Thursday, 5 March 2015
Hot on the heels of its September 2013 election to federal government, the Coalition led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott ordered a review of Australia’s welfare system.
There is no dispute that it had the right to initiate such a review and chose who headed this review.
However, in the face of a demonstrable history of religious philosophy-based institutions abusing and exploiting the vulnerable in their care, that it picked a former Franciscan priest with a background in such institutions to conduct this cash transfer/funding review defies belief.
While I am reasonably sure that he would have had little to no first-hand knowledge of the abuses which occur within the organisations in which he was a professional executive, I am less certain that he is completely free of the bias and discrimination these institutions display against their client bases.
St. Vincent de Paul has been implicated in allegations of child rape and in at least one court case. Mission Australia tends to fly under the radar when it comes to discrimination and abuse allegations, but there have been past allegations of racism and physical assault of vulnerable clients of which I have become aware. In particular I recall the case of one elderly and homeless Parkinson Disease sufferer allegedly beaten on the footpath outside an inner-city facility by a member of staff. Macquarie Bank’s venture into the aged care/nursing home market brought forth allegations of reductions in staffing numbers and/or hours at the expense of patient care. While Metlifecare in New Zealand has instances of failure to provide adequate care of aged residents on its record from 2002 through to 2014.
On 25 February 2015 the Abbott Government released the review report, A New System for Better Employment and Social Outcomes (second McClure report).
I leave it up to the reader to decide if the review has anything meaningful to say.
However, the manner in which the Abbott Government decided to stage the release of this report leaves a lot to be desired.
New Matilda 1 March 2015:
Welfare advocacy groups are asking for the Coalition government to bring them in on major policy announcements after scrambling to get on top of the McClure report, which they were not warned would be released this week.
The report into the long awaited review of the social welfare system was dropped early on Wednesday morning, but disability and welfare groups were left trying to piece together its contents from media reports.
Maree O'Halloran, Director of the Welfare Rights Centre, said her organisation had not been given any notification about the report’s impending release.
“Clearly the report was given by the government to certain media outlets,” O’Halloran said.
“I think it’s a disrespectful way to have a relationship with community and welfare organisations.”…
While community groups were frustrated by the lack of notice, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph both ran front-page splashes of the report on Wednesday, apparently gaining access to it before its public release. Other outlets, including Guardian Australia, filed stories before Wednesday morning.
New Matilda put questions to the Department of Social Services about media policy regarding the release of key reports and consultation with stakeholders. The questions were forwarded to Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison, but no reply was had been provided by Friday evening.
Craig Wallace, President of People With Disability Australia, said there had been a history of documents like the McClure report being dropped to certain media outlets, particularly The Daily Telegraph, resulting in stories being framed with negative portrayals of people on welfare or those living with a disability.
“This has been the pattern across the last 18 months. We get drops in the media, something on boxing day or on Easter Sunday, and there is no notice, there is no provision of advance copies for community groups,” Wallace said.
On Wednesday, The Telegraph’s headline read: “Our Federal Bludget: DSP under fire as bill to write welfare cheques hits $3bn”….