Australian news, and some related international items

A Toxic Mix:  Welfare Reform And The Mob In Remote Australia

By Jon Altman on September 11, 2018

‘Rome (Canberra) continues to fiddle while Black Australia burns. 

Professor Jon Altman weighs in on the ongoing disasters of government policy 
that have a tight grip on remote living Indigenous people.’

In the last month I participated in two workshops.
I used what I observed on my latest visit to Arnhem Land and
what people were telling me to inform what I presented at the workshops.

‘The first workshop explored issues around excessive consumption by industrialised societies globally
and how this is harming human health and destroying the planet.
Workshop participants asked how such ‘consumptogenic’ systems
might be regulated for the global good?
My job was to provide a case study from my research on
consumption by Indigenous people in remote Australia.

‘The second workshop looked at welfare reform in the last decade
in remote Indigenous Australia.
In this workshop I looked at how welfare reform by the Australian state
after the NT Intervention was creatively destroying the economy and lifeways
of groups in Arnhem Land who are looking to live on their lands
and off its natural resources.

‘Here I want to share some of what I said. …

‘I WANT to end with some more general conclusions.

‘On the regulation of Indigenous expenditure, we see a perverse policy intervention:
the Australian government is committing what are sometimes referred to
as Type 1 and Type 2 errors.

‘The former sees the government looking to regulate Indigenous consumption
using the expensive instrument of income management
that has cost over $1.2 billion to date,
despite no evidence that it makes a difference.

‘The latter sees an absence of the proper regulation of
supply in licences stores evident when stores with names like
‘The Good Food Kitchen’ sell cheap unhealthy take-aways.

‘In my view the racially-targeted and crude attempts to
regulate Indigenous expenditure are unacceptable
on social justice grounds.

‘Two principles as articulated by Guy Standing stand out.

‘The security difference principle’ suggests that a policy is only socially just
if it improves the [food]security of the most insecure in society.
Income management and work for the dole do not do this.

‘And ‘the paternalism test’ suggests that a policy like income management
would only be socially just if it does not impose controls on some groups
that are not imposed on the most-free groups in society.

‘Paternalistic governmentality in remote Australia is imposing
tight regulatory frameworks on some people, even though the
justifying ideology suggests that markets should be free and unregulated.

‘Sociologist Loic Wacquant in  Punishing the Poor shows how the
carceral state in the USA punishes the poor with criminalisation and imprisonment;
the poor there happen to be mainly black.

‘In Australia, punitive neoliberalism punishes those remote living
Aboriginal people who happen to be poor and dependent on the state.

‘Once again there is a perversity in policy implementation. …

‘I want to end with some suggested antidotes to the toxic mix
that has resulted from welfare reform that is targeting many
remote-living Aboriginal people and impoverishing them.

First, in my view despotism for some is never legitimate,
so people should be treated equally irrespective
of their ethnicity or structural circumstances.

Second, the Community Development Programme is a coercive disaster
that is far more effective at breaching and penalising the jobless for not
complying with excessive requirements than in creating jobs.
CDP is further impoverishing people and should be replaced,
especially in places where there are no jobs,
with unconditional basic income support.

Third, people need to be empowered to find their own solutions to the
complex challenges of appropriate development that accord
with their aspirations, norms, values, and lifeways.
Devolutionary principles of self-government and community control,
not big government and centralised control, are needed.

Fourth, the native title of remote living people should be protected
to ensure that they benefit from all their rights and interests.
There is no point in legally allocating property rights in natural resources
valuable for self-provisioning if people are effectively excluded from access
to their ancestral lands and the enjoyment of these resources.

Finally, governments should support what has worked in the past
to improve people’s diverse culturally-informed views
about wellbeing and sense of worth.

‘While such an approach might not close some imposed ‘closing the gap’ targets,
like employment as measured by standard western metrics,
it will likely improve other important goals like reducing child mortality
and enhancing life expectancy and overall quality of life.’

September 12, 2018 - Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL

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