As the news spreads far and wide that the heroic LNP Government of the Abbott/Turnbull era is here to reform welfare and save us from ourselves, people are beginning to ask questions that no one wants to answer. The biggest question of all is just how the hell did we get ourselves into this mess in the first place?
We have one of the best Social Security systems in the world. Combined with other essential human services it ranks us 10th in the world in the Social progress index. We’re even 3rd in the Mercer Melbourne Global Pension Index 2016! So why is it under attack from our governments? Two words….. potential profit.
Welfare is a multi billion dollar industry globally. The REAL beneficiaries are the private entities who gain government funding to assist with or provide such supports. Often the same entities who demonise welfare recipients. Why would they do this? By demonising people who need support as people having their hand out they gain sympathetic support from the tax payers who for all good intentions believe THEIR taxes shouldn’t be GIVEN to people to spend on, well…. living. This support then allows private entities to offer “solutions” to reduce the need for welfare and bing bang boom someone is making more money than our budget allows and it’s not people on welfare.
So what happened for Australia to start believing we need this desperate reform? WHERE DO I START!? I won’t go right back to the beginning at colonisation cos we’d be here for years and you’d only end up confused and overwhelmed at learning everything you’ve ever been told is a lie….
It started when John Howard back many many moons ago in the 1990’s by invitation visited for the first time ever, an outback remote Aboriginal community. He had been invited because the Aboriginal people in these communities were battling to save their culture. The last of the lands where they were living in traditional ways were being destroyed by national and international mining conglomerates. With the mines came the mining towns established to house the mining workers who brought with them their culture. Just like colonisation, these things infiltrated Aboriginal communities. Alcohol, drugs, sexual abuse and poverty were just some of the issues they wanted to discuss amongst the big topics such as native land title, reconciliation and human rights of Aboriginal people. It did not go well for the privileged white boy from Sydney.
He didn’t hear the people on their issues. Instead he saw what he interpreted as deliberate neglect and abuse while at the same time felt insulted to be told he would still be considered a boy in Aboriginal culture during a talk from Elders who tried to explain their ways to the Prime Minister.
While there’d been plenty of reports written on Aboriginal life in Australia before 2007, none had really caught the attention of the then Prime Minister until the Little Children Are Sacred report. It was the outcome of the Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse commissioned by the Northern Territory Government. The key finding that most likely “inspired” Mr Howard to act was that both the state and federal governments were responsible for the problems happening and therefore they had to act to fix it and prevent further deterioration of Aboriginal communities.
Sadly NOTHING else stood out from that report that it seemed Mr Howard took in. There was NO consultation with the communities or the people. Instead, there was an intervention.
Naturally, rather than remove the dangers that were creating the social destruction of communities (everywhere in Australia but at higher rates in Aboriginal communities) instead the solution was to restrict Aboriginal people being able to access those things with cash. With an election looming and wanting to show the nation his strong stance in keeping Australia well controlled in a volatile era that saw the “War on Terror” play out, Howard believed he could win the conservative AND worker votes by showing the people he wouldn’t allow their taxes to be wasted by such primitive people who were clearly so vulnerable and lacking in knowledge they needed strong regulation. Thus, “income management” was born. Back then it was commonly known as “Quarantining Payments”.
Despite various leaders, departments and even the co writer of the report who also chaired the Inquiry, Pat Anderson asking how this intervention was addressing the issues highlighted in the report, the project carried on and still to this day there is no evidence that the intervention did any good. You could well say that the fact that we are still here dealing with the same issues some twenty years later, it did nothing but make things worse.
So in 2007 the first income management scheme was the Northern Territory Emergency Response. At this time it was also introduced as part of a trial in Cape York and a provision introduced for people to have their income managed voluntarily.
Howard however, lost the election of course not without creating a great deal of damage in relationships between the government and Aboriginal communities. This then left Kevin 07 Rudd with the huge PR task of reconciling without looking too soft.
The Labor Government then seem to have flown on past a number of red flags and handed out government contracts relating to income management projects like they were how to vote cards.
So 2008 was a little quiet on the Income Management front. Labor had some work to do. There were still legal concerns with Income Management being open to claims of racial discrimination so legal services were procured, policy was adjusted and legislation changed. Instead of just targeting Aboriginal people living in remote communities Income Management according to Labor should be a case by case method of assistance for people who fall into the definition of being “at risk”.
Policy Policy Policy definitions and all that jazz and in September 2008 the first BasicsCard was issued in Katherine in the Northern Territory. YES I AM NOT KIDDING YOU! Even after all the not being racist but…. talk, they still went ahead and targeted Aboriginal communities. However the BasicsCard was there on, used as a method of managing people at risk identified through various services.
The entire project was an epic fail. They had this great idea but when it came to implementation no one in the 185 roles within the Department of Human Services knew how to implement a practical solution that didn’t increase their work load by making it more difficult for people being put onto the card. Some genius just flaunted the idea of using a prepaid giftcard style system and then Minister for Human Services Joe Ludwig (ALP) signed off on it. ReD Prepaid Cards Australia were contracted almost $3.5M to supply the cards. It was plagued with problems, like most gift cards at the time, could only be accepted by certain retailers, many of which didn’t exist in remote communities, cards declined, cards expired, if you lost your card replacement was a pain in the proverbial so by March 2009 the Minister announced a tender would take place for a more permanent point of sale solution.
Now pay attention…. You’ll need to know this later…. The minister at the time was Joe Ludwig as previously mentioned. With a Bachelor of Arts and Law the economic background just wasn’t there. Of course we all remember the volatile time it was in Australian Politics then, cabinet shuffle, reshuffle, spill, reshuffle, more tea move down, election, reshuffle, spill and it all fell to pieces. Very very shortly after the tender announcement Ludwig was moved out and Chris Bowen was moved in. Now he’s the guy with the economics background but what was more important at the time was that his policy adviser was a guy named James Sorahan… remember this name you’ll need it later.
It was difficult to put out a tender when you don’t know what it is you’re asking for exactly. Despite a bunch of research contracts they were still none the wiser on how to manage Income Management. I know the irony isn’t lost on me either. So somewhere along the line… before a tender was finalised…..
Along comes Indue Ltd.
Now Indue has a number of subsidiaries and had grown from a card service to a credit union type financial service and has continued to grow from there with much success. Today, Indue wants to become a bank but to do so they need more capital cash. How do they get that? This ladies and gentlemen is how the biggest welfare scam of all time was birthed…..
Despite an audit declaring that while the project would probably never achieve it’s outcomes, it was found that the correct and ethical procedures were followed in the tender and procurement process of the Replacement Income Management Project. Of course we all know to get your foot in the door it helps to know a guy who knows a guy….
So remember that name I gave you before.. Mr policy advisor James Sorahan… here is another name. Larry Anthony. Larry at that time was the CEO of Indue. Larry is well known for being the son of Former Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National party, Doug Anthony. Were James and Larry mates? I don’t know but guess what James does now? He’s a mining lobbyist and Director of Taxation for the Minerals Council of Australia. Nice jump from policy adviser (he moved on from Human Services to the minister for resources and energy later before this gig). Guess who else is a mining lobbyist? You guessed it. Larry Anthony.
Now you may have seen heroic philanthropist (cough tax avoider cough) Andrew Twiggy Forrest pushing this whole healthy welfare concept of the Cashless Debit Card as it’s now become known. What is Twiggy’s main business? Freakin mining of course and in 2009 we were in the middle of the mining boom. But wait… it’s not quite fully connected yet.
So Minister at the time Chris Bowen whether he was aware or not, saw $23.3M worth of contracts granted to Indue Ltd for Income Management Project services within around six months.
Naturally when the tender was finally defined and put out the “primary contractor” was the favoured contractor and yep, they got the tender to continue. Between 2009 and now, Indue has benefited from our welfare system to the tune of $60.2M in contracts. That’s just the contracts!
Yes that’s right taxpayers… welfare has just cost you another $60.2M and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Between the idea launch in 2007 and now more than ONE BILLION DOLLARS in contracts to external entities have been paid out in relation to the Income Management projects that so far…. have failed.
Now of course this is not unusual for a private entity to gain from government contracts and tenders. After all it’s a huge economy. The icky thing I find about Indue and the methods used to get what they’ve got is that they are profiting from WELFARE. From the care of our most vulnerable people.
Larry Anthony is no longer the CEO of Indue, he’s moved onto bigger and better things now. He’s the Federal President of the Nationals and Founding Director of the SAS Group. Guess who else has gained a storm load of government contracts through tender and procurement? Yeah, SAS. And guess when he founded his little company… 2009.
So Indue and the many connections within it have played a significant role in the design of what is to become our future. We aren’t just talking about young people on Newstart and Aboriginal communities here. This has been developed with the potential to expand across the entire nation to anyone and everyone who receives a benefit payment of any kind excluding (for the time) Aged Pensions and Department of Veteran’s Affairs payments. Yes tax payers… this means you too. Family Tax Benefit, Carer’s Allowance any payment you might get as an additional support to your income can and will be paid via Income Management some day soon.
Why is there a push to expand it so fast?
Okay so back to the mining boom and our mates James and Larry have moved on into areas that lobby for mining….. 2014 the mining boom busted. Poof. Like that the honeymoon was over. The government realised there was revenue to be had and they wanted their share. It then became less profitable for the mining industry to keep sucking the country’s resources dry and who should suffer greatly from that none other than Mr Twiggy himself. So in 2014 when those pesky Aboriginals had stood in his way long enough with all those annoy things like land rights and artefact protection he decided he would pick up where John Howard left off and save the Aboriginal communities from themselves.
Enter the Creating Parity report also known as The Forrest Review. Gee it must be good to have a hero status for donating to your own charities. If only you knew how many and how wide they spread. Not to mention how many of his mates and other people he wanted to persuade now have high paying jobs because of his “charities”. Creating Parity was a damning report that painted Aboriginal communities even worse than the 2007 Little Children are Sacred Inquiry. No admission at all that we created the problem, it’s all their fault. So the solution again was to control their money rather than remove the sources that cause the problems.
It’s much easier to control vulnerable people who have nothing than it is to control the continual supply of drugs, alcohol and gambling that they keep telling us are so bad that they are the downfalls of these areas of society who need their spending controlled. Regardless of whether you’re a tea-totalling strictly moral hardworking person who just happens to be out of a job at the time, you’re going to be branded a gambling alcoholic junkie and your spending will be controlled.f
And all the while Indue Ltd, it’s board members and shareholders will all be rubbing their greedy little hands together selling the drama to the taxpayers of Australia that welfare is going to be the downfall of our economy if we don’t let them get it under control. More people on the card means more money transfers to them which means larger cash capital. Once they have a big enough share of the welfare market to control…. they get to become a bank and all their wishes come true.
Does that help solve the actual anti social issues in society both welfare and non welfare related? Nope. If you stay tuned for the next episode of Australia’s Biggest Welfare Profiting Scam I will tear apart the next beneficiary, Orima and their very poor attempt to give the government their $160k worth in a 300 page report about nothing and how the PR people in government are selling the drama to our MPs.