And while there is a lot of criticisim of this trial the area where it will happen is in the East Kimberley and ian Trust from the Wunan Aboriginal corporation based in Kununurra is actually quite positive about such a trial.

Rachel Siewert: There are some members who are supportive, there are a lot who aren't, and we saw it with the process in Ceduna where the government said they had consulted extensively. They didn't consult, they didn't talk with the people in income support on the ground.

"The government said they had consulted extensively. They didn't consult, they didn't talk with the people in income support on the ground"

We know that because we talked with those people they couldn't answer a number of questions the community asked, and they still can't about how the card is going to work.

They say the card is like any other debit card that's simply not true. This is not a bank, it is a finance organisation that doesn't have front line services. What happens if you try to travel?

Craig Quartermaine: I also asked the senator if preventing people from being able to exercise basic freedoms, like being able to purchase what you want, was actually violating and basic human rights, especially for people in remote Aboriginal communities.

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Rachel Siewert: That's a very important question that the parliamentary humans rights committee raised...compulsory income management doesn't work…it can entrench people to become dependant on other people making decision for them.

Craig Quartermaine: Whether or not this trial will yeld the results, the government is looking for remains to be seen, but it's yet another chapter in the long history of the welfare management of Indgenous people in this country for better or for worse.