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Australia Extends Benefit Quarantining

Media Release

Australia Extends Benefit Quarantining Beyond Aboriginal Communities

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Australia is about to extend the Howard government imposed benefit quarantining beyond Northern Territory Aboriginal communities across urban and regional parts of the state. Other income management trials are also underway in Queensland and Western Australia.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell said that income management involves quarantining half of a benefit payment for spending on essentials like food and clothing rather than alcohol, drugs or gambling. "Half of the benefit payment is only available by way of an electronic card or other arrangements with Centrelink (the Australian version of Work and Income). This protects the beneficiary from intimidation for or theft of cash and improves the well-being of dependent children."

"Rather than caving in to objections from groups who say the current income management scheme constitutes racial discrimination, the Rudd government is extending the programme to other non-Aboriginal communities."

"New participants will include young people who have collected welfare for 3 of the past 6 months; older people who have been on a Parenting (DPB) or Newstart (Unemployment) payment for one of the last two years; people referred by child protection agencies or assessed by Centrelink as requiring budgeting management and victims of domestic violence. Other beneficiaries can voluntarily buy into the scheme and there are various cash incentives available to all income-managed clients for participation and saving."

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Mitchell said that, "Of particular interest for New Zealand is whether Maori Party plans to expand whanau ora include income management for Maori beneficiaries, based on the practical implementation and experience of Australia. Then, of course, whether such schemes will be extended across other areas of New Zealand. And if an Australian Labour government is clearly serious about making the principles of obligation and responsibility a feature of their welfare system, will the New Zealand Labour Party adopt similar policies?"

Lindsay Mitchell
Welfare Commentator

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