The Society recognises there are deep-seated social and economic problems in many communities across Australia, especially the lack of job opportunities, inequitable health outcomes, and the effects of alcohol and drug abuse. It is because we take these problems seriously that we want to properly understand their causes. Simplistic views – that the main underlying problem is ‘welfare dependency’ (i.e., entitlement to social security payments are causing these problems) – are likely to lead to simplistic solutions that are costly, ineffective, and bring shame on those affected.
Instead of paternalistic and ideologically driven measures such as income management, we need a comprehensive set of policies that are grounded in evidence of what works, and that tackle the underlying causes of poverty and inequality. The lack of a viable labour market in many parts of the country, and entrenched long-term unemployment among people with limited education and skills or severe health problems, are key drivers. We believe the considerable resources expended on the cashless debit card and other paternalistic measures could be better spent on improving the adequacy of income support payments, investing in education and job creation, and funding appropriate and effective services for struggling individuals and families.