NEWS AND VIEWS
Wednesday, 4 July 2007
Calling a Food Stamp a Food Stamp
It is more than a year now since then Federal Families Minister Mal Brough first floated the idea of paying welfare recipients in kind rather than cash for a proportion of their government benefits. I wrote about it back then in May 2006 (you will find the piece on the Owl website here ) when there was a predictable outcry from welfare groups describing the proposal as paternalistic and offensive.
The issue of providing welfare aid other than in cash came back on to the Australian political agenda when Prime Minister John Howard, at the urging of Mr Brough, finally decided to do something about aboriginal welfare other than simply talk. And today Mr Howard finally acknowledged the plan for what it is - the introduction of food stamps along the lines contained in the United States Food Stamp Act of 1964 that was a major plank in President Lyndon Baines Johnson's great society program.
The transcript of today's press conference by Mr Howard held at Bega tells the story.
When the detailed announcement is finally made there will no doubt again be cries of paternalism. I can but repeat what I wrote in the daily email back on 24 November 2006: "The mindless critics pay no regard to the record in the USA where food stamps of the kind Mr Brough advocates have long been an important part of the welfare system."
A Marginal Water Supply
The pumps are about to begin working in the parishes of Bega as the real business of marginal seat electioneering gets under way. This morning Prime Minister John Howard announced the contribution of $10 million of Federal taxpayer funds to build a 20 kilometre pipeline to transfer water from borefields near the lower Bega River to the Yellow Pinch Dam for use in dry times. And, surprise, surprise, Mr Howard announced that Special Minister of State and Federal Member for Eden-Monaro, the Hon Gary Nairn MP, has been a strong proponent of the project!
The Prime Minister did not feel obliged to say why this particular project merited Commonwealth funding but he hardly needed to. Since the boundaries of Eden Monaro were changed in the early 1970s, the seat has always gone to the side of politics which wins government.