Earlier this year Rachel Nolan, former minister in Anna Bligh's Queensland Labor government, wrote about Tony Abbott's "favourite minority": the "older, private school-educated, conservative white men" whom he has appointed to key positions since becoming prime minister. Much was then made of Abbott's Commission of Audit – headed by Sydney businessman Tony Shepherd – which recommended sweeping cuts to the welfare state ahead of the budget. Against the Commission's report the budget looked positively reasonable.
Today another of Abbott's appointments, billionaire mining magnate Andrew Forrest, has delivered on his brief to report on ways to improve training and education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Forrest has no particular expertise in this area apart from a compassionate interest and a personal record in looking for innovative ways to promote Indigenous employment. His views would no doubt have been warmly welcomed by a broader inquiry which might have synthesised a range of views and experiences.
As it happens, Forrest's report goes well beyond his brief, and advocates a return to the paternalistic and punitive welfare models of centuries past for not just Indigenous welfare recipients but hundreds of thousands of others. There are echoes of the "poor laws" of British mercantilism in his proposal to punish parents for their children's non-attendance at school. His proposal to extend "income management" – that attempt at controlling how welfare recipients spend their money which has proven so divisive among Aboriginal communities – harks back to the trust accounts of past decades. Like the Audit Commission's report, Forrest's report will be a bridge too far for the government, which begs the question: why does it persist in asking wealthy businessmen to report on matters outside their expertise?
"The Immigration Department told medical experts to suppress new statistics showing alarming rates of mental health problems among a significant number of children in detention, an inquiry has heard."
Also: Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs rejects Scott Morrison's claims about children in detention (Saffron Howden, Fairfax)
And: Missing Vietnamese asylum seeker boys 'desperate', says former principal (AAP, The Guardian)
"The ‘blight of disparity’ would end for all welfare-reliant Australians – black and white – under a radical, ambitious blueprint that would see the introduction of a national ‘healthy welfare’ card for all, a major reduction in the number of income support payments and bans on young people accessing welfare unless they are training or in work."
Also: No modelling to prove Abbott's dole plan works (Gareth Hutchens, Fairfax)
Comment: Working for the dole plan will simply not work (Laura Tingle, Australian Financial Review)
"The senate appears likely to block the $7 co-payment for GP visits, university fee deregulation, the stripping of unemployment benefits from young people for months at a time, and resuming indexation of fuel tax."
And: Senator Ricky Muir sacks chief of staff Glenn Druery (Heath Aston, Fairfax)
Comment: Feeding our egalitarian nation to the sharks (Tim Dunlop, The Drum)
"The Australian government’s suppression order – intended to prevent ‘international relations’ being harmed by court proceedings – appears to have instead created a problem, with Yudhoyono calling for an explanation."
"Since it was implemented, the gun buyback has paid for itself more than ten times over. And the vast bulk of the benefit came not from reduced mass shootings, but from an entirely unexpected source: fewer gun suicides."