News Digest – Monday 3 June 2013

Gillard Government is socially challenged: "Responses to the Government’s Budget … reveal only half-hearted support from sectors that are traditionally Labor-inclined. The cuts to single mothers benefits, the failure to reach foreign aid goals and the failure to increase the Newstart allowance for the unemployed has united groups like the churches sector, the Australian Council of Social Service and Caritas Australia." John Warhurst, Eureka Street.

Work for the dole plan for asylum seekers: "Asylum seekers could be placed on a work for the dole scheme, which would include income management, under plans announced by the opposition and supported by the government." AAP.

US – the science-practice gap in drug treatment: "Over the past decades, researchers have developed effective pharmaceutical and behavioral treatments for addiction. Yet in residential and community treatment programs around the country, these evidenced-based treatments are relatively scarce, according to the CASA Columbia report. Instead, programs might involve wilderness camping, abusive tactics labeled ‘tough love,’ and, most commonly, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, peer-support models that have helped many addicts but failed many others." Lea Winerman, APA Monitor.

Screening of child workers ‘misleading’: "The system of compulsory background checks on the ‘millions’ of people who work with children needs an overhaul because it misleads people into thinking children are safe, misses some targets, wrongly catches others, and may be a ‘very costly sledgehammer to crack the wrong nut’, according to the new National Children’s Commissioner." Catherine Armitage, Sydney Morning Herald.

Drinks industry questions charity’s political agenda: "A charity that received $115 million in taxpayer funds for alcohol abuse programs used $36m it pocketed through investments as the funding was spent to transform itself into an anti-alcohol lobby group." Troy Bramston, The Australian.

Casino for Parramatta? You bet! "Parramatta’s Catholic Care Social Services senior manager Ann O’Brien opposed the proposal saying western Sydney was saturated with poker machines and thousands of problem gamblers." Sally Willoughby, The Sun Parramatta Holroyd.

SA – Church pushes for pokie ballot to reduce number of machines: "Uniting Communities has demanded that poker machines be taken out of licensed venues by ballot if the industry does not cut more than 700 machines from circulation by the end of next year. " Adam Hegarty, Adelaide Now.

WA still sidelined as the NDIS moves closer: "The passage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme levy legislation through the Federal Parliament finally provides some security and certainty for people living with disability and their families. Painfully, however, this doesn’t apply to people in WA, as the Premier, Colin Barnett, continues with his refusal to commit to the scheme." Rachel Siewert, Sydney Morning Herald.

Geelong picked as home for headquarters of national disability insurance scheme DisabilityCare: "Less than a fortnight after Ford announced it was closing its Geelong manufacturing plant, the regional Victorian city has been chosen as the headquarters of the new DisabilityCare agency." ABC.

Racism, bigotry and debate, Australian-style: "There are several dimensions to far-right-wing spin about racism, which must be dispelled." Tim Soutphommasane, Sydney Morning Herald.

Greedy pensioners? Far from it: "Evidence shows that many older Australians want to contribute and indeed do continue to contribute to the Australian economy and community in meaningful ways." Susan Ryan, The Drum.

US – The Triumph of the Working Mother: "At all income levels, stay-at-home mothers report more sadness, anger, and episodes of diagnosed depression than their employed counterparts." Stephanie Coontz, International Herald Tribune.

Time for ‘Catholic spring’ and Vatican III – bishop: "Retired Sydney bishop Geoffrey Robinson has launched a petition for ordinary Catholics to seek another global church council like the 1960s reforming Vatican II council. But at ‘Vatican III’, he says, there must be as many lay people as bishops to make sure the hard questions get asked." Barney Zwartz, Sydney Morning Herald.

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News Digest – Thursday 30 May 2013

Economic Abuse: Searching for Solutions: "This groundbreaking research report reveals that, just like other forms of family violence, economic abuse can have devastating and long term impacts for women and children." Tanya Corrie and Magdalena McGuire, Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service and and Kildonan UnitingCare.

Intensive Home-Based Family Support: Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) releases a series of resources designed to support workers in intensive home-based family support programs. Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Meeting children’s needs when the family environment isn’t always "good enough": "This paper provides a theoretical basis to using a systems approach to working with vulnerable and high-risk families where children’s needs are generally being met, but where parenting is at times not "good enough" or even unsafe." Debbie Scott, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Libs promise not to means-test childcare rebate: "The Coalition has pledged not to means-test the childcare rebate, in a move aimed at blunting a Labor campaign to raise fears among parents that childcare payments will be pared back. " Patricia Karvelas, The Australian.

Pork-barrelling over if we’re to sow prosperity: "Policy change in the public interest seems to have become more difficult as interest groups have become increasingly active and sophisticated in bringing financial weight to account in influencing policy decisions. When asked to accept private losses in pursuit of improved economic performance, the response has been ferocious partisan reaction." Ross Garnaut, Sydney Morning Herald.

Salvos fired at charities: "As the Coalition gears up for government in September, and amidst the eagerness to reduce budget deficits, it was only a matter of time before the social sector was in the sights of small government apologists. Four major accusations are being used to question the funding of the social sector. These shots are wide of the mark, and deserve a critical response." Dale Renner, On Line Opinion.

WA – Millions allocated to reduce risk of homelessness: "The Federal and State Governments have allocated $29 million to increase support for West Australians at risk of homelessness." ABC.

Disability and technology – No more neural divide: "Revising the design and etiquette of workplaces is enough to make them acceptable to some people who think differently from the norm – but ending the exclusion of those with more disabling conditions will, among other things, mean developing better technology." New Scientist.

NSW – Mental illness rethink urged: "A NSW parliamentary report will today recommend changes to laws governing the involuntary treatment of those with mental illness, following the killing of two people by a Sydney man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. " Dan Box, The Australian.

Where’s the charity in selling a ripped blanket for $50? "Charity op-shops are charging such high prices for used household items that those in need would save money by buying them from major retail stores." Neil Keene and Naomi White, The Daily Telegraph.

UK – Helping cash-in-hand businesses to become legitimate: "Currently, if you’re caught working cash-in-hand you are punished, particularly through the benefits system. But through Community Links’ work in Newham and in our research, we know that this just plunges people further into crisis." Maeve McGoldrick, Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Can you be fat and happy? "There is so much emotion and heat around this issue. You see it on the cringemaking clips of crying contestants on The Biggest Loser, you see it in the bottomless comment threads on any story about fat-shaming and obesity. We saw it last night on SBS’s Insight, in an episode called Fat Fighters that directly – and provocatively – addressed the idea of fat acceptance." Lucy Clark, The Hoopla.

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News Digest – Wednesday 29 May 2013

Shortage of workers may put DisabilityCare at risk: "Community Services and Health Industry Skills Council chief executive Rod Cooke said there was a critical shortfall of training opportunities for workers entering the disability sector." Rachel Browne, Sydney Morning Herald.

Time for personal, private interests to take some pain: Garnaut: "Australia’s two decades of economic prosperity, which may be unprecedented in any developed nation’s history, has entrenched a political culture ill-equipped to cope with a coming post-boom downturn, according to ­prominent economist Ross Garnaut." Jacob Greber, Australian Financial Review.

Garnaut tells of hard change coming: "The long period of prosperity has provided a congenial environment for the entrenchment of a new political culture that elevates private over public interests and the immediate over the longer term," says, Ross Garnaut. Laura Tingle, Australian Financial Review.

Rude awakening after long boom: "The public will be shocked because it lives under the delusion that things are tough already when, in fact, much tougher times are coming. A successful transition will need a new reform agenda and that can emerge only from leaders pledged to change the political culture of the past decade." Paul Kelly, The Australian.

Where should our welfare go? "Why should our middle class expect payments that make little difference to their lives, while the people who need it most receive reduced and inadequate welfare?" Ali Winters, The Drum.

Alarm over asylum underclass: "A new underclass of 100,000 asylum seekers, living on as little as $220 a week and with no rights to work, could be created in just five years if current trends continue." Bianca Hall, Sydney Morning Herald.

Children a private and public good: "One of the most intriguing aspects of the abolition of the Baby Bonus has been the high level of public support for the measure. Surely, one may argue, there is nothing more important for any society than providing assistance so the next generation may come into the world." Greg Melleuish, The Australian.

Support groups call for more help for children caring for mentally ill parents: "While more than 2.5 million Australians care for someone with a mental illness, what is not widely known is that many of those are children caring for their parents." Sophie Scott and Gillian Bennett, ABC.

Injustice and bigotry barriers to equality: The Australian Human Rights Commission reports on "how people with a disability face problems accessing justice; whether it’s to report a crime, give evidence in court, be a witness, or get support within the complex and sometimes adversarial criminal justice system." Vanessa Mills, ABC.

Gambling ads as bad as tobacco ads: "Public health advocates have called for a ban on all gambling ads because of the harm they cause and because they target teenagers in their attempts to get people hooked." Michael Vincent, Lateline, ABC.

Wonga is watching you … how payday lenders follow your online trail: "We know that as we browse the internet, we leave behind a trail. Search results reflect our browsing history; usernames and passwords are remembered on long-forgotten websites; and personalised adverts increasingly seem to follow us around." Joe Deville, The Conversation.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates says rich should pay more taxes: "The world’s richest man has had a busy day in Canberra, lobbying Prime Minister Julia Gillard to stay committed to foreign aid, meeting the Opposition Leader and speaking at the National Press Club. " 7:30 ABC.

“Nudging” people to give could generate tens of millions for charity – new report: "Simply reminding people making out their Will that many others choose to leave a legacy to charity or including a photograph in an appeal can double or treble the numbers of people giving." Charities Aid Foundation.

Still the lucky country, but some work too many hours: "Australia has scored the unofficial title of the best address on Earth for the third year running in an OECD survey of what constitutes good living." Peter Martin, Sydney Morning Herald.

Abuse cover-ups perpetuated priestly mystique: "Celibacy has become an instrument of power, the badge of an elite clerical caste, rather than what its defenders claim it to be: a total dedication of one’s life to building the Kingdom of God." Ray Cassin, Eureka Street.

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News Digest – Tuesday 28 May 2013

Wage inequality leaving workers in poverty: "Whether or not large cohorts of workers and their families continue to live in poverty depends on the decisions of the Fair Work Commission." Brian Lawrence, Eureka Street.

Abbott is not playing fair – Removing super contribution will hurt working poor: "Opposition leader Tony Abbott’s budget reply pledge to discontinue the Low Income Earners Superannuation Contribution (LISC) will hit the retirement savings of thousands of low-paid Australian workers." Helen Hodgson, The Conversation.

Welfare Agencies Join Call to Ban Betting Odds During TV Sports Broadcasts: "Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) has called for an urgent ban on live betting odds being posted during sports broadcasts on TV." Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese.

Poorest Australians Hard Hit by Healthcare Inequity: "Those on the lowest incomes and living in poverty are further disadvantaged by inequities in our healthcare system, a new report has found." Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese.

No-benefit policy puts 20,000 in oblivion: "Nearly 20,000 asylum seekers have been waiting since August, when the government introduced its no-advantage policy, for any action on their claims for protection." Bianca Hall, Sydney Morning Herald.

Government concession on No Advantage test possible: "Labor backbenchers are hopeful the government will concede that asylum seekers need some idea of how long they have to wait under the ‘test’ which dictates those arriving by boat be processed no faster than those who stay for years in camps overseas." Lenore Taylor, The Guardian.

Racism abating? A snowflake’s chance in hell: "It is no good repeating that we are not racist. We are, and perhaps the recognition and acceptance may help to dissolve the characteristic. We will have to work at it. If we don’t, then we will not enter this soil in a good shape." Peter Gebhardt, Canberra Times.

New Challenges for NFPs: "The Not for Profit sector will be faced with a new set of challenges arising from a burgeoning population in the coming years, according to Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan who opened the Communities in Control Conference in Victoria." Pro Bono News.

Doing less with less: "While efficiency is defined in terms of producing more with the same or lesser expenditure, and some politicians talk about doing ‘more with less’, arbitrary spending cuts can in reality simply mean doing less with less." Christopher Stone, Centre for Policy Development.

UK – Iain Duncan Smith – cut welfare to fund police and Forces: "Iain Duncan Smith has offered to cut Britain’s welfare Bill by up to another £3  billion annually to protect spending on the Armed Forces and police" Robert Winnett, The Telegraph.

George Pell fully apologetic for clergy sex abuse: "Australia’s most senior Catholic Cardinal George Pell says he’s fully apologetic and absolutely sorry for sexual abuse that has occurred at the hands of clergy." AAP.

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News Digest – Monday 27 May 2013

When it comes to work and welfare, market rules Labor’s roost: "Gillard has expanded the unemployment bureaucracy beyond recognition — her ‘social democracy’ is too-often narrowly framed by the economic and political interests of middle Australia. Her Government’s record on welfare is fairly poor: she has refused to boost the Newstart Allowance, she made it much harder to qualify for the disability pension and for young people to get the dole, and cut single mother pensions." Luke Williams, Eureka Street.

Market myths and the inclusion of people with disabilities: "Many people in the disability sector have been suckered in to believing that a market system is best because they’ve repeatedly been told that this is the only way to give people with disabilities real choice and direction over their support services, in contrast to the impersonal and degrading one-size-fits-all institutions that many have endured." Sam Wainwright, Green Left.

Move faster on elderly issue – lobby: "The home care of tens of thousands of elderly Australians will be jeopardised if legislation to address the problems in the aged care sector is not pushed through the hung Parliament by the end of June, before it dissolves for the September election, according to representatives of the aged and their carers." Jacqueline Maley, Sydney Morning Herald.

Contrast and compare paid parental leave: "In the lead up to the 2013 federal election, a substantial policy difference has emerged in the area of paid parental leave." Marie Coleman, The Drum.

Taxes put bite on middle-class families: "far from spraying largesse on the undeserving rich, the striking feature of our tax/transfer system is just how progressive it is. Strict means-testing of welfare payments ensures the poorest 20 per cent of Australians receive over 40 per cent of income transfers; the richest 20 per cent receive barely 3 per cent." Henry Ergas, The Australian.

Policy failure as prisons fill with indigenous people: "Over the past decade, the indigenous rate of incarceration has soared 11 times faster than the non-indigenous rate – and this at a time when the country is locking up more people per capita than at any other time." Inga Ting, Sydney Morning Herald.

Charity watchdog investigates ‘rogue individuals’: "Scores of complaints have been lodged about the conduct of charities months after a watchdog was set up to police the not-for-profit sector." Nick Ralston, Sydney Morning Herald.

Public service advice less expert – Chaney: "The Australian public service is less well-placed that previously to offer expert advice, according to former minister Fred Chaney. Chaney said that public service reforms had actually weakened the capacity of the APS to offer frank and fearless advice rooted in deep knowledge and experience, and to carry out efficiently government policy decisions." Michelle Grattan, The Conversation.

How to lead when you’re not in charge: "In order to engage in a conversation about leadership, you have to assume you have no power — that you aren’t "in charge" of anything and that you can’t sanction those who are unwilling to do your bidding. If, given this starting point, you can mobilize others and accomplish amazing things, then you’re a leader. If you can’t, well then, you’re a bureaucrat." Gary Hamel and Polly LaBarre, HBR Blog.

Pope Francis warns of the dangers of ‘unbridled capitalism’: "Unbridled capitalism has taught people that money is more important than anything else, said Pope Francis during an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the Missionaries of Charity soup kitchen and women’s shelter at the Vatican." Cindy Wooden, Catholic Herald (UK).

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News Digest – Wednesday 22 May 2013

Single parents struggle after shift to Newstart: "A bleak picture of disadvantage among single parents forced onto Newstart has emerged, with a new Salvation Army report finding the contentious policy has compounded levels of deprivation." Shane Green and Rachel Browne, Sydney Morning Herald.

More than a quarter said they could not afford one main meal a day: "When the medical bills piled up, and with her income cut off, single mother of three Nina-Ann McCurley swallowed the "embarrassment" of her financial situation and asked for help. It was almost Christmas and she could not cope." Rick Morton, The Australian.

Women below poverty line live under the radar: "In my community, the Salvation Army’s Streetlevel Mission in inner Sydney, we work with and support many homeless women who are experiencing poverty. They are not on the streets; they are taking shelter in unsafe lodgings, on friends’ and associates’ couches or other unsafe environments. They do this because homeless women tend to remain out of sight, away from areas where homeless people congregate for fear of violence, rape or other abuses." Robyn Evans, Canberra Times.

Housing beyond reach of most vulnerable: "Rebecca Miller and Wendy Armour, who run youth residential services for the Salvation Army Oasis Youth Network in southern Canberra, have both noticed that clients are staying with them sometimes months longer than may have been the case in the past." Peter Jean, Canberra Times.

Middle-class junkies need to wean themselves off welfare: "critics of middle-class welfare like me railed against Howard’s taxpayer-funded hand-out as a sop to populism, a betrayal of the Liberal Party’s philosophy of smaller government and greater individual responsibility." Janet Albrechtsen, The Australian.

No Advantage And No Courage: Foot people, boat people, plane people? The way asylum seekers arrive in Australia now determines how they’re treated. It’s an indictment of an entire political class, writes Michael Jones in New Matilda.

Ombudsman finds long-term detention linked to self harm: "Commonwealth Ombudsman Colin Neave has expressed concern about the mental health of people being held in detention centres for long periods of time, saying the policies for dealing with them are inadequate." Karen Barlow and Eliza Borrello, ABC.

Detainee self-harm falls but figures questioned: "Self-harm rates among asylum seekers in Australian detention centres has dramatically fallen since September 2011." Bianca Hall, Canberra Times.

ACTU urges $30-a-week rise for lowest paid: "More than a million low-paid Australians who depend on the nation’s award system to set their wages should get a 79¢-an-hour wage rise, the ACTU has told the national industrial relations commission." Clay Lucas, Sydney Morning Herald.

Aged-care providers concerned funds have been linked to industrial outcomes: "The opposition is likely to move amendments to remove from the Gillard government’s $1.2 billion aged-care package the condition that employers must strike an enterprise agreement to qualify for the boost to workers’ wages." Patricia Karvelas, The Australian.

Taxing pressure for more dollars: "The disability insurance scheme represents a clear extension of the social safety net. Nothing could make more sense than saying such an extension would need to be covered by higher taxation. Yet Julia Gillard, proud mother of this historic reform, lacked the courage to propose such an obvious measure until forced by budget realities just a week or two ago." Ross Gittins, Sydney Morning Herald.

New VCOSS CEO Emma King: "The Board of the Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS), the state’s peak welfare organisation, has appointed a new Chief Executive Officer – the second top appointment in less than 10 months." Pro Bono News.

Debate Asks Are There Too Many Not for Profits? "The question is often bandied around about the increase in organisations in the third sector and recently the NAB Corporate Volunteering group organised a public debate on the thorny question, ‘Are there too many Not for Profit organisations in Australia?’" Pro Bono News.

Rudd’s gay marriage backflip fires church-state debate: "Those who bother to read the lengthy blog entry in which Rudd announced his change of heart, however, will be drawn into a broader debate about the relationship between church and state, a debate of a kind that takes place too rarely in Australian politics." Ray Cassin, Eureka Street.

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News Digest – Tuesday 21 May 2013

Liberals would throw out the limited baby bonus: "An Abbott government would dump the baby bonus altogether – even the reduced, means-tested payments proposed by Labor, Joe Hockey has said." Jonathan Swan and Judith Ireland, Sydney Morning Herald.

Fears births will be brought forward: "Treasurer Wayne Swan is being urged to smooth the ”sudden death” end of the baby bonus, due to fall from $5000 to $500." Peter Martin, Sydney Morning Herald.

Anger over hike to accommodation costs for people with disabilities: "A 50 per cent increase in fees for people with disabilities living in supported group homes has provoked an angry response." 7.30 Victoria, ABC (video).

Mental health disorders among Australian parents on the rise: "A new study has found the number of parents with mental illness increased by three per cent every year between 1990 to 2005." Miriam Hall, ABC.

DSM’s approach overlooks effective therapies for children: "The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a classification system for mental disorders produced by the American Psychiatric Association for the past 60 years, was released on Saturday." Paul Rhodes, The Conversation.

Warnings over gambling apps targeting youth market: "Researchers warn a new wave of simulated gambling applications are aiming to hit the jackpot with a new generation of younger gamers." Jake Sturmer, ABC.

Why do we gamble? "Australia has a big culture of taking a punt. Whether it is on the dogs, horses or the pokies, gambling has moved out of the local TAB and taken on new forms with applications on smartphones and live coverage of betting odds during sporting events. Life Matters spoke to researchers and a number of professed problem gamblers to find out why we do it." Gareth Austin, ABC Radio National (via APO).

Andrew Leigh responds to Mark Latham’s Quarterly Essay: "the communitarian strand to Latham’s thinking is one we shouldn’t ignore. Like British parliamentarian Jon Cruddas, Latham articulately taps into the needs for modern Labor Parties to connect with strong local communities, and traditional values." Andrew Leigh, Australian Policy Online.

Abbott Will Cut Deeper Than The ALP: "My view, as long term policy analyst with a feminist bent is that neither party shows any serious interest in creating a better society. The tussle over the Budget is more about who is seen as the better trimmer and cutter of the role of the public sphere, not about the wider social well being of all people, including the many unpaid contributors." Eva Cox, New Matilda.

How the Productivity Commission defines efficiency and effectiveness: "The terms efficiency and effectiveness are commonly used, yet often are applied in slightly and occasionally widely different ways. This staff research note sets out how the Productivity Commission defines these terms along with related concepts such as cost effectiveness and productivity." Staff Research Note, Productivity Commission.

Annual minimum wage hearings set to begin in Melbourne: "The Australian Council of Trade Unions is asking for a $30 per week boost to the minimum wage, saying it is necessary to address a significant gap between the wages of the country’s lowest paid and the rest of the workforce." Eliza Borello, ABC.

Pope Francis on the ‘cult of money’: "The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal." Pope Francis, Address to new non-resident ambassadors to the Holy See.

Pope Francis & The Modern Economy: "The Holy Father is on fire. When he was elected, some of our conservative Catholic friends suggested that he would be great because, after all, he had tangled with some liberation theologians in Argentina. The implication was – he is one of us. Well, this speech yesterday probably means Papa Francesco cannot hope to retire to a corner office at the American Enterprise Institute or the Acton Institute anytime soon." Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter.

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