STATEMENT TO INQUIRY

Our full statement to the Senate Public Hearing

Thursday 5th November 2020.


False assumptions and distractions:

I'd like to address the false assumption at the core of the CDC policy, that people receiving a centrelink payment automatically lack the skills, social and moral character and intellectual capacity to autonomously determine the course of their own lives.Whatever devices it employs, government cannot hide from the fact no evidence exists anywhere that proves the simple act of accessing a social security entitlement causes any social harm. The underlying assumption by government that it does, and that people receiving payments are the primary instigators of social harms, is both factually incorrect and conveniently distracts the Australian public from examining two critical facts about this policy.

1. That a non elected for-profit corporate third party, is taking possession and legal ownership of social security entitlements in direct contravention of existing social security payment protection law;  and

2. In the act of seizing control of income, government and this corporate entity are taking over active control of peoples daily lives without their consent, and without having supplied any evidence of individual criminality, incapacity or social delinquency to justify that penalty.

Cash limited cards and all they entail, are just the spearhead of the overall suite of restrictions and limiting measures being imposed upon forced cardholders. By keeping public focus on the plastic card at all costs, government has been intentionally concealing vital policy information and are keeping the full extent of the impacts and implications of CDC roll outs from public view.

We should not be engaging in vulgar debates about the flexibility or efficiency of what constitutes an updated Jim Crow policy. And that is exactly what government is creating through the incremental expansion of CDC legislation. By devising two different sets of rights and rules for different kinds of Australians, and cherry picking laws it wants to enforce and those it wont, the government has already created two tiers of citizenship. They are legislating, segregation. Literally everything else, including the CDC trial objectives themselves, is based on assumption, not evidence.

And those subject to this policy, who have done absolutely nothing wrong, are being segregated, sanctioned and are suffering, solely due to their economic circumstances and perceived social class. Whatever government wants to label what they are doing, they are creating and investing in a system of permanent, social and economic apartheid.

The assumptions of incapacity and presumed delinquency government is relying on to justify the CDC program, are not substantiated and they have already costs lives. People, human beings, have died as a result of the impacts of this policy, and this government has been fully aware of this risk factor and CDC roll out outcome since 2017, yet they have done and said nothing.

Suicide and mental health impacts:

[Testimony given during the October 2017 public inquiry hearings, reported multiple suicides and instances of self harm had been documented in the East Kimberly after CDC roll outs began This claim was substantiated in a recent report delivered by the University of Western Australia that also showed incidents had increased in the Kimberly region during 2016-18 - the time period coinciding with CDC roll outs.]

These impacts have been experienced among cardholders and their families across all four trial sites, detailed in the lived experiences shared with us and this parliament over the last five years.

Shortly after losing one of our own team members, I personally emailed every member of the HoR and Senate a hansard copy of the 2017 hearing testimony. I did not receive a single non automated response.

Despite having evidence presented directly to them, government have chosen not to inform anyone of this policy outcome and they have not included their awareness of this risk factor in any of their consultation processes, on websites or in their CDC promotions.

That forced trial participants have died, and others are suffering debilitating and life altering impacts, apparently unseen and unheard as a result of decisions being made for them in this place, should matter. In the context of debate on the continuance and potential expansion of this program, the lives safety and well-being of those directly subject to these decisions should be the only thing that matters.

The question remains, why has a trial of policy, that on record has caused multiple deaths, injuries, homelessness, economic losses and severe mental and physical health decline among its trial participant groups been allowed to continue at all? Where is the oversight and accountability?

Closing:

There is nothing in this policy, that can't be achieved more efficiently ethically and successfully by transitioning to an opt in system. Under voluntary conditions, those that want the card, can still have it though as the prime minister himself said, we do don't believe one person should be put down, so another can be raised - this policy is doing just that with its blanket measures.

Further, government are demanding that the Australian community accept and applaud the forced demotion of at least 40,000 and potentially 5 million individuals, to a permanent second tier of citizenship, where they will shoulder largely unaided, all the personal, social, psychological, legal and economic cost of that demotion, with no benefit to themselves and at substantial risk to their own lives.

The continuing disrespect and disregard shown for the lives and well being of people forced onto this program is not just patronising and elitist, it is unethical, immoral and unconscionable.

The invisibility of forced cardholders within this entire process is no better exemplified than by the fact that despite facing imminent and permanent segregation from society, not one current CDC trial participant was invited to speak here today.

The CDC policy itself, is a social harm, and we unequivocally, say NO to its creation and continuance.

Services desperately need the funding that is currently being wasted, people who do require more than just income support, need hope and a genuine pathway that leads to something better.

This program with its well documented history of devastating impacts, is not the way.---