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Issue #1714      December 9, 2015

Editorial

Playing the race card

The federal government – supported by the Labor Party – is introducing a “cashless debit” card for people on welfare payments, starting in early 2016. The card will basically be the electronic equivalent of a person getting their dole or pension in food coupons.

The cashless card restricts all but 20 percent of a person’s benefit (which is currently around $250 a fortnight, below the poverty line, to being used only at approved outlets and for certain expenditure items.

Welfare recipients will find their spending moves from small businesses to big retail corporations. It removes choice from those on the dole, pension or other welfare payments and imposes ever greater control over the most vulnerable in our society.

The government is dressing this scheme up as the “Healthy Welfare Card”. It says it is a pilot scheme for remote towns, with largely Aboriginal populations. The government is playing the race card, claiming it will help prevent drug, alcohol and gambling abuse and implies Aboriginal people cannot handle their money.

Also, far from being a pilot, Aboriginal peoples in the NT have been forced onto such a “basics card” scheme since the Howard government’s racist “intervention” in 2007, with no discernable benefit, but with a great loss of power and self management in their communities.

What is more, this manipulation and control will be targeted at anyone of working age in Australia who is on any form of welfare payment. It is an insidious plan to further disempower those already among the most vulnerable in an increasingly inequitable society.

The dismantling of the welfare system is already underway with job placement and training handed over to charities, the end game being self-provision in the “free market”.

The plan needs to be seen in the context of the bigger picture:

  • punishment of the unemployed – fines for increasingly strict non-compliance codes and enforced work for the dole
  • increasing costs for students and apprentices in privatised TAFE and university education
  • removal of penalty rates for casual, part-time workers, entrenching the working poor
  • dismantling of workers’ rights and marginalisation of trade unions
  • criminalisation of the poor and growing numbers in a private prison system

Related to these developments are ongoing privatisation, the removal of the remaining levers of economic control from the public domain into the hands of global corporations. Trade treaties, such as the Trans Pacific Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement, negotiated in secret and giving global corporations more power and rights over sovereign nations and their people. The growth of the police surveillance state.

We have to demand:

  • NO to the new basics card
  • cease attacks on the unemployed
  • decent work for all, not work for the dole

We must defend the gains we have made and unite to resist the relentless attack on our hard won rights.

The capitalist system has no future. It is teetering on the economic brink; the boom-bust cycle has come to an end; it is dragging the world into a widening conflict; and is unable to address the environmental catastrophe facing humanity.

Next article – Sharks feeding on VET funds

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