Showing posts with label federal government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label federal government. Show all posts

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Religious Freedom Review Report: a curate's egg in the hands of an Australian prime minister who doesn't understand the definition of secular or why there is a separation between Church and State


"Australia is not a secular country — it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose.”  [Scott Morrison, 2007]

“Secular [adj] of or pertaining to the world or things not religious, sacred or spiritual; temporal, worldly.” [Patrick Hanks & Simeon Potter, Encyclopedic World Dictionary, 1971]

On 22 November 2017 then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the appointment of an Expert Panel to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.

The Panel’s Religious Freedom Review Report was delivered on 18 May 2018, accompanied by a statement that the report was now in the hands of the Prime Minister any government response was a matter for him.

The prime minister of the day is now the Liberal MP for Cook - a nakedly ambitious man who uses his public profession of Christian Pentecostal faith as a political tool.

Until this week the national electorate had no idea what the report might contain. It remained a closely guarded secret.

Which leads one to wonder if the leak which came Fairfax Media’s way is in fact Morrison preparing voters for what at best is highly likely to be proposed legislation which attempts to extend the exemptions religious institutions enjoy when it come to obeying human rights and anti-discrimination law and at worst an attempt to insert church into the heart of state.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 October 2018:

Religious schools would be guaranteed the right to turn away gay students and teachers under changes to federal anti-discrimination laws recommended by the government’s long-awaited review into religious freedom.

However the report, which is still being debated by cabinet despite being handed to the Coalition four months ago, dismisses the notion religious freedom in Australia is in “imminent peril”, and warns against any radical push to let businesses refuse goods and services such as a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The review was commissioned in the wake of last year’s same-sex marriage victory to appease conservative MPs who feared the change would restrict people’s ability to practise their religion freely.

The contents of the report - seen by Fairfax Media - are unlikely to placate conservatives and religious leaders, and will trigger concern within the LGBTI community about the treatment of gay students and teachers.

The report calls for the federal Sex Discrimination Act to be amended to allow religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status - something some but not all states already allow.
“There is a wide variety of religious schools in Australia and ... to some school communities, cultivating an environment and ethos which conforms to their religious beliefs is of paramount importance,” the report noted.

“To the extent that this can be done in the context of appropriate safeguards for the rights and mental health of the child, the panel accepts their right to select, or preference, students who uphold the religious convictions of that school community.”

Any change to the law should only apply to new enrolments, the report said. The school would have to have a publicly available policy outlining its position, and should regard the best interests of the child as the “primary consideration of its conduct”.

The panel also agreed that faith-based schools should have some discretion to discriminate in the hiring of teachers on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status…..

The panel did not accept that businesses should be allowed to refuse services on religious grounds, warning this would “unnecessarily encroach on other human rights” and “may cause significant harm to vulnerable groups”.

The review also found civil celebrants should not be entitled to refuse to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies if they became celebrants after it was was legalised.
The review does not recommend any changes to the Marriage Act. Nor does it recommend a dedicated Religious Freedom Act - championed by several major Christian churches - which would have enshrined religious organisations’ exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

“Specifically protecting freedom of religion would be out of step with the treatment of other rights,” the report found.

However it did recommend the government amend the Racial Discrimination Act or create a new Religious Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s religious belief or lack thereof.

The panel said it had heard a broad range of concerns about people’s ability to “manifest their faith publicly without suffering discrimination”.

This included wearing religious symbols and dress at school or work, communicating views based on religious understandings, obtaining goods and services and engaging in public life without fear of discrimination.

The report also recommends federal legislation “to make it clear” that religious schools cannot be forced to lease their facilities for a same-sex marriage, as long as the refusal is made in the name of religious doctrine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month told Fairfax Media new religious freedom laws were needed to safeguard personal liberty in a changing society.

“Just because things haven’t been a problem in the past doesn’t mean they won’t be a problem in the future,” he said.

While the panel accepted the right of religious school to discriminate against students on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, it could see no justification for a school to discriminate on the basis of race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status.

“Schools should be places of learning, not breeding grounds of prejudice. This looks and feels like a vindictive attempt to punish LGBTI people for achieving marriage equality."  [just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome, 2018]

As is usual for this prime minister, Morrison fronted the media with half-truths and misdirection about the Religious Freedom Review Reportimplying that the contentious matters within the report were already uniformly codified in law across all the states.

This is far from the truth.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Once more a Coalition federal government is promising savings on household electricity bills


“Throughout the 1980s, '90s, and most of the 2000s, electricity prices tracked fairly closely to general consumer price trends. In the past decade, however, electricity has shot off the charts. Since 2008 power prices have risen 117 per cent, more than four times the average price increase across sectors.” [ABC News, 18 July  2018]

All three major NSW political parties - Liberal, Nationals and Labor - along with their federal counterparts drank the Kool-Aid when it came to the alleged desirability of privatising state assets in the electricity and gas sectors of energy supply.

Here is a brief outline of the how and why...... 

DECEMBER 2010


"The completion of this first tranche of the energy reform process meets the government's objectives – we have exited electricity retailing, we have created a competitive market structure approved by the ACCC and we have received a strong financial return for the taxpayers of NSW,” he [NSW Treasurer] said…..

Earlier, the shadow treasurer, Mike Baird, said: "Whatever they finally announce, it is clear from the ongoing speculation that the receipts will be at the lower end of the $5 billion to $7 billion range, which is about half what these assets are worth – and that is before you take off the $2.3 billion in inducements for the new coalmine needed to get the deal away.

'The end result is billions of dollars lost forever."

A UBS analyst, David Leitch, said: "NSW households are in for higher electricity tariffs and more people at their front door, trying to get them to change electricity supplier."

NOVEMBER 2013


"When this bill is passed, this Government estimates that power prices will go down by 9 per cent, gas prices will go down by 7 per cent, and that means that the average power bill will be $200 a year lower and the average gas bill will be $70 a year lower," Mr Abbott said on October 15.

JUNE 2014


As of 12 May 2017, two government assets have been privatised in 2017. The most recent privatisation is the 99-year lease of a 50.4% share of Endeavour Energy. On 11 May 2017, the NSW [Berejiklian Coalition] Government announced that a consortium led by Macquarie Group's infrastructure arm had been successful in securing the tender for a price of $7.6 billion. Along with Ausgrid and Transgrid, the lease of Endeavour Energy represents the final of the three “poles and wires” sales – a key policy of the Liberal/National government in the 2015 State election. Announcing the sale, NSW Treasury stated:

The NSW Government will retain a 49.6 per cent interest in Endeavour Energy and will have ongoing influence over operations as lessor, licensor and as safety and reliability regulator.

June 2017


Electricity is now management heavy with a blow out in the number of managers relative to other workers. In addition electricity now employs an army of sales and marketing and other workers who do not actually make electricity. In addition the reforms seemed to encourage profit gauging on the part of companies in the industry who are able to inflate the asset base used in calculating the permitted return on assets. More than half the asset base appears to be ‘goodwill’ and retained earnings. There is a weird circular process in which high rates of return are capitalised in ‘goodwill’ and other fictitious or notional items while high profits guarantee high retained earnings which also feed into the asset base. In that way the unproductive capital base is allowed to increase and we are charged for capital that has no real function in producing electricity….

A host of factors have been blamed for the increase in electricity prices relative to other prices but we would point out that the main departure from the rest of the price index happened post privatisation and corporatisation.

JULY 2017


Origin, EnergyAustralia and AGL have all announced price increases for electricity and gas starting from July 1….

In NSW, residential EnergyAustralia customers will see electricity prices increase by up to 19.6 per cent. Origin Energy customers will get a 16.1 per cent rise.

DECEMBER 2017


The key supply chain cost components examined in the report include wholesale electricity purchase costs, regulated network costs and environmental policy costs.
Annual electricity prices for the representative consumer on a market offer in New South Wales:

* increased by 10.2 per cent from 2016-17 to 2017-18 due to higher wholesale electricity costs, driven by the retirement of Northern and Hazelwood generators and increasing gas prices

* are expected to decrease by an annual average of 6.6 per cent in 2018-19 and 2019-20. The expected decreases are largely attributable to decreases in wholesale electricity costs driven by expected new generation (approximately 4,100 MW across the NEM) and the return to service of the Swanbank E generator (385 MW in Queensland). In addition, in NSW, regulated network costs are uncertain in the two years to June 2020 due to the AER being required to remake revenue determinations for the NSW distribution network providers for the 2014-19 regulatory control period.

JANUARY 2018


The most significant price rises were electricity, up 12.4 per cent, fuel up 10.4 per cent, domestic holiday travel up 6.3 per cent and fruit up 9.3 per cent. 

Across New South Wales, we found theaverage annual electricity bill to be just over $1,667. However, we found that bill-payers aged in their 40s reported the highest average bills in NSW at $1,911.76. Those aged 70 or over reported the lowest average bills at $1,466.40.

JULY 2018


This was comprised of $120 due to the [national energy] guarantee and $280 due to new investment in renewable energy that was already planned, mainly because of the Renewable Energy Target, which will run to 2030….

The ESB [Energy Security Board**] proposal increases the annual average saving to $550 on 2018 prices, of which $150 is due to the guarantee and $400 due to renewable energy.


AUGUST 2018


After reading the National Energy Guarantee Consultation Paper as well as the 1 August 2018 Final Detailed Design and listening to statements made by the Turnbull Government, I personally find it hard to believe this change in federal government policy will significantly limit the rate of increases to household energy costs over time when this is based on an assumption that the market will respond by lowering prices across the Australian wholesale and retail sectors of energy supply.

Talk of money 'saved' by households is illusory as It will certainly see no reduction in the actual amounts listed on 2019-20 household electricity and gas bills once this guarantee comes into effect.

*KPMG Economics, November 2017, NEG and Electricity Pricing

Network charges represent on average about half of the electricity supply chain costs, with generation and retail costs (combined into the ‘competitive market’ category) accounting for 42%, and environment policies adding the remaining 8%, based on the latest AEMC Electricity Price Trend report.

The make up of the total average retail cost is shown in Chart 6 which reveals the single largest component of the price of electricity is distribution costs, which represented about 40% of the average cost of electricity. Over the AEMC forecast period to 2018/19, these costs are still expected to represent by far the largest component of the electricity cost stack, albeit fractionally lower in a couple of years’ time.

The next largest component is the wholesale price of electricity, which in 2015/16 represented about 28%. Under the AEMC Base Case scenario – which includes the retirement of the brown coal fired Hazelwood Power station in Victoria – this cost component had been anticipated to rise steadily over the forecast period to represent about 30% of the cost of electricity by 2018/19.

As shown in Chart 7 below, these three jurisdictions experienced higher than anticipated wholesale electricity costs in the order of between 30% and 80% when compared to original forecasts for FY2016/17. When considered on a weighted average basis, using the same methodology applied by the AEMC to estimate the values for the National Summary, wholesale electricity costs have therefore been about 17% to 20% higher than anticipated.
This increase in wholesale electricity costs pushed the bundled cost of electricity to rise by about 5% higher than anticipated by the AEMC, and shifted the relative importance of wholesale prices in the cost stack from about 28% to 31%.


Formed out of the Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market (the Finkel Review), the Energy Security Board comprises an independent chair and deputy chair along with the expert heads of the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The current Board membership is Chair Dr Kerry Schott AO,  Deputy Chair Clare Savage, Australian Energy Market Commission Chair John Pierce, Australian Energy Market Operator Chief Executive Audrey Zibelman, and the Chair of the Australian Energy Regulator Paula Conboy.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

When it comes to human rights and civil liberties is it ever safe to trust the junkyard dog or its political masters?



On 18 July 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull announced the establishment of a Home Affairs portfolio that would comprise immigration, border protection, domestic security and law enforcement agencies, as well as reforms to the Attorney-General’s oversight of Australia’s intelligence community and agencies in the Home Affairs portfolio.

 On 7 December 2017, the Prime Minister introduced the Home Affairs and Integrity Agencies Legislation Amendment Bill2017 into the House of Representatives.

This bill amends the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 and the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

The bill was referred to Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which tabled its report and recommendations on 26 February 2018.

This new government department on steroids will be headed by millionaire former Queensland Police detective and far-right Liberal MP for Dickson, Peter Craig Dutton.

His 'front man' selling this change is Abbott protégéformer Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and current Secretary of the new Department of Home Affairs, Michael Pezzullo. 

The question every Australian needs to ask themselves is, can this current federal government, the ministers responsible for and department heads managing this extremely powerful department, be trusted not to dismantle a raft of human and civil rights during the full departmental implementation.

It looks suspiciously as though former Australian attorney-general George Brandis does not think so - he is said to fear political overreach.

The Saturday Paper, 3-9 March 2018:

On Friday last week, former attorney-general George Brandis went to see Michael Pezzullo, the secretary of the new Department of Home Affairs.

The meeting was a scheduled consultation ahead of Brandis’s departure for London to take up his post as Australia’s new high commissioner. It was cordial, even friendly. But what the soon-to-be diplomat Brandis did not tell Pezzullo during the pre-posting briefing was that he had singled him out in a private farewell speech he had given to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on the eve of his retirement from parliament two weeks earlier.

As revealed in The Saturday Paper last week, the then senator Brandis used the ASIO speech to raise concerns about the power and scope of the new department and the ambitions of its secretary. Brandis effectively endorsed the private concerns of some within ASIO that the new security structure could expose the domestic spy agency to ministerial or bureaucratic pressure.

In a regular Senate estimates committee hearing this week, Pezzullo described his meeting with Brandis – on the day before The Saturday Paper article appeared – as Opposition senators asked him for assurances that ASIO would retain its statutory independence once it moves from the attorney-general’s portfolio to become part of Home Affairs.

“I had a very good discussion on Friday,” Pezzullo told the committee, of his meeting with Brandis.

“He’s seeking instructions and guidance on performing the role of high commissioner. None of those issues came up, so I find that of interest. If he has concerns, I’m sure that he would himself raise those publicly.”

Labor senator Murray Watt pressed: “So he raised them with ASIO but not with you?”
“I don’t know what he raised with ASIO,” Pezzullo responded. “… You should ask the former attorney-general if he’s willing to state any of those concerns … He’s a high commissioner now, so he may not choose to edify your question with a response, but that’s a matter for him. As I said, he didn’t raise any of those concerns with me when we met on Friday.”

The Saturday Paper contacted George Brandis but he had no comment.

“ANY SUGGESTION THAT WE IN THE PORTFOLIO ARE SOMEHOW EMBARKED ON THE SECRET DECONSTRUCTION OF THE SUPERVISORY CONTROLS WHICH ENVELOP AND CHECK EXECUTIVE POWER ARE NOTHING MORE THAN FLIGHTS OF CONSPIRATORIAL FANCY…”

Watt asked Pezzullo for assurance there would be no change to the longstanding provisions in the ASIO Act that kept the agency under its director-general’s control and not subject to instruction from the departmental secretary. The minister representing Home Affairs in the Senate, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, said: “It is not proposed that there be a change to that effect.”

The new Department of Home Affairs takes in Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, known as AUSTRAC, and ASIO.
ASIO does not move until legislation is passed to authorise the shift, and will retain its status as a statutory agency.

Pezzullo addressed the fears of those questioning his department’s reach. He said some commentary mischaracterised the arrangements as “being either a layer of overly bureaucratic oversight of otherwise well-functioning operational arrangements or, worse, a sinister concentration of executive power that will not be able to be supervised and checked”.

“Both of these criticisms are completely wrong,” he said.

Pezzullo had already described his plans, both to the committee and in a speech he made in October last year, in which he spoke of exploiting the in-built capabilities in digital technology to expand Australia’s capacity to detect criminal and terrorist activity in daily life online and on the so-called “dark web”.

But the language he used, referring to embedding “the state” invisibly in global networks “increasingly at super scale and at very high volumes”, left his audiences uncertain about exactly what he meant.

Watt asked if there would be increased surveillance of the Australian people. “Any surveillance of citizens is always strictly done in accordance with the laws passed by this parliament,” Pezzullo replied.

In his February 7 speech to ASIO, George Brandis described Pezzullo’s October remarks as an “urtext”, or blueprint, for a manifesto that would rewrite how Australia’s security apparatus operates.

Pezzullo hit back on Monday. “Any suggestion that we in the portfolio are somehow embarked on the secret deconstruction of the supervisory controls which envelop and check executive power are nothing more than flights of conspiratorial fancy that read into all relevant utterances the master blueprint of a new ideology of undemocratic surveillance and social control,” Pezzullo said.

As for day to day human resources, financial management and transparent accountable governance, media reports are not inspiring confidence in Messrs. Turnbull, Dutton and Pezzullo.

The Canberra Times, 2 March 2018:

Home Affairs head Mike Pezzullo was one of the first to front Senate estimates on Monday.

It's been up and running for only weeks, but his new department is part of one of the largest government portfolios.

Having brought several security agencies into its fold, and if legislation passes letting ASIO join, the Home Affairs portfolio will be home to 23,000 public servants. 
Mr Pezzullo was also quizzed on the investigation into Roman Quaedvlieg, the head of the Australian Border Force who has been on leave since May last year, following claims he helped his girlfriend - an ABF staff member - get a job at Sydney Airport.

It was revealed the Prime Minister's department has had a corruption watchdog's report into abuse of power allegations for at least five months while Mr Quaedvlieg has been on full pay earning hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Is Australian welfare reform in 2018 a step back into a dark past?


Last year saw the completion of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which revealed generational abuse within the Australian education and child welfare systems. 

That year also revealed the ongoing failure of the Dept. of Human Services and Centrelink to fix its faulty national debt collection scheme, which possibly led to the deaths of up to eleven welfare recipients after they were issued debt advice letters.

The first quarter of 2018 brought a scathing United Nations report on Australia's contemporary human rights record titled Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on his mission to Australia.

Along with a report into elder abuse in Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service in South Australia and the release of a detailed Human Rights Watch investigation of 14 prisons in Western Australia and Queensland which revealed the neglect and physical/sexual abuse of prisoners with disabilities, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme represents yet another crisis. The Productivity Commission has warned there is now no carer of last resort for patients in an emergency, care provider agencies are reportedly owed up to $300 million and disabled people are often receiving inadequate care via untrained staff or sometimes no care at all, as government disability care services are being closed in favour of the new privatised service delivery scheme.

None of these instances stand in isolation and apart from either Australian society generally or government policies more specifically.

They all represent the frequently meagre nature of community compassion and the real level of care governments have been willing to organise and fund for vulnerable citizens. In reality the ideal level of support and care for the vulnerable - that politicians spout assurances about from campaign hustings every three years - is just so much political hot air unless ordinary voters insist that it be otherwise. 

As the Turnbull Coalition Government clearly intends to push forward with the full gamut of its punitive welfare reforms perhaps now it the time to consider if we have made any great strides towards a genuinely fair and egalitarian society in the last two hundred years or if we are only dressing up old cruelties in new clothes and calling this "looking after our fellow Australians”, "an exercise in practical love"an exercise in compassion and in love".


Over the last two decades, commissions and reports on institutional care across the western world have highlighted widespread physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence within caring systems, often targeted at society’s most vulnerable people, not least children, the disabled and the elderly. These have often come at significant cost not just to the individual, but the nation. As Maxwell has shown, national apologies, that require the nation to render itself shamed by such practices, and financial redress to victims, have impacted on political reputation, trust in state organisations, and finances. As each report is released and stories of suffering fill newspapers and are quantified for official redress, both scholars and the public have asked ‘how was this allowed to happen?’ At the same time, and particularly in the last few years as many countries have turned towards conservative fiscal policies, newspapers also highlight the wrongs of current systems.

In the UK, numerous reports have uncovered abuses within welfare systems, as people are sanctioned to meet targets, as welfare staff are encouraged to withhold information about services or grants to reduce demand, and through systematic rejection of first-try benefit applications to discourage service use. Often excused as ‘isolated incidents’ on investigation, such accounts are nonetheless increasingly widespread. They are accompanied by a measurable reduction in investment in welfare and health systems, that have required a significant withdrawal in services, and have been accompanied with policies of ‘making work pay’ that have required that benefits be brought in line, not with need, but with low working incomes. The impact of these policies and associated staff behaviour have been connected to increasing child and adult povertydeclining life expectancygrowing homelessness, and the rise in foodbank use.

Importantly, public commentators on this situation have described this situation as ‘cruel’. One headline saw a benefits advisor commenting ‘I get brownie points for cruelty’; another noted ‘Welfare reform is not only cruel but chaotic’. The system depicted in Ken Loach’s I Daniel Blake (2016), described by reviewers as a Kafka-esque nightmare, a ‘humiliating and spirit-sapping holding pattern of enforced uselessness’, and a  ‘comprehensive [system of] neglect and indifference’, was confirmed by many as an accurate depiction. Whether or not this representation of the current welfare system is held to be true, such reporting raises significant questions about when and how systems designed to provide help and support move from care to abuse. A focus on ‘isolated incidents’ today can be compared to the blaming of ‘isolated perpetrators’ in historic cases of abuse, an account that is now held by scholars to ignore the important role of systems of welfare in enabling certain types of cruelty to happen…..

The capacity of welfare systems to support individuals is shaped by cultural beliefs and political ideologies around the relationship between work, human nature, and welfare. Here late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Ireland provides a productive example. Ireland in this period was marked by significant levels of poverty amongst its lower orders, particularly those that worked in agriculture. The capacity to manage that poverty on an individual level was hindered by several economic downturns and harvest failure, that pushed people to starvation. As a nation without a poor law (welfare) system until 1838, the poor relied on charity, whether from individuals or institutions for relief. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the ‘state’ (usually local corporations) introduced more direct welfare, sometimes in the form of relief payments but more usually access to workhouses. 
After 1838 and until the crisis of the 1847 famine, relief payments were removed and all welfare recipients had to enter the workhouse. Accompanied by a growth in institutional charitable services, the success and ‘care’ of the system could vary enormously between areas and organisations. What it did not do is significantly reduce poverty levels in the population.

Indeed, it was important that the poverty levels of welfare recipients were not reduced by the workhouse system. Like current ‘make work pay’ policies, poverty relief measures were designed so that those in the workhouse or receiving charity elsewhere did not have a significantly higher standard of living than those who provided for themselves. This principle was determined based on the wage of an independent labourer, one of the poorest but also largest categories of worker. The problem for the system was that independent labourers earned so poorly that they barely managed a subsistence diet. Their living conditions were extremely poor; many slept on hay in darkened huts with little furnishings or personal property.

Those who managed the system believed that a generous welfare system would encourage people to claim benefits and so could potentially bankrupt those paying into the system. This encouraged an active policy of ‘cruelty’. Not only were benefit recipients given meagre food and poor living conditions, but families were routinely broken up, the sexes housed in different wings and prohibited from seeing each other. Welfare recipients were often ‘badged’ or given uniforms to mark their ‘shame’, and workhouse labour was designed to be particularly physically challenging.  

It was a system underpinned by several interlocking beliefs about the Irish, the value of work and the economy. Hard work was viewed as a moral characteristic, something to be encouraged from childhood and promoted as ethical behaviour. Certain groups, notably the Irish poor but also the British lower orders and non-Europeans more generally, were viewed as lacking this moral characteristic and required it to be instilled by their social betters. Welfare systems that were not carefully designed to be ‘less eligible’ (i.e. a harsher experience than ‘normal; life for the working poor), were understood to indulge an innate laziness…..

Throughout history, welfare services have required considerable economic investment. Unsurprisingly, this has required those who run institutions of care for people also to keep a careful eye on their financial bottom line. More broadly, it has also required a monitoring of services to ensure value for money for the state and its taxpayers and to protect the interests of the service users. As has been seen recently in discussions of targets placed on staff providing welfare provision in the UK, such measuring systems can come to shape the nature and ethos of the service in damaging ways.

A relevant historical example of this is from the Australian laundry system in the late nineteenth and twentieth century. Young women were placed in youth homes and registered as delinquent for a wide range of reasons from petty criminal behaviour to perceived immorality (ranging from flirting with the opposite sex to premarital pregnancy), to having been neglected by parents. These homes, often run by religious organisations, were designed to ‘reform’ young (and occasionally older) women, preventing them from entering prostitution or other criminal pursuits. The main mechanism for ‘reform’ was through a moral discipline of work, which in many of these organisations revolved around a professional laundry service. Work was often unpaid or paid at very nominal sums, given to women on their release. The service, which catered to the general public, kept institutions financially afloat, and many became significant-sized businesses. They required women to work very long hours, in challenging conditions. Accidents, particularly burns, were not unusual. As businesses grew, other ‘reform’ efforts that ran alongside, such as education, became rarer.

The laundry became the driving focus of the institution. The women were cheap labour, and managing that machine became not just a means to an end, but shaped the logic and functioning of the care service. It is an example of how an economic imperative can come to adversely impact on care, by disrupting the purposes and functions of the service. It was also a process that significantly reduced the level of ‘care’ that such institutions provided, not only through a physical job that wore on the body but one reinforced with physical punishment, which came to include emotional and sexual abuse, and poor food and living conditions……

There are significant variations between the institutional care described here for the nineteenth century and a contemporary welfare state that encourages users, as much as possible, to remain outside ‘the system’. The capacity for ‘the state’ to control every dimension of a person’s life today is significantly reduced; conversely, the ability of those in need to fall into service ‘gaps’ as they cannot access services or negotiate bureaucratic systems, is in some ways increased. Nonetheless, there are parallels in the operation of both systems that should give contemporary policymakers pause. Abusive care does not just emerge from individual perpetrators, from the institutional model, or even a lack of policies on staff-client relationships, but also from the wider values and beliefs that shape the production of welfare systems; from the financial and emotional investments that we place in institutions; and from the corruption or occlusion of institutional targets and goals.


Ensuring that the ‘cruel’ practices reported of current systems do not become systematic issues on the scale of previous institutional abuses therefore requires not just monitoring a few rogue individuals, but a clear goal about what our welfare systems should achieve. The needs and interests of service users should be placed at their heart, coupled with a significant social, cultural and political investment in ensuring that goal is achieved. All other goals and targets for welfare service providers, especially their frontline staff, should be secondary to that and carefully designed so as not to interfere with that end. With rising rates of poverty, homelessness and illness, welfare systems look to continue to hold a central role in society for the foreseeable future. It is imperative that the abusive practices of previous ‘caring’ regimes are left firmly in the past.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

New public register published as part of a federal crackdown on non-complying day care centres


This month the Turnbull Government published a new public register as part of its crackdown on fraud in the day care sector.

Australian Department of Education, Child Care Enforcement Action Register. 6 January 2018:

The Child Care Enforcement Action Register is a list of services that have been the subject of a sanction and/or immediate suspension under the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act 1999 (the Administration Act).

In accordance with section 201B of the Administration Act, the Department of Education and Training (the department) publishes a list of services that have been sanctioned under section 200 and/or suspended under section 201A of that Act. Information published on this page only relates to those enforcement actions permitted to be published under the Family Assistance Law (FAL).

The department has established the Child Care Enforcement Action Register because it considers that information on sanctions should be available to the public. Information about the responsibilities and obligations of approved child care services and the FAL can be found on the department’s website.

The information relates to enforcement action taken by the department between 1 July 2016 and 30 September 2017.

2017-2018 (First Quarter) - last updated in January 2018:


2016-2017 - last updated in December 2017:


Only one NSW North Coast service has been placed on this federal government name and shame file – Elite Edge Sports & Learning Centre at Terranora. With a suspension on the basis of “Non-compliance with State or Commonwealth Law” as of 2 June 2017.

The majority of named NSW child care centres and other services being in metropolitan areas.