I’ve just completed my #Census2016 with great satisfaction. I’m a community service provider’s dream on the census. I am all the needs for services in an area. They wish there were more of me to quantify their funding desires. I have a disability, I’m of Aboriginal and foreign decent. I’m the child of a refugee. I have a low income. I require assistance due to a permanent disability and health condition. I don’t work but I do volunteer. I rely on public transport. I have children. I am all the needs dependent on the community for assistance. Do I get all that I need? Shit no. I make do with what I have and I’m often pushing shit up hill trying to get anything more than the minimum, but I’m good with that. I’m a fighter these days. Lets face it I have nothing better to do with my time right? Pft
I’ve been following the whole privacy concerns about the Census this year and I still for the life of me can’t see anything different about the last time I did it other than it was online and for the first time I can put no religion as an option for religion.
I’m not worried about putting the information in an online form since now that’s what Centrelink, Child Support, ATO, Medicare and a bunch of other government departments now force me to do and they know way more about me than the Census asked. I can’t lie to any of them since they’re all connected. Centrelink tells the ATO how much money I earn. The ATO tell Centrelink if I tell them about any additional money or if an employer tells them they paid me and I didn’t report it. Child Support tells Centrelink how much money my kid’s father gives me. Centrelink tells Medicare what kind of concession I’m entitled to and Medicare tells my doctor. Medicare tells my kid’s dentist how much money they’ve given them to spend on dental work and the dentist tells medicare how horrid my kid’s teeth are. The ATO even tells me how much interest I earned from my bank accounts. Thanks to this amazing capability I found two bank accounts I had forgotten about. Nothing in my life is a secret.
When it comes to questions that are an invasion of privacy, applying for Disability Support Pension was the most invasive process I’ve ever had to go through. Some might say you don’t get a choice with the Census… well… I didn’t really have a choice about DSP either. It was that or die starving and cold in a park somewhere.
When it comes to the collection of your private information and the sharing of it there’s no guarantee it won’t be shared somewhere. It was harder for me to get my medical records from the hospital than it was for my doctor. Go figure. Whether or not you have a choice is a matter of perspective. I have a choice whether or not I want to have a Facebook account. I had no choice whether I wanted to be treated in a mental health facility. I have a choice if I want Facebook to show my email, date of birth or relationship status. I didn’t have a choice that things about my treatment in a mental health facility were recorded without my consent or knowledge.
We have a choice to sign up for a rewards program that tracks your spending habits. We don’t have a choice about our pay provider tracking our spending habits… oh… wait… that’s only for “welfare bludgers”.
Ok, let me elaborate.
The federal government are very concerned about what people who “receive taxpayers money” are spending it on. See, some people have problems that are considered of an anti social nature. Some of those people, whether it be because of those problems or not, receive welfare benefits from the Department of Human Services, formerly known as Centrelink, formerly known as Social Security. We actually have a social security Act in Australia so that we don’t end up with a (ahem) poverty problem in what is a first world country. Any one who meets the eligibility requirements has the right to apply for welfare assistance in Australia. Some (particularly in government) don’t refer to it as a right though. They call it entitlement and apparently entitlement is a dirty word in 2016. The federal government are so concerned that all the people of antisocial nature are all getting hardworking taxpayer’s money for nothing that they want to restrict it even more than it already is. I don’t know about most people but the $470 odd dollars a fortnight I use to get on Newstart Allowance didn’t exactly get me a full fortnight’s party worth of drugs, alcohol and gambling, let alone keep a roof over my head, run a car and clothe and feed my kid but the federal government are so concerned that I might spend the money of hardworking tax payers on something self indulgent that they are now seeking a method to not only prevent it from happening but also track what I might spend “their” money on.
Okay Okay, let’s ignore the fact that I was prior to acquiring an incurable, progressively debilitating and degenerative disease through no fault of my own other than the stars I stood under, I was a hard working tax payer person. I worked so hard I had two taxpayer jobs for many moons. In fact, just because I had a second job, the great southern land laws meant I would be taxed MORE at that second job just because I chose to work harder. None of that matters when you stop doing it. You’re no longer considered by these people as a contributing member of society anymore and you’re suddenly beneath them. Never mind the fact that these said people are also paid by the taxpayer and when they STOP working for it still get paid by the taxpaying peoples. Now just don’t you worry about that.
Back to the elaboration part… So concerned about what welfare bludging peoples might be spending a taxpaying person’s money on, they are trying to introduce a method of controlling and tracking what we do with the “gift” we are given every fortnight.
It’s marketed as “The Healthy Welfare Card” but there isn’t much very healthy about it. It has been outsourced to a third party to do it (the first step toward privatisation) which is a company by the name of Indue. Indue are a company that provides payment management systems. What they’re doing for our government is providing a payment management system for people on Centrelink. It supposedly works just like a VISA card only you are limited to the amount you can withdraw in cash and you can’t use it at any venue that sells alcohol or gambling products or services. You will no longer use your traditional bank account for your payment to go into. Your payment will only go on this card and this card is your only access to your (their – the taxpayers) money. Of course this invites a whole conversation about the insurmountable amounts of issues this will cause people (oh but they have answers for everything apparently) but that isn’t my most significant concern.
Since we’ve been talking about information privacy, imagine your employer said from now on your pay will only go onto a card that we provide you with and we will track every transaction you use this card for. There’d be uproar. The civil libertarians, the unions, the Privacy and Data Security Commissioner, gosh even Get Up! would be all over that shit. No, you can’t do that to people right? Well that is exactly what Indue are currently doing to people on Centrelink. No, not all of us. Yet.
There are two trial sites. East Kimberly in WA and Ceduna in SA. Both are remote communities that have issues that many remote communities face and differ from more metropolitan communities. One of the biggest issues being lack of access to support services. So naturally the results of the trial are going to translate to every area in Australia right? Cos all of us welfare bludgers are the same.
My mother’s maiden name? Seriously dude why don’t you ask me for my Netflix password too? What difference does it make to me being stigmatised by being identified by a one size fits all card, which benefit I get? My own bank didn’t even ask what country I was born in. Or my marital status. And they damn well don’t need my concession card details. What business is it of theirs if I have other bank accounts? I won’t have any freaking money going into them anyway.
Most of all… why does Indue get to profit from welfare? (Interest earned from money stored in bank accounts – cos lets face it if the national welfare bill is $240M per year then that’s some nice freaking interest earned even on a standard savings account). AND – if this is a service that at the end of the day MUST be privatised…. why was this never put out to tender? (Unless I totally missed that story, and if so, I want details.)
You think the Census was an invasion of your privacy? Please. Just pray you don’t end up on this card as a welfare recipient. They’ll know where you are, when you’re there and how much it cost you. Them. Oh, you know what I mean.