Income management for non-Indigenous welfare recipients will be rolled out across the Northern Territory from next month, after draft laws passed the Senate.
Welfare quarantining was the cornerstone of the Howard government’s 2007 intervention, designed to tackle child abuse in remote indigenous communities.
But Labor’s legislation has extended income management to all disadvantaged areas of the Northern Territory.
The new scheme will apply to the long-term unemployed, young people on benefits such as Youth Allowance and the Parenting Payment for more than three months, those at risk of financial crisis or domestic abuse and individuals referred by child protection authorities.
Welfare quarantining allows the Government to allocate part of welfare income for specific uses such as food and clothing.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said last week the aim of the programme was to ensure that a larger portion of welfare payments was spent on food, and less on aclohol and drugs.
“We intend to fight passive welfare and link income support more strongly to school attendance, to study and work and to proper care of children.
“There’s no escaping from the fact that, at present, when you’ve got a history of welfare dependence among families, we lack strong incentives to get those folk out of the cycle of welfare dependency,” the PM said.
“These incentives are not in place right now”.
Minister for Families and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin said the NT reforms would be evaluated at the end of 2011, and might be extended to other parts of Australia.
She stressed income management will not apply to everybody.
“We will not be applying income management automatically to aged pensioners or disability-support pensioners, except in two instances.
“Where the child-protection authorities recommend that it would be in the interests of the child for a person’s pension to be income-managed,” she said.
And the second instance would be where there is evidence of considerable vulnerability of the pensioner. So it may be where the pensioner is being abused by a relative”.
Racial Discrimination Act
The Racial Discrimination Act has been suspended since the start of the federal intervention in 2007, and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made its reinstatement an election promise.
Despite concerns from the United Nations and the Rudd Government’s promise to reinstate the act last year, legislation that would reinstate it has not yet been passed.
It is scheduled for debate in the Senate this week.