Mean(s) Test­ing

Why it pays to make our wel­fare sys­tem fair

AQ: Australian Quarterly - - CONTENTS - EVA COX AO

Why it pays to make our wel­fare sys­tem fair

Aus­tralia is a rich na­tion – the rich­est in the world, if we as­sess it on me­dian in­come (50th per­centile). Yet we have one of the mean­est sets of wel­fare pay­ments of the OECD coun­tries, rank­ing 22nd out of 29 coun­tries. In this, means test­ing has be­come the core model for al­most all pay­ments, jus­ti­fied by re­duc­ing eli­gi­bil­ity to only the truly needy, and thereby re­duc­ing costs.

Atax re­view doc­u­ment de­scribed the wel­fare sys­tem thus: 'Means test­ing is a key char­ac­ter­is­tic of Aus­tralia's unique trans­fer sys­tem, which is more highly tar­geted than other OECD coun­tries... Within the cur­rent two-part means test — the in­come test and the assets test — some assets are as­sessed under both tests, while other assets are as­sessed only under the assets test'. 2

These data and de­scrip­tions sit oddly, given the egal­i­tar­ian ‘fair go' we have tra­di­tion­ally pro­moted as part of our na­tional im­age. While means test­ing re­duces the over­all costs of pay­ments, it im­poses a wide range of fi­nan­cial cri­te­ria on which eli­gi­bil­ity and amounts are as­sessed. These re­duce the net ben­e­fits of ex­tra in­come, the Ef­fec­tive Mar­ginal Tax rate.

Even more prob­lem­atic are the strictly en­forced rules named (but are not ac­tu­ally) ' Mu­tual Obli­ga­tions'. These are hardly mu­tual and con­trib­ute to sham­ing the re­cip­i­ents, of­ten lead­ing to wider stig­ma­ti­sa­tion of those on work­ing-age wel­fare. The pub­lic­ity given to the sins of non-com­pli­ance are framed as rip­ping off tax­pay­ers. There­fore, the gen­eral public is dis­tracted from struc­tural bar­ri­ers to em­ploy­ment by the as­sump­tion of in­di­vid­ual sins.

The ex­pan­sion of the wel­fare state by most West­ern coun­tries in the wake of World War Two, was to counter the dam­age to so­cial co­he­sion that was wit­nessed after the First World War. The Treaty of Ver­sailles ef­fec­tively pun­ished the losers, yet even the vic­tors weren't

spared the 1929 col­lapse of Wall Street and sub­se­quent Great De­pres­sion.

Mass unem­ploy­ment and eco­nomic dis­pos­ses­sion lead to the rise of dic­ta­tors like Hitler, Mus­solini and Franco, and then di­rectly into the Sec­ond World War. The rise of com­mu­nism in Rus­sia of­fered an­other ex­is­ten­tial threat to the ideal of democ­racy.

In part, pay­ments de­signed to pre­vent poverty were seen as a core el­e­ment in cre­at­ing ad­e­quate levels of trust in democ­racy. The model of the USA New Deal and the ac­cep­tance of the Keynes for­mula of ex­tend­ing gov­ern­ment spend­ing when mar­kets mal­func­tioned, saw spend­ing in­crease to fund forms of so­cial democ­racy. This new spend­ing was to give sta­bil­ity by re­as­sur­ing vot­ers of the na­tion states' demo­cratic trust­wor­thi­ness.

Wel­fare pay­ments could there­fore be deemed part of the gov­ern­ment's com­pact with cit­i­zens, and jus­ti­fies Aus­tralia's claims to a ‘fair go' ethos. We were one of the na­tions that fol­lowed these recipes for sus­tain­able order, with our post-war re­con­struc­tion pro­gram led by Nugget Coombs.

The shift of most tax­a­tion from the states to Can­berra – in­tro­duced to cover war ex­penses – was made per­ma­nent so that these pay­ments could be­come na­tional pro­grams. In 1945, there were, for the first time, unem­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and In­valid Pen­sion poli­cies for work­ing age peo­ple.

Ad­di­tional post-war changes were made over the next two decades, with more se­ri­ous changes in­tro­duced after 1972, mainly by the in­com­ing ALP gov­ern­ment. These in­cluded a Dou­ble Or­phans Pen­sion, sole par­ent ben­e­fits, start­ing with moth­ers, and other non­puni­tive op­tions, in­clud­ing the Age Pen­sion as a universal pay­ment!

How­ever, this was soon re­voked by the Coalition, as there was lit­tle sup­port for universal pay­ments. Fraser added to this by re­plac­ing the universal Child En­dow­ment, which had of­fered hor­i­zon­tal eq­uity be­tween those with and with­out chil­dren, with a range of in­come-tested fam­ily pay­ments.

The Hawke gov­ern­ment im­proved some ar­eas but also made cuts, such as tight­en­ing the eli­gi­bil­ity for the sole par­ent pen­sion by im­pos­ing stricter lim­its on pos­si­ble cou­plings. New means tests were in­tro­duced for the age pen­sion and fam­ily pay­ments, and the in­creas­ing ef­fects of the ne­olib­eral shift were be­com­ing ev­i­dent. Howard re­gained power for the Coalition in 1996.

The se­ri­ous ar­rival of ne­olib­eral val­ues

A decade after Howard took power, he de­cided to make ma­jor changes. After tight­en­ing the eli­gi­bil­ity cri­te­ria for var­i­ous pay­ments, his Gov­ern­ment es­tab­lished the Wel­fare to Work pro­gram in 2006. This in­volved more changes to eli­gi­bil­ity that in­creased the range and num­ber of peo­ple ex­pected to take on full or part-time work, and added more con­di­tion­al­i­ties that clearly blamed work­ing age re­cip­i­ents for their lack of em­ploy­ment.

One of the tar­get groups were sole par­ents, who were now ex­pected to start look­ing for paid work once their youngest child turned six. More­over, new claimants now lost their eli­gi­bil­ity for the sole par­ent pay­ment when the child turned eight, whereas they had pre­vi­ously been el­i­gi­ble un­til their child turned 16. They were then moved to the lower level New­start pay­ment. How­ever, the 400,000 plus ex­ist­ing

Pay­ments de­signed to pre­vent poverty were seen as a core el­e­ment in cre­at­ing ad­e­quate levels of trust in democ­racy

re­cip­i­ents were left on the pay­ment (known as grand­fa­ther­ing) and many then trans­ferred to dis­abil­ity and carer pay­ments. 3

This grand­fa­ther­ing right was with­drawn in 2008 by the ALP gov­ern­ment, along with abol­ish­ing Part­ner Al­lowance and Wi­d­ows Pen­sions. The jus­ti­fi­ca­tion given by then Min­is­ter Mack­lin was that too few par­ents were ac­tively look­ing for, or par­tic­i­pat­ing in, paid work.

How­ever, the ALP failed to note that of the 100,000 re­main­ing grand­fa­thered pay­ment re­cip­i­ents, the sta­tis­tics showed 60 per­cent were em­ployed, al­beit part time. The shift meant they lost in­come when they were moved to New­start, as the ef­fec­tive mar­ginal tax rates saw var­i­ous pay­ments cut and a loss of other en­ti­tle­ments.

Some gave up jobs that of­fered too lit­tle ex­tra in­come after the shift. This move pro­vided a job dis­in­cen­tive as net ex­tra in­come was of­ten quite sav­agely re­duced. Check­ing in­come was ac­com­pa­nied by the need to re­port on set con­di­tions, par­tic­u­larly for those re­quired to seek paid work, mean­ing in­ter­ac­tions with the de­part­men­tal of­fi­cers were of­ten fre­quent and dif­fi­cult. 4

Later data failed to show any se­ri­ous in­creases in re­cip­i­ents find­ing more jobs, nei­ther in 2006 nor in this later de­ba­cle. These changes, plus the tight­en­ing of eli­gi­bil­ity for the Dis­abil­ity Sup­port Pen­sion from 2016, are all signs that both ma­jor par­ties were de­ter­mined to cut the costs of pay­ments and em­pha­sise the need for re­cip­i­ents to find jobs – all under the slo­gan of mu­tual obli­ga­tions, which seemed very much re­stricted to com­pelling be­hav­iour change in re­cip­i­ents.

These at­tempts to con­strain the ac­tiv­i­ties of re­cip­i­ents and to in­crease their fo­cus on get­ting paid jobs, failed to show real ben­e­fits. There are many ar­ti­cles that sug­gest there is lit­tle ev­i­dence for the ef­fec­tive­ness of these tac­tics, and some ev­i­dence of harm.

This odd mix of ne­olib­er­al­ism and puni­tive con­ser­vatism in long-term pol­icy set­ting all pro­moted the im­pli­ca­tion that the prob­lem lay with flawed in­di­vid­ual wel­fare re­cip­i­ents. This poi­sonous po­lit­i­cal nar­ra­tive piled ever-in­creas­ing stigma on those re­ceiv­ing pay­ments. Like­wise, it tilled the soil of public opin­ion to more eas­ily ac­cept ad­di­tional con­trols over ex­ist­ing pay­ments and the tri­alling of new forms of con­di­tional mod­els.

By en­trench­ing the nar­ra­tive of un­de­serv­ing wel­fare re­cip­i­ents, it has made fair changes all the more dif­fi­cult to achieve.

These at­tempts to con­strain the ac­tiv­i­ties of re­cip­i­ents and to in­crease their fo­cus on get­ting paid jobs, failed to show real ben­e­fits.

This mis­use of The Chil­dren Are Sa­cred Re­port was seen as a vote get­ter. Nonethe­less, the Howard Gov­ern­ment lost. Even so, the NTER re­mained leg­is­lated.

The ar­rival of 'tri­als' of in­come man­age­ment

The con­cept of 'tri­alling' new forms of con­di­tional pay­ments started in 2007, as part of the Howard elec­tion cam­paign. Mal Brough, then Min­is­ter for Indigenous Af­fairs, was look­ing for some­thing spec­tac­u­lar to pro­mote as an elec­tion is­sue, so ini­ti­ated the North­ern Ter­ri­tory Emer­gency Re­sponse (NTER) to a Re­port by Pat An­der­son and Rex Wild, sug­gest­ing the need to ad­dress Aboriginal child sexual abuse and dis­or­der in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory.

Part of what was rec­om­mended was a pro­gram of In­come Man­age­ment for some 20-plus Aboriginal com­mu­ni­ties, seen as hav­ing prob­lems. This would con­trol 50 per­cent of wel­fare pay­ments to re­duce ac­cess to cash for grog, gam­bling and drugs etc.

This mis­use of The Chil­dren Are Sa­cred Re­port was seen as a vote get­ter. Nonethe­less, the Howard Gov­ern­ment lost. Even so, the NTER re­mained leg­is­lated by the in­com­ing ALP, who were in­ter­ested in main­tain­ing and up­grad­ing it. This oc­curred in 2010 to meet the views of Jenny Mack­lin, the then-alp Min­is­ter for Indigenous Af­fairs.

The new pro­gram was no longer tar­geted just at re­mote Indigenous re­cip­i­ents, but widely ex­tended to other NT re­cip­i­ents of pay­ments, seen as need­ing en­cour­age­ment to find paid work. So the leg­is­la­tion was no longer ex­empt from the Racial Discrimina­tion Act (RDA) as it was to ap­ply widely to a range of re­cip­i­ents in the NT and else­where. The ex­tended model, now in­clud­ing the Ba­sic­scard (BC), would ex­tend the scope of re­stric­tions on the 50 per­cent of non-ac­ces­si­ble cash used to con­trol bad be­hav­iour.

The ALP in­tro­duced their Stronger Fu­tures Act in 2012, as a ten-year plan fo­cus­ing on their Clos­ing the Gap com­mit­ments. This con­tin­ued to in­clude con­trol over spend­ing on sin­ful items such as grog, and bet­ter food ac­cess, once again in­di­vid­u­al­is­ing blame and cen­tral­is­ing con­trol.

This Ba­sic­scard was the first ex­am­ple of a sys­tem of de­liv­er­ing wel­fare pay­ments, that was built on the as­sumed spend­ing and con­sump­tion sins of a pre­sumed sub­stan­tial pro­por­tion of re­cip­i­ents, an un­proven as­sump­tion.

At about the same time there was a small trial set up by Noel Pear­son in Cape York on a lo­ca­tion model, with more lo­cal con­trols. In the fol­low­ing years, var­i­ous other small tri­als were set up in many other sites, seen as hav­ing pos­si­ble wel­fare prob­lems, such as WA com­mu­ni­ties, Bankstown, Lo­gan, and Shep­par­ton. The ad­min­is­tra­tion was done by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

A Quick Guide in 2015 by the Par­lia­men­tary Li­brary stated the fol­low­ing:

"The ob­jec­tives of in­come man­age­ment are to:

· re­duce im­me­di­ate hard­ship and de­pri­va­tion by di­rect­ing wel­fare pay­ments to the pri­or­ity needs of re­cip­i­ents, their part­ners, chil­dren and any other de­pen­dents

· help af­fected wel­fare pay­ment re­cip­i­ents to bud­get so that they can meet their pri­or­ity needs

· re­duce the amount of dis­cre­tionary in­come avail­able for al­co­hol, gam­bling, to­bacco and pornog­ra­phy

· re­duce the like­li­hood that wel­fare pay­ment re­cip­i­ents will be sub­ject to ha­rass­ment and abuse in re­la­tion to their wel­fare pay­ments and

· en­cour­age so­cially re­spon­si­ble be­hav­iour, par­tic­u­larly in the care and ed­u­ca­tion of chil­dren.” 5

These tar­gets were rarely met in any of the trial eval­u­a­tions, yet past and cur­rent gov­ern­ments' en­thu­si­asm for in­come man­age­ment con­tin­ues un­abated.

The Cash­less Debit Card (CDC)

The Cash­less Debit Card was born out of pro­pos­als in the Twiggy For­rest Re­port on Indigenous needs. For three years the CDC has been in devel­op­ment, with the model con­trol­ling 80 per­cent of a per­son's cash. Wor­ry­ingly, it is not ad­min­is­tered by the Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices (DSS), like the Ba­sics Card, but is separately con­tracted to a pri­vate firm, In­due Pty Ltd, to ad­min­is­ter it.

It was orig­i­nally tri­aled in Ce­duna, South Aus­tralia, and has since been ex­tended to West­ern Aus­tralian sites and, more re­cently, to Bund­aberg in Queens­land. The last site is the first to have a mi­nor­ity Indigenous pop­u­la­tion area, which sug­gests that the Gov­ern­ment may be con­tem­plat­ing its much wider ex­ten­sion to other com­mu­ni­ties with few Indigenous peo­ple, or rolling it out uni­ver­sally.

There are sug­ges­tions that the peo­ple now on the Ba­sic­scard, mostly in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and Cape York, will be trans­ferred to the CDC model in the near fu­ture. This op­tion and the ex­ten­sion of cur­rent sites is op­posed by many, in­clud­ing the Aus­tralian Coun­cil of So­cial Ser­vices (ACOSS) who stated they “op­pose the ex­pan­sion of the cash­less debit card tri­als under the So­cial Ser­vices Leg­is­la­tion Amend­ment (Cash­less Debit Card Trial Ex­pan­sion) Bill 2018. The cash­less debit pol­icy is pa­ter­nal­is­tic, in­tru­sive and puni­tive; and with­out a re­li­able ev­i­dence base that proves it ben­e­fits com­mu­ni­ties.”

The Cash­less Debit Card was born out of pro­pos­als in the Twiggy For­rest Re­port on Indigenous needs… with the model con­trol­ling 80 per­cent of a per­son's cash.

Rather than pro­mot­ing in­de­pen­dence and the build­ing of skills and ca­pa­bil­i­ties, New In­come Man­age­ment in the NT ap­pears to have en­cour­aged in­creas­ing de­pen­dence upon the wel­fare sys­tem.

Eval­u­a­tions of In­come Man­age­ment and CDC pro­grams

There have been a range of for­mal and com­mu­nity eval­u­a­tions of the ef­fects of both cards but most have failed to pro­vide valid data that they have been ef­fec­tive in meet­ing any of the ob­jec­tives of­fered above.

There were a range of eval­u­a­tions by con­sul­tants and the Gov­ern­ment to var­i­ous pro­grams. How­ever, the main re­port, is­sued in 2014, was a ma­jor com­pre­hen­sive doc­u­ment pre­pared by a con­sor­tium of ex­pe­ri­enced aca­demics. It con­cluded in its sum­mary the fol­low­ing:

‘ The eval­u­a­tion data does not pro­vide ev­i­dence of in­come man­age­ment hav­ing im­proved the out­comes that it was in­tend­ing to have an im­pact upon. In­deed, rather than pro­mot­ing in­de­pen­dence and the build­ing of skills and ca­pa­bil­i­ties, New In­come Man­age­ment in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory ap­pears to have en­cour­aged in­creas­ing de­pen­dence upon the wel­fare sys­tem, and the tools which were en­vis­aged as pro­vid­ing them with the skills to man­age have rather be­come in­stru­ments which re­lieve them of the bur­den of man­age­ment. While at one level, and for some groups, this may still be seen as a pos­i­tive out­come and one which they re­port as hav­ing im­proved their qual­ity of life – and it is pos­si­ble that some may be able to lift them­selves out of their sit­u­a­tion – more broadly it also comes at a cost of greater de­pen­dence.' (p xxii) 6

While it re­ported that some re­cip­i­ents felt they had ben­e­fited and wanted to re­tain the pro­gram, there was no data then, or more re­cently, that safety, ac­cess to food, school at­ten­dance or well­be­ing had im­proved over the decade it had been op­er­at­ing. There has been no other re­cent data that sug­gests these ear­lier find­ings are not still ap­pli­ca­ble.

Sim­i­larly, the eval­u­a­tions of the more re­cent tri­als of the Cash­less Debit Card in Ce­duna and the West­ern Aus­tralian sites have not of­fered valid data on its mer­its. The re­port pre­pared by Orima, a con­sul­tancy of­ten used by the Com­mon­wealth in this area, was se­ri­ously crit­i­cised for poor de­sign and method­ol­ogy by the Aus­tralian Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice with the fol­low­ing con­clu­sion:

The Depart­ment of So­cial Ser­vices largely es­tab­lished ap­pro­pri­ate ar­range­ments to im­ple­ment the Cash­less Debit Card Trial, how­ever, its ap­proach to mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion was inad­e­quate. As a con­se­quence, it is dif­fi­cult to con­clude whether there had been a re­duc­tion in so­cial harm and whether the card was a lower cost wel­fare quar­an­tin­ing ap­proach. 7

The above crit­i­cisms were fur­ther ex­panded by my­self and Janet Hunt from the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity, and writ­ten up in The Guardian under the head­ing Cash­less wel­fare card re­port does not sup­port the Min­is­ters claims.

My con­cerns were method­olog­i­cal as the Orima data col­lec­tion was se­ri­ously flawed. The data, quoted fre­quently by Min­is­ters as proof of good results, was se­ri­ously un­re­li­able. It was col­lected in street in­ter­views with peo­ple, who had been asked for their proof of iden­tity, then promised a cash voucher. They were then asked to tick (yes/no) ques­tions on whether par­tic­i­pants had re­duced their al­co­hol in­take and gam­bling and if they spent more time with their chil­dren. These un­eth­i­cal pro­cesses cre­ated in­valid, 8 un­re­li­able re­sponses!

These un­proven in­come man­age­ment mod­els are not the only ex­am­ples that show the cur­rent full ex­tent of con­di­tions put on wel­fare pay­ments con­tin­u­ing to blame re­cip­i­ents for their prob­lems. Par­ents Next is tar­geted at pri­mary sole car­ers (gen­er­ally moth­ers) of chil­dren under six, which sign them up for com­pul­sory 'wor­thy' ac­tiv­i­ties or they lose their pay­ments. If they miss ses­sions they are ob­vi­ously not get­ting ‘job-ready'.

These puni­tive mea­sures are ex­am­ples

of a de­vel­oped new in­surance model that es­ti­mates the risk of in­di­vid­u­als be­com­ing de­pen­dent on wel­fare long term. Ob­vi­ously, there is yet no data sup­port­ing this as­sump­tion, only algorithms. Other wel­fare-to-work pro­grams have sim­i­lar con­di­tional struc­tures.

An­other ex­am­ple of ex­ces­sive use of risky data is the crude model of re­triev­ing un­proven debts, Robo-debt, which has caused death and dis­tress. It is yet an­other ex­am­ple of blam­ing the vic­tim, with mis­takes and de­lib­er­ately neg­a­tive as­sump­tions built into the sys­tem.

There are clear plans to ex­tend the more con­di­tional CDC, which will soon re­place the In­come Man­age­ment (IM) model in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and Cape York. There are also hints it will soon be ex­panded fur­ther to cover most other wel­fare re­cip­i­ents.

Yet, there is lit­tle ev­i­dence that the com­mu­nity at large will no­tice the changes, and ob­ject to the broad­en­ing of the un­proven model, de­spite its high costs and pos­si­ble harm. The racial ori­gins of the pro­gram seem to pro­tect it from public and me­dia scru­tiny.


There were 25,270 peo­ple on IM in March 2018, 78 per­cent were Indigenous and 22,069 in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, in­clud­ing those on the Cash­less Debit Card. There are ob­jec­tors

Par­ents Next is tar­geted at pri­mary sole car­ers (gen­er­ally moth­ers) of chil­dren under six, which sign them up for com­pul­sory 'wor­thy' ac­tiv­i­ties or they lose their pay­ments.

but they are seen as the usual sus­pects and largely ig­nored. The public's lack of in­ter­est in these ma­jor changes could be a mix of anti-wel­fare views and racism, as the ma­jor­ity of re­cip­i­ents are Indigenous. 9

To un­der­stand how we reached this point it is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the ide­o­log­i­cal be­liefs that have un­der­pinned our wel­fare sys­tem through­out the previous cen­tury. In its early devel­op­ment, wel­fare was an over-bu­reau­cra­tised, rel­a­tively mean set of pay­ments that cre­ated both bu­reau­cratic bar­ri­ers and se­ri­ous stigma to dis­cour­age re­cip­i­ents. More prob­lem­atic were the ac­tual means tests, which re­sulted in re­cip­i­ents re­ceiv­ing lit­tle ex­tra net in­come, even if they did earn or re­ceived ad­di­tional money.

The sup­port for the per­ma­nent and wide roll­out of the more con­di­tional CDC model in­di­cates that nei­ther ma­jor party has been de­terred by the fact that ex­tra pres­sure on re­cip­i­ents has not im­proved their work­force par­tic­i­pa­tion. Both the ALP and the Coalition have in­tro­duced and main­tained ever more con­trol­ling pro­grams, de­spite the lat­est

Coalition ver­sion be­ing la­belled as ‘tri­als'. Both par­ties have caused and con­trib­uted to this prob­lem­atic shift of poli­cies.

Much of the Aus­tralian public, if they are even aware of these types of changes, clearly do not un­der­stand that it may af­fect them or those they know. For far too many of us, wel­fare is still de­fined as es­sen­tially tar­get­ing other groups' 'wicked' prob­lems, ones they don't face.

An op­tion to con­sider

We need to ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing prej­u­diced, some­what one-sided de­bates about wel­fare re­form, by chal­leng­ing the rel­a­tively re­cent val­ori­sa­tion of paid work as the core con­tri­bu­tion peo­ple make to na­tional well­be­ing.

This is deeply gen­dered as it fails to see the value of the many un­paid so­cial con­tri­bu­tions made mostly by women, but also by men. It is the residue of the public/pri­vate splits in the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, plus the North­ern Euro­pean Ref­or­ma­tion's Protes­tant work ethic that char­ac­terised the avoid­ance of paid work as sin­ful.

The cur­rent wel­fare de­bates still re­flect these di­vides.

If you add in the re­cent ne­olib­eral bi­ases against so­cial eq­uity poli­cies, and a strong com­mit­ment by labour groups to con­stant eco­nomic growth, the em­pha­sis on paid work re­mains. Yet we need poli­cies to cope with lower de­mands for paid work­ers, as tech­nol­ogy and the need to re­duce en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age take over pri­or­i­ties.

We are mov­ing to a Post-in­dus­trial era, so we need to look at other forms of en­sur­ing ad­e­quate eq­ui­table ac­cess to in­come. There are hope­ful signs that wel­fare re­form is gain­ing ground as many de­bates and tri­als ex­plore other pos­si­ble pay­ments such as Universal Ba­sic In­come (UBI) and vari­a­tions such as a Universal So­cial Div­i­dend (USD) that recog­nises the value of un­paid com­mu­nal con­tri­bu­tions and are not means tested.

Aus­tralia's cen­trist par­ties have not yet dis­cussing this is­sue, but lo­cal in­ter­est and sup­port are ris­ing. We need to push for tri­als to oc­cur here as we de­sign fairer op­tions. For ex­am­ple, what if we could re­place the Ba­sic/cash­less Debit cards with an equiv­a­lent USD/ UBI for all re­cip­i­ents, or at least a valid sam­ple. It would cost lit­tle and save lots of ad­min­is­tra­tion costs and it would pay to see if it re­stores dig­nity and agency to Aus­tralia's most in need!

Universal Ba­sic In­come and vari­a­tions such as a Universal So­cial Div­i­dend recog­nises the value of un­paid com­mu­nal con­tri­bu­tions and are not means tested.

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