Backpackers fill jobs for unwilling Aussies
DEBATE over cashless welfare cards has raised a salient question - why are so many Far North Queensland jobs being filled by foreign backpackers?
Senator Ian Macdonald made the point as Greens in the Upper House tried to block the expansion of trials into the Centrelink payment system.
"I sometimes wonder that people who do receive government welfare from other taxpayers are not able to get the work that is available," Sen Macdonald said.
"The only people I run into at service stations, at stores out in the middle of nowhere, at pubs around various towns, are Irish or English or German backpackers.
"It seems very easy for these foreign backpackers to get work.
"Admittedly, it's in places like Normanton, Croydon, on the way to the Cape.
"Plenty of work there but all being filled by foreign backpackers because, apparently, Australians don't want those jobs."
Sen Macdonald suggested hard graft was the best way out of poverty.
"I didn't have parents who could send me to private schools or universities," he said.
"I've got wherever I've got through hard work."
The controversial cashless welfare card has already been rolled out in parts of South Australia and Western Australia with the government pushing to have trials expanded into more areas.
The system allocates up to 80 per cent of a person's Centrelink allowance to a debit card which can only be used for essential items.
Hope Vale in Far North Queensland and the troubled Northern Territory town Tennant Creek had previously been raised as potential areas for the trial's expansion.
Now the National Party wants the trial to spread nationwide.
Tasmanian Greens Senator Nick McKimm said the plan was mendacious, cruel and deeply unnecessary.
"So much of this legislation is objectionable, but the idea that this is a trial is perhaps the greatest untruth embedded in this bill," he said.
"The Liberals, with little to no opposition, want to expand this card to every person on a social support payment.
"Make no mistake, that is what is at stake here.
"The evidence is in - these cards and this program does not work.
"Unless of course the government's aim is to demean and further isolate, and further impoverish some of the most vulnerable members of our community."
Sen Macdonald rejected the idea the card was an affront to human rights.
"This proposal for this cashless credit card is not taking away anything," he said.
"It's not reducing the value of the contribution that the taxpayers are giving to people that need assistance and need welfare.
"It's just that a certain proportion of it can only be spent on necessities of life.
"I cannot understand why anyone objects to it.
"As for this being a breach of human rights, I mean, that's something that I and I must say most of my constituents in Queensland cannot understand.
"They are getting a certain value and they will continue to get a certain value."