Income Management (or: That Racist Bullsh*t)

By Gabe Kavanagh

When discussing my weekend plans with a colleague I mentioned that I was going to a forum on Saturday.

Colleague: Oh, that one about that racist bullsh*t?

Me: Um, the one on Income Management.

Colleague: Yeah, that’s what I meant.


Income Management is coming to Bankstown, Sydney in July this year. Income Management is basically where a Centrelink case officer or Child Protection officer can decide to put “vulnerable” welfare recipients on compulsory Income Management where between 50% and 70% of welfare payments are quarantined onto a Basics Card.

A Basics Card is kind of like an EFTPOS card, but you can only spend the money at particular stores, ones that the government chooses. The theory being that the government will stop people on welfare frittering their money away on things like… um… culturally appropriate groceries or local stores… I guess.

So far, the only stores in Bankstown you can use the Basics Card are: Best and Less Bankstown, Big W Bankstown, KMART Bankstown, KMART Tyre and Auto Bankstown, Target Bankstown and Woolworths Supermarkets Bankstown.

The Centrelink website reminds Basics Card users that “Customers cannot purchase alcohol, tobacco, pornography, gambling products or gambling services with income managed money.” This is also written on the back of the Basics Card. Just so neither you, or the sales assistant, forget that you can’t be trusted with money, or a six pack.

Income Management was rolled out as part of the 2007 Northern Territory Intervention in 73 “prescribed areas”. All welfare recipients in these areas were automatically put on Income Management. The government states that 87% of the people living in these communities are Indigenous Australians. In order to implement the NT Intervention, the government had to suspend the Racial Discrimination Act. The Labor Government has since re-instated the act, and are now rolling Income Management out across parts of the country that are not majority Indigenous (Bankstown NSW, Logan QLD, Rockhampton QLD, Playford SA and Greater Shepparton VIC).

It’s pretty much been a dud of a policy in the NT. While there hasn’t been that much research done, what has been done hasn’t been glowing. The Equality Rights Alliance, who have run one of the biggest studies, found that 85% of respondents on Income Management did not change their purchasing habits due once on the Basics Card.

Income Management treats adults like children who can’t be trusted. As if it’s not bad enough that most Australian welfare payments come in well under the poverty line, welfare recipients may now only shop at government approved stores.

I guess the guts of the issue is that we consider welfare to be an entitlement. We expect that people who can’t find jobs, are single parents, are elderly, sick or live with a disability, to have access to welfare payments so they live their lives with dignity. And part of living with dignity is choosing how, when and where to spend your money.

Click here to become part of the campaign against the spread of Income Management.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: