Welfare surveillance, income management and new paternalism in Australia

Dee, Mike (2013) Welfare surveillance, income management and new paternalism in Australia. Surveillance & Society, 11(3), pp. 272-286.

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Abstract

This article discusses the situation of income support claimants in Australia, constructed as faulty citizens and flawed welfare subjects. Many are on the receiving end of complex, multi-layered forms of surveillance aimed at securing socially responsible and compliant behaviours. In Australia, as in other Western countries, neoliberal economic regimes with their harsh and often repressive treatment of welfare recipients operate in tandem with a burgeoning and costly arsenal of CCTV and other surveillance and governance assemblages. Through a program of ‘Income Management’, initially targeting (mainly) Indigenous welfare recipients in Australia’s Northern Territory, the BasicsCard (administered by Centrelink, on behalf of the Australian Federal Government’s Department of Human Services) is one example of this welfare surveillance. The scheme operates by ‘quarantining’ a percentage of a claimant’s welfare entitlements to be spent by way of the BasicsCard on ‘approved’ items only. The BasicsCard scheme raises significant questions about whether it is possible to encourage people to take responsibility for themselves if they no longer have real control over the most important aspects of their lives. Some Indigenous communities have resisted the BasicsCard, criticising it because the imposition of income management leads to a loss of trust, dignity, and individual agency. Further, income management of individuals by the welfare state contradicts the purported aim that they become less ‘welfare dependent’ and more ‘self-reliant’. In highlighting issues around compulsory income management this paper makes a contribution to the largely under discussed area of income management and welfare surveillance, with its propensity for function creep, garnering large volumes of data on BasicsCard user’s approved (and declined) purchasing decisions, complete with dates, amounts, times and locations.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 64994
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Income Management, Surveillance, Welfare, BasicsCard, Centrelink
ISSN: 1477-7487
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES (080000) > OTHER INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES (089900)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > TECHNOLOGY (100000) > COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGIES (100500)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION (160500) > Public Administration (160509)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION (160500) > Public Policy (160510)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION (160500) > Social Policy (160512)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLITICAL SCIENCE (160600) > Citizenship (160602)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > POLITICAL SCIENCE (160600) > Political Theory and Political Philosophy (160609)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIAL WORK (160700) > Social Work not elsewhere classified (160799)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > OTHER LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (189900)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 The author(s)
Copyright Statement: Licensed to the Surveillance Studies Network under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives license.
Deposited On: 02 Dec 2013 22:17
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2013 11:26

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