Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table. 3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.
South Australia’s Nyland Royal Commission has recommended a staggering 260 changes to the state’s child protection services.
The sheer number of recommendations indicate a lack of strategic priorities that will address the root systemic reasons why the system fails too many children.
This is typified by the Nyland Report’s treatment of the key question of adoption.
In his 2015 report into the death of four-year-old Chloe Valentine, Coroner Mark Johns found that Chloe died because Families SA was obsessively focused on practicing ‘family preservation’ – on doing everything it could to keep even appallingly maltreated child with their abusive and neglectful families.
Hence the Coroner recommended that more children be removed earlier and permanently before they are harmed by their parents, and that the use of adoption be expanded to give more children safe and stable families for life.
Commissioner Nyland, however, rejected increasing the number of adoptions, based on the spurious notion that adoption is somehow not in children’s best interests.
This is impossible to fathom, given the major and well-documented harm the current system does to children.
But the welfare of children was a secondary consideration, at best.
Taking her cue from fanatical anti-adoption academic-activists, Nyland suggested adoption was actually all about the interests of the adults who want to ‘own’ adopted children.
Adoption, in Nyland’s words, is primarily a “means to satisfy the desire of adults to create or expand their families.”
This is monstrously absurd given the child welfare issues at stake. It is also a heartless attack on the motives of adoptive parents accused of being especially selfish.
This is ridiculous and mean spirited given that parents hardly decide to have kids naturally for entirely selfless reasons — let alone in the ‘best interests’ of their yet unborn children — but for a whole range of deeply personal — and biological — reasons.
Adoptive parents should not be held to a higher standard in an absurd effort to discredit adoption as an illegitimate practice. Adoption needs to be accepted for what it truly is — a legitimate way to form families when more adoptions could do so much good for so many children.
You would have thought the government had learned by now how to promote a tax policy. Yet they’re at it again, with Malcolm Turnbull raising, without warning, a proposal to put a floor on the GST distribution formula.
Currently, some states (such as Western Australia) get much less than a per capita distribution of GST, while other states (such as Tasmania) get much more. The proposal would mean that states get at least a minimum proportion of the per capita amount: it appears that the floor will be well above the distribution currently provided to Western Australia of 30% of the per person amount.
There are similarities between this thought bubble and another: the proposal for a state income tax levy, which was raised earlier this year.
First, the more mendicant states climbed over themselves to criticise both ideas. In particular, Tasmania envisages a potential loss of government income under both thought bubbles, so politicians from Tasmania unsurprisingly disliked both.
Second, both proposals were sprung without warning, with the federal government seemingly unprepared for a potential backlash from the states. The government is again showing a lack of finesse in how to raise important policy issues.
Third, both proposals were caused by concerns over weak state budgets. There was little discussion over state budget mismanagement — for example, West Australia was rolling in money during the mining boom, squandered this fiscal dividend, and now wants other states to prop it up. A change to the GST distribution formula will actually discourage Western Australia from fixing this problem that they created for themselves.
Finally, both proposals have some merit. A state income tax has many benefits, as argued by the CIS for many years. The case for a floor on GST distributions is less clear, but it has yet again drawn attention to the substantial flaws of the distribution system, including the penalties it imposes on worthwhile economic reform.
Hopefully, the government’s tactical errors in raising the GST distribution and the state income tax ideas won’t discourage ongoing discussion about these important issues.
A recent report on Indigenous suicide found the rate of suicide among young Indigenous men aged 25–29 was the highest in the world.
This alarming statistic should be a wake-up call to all Australians that something urgently needs to change.
According to the report, employment opportunities for young people had declined in every state and territory, with the Northern Territory recording a drop of 80% since 2006.
While some of the drop in ‘employment’ in the Northern Territory could be attributed to the dismantling of CDEP — a make-work program the Australian Bureau of Statistics used to count as employment — there are limited education and employment opportunities in remote parts of Australia.
The outcomes are never good for any group of people, deprived of individual property rights and education but showered with welfare. The high rates of dysfunction and suicide in Indigenous communities in Australia are also evident in First Nation Reserves in Canada.
People need love, a sense of purpose, and something to look forward to. Unfortunately for many remote Indigenous people, their relationships are frequently fraught with violence, they don’t have jobs, and life has taught them not to hope for much or dream of a better future.
Northern Territory politician, Bess Price, once copped a lot of criticism for pointing out the sad truth about many Indigenous youth — that they are much safer and healthier when they are in jail.
Despite the desperate need for suicide prevention initiatives in Indigenous communities, $17.8 million in government funds earmarked for Indigenous suicide prevention programs have not been used.
However, reducing the suicide rate of young Indigenous men will require more than just suicide prevention programs, it will also require ensuring their lives are better outside prison than they are in.