5 Dec 2012

Macklin Ignores Intervention Evaluation

By Eva Cox
Jenny Macklin claims a recent evaluation shows the NT Intervention is working. In fact, the research she is citing points to myriad problems with the program, writes Eva Cox

Can Jenny Macklin please explain why she continues to fund, and even expand, compulsory income management? It has again been evaluated as offering little evidence of benefits, but her latest media release on an initial commissioned research project failed to report something crucial: the many doubts the project itself expressed about the value of income management. The research, led by the Social Policy Research Centre, is concerned about the possible damage inflicted by the NT Intervention as well as the limited positive data.

Therefore, the Minister's media release is quite misleading. It categorically states the program provides the following benefits and outcomes:

"Income management helps families ensure their welfare payments are spent in the best interests of children. It ensures that money is available for life essentials, and provides a tool to stabilise people's circumstances and ease immediate financial stress."

Her claim is implicitly undermined further on the press release. Positive findings from the report are indicated by listing limited benefits in the next two paragraphs: (emphasis mine)

"The interim report by the Australian National University, Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales found that among Indigenous people on income management in the Northern Territory, there was a statistically significant perception of an improvement in their ability to afford food."

"It also found that income management may make a contribution to improving wellbeing for some, particularly those who have difficulties in managing their finances or are subject to financial harassment."

These are very tentative measures of perception and possibilities as opposed to statistically valid gains. As the Department has had the report for four months, the result can be viewed as their best effort to extract the best news. The media release fails to mention any of the criticisms of the program voiced in the evaluation, except the relatively innocuous difficulties of accessing some money management courses.

They fail to include the following useful paragraphs on the limits of the program from the report itself:

"There is little evidence to date that income management is resulting in widespread behaviour change, either with respect to building an ability to effectively manage money or in building 'socially responsible behaviour' beyond the direct impact of limiting the amount that can be spent on some items. As such, the early indications are that income management operates more as a control or protective mechanism than as an intervention which increases capabilities."

Nor did Macklin's release report on other problems such as the high levels of feeling shamed by income management:

"Across all of the groups on income management some two thirds or more of people experience some feelings of discrimination, embarrassment or unfairness about their being income managed, with a lack of fairness being the dominating feeling reported. Indigenous people in NTER areas felt significantly more discriminated against than those in the contrast group."

"For many there is a strong sense of having been treated unfairly and being disempowered. Only a quarter of people subject to income management who were surveyed said that they never felt a sense of unfairness."

And then there's this, from the overall summary of the project (emphasis mine):

"The evidence gathered to date for this evaluation suggests that NIM has had a diverse set of impacts. For some it has been positive, for others negative and for others it has had little impact. Taken as a whole there is not strong evidence that, at this stage, the program has had a major impact on outcomes overall."

"...The evidence indicates that the program may make a contribution to improving the wellbeing for some, particularly those who have difficulties in managing their finances or are subject to financial harassment. Voluntary Income Management in particular is viewed positively by people to whom it is applied, and by other stakeholders."

On the basis of the above, it is very hard to see why the Minister and her Cabinet members are not questioning the financial costs when they are looking for cuts. The program is quite expensive, with continuing costs to the NT of an estimated $60M; the administrative costs for more than 15,000 mainly Indigenous Territorians affected by the program. (This estimate is based on ACOSS findings which put the cost of the Intervention at $4400 per person.)

The expansion into many other sites and the proposed additional categories for this program make no sense, in view of both the lack of evidence for its benefits and the widespread opposition of welfare experts. This extension of compulsory programs also ignores some evidence in the evaluation that the voluntary measure is preferred.

Given the same department is supporting cuts to sole parents' payments as part of a drive for a surplus, why will they not not cut this program, rather than expand it? The Government can retain some forms of voluntary support via Centrepay, for those who seem to like it, even if there is no proof they benefit, but stop the compulsory programs, except by court order.

The evaluation points out that most of those included under this category have had no prior problems with their spending choices. So why remove their right to control their finances?

"Over half of the Indigenous survey respondents indicated that they had no problems with alcohol, drugs or gambling in their family, some 30 per cent report a small problem and 16 per cent that one of these was a major problem. This level of incidence is not inconsistent with other data such as ABS data which reports that 46 per cent of Indigenous people in remote areas totally abstained from alcohol as did 31 per cent of those in non-remote locations, and a level of chronic risky, or high risk, drinking of 17 per cent (ABS 2011)."

We await the Minister's reply.

Log in or register to post comments

Discuss this article

To control your subscriptions to discussions you participate in go to your Account Settings preferences and click the Subscriptions tab.

Enter your comments here

Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 13:08

Thanks Eva Cox for keeping the light on this outrageous behaviour by Australian governments, both Coalition and ALP. Jenny Macklin, like other career politicians, is happy to tell lies of omission to justify their unacceptable behaviour, and fails to represent the actual interests of the people effected.

Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 20:40

Well let me tell you why. because there is a whole bunch of white trash thats Bludging off the Indiguinous People's Land.

We came here because we bred too much back there, where ever that was, we dig up their land sell it of for a Motza and give them back Peanuts.

How do we justify it. They, our Masters/Landed Gentry told us and still tell us that we are Tax Payers and that we keep those ungrateful *%$#&^%$ bludgers alive and if the Government does not do something about these bludgers they'll vote Liberal.

Now, its all lies.

You see 77% of all Australians derive all or most of their Income of the Tax Purse. A Nurse gets her Gross, %100 of the Tax Purse and the the Government takes back 33% or some such amount leaving the Nurse with 67% with that 67% she buys a Car, House, Food etc.. So all the people/Retailers who sell to him or her derive their income of the Tax Purse too, because thats where the Nurse,Doctor, Police Officer etc. got the 67% of their Income and they gave back 33% of what wasn't theirs to begin with. All Infastructure Companies make their wealth building things for the tax Purse.

Why are we and were we always told that we actualy pay Taxes that keep Bludgers alive, when we don't.

While White Trash thinks that they Pay Taxes that keep ungrateful Bludgers alive, when we actualy bludge of the Indiginous people, their Resources/Land that realy pays the Taxes that keep all of us alive and some of us rich we will have this problem. So until we recognise who the real bludgers are ?????????. White man is, so far, the greatest Liars alive

Its Political,NeoCon, get tough on bludgers, Boaties, Crime, etc. etc to win votes from brain dead Red Necks and Australia is full of them.

So your comment please Eva Cox.

Dr Dog
Posted Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 08:30

Thanks Eva, we have gone to sleep on this issue and I am glad to have it back on the agenda.

If Macklin reckons Aboriginal people are so keen on income management then why not make it voluntary? Of course they can't because no-one in their right mind would allow the government to decide what they do with their money.

We enslaved Aboriginal people before, now we seek to make them welfare slaves. If its all about saving money the 'white mother' Macklin could save heaps by reverting to making welfare payments in thin blankets and poison flour. The intervention is just another in a long line of responses that infantalise or outright damage our Indigenous people.

Instead of controlling our first people we ought consider a treaty that enshrines their rights to benefit from our commercial activities on their land and contains a model for self determination.

Posted Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 21:00

I think that Mother Macklin is a close supporter of Gillard, and DEMANDS control over the lives of the less powerful in society to satisfy her own Power Lust. I have often wondered just what Power Mother Macklin has over quite a few Labor leaders, including KRUDD. May be a factional thing. She has been around for a very long time, far TOO long, in truth, and is a total drone so far as efficiency is concerned. Every election, I had hoped that she would be deleted. But she has kept on coming back.
Now sending HER to the BACKBENCH would do wonders for the lives of so many people, and not just the indigenous peoples in the NT. She is building her own massive Power Base out of the desolation of peoples lives.

Posted Friday, December 7, 2012 - 12:06

Hey jakal, do something about your bad attitude and your one eyed approach.

Posted Friday, December 7, 2012 - 17:50


"bad attitude and your one eyed approach"

Thats insufficent input, need input, need info.

Talk to me.

One eyed approach, Humans are Humans. Humans lie, steal, cheat, etc. etc. Your not human then, have you got aerials, Mork.
Now which part was it you disagree with and if you did why.

Hyperventilate for me, explain yourself, I'm not a mind reader.

All it tells me is that you have an Ego and I have apparently trampled it into the dirt. Call Lifeline their in the Phonebook.

Posted Friday, December 7, 2012 - 17:59

Thank you Dr Dog

Your writting skills far exceed mine, your always good to read and I agree with what you said.

We can't even mention them in the constitution, what a joke.

What are we afraid of that we will get sent back to England, back to England and a life of crime to feed ourselves. Is that why we are Multi cultural, so that the Indiginous people can't figure out who they should send back and who to keep.