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The Intervention
============

After little Johny's huge success of getting re-elected in 2001 using the distraction of the Children Overboard Affair <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_Overboard_affair>, he thought he'd try something similar for the 2007 election with The Intervention <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Territory_National_Emergency_Response>. It failed as a re-election stunt, since most Australians didn't really care about Aboriginals much, but it went ahead anyway. Despite all evidence suggesting that it's making things worse, it's still happening.

The original "Little Children are Sacred" report <http://web.archive.org/web/20070703014641/http://www.nt.gov.au/dcm/inquirysaac/pdf/bipacsa_final_report.pdf> that spawned The Intervention was the result of a "Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse". Unfortunately, although the report identified that better health, education, and family support were what Aboriginal children really needed, it had some headings with "sexual abuse", "alcohol" "substance abuse" and "pornography" in them. It had 97 recommendations related to improving Aboriginal welfare in general, and all but 2 of them were ignored and many entirely different things implemented instead.

Income management
================

http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2011-2012/IncomeManagementRDA

One things implemented that was not recommended was Income Management. Half of every Aboriginal's welfare income would be quarantined into a special basics card that could only be used at certain shops to buy "priority items" like food and blankets. This would stop Aboriginals spending all their money on alcohol, drugs, and porn. They would spend money on essentials and learn how to manage their finances better. Families would become healthy and plan their long term future, children would go to school, crime would stop. The Aboriginal Problem would be fixed!

Except that there were a few problems.

First, it turns out that doing something as draconian as dictating where and how people can spend their money on the basis of their race is... well... racist. It turns out Australia has laws against that to meet International Conventions or something. You think that would be the end of it, but no. This was clearly such a brilliant idea to save Aboriginals that the Racial Discrimination Act had to be suspended <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Territory_National_Emergency_Response#Racial_Discrimination_Act>. Think about that for a second.

Second, the whole concept is completely flawed. You can't teach people how to manage their own finances better by taking away their power to manage their own finances. It's like teaching people to walk by handcuffing them into a wheelchair. The only lesson that this could possibly teach is; cash is for alcohol, drugs and porn, because the basics card can only buy food and blankets.

Third, the "Aboriginal Problem" that this was supposed to fix didn't really exist. Aboriginals were not all living on an exclusive diet of alcohol, drugs, and porn. The problems facing Aboriginal communities are not Aboriginal problems, they are poverty problems. Every community with similar levels of poverty, education, and dis-empowerment have these problems, whether they are Aboriginals in Alice Springs, or "white trash" living on Struggle Street in Sydney <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Struggle_Street>. There is a high level of alcohol abuse, but drugs are pretty rare, and I've never even heard of porn related problems. They are worse in big cities where there is more supply, but the more remote you go, the more the supply dries up, and many Aboriginals live really remote. Communities were already tackling the problems that did exist in their own ways with very good success. Many communities were "dry" with bans on alcohol. Women had created night patrols to enforce alcohol bans and defuse violence. Elders had started their own substance abuse programs like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mt_Theo_Program. If you went to a remote Aboriginal community hoping to find a glut of booze, drugs, and porn you would be sorely disappointed. Treating every Aboriginal like they were hopeless alcoholic drug-addict porn-fiends who couldn't be trusted with their own money was just hugely insulting.

But it went ahead anyway, with some interesting knock-on effects.

Basic cards could only be used at large authorized stores like Coles, Target, and WoolWorths. Unfortunately these shops don't exist on remote communities. The locally owned small shops were not equipped to accept basic card payments, and later various excuses were used to deny them access entirely. 

This meant people often had to travel hundreds of kilometers into the big towns to use the other half of their welfare payments. This slowly encouraged people to move from their alcohol-free remote communities and permanently into the town-fringe drinking camps. This increased alcohol abuse, violence, crime, and incarceration rates.

Meanwhile, the locally owned small shops were isolated from half the communities welfare income. This, combined with the economically encouraged migration away from the remote communities hit them hard. Most of them have been slowly going broke ever since.

When it became embarrassing how useless the basics card was on remote communities, instead of giving local businesses access to basic cards, a new government owned and funded company Outback Stores <http://outbackstores.com.au/> was created to set up new shops on remote communities. These shops provided more competition for the small local shops on communities too small to justify another shop in the first place. With their exclusive basics-card access they could also charge significantly higher prices.

So income management became an economic weapon to kill off small businesses and force people off remote communities into big Towns. I'm not entirely sure that this was an accident. "Joining the mainstream" is something many people think is the solution, and having Aboriginals move into towns and closing remote communities is part of the plan <http://rightnow.org.au/topics/education/explainer-what-happens-when-a-remote-aboriginal-community-in-western-australia-is-closed/>. The problem is all the evidence says that Aboriginals are better off in remote communities than in big Towns.

So if Income Management is such a failure, what are they doing about it? Well, remember that pesky racial discrimination and international conventions thing? They are trying to fix that... by rolling out Income Management for everyone on welfare! (The Racial Descrimination Act was reinstated in 2010). It turns out that nearly everyone on welfare in the NT is Aboriginal anyway, so you don't need to explicit racism to apply it almost exclusively to Aboriginals.


The Intervention

After little Johny's huge success of getting re-elected in 2001 using the distraction of the Children Overboard Affair <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_Overboard_affair>, he thought he'd try something similar for the 2007 election with The Intervention <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Territory_National_Emergency_Response>. It failed as a re-election stunt, since most Australians didn't really care about Aboriginals much, but it went ahead anyway. Despite all evidence suggesting that it's making things worse, it's still happening.

The original "Little Children are Sacred" report <http://web.archive.org/web/20070703014641/http://www.nt.gov.au/dcm/inquirysaac/pdf/bipacsa_final_report.pdf> that spawned The Intervention was the result of a "Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse". Unfortunately, although the report identified that better health, education, and family support were what Aboriginal children really needed, it had some headings with "sexual abuse", "alcohol" "substance abuse" and "pornography" in them. It had 97 recommendations related to improving Aboriginal welfare in general, and all but 2 of them were ignored and many entirely different things implemented instead.

Income management

http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BN/2011-2012/IncomeManagementRDA

One things implemented that was not recommended was Income Management. Half of every Aboriginal's welfare income would be quarantined into a special basics card that could only be used at certain shops to buy "priority items" like food and blankets. This would stop Aboriginals spending all their money on alcohol, drugs, and porn. They would spend money on essentials and learn how to manage their finances better. Families would become healthy and plan their long term future, children would go to school, crime would stop. The Aboriginal Problem would be fixed!

Except that there were a few problems.

First, it turns out that doing something as draconian as dictating where and how people can spend their money on the basis of their race is... well... racist. It turns out Australia has laws against that to meet International Conventions or something. You think that would be the end of it, but no. This was clearly such a brilliant idea to save Aboriginals that the Racial Discrimination Act had to be suspended <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Territory_National_Emergency_Response#Racial_Discrimination_Act>. Think about that for a second.

Second, the whole concept is completely flawed. You can't teach people how to manage their own finances better by taking away their power to manage their own finances. It's like teaching people to walk by handcuffing them into a wheelchair. The only lesson that this could possibly teach is; cash is for alcohol, drugs and porn, because the basics card can only buy food and blankets.

Third, the "Aboriginal Problem" that this was supposed to fix didn't really exist. Aboriginals were not all living on an exclusive diet of alcohol, drugs, and porn. The problems facing Aboriginal communities are not Aboriginal problems, they are poverty problems. Every community with similar levels of poverty, education, and dis-empowerment have these problems, whether they are Aboriginals in Alice Springs, or "white trash" living on Struggle Street in Sydney <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Struggle_Street>. There is a high level of alcohol abuse, but drugs are pretty rare, and I've never even heard of porn related problems. They are worse in big cities where there is more supply, but the more remote you go, the more the supply dries up, and many Aboriginals live really remote. Communities were already tackling the problems that did exist in their own ways with very good success. Many communities were "dry" with bans on alcohol. Women had created night patrols to enforce alcohol bans and defuse violence. Elders had started their own substance abuse programs like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mt_Theo_Program. If you went to a remote Aboriginal community hoping to find a glut of booze, drugs, and porn you would be sorely disappointed. Treating every Aboriginal like they were hopeless alcoholic drug-addict porn-fiends who couldn't be trusted with their own money was just hugely insulting.

But it went ahead anyway, with some interesting knock-on effects.

Basic cards could only be used at large authorized stores like Coles, Target, and WoolWorths?. Unfortunately these shops don't exist on remote communities. The locally owned small shops were not equipped to accept basic card payments, and later various excuses were used to deny them access entirely.

This meant people often had to travel hundreds of kilometers into the big towns to use the other half of their welfare payments. This slowly encouraged people to move from their alcohol-free remote communities and permanently into the town-fringe drinking camps. This increased alcohol abuse, violence, crime, and incarceration rates.

Meanwhile, the locally owned small shops were isolated from half the communities welfare income. This, combined with the economically encouraged migration away from the remote communities hit them hard. Most of them have been slowly going broke ever since.

When it became embarrassing how useless the basics card was on remote communities, instead of giving local businesses access to basic cards, a new government owned and funded company Outback Stores <http://outbackstores.com.au/> was created to set up new shops on remote communities. These shops provided more competition for the small local shops on communities too small to justify another shop in the first place. With their exclusive basics-card access they could also charge significantly higher prices.

So income management became an economic weapon to kill off small businesses and force people off remote communities into big Towns. I'm not entirely sure that this was an accident. "Joining the mainstream" is something many people think is the solution, and having Aboriginals move into towns and closing remote communities is part of the plan <http://rightnow.org.au/topics/education/explainer-what-happens-when-a-remote-aboriginal-community-in-western-australia-is-closed/>. The problem is all the evidence says that Aboriginals are better off in remote communities than in big Towns.

So if Income Management is such a failure, what are they doing about it? Well, remember that pesky racial discrimination and international conventions thing? They are trying to fix that... by rolling out Income Management for everyone on welfare! (The Racial Descrimination Act was reinstated in 2010). It turns out that nearly everyone on welfare in the NT is Aboriginal anyway, so you don't need to explicit racism to apply it almost exclusively to Aboriginals.