Cashless Debit Card: Vote NO

The Central Land Council, as a member of the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT) alliance, has made an eleventh hour appeal to Senator Rex Patrick to vote against the Cashless Debit Card rollout in the Northern Territory. The bill, if passed in the Senate later today, will impose the scheme on 23,000 people in the Northern Territory – 82% of people whom are Aboriginal and living in very remote communities. The CLC’s opposition to the Cashless Debit Card is unequivocal and unchanged. The bill is discriminatory and will perpetuate compulsory income management in the NT without evidence or adequate review. It is a punitive hangover from the 2007 NT Intervention, which was and continues to be fiercely opposed by Aboriginal residents of the NT.

The CLC supports income management as a voluntary measure for those experiencing hardship who may value the structure it can provide during difficult times, or as a measure for individuals considered to be at high risk and vulnerable by Aboriginal controlled health organisations. What Aboriginal people want is a pathway out of poverty and into real training and employment, not an endless cycle of punitive government interventions that are not proven to be effective. Closing the Gap will only be achieved through positive programs and resources that assist people to improve their lives and emphasise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination.

We have urged Senator Patrick today to consider APO NT’s Remote Jobs Package that, if implemented, will go a long way to creating employment pathways in the NT – a more enduring, positive legacy than the one presented by the CDC expansion.

Inquiry into remote food security and pricing report

The Central Land Council welcomes the release of the final report of the House of Representatives inquiry into food security and pricing in remote Indigenous communities. The report is clear in its findings that Aboriginal people living remotely pay more for most types of goods than urban and regional Australians and suffer the consequences of significantly higher prices for fresh food and vegetables.

We are pleased that the Committee backs the CLC’s recommendation to establish a real-time price monitoring and point of sale data system across all remote community stores. To be effective, solutions to the remote food security crisis must be backed by reliable data to make price comparisons and empower consumers. We look forward to seeing greater transparency in store pricing and know this will help stores who are already working with communities and have strong pricing policies and community leadership.

We welcome the recommendation for an ACCC investigation to ensure adequate regulation of pricing moving forward. We urge the federal government to act quickly to implement the food inquiry report’s recommendations. This is the third report into remote food security issues in the past decade. And it is critically important that real change and improvement follows this most recent report to Aboriginal people closer to closing the gap on health outcomes.