Dear Prime Minister,
I have an undergraduate Social Work Degree and a Research Masters Degree (as a result of working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in South Brisbane). I have an Arts Honours degree in Anthropology and a PhD which looked at the political obstacles to introducing a guaranteed minimum income in Australia. Between 1965 and 1976 I worked with the Department of Social Security in Brisbane or the NT Administration Welfare Branch in Darwin. I was the Social Planner for the AAP in Darwin before lecturing in Social Policy and Community Work in what is now the University of the NT from 1977- 1985.In 1987 I became the Director of the ACT Council of Social Services. I left Canberra to take up a Senior Lecturer’s position in Social Policy at QUT in 1993 until 2007.
I have written several papers opposing the NT Intervention during Howard’s tenure and subsequent to Labor coming to power. Should you wish to read them go to On Line Opinion. My basic problem with the intervention and particularly income management is that it is racist and paternalistic and denigrates Indigenous people. All the social policies underpinning the Intervention were tried in the 1940s to the early seventies. They did not improve Aboriginal people’s situation then and they won’t improve the situation now.
I was a member of the ALP for 20 years and a strong supporter for many years prior to that (ask Gary Grey or Warren Snowden). I left the Party when Keating signed a secret pact with Indonesia. Since then I have voted Green first but made sure that my preferences flowed to Labor. I was excited when you won office because I thought we would see the end of Howard’s mean spiritedness. I was wrong. I cannot vote Labor whilst the Intervention exists nor can I vote for a party which intends to expand the Intervention to other parts of Australia just to enable it to reinstate the Racial Discrimination Act. The course you have mapped is equally as racist as the Intervention and also denigrates some poor whites. It is mean, tricky and unworthy of honourable politicians.
Ms Macklin is the worst Minister, who has had responsibility for social security policy, since 1908. At least since 1960, it has been possible for people to voluntarily agree to have their social security managed by a friend, relative or welfare agency when they are incapable of managing their own affairs or are being stood over for money by relatives. If Ms Macklin is too lazy or incompetent to implement a voluntary scheme to assist people in the NT who feel humbugged then she does not deserve to be minister.
Whilst your government perseveres with such plans I would rather vote informal than let my vote help get Labor back into office. I am about to leave for 6 months in the Northern Territory. I will be encouraging everyone I meet to vote Labor from office. I maintain a large email network and will start a campaign to put Labor last until you stop being racist and attacking welfare recipients.
Dr John Tomlinson
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