Pubdate: Sat, 02 Jul 2016
Source: West Australian (Australia)
Copyright: 2016 West Australian Newspapers Limited
Author: Andrew Forrest


As a society, I ask you: "Do you want a welfare system where money is 
spent on food for families or illegal drugs pushed by predators?"

The crystal meth wave responsibly reported by this newspaper and so 
alarming to all thinking people is swamping our emergency responders.

Like all illegal drug flows, it is powered by cash. And this is where 
our welfare system fails our vulnerable Australians.

We have always tried to limit the debilitating drugs, destroying 
generations of children, by attacking the supply. Our current police 
and welfare structure can only address the symptoms, not the cause of 
social disadvantage.

Our police run at full stretch and our social services are often 
under constant stress dealing with the effects of those least able to 
make wise choices.

The damage, the misery and the hurt is a common experience for our 
service providers and our police when good people fall prey to the 
unimaginable selfishness and greed of the drug dealer and illegal 
drug manufacturer. The welfare system contributes hundreds of 
millions of dollars a week in cash to vulnerable communities across 
WA and our nation.

Numeracy and literacy is not increasing, yet incarceration and 
recidivism rates are.

Such communities in need of change stand out statistically, and we 
have no excuse not to change the way we service their needs if we are 
hoping for a different result.

As Einstein pointed out, doing something the same way over and over 
again, expecting a different result, defines insanity.

Vulnerable Australians receive absolutely no help from the current 
welfare system which offers 100 per cent cash availability. As the 
police and the Australian Crime Commission know, cash is the only 
medium available to drug dealers without having their activities 
quickly tracked.

We need to strengthen the safety net we have around vulnerable 
people. We must help them not to fall prey to the incredibly 
exploitive power of drug dealers and peer group pressure that 
dominates vulnerable communities and traps children, in particular, 
to a future on welfare.

We are all grateful that welfare exists to provide a safety net, 
particularly for our most vulnerable. However, if that net pulls them 
down, instead of lifting them up, and doesn't empower them to break 
the welfare cycle and build a better life, then it achieves the 
precise opposite to all of our hopes.

We need an entirely new approach. And we have one.

To approach the war against drugs from where it starts - with the 
demand for drugs.

To dramatically reduce the amount of cash the drug peddlers take home 
and the misery they cause, by limiting the cash available to pay them.

The cash-only welfare formula traps people. Some policy makers tend 
to treat such people with low expectations - such attitudes towards 
people on welfare are no less damaging then sexism or racism.

Often these views are perpetuated by those who have the most amount 
of power but are doing the least amount of work to address the situation.

I've liked many of the policies of the Greens but when they stand in 
the way of changing the system to allow our vulnerable Australians to 
make better choices, literally saving the future and lives of 
children, that's where they lose my support.

The Greens tried to stop tests of the cashless debit card that 
communities in South Australia and WA desperately wanted.

They resist it now for some asinine narrow view of human rights, 
which I believe is deliberately ignorant of the UN Convention on the 
Rights of the Child.

They even refused to meet indigenous elders or the mayor of Ceduna in 
SA when they pleaded for the ability to at least test a welfare 
payment system that inhibited cash and drugs, and slowed the 
overconsumption of alcohol and gambling.

Fortunately, the will of the people won and Ceduna and Kununurra here 
in WA are experiencing benefits. After just three months, the major 
drug dealer has left Ceduna.

The cashless welfare card restricts spending on illegal drugs, grog 
and gambling.

This enables families to make better choices with their money. It is working.

Ceduna pokies are down 30 per cent, fresh food deliveries have 
doubled, antisocial behaviour is declining.

In Wyndham, the shire president says women are finding that the card 
"... gives them more control over where money is going instead of it 
going to partners who gamble and drink". Welfare reform does not have 
to be complicated and the early results from these tests are proof of 
this - restricting cash availability removed demand and broke the 
drug dealer's business model.

This creates a better community for all people but especially for the kids.

Children don't choose to grow up in poverty and the system must 
support their parents to be able to break free from it.

Our social security and welfare bill will blow out to $190 billion by 2020.

As taxpayers we should make sure this heavily funded safety net does 
what it should - protect our most vulnerable.

Of course, the issues surrounding addiction and poverty are 
complicated but welfare payments are a fundamental piece of the 
puzzle - access to cash is causing problems that this card can 
address. Crime and drugs have been a focal point of concern for 
people in WA in this election.

Premier Colin Barnett recently conceded that authorities cannot 
control the supply of ice but if we can stem the demand for illegal 
drugs this is surely good news for our overworked police and welfare officers.

As a businessman, it makes sense to me from a demand/supply perspective.

If there is no demand for ice, there is no market for supply. The 
card helps take away demand.

As we have discussed, billions flow into these communities around WA 
and our nation to support families, yet still children go to school 
starving, often without clean uniforms or, much much worse, they 
don't go to school at all.

We can't blame the safety net any more, we can't blame the amount of 
welfare any more, we have to face up to the fact that crystal meth 
and other drugs are destroying the lives of children.

Limiting cash allows families to ensure the full amount of welfare 
can be spent wherever a person pleases but 80 per cent cannot go on 
drugs, alcohol or gambling. The results we're hearing are that many 
people are being empowered by this, to take control of their finances 
for the first time. This is a step off the welfare treadmill and on 
to solid ground.

We are all responsible for our society. Governments must provide a 
safety net that is effective and empowers our most vulnerable.

I am dedicated to helping our most vulnerable and it can be done with 
better policy and not more money. Are you with me?
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom