Monday, September 08, 2014

Protest at Forrest Report

I joined a group of about 20 people protested this morning outside the State Administration Centre against SA Labor Premier Jay Weatherill’s endorsement of all 27 recommendations contained in the Forrest Report.

I was able to read a motion carried last night by the Australian Education Union’s SA Branch Executive.

The motion reads:

That the AEU deplores the Weatherill Cabinet’s rushed embrace of the Forrest Report and communicate to the Premier its concern at the Report’s advocacy of financial penalties for welfare-recipient parents as a means of improving school attendance; its attack on TAFE funding and its replacement by vouchers that would only fund training for employer-approved courses; its call to block cash payments for welfare recipients via the Healthy Welfare Card; and its bland acceptance of increased crime in the community that will flow from the implementation of its recommendations.

“That the AEU Executive seeks support for this position by presenting it as a recommendation to the SA Unions Executive meeting on September 18.”

Prime Monster Tony Abbott commissioned billionaire miner Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest to conduct a review into closing the gap between outcomes for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

The report exceeded its mandate and recommended a series of measures  applicable to all welfare recipients.

In particular, it seeks to extend Compulsory Income Management (CIM) and its BasicsCard to all welfare recipients other than aged pensioners and those on veterans’ entitlements.

At the moment, volunteers for CIM have 50% of their welfare payments quarantined onto the BasicsCard, and those placed on CIM by various government agencies have 75% quarantined.  The quarantined money can only be spent on approved items at approved businesses and retail stores.

Forrest wants 100% of welfare payments placed onto a debit card, to be called the Healthy Welfare Card.  Purchases would again be restricted to approved items.

Forrest, who suffers from billionaire myopia, sees welfare as a “cash barbecue” and his solution is to “block the issue of cash” to people placed on welfare.

This is probably the nastiest of the 27 recommendations, so nasty that even Abbott has backed off a bit, saying that sometimes Twiggy’s ideas “run ahead of public opinion”.  His Minister for Social services, the reprehensible Kevin Andrews, has told the Murdoch media that “he is not convinced income management is appropriate for the many thousands of dole recipients who spend their money responsibly”.

Yet two weeks into a 6-week “consultation” period, Weatherill has persuaded State Cabinet to support the Report in its entirety.

This shows yet again the utter bankruptcy of social democratic politics and why an independent working class agenda continues to develop in spite of the ALP through continued mass rallies against Abbott’s budget and other measures.