Most governments around the world have welfare programs that attempt to provide for the basic needs of its citizens who are old, ill, poor, unemployed, disabled etc.
Those programs are far from ideal and are as narrowly targeted as is possible. A huge amount of paperwork is needed to apply for welfare and if you qualify you are constantly required to prove that you remain eligible.
If you are fortunate enough to qualify for it, usually after a long waiting period, you find that it places you on or below the poverty line and this means you live under constant financial and emotional pressure.
There is also a stigma attached to anyone who applies for welfare. You are regarded as a lesser being when you receive it. Indeed, many in your community will regard you as lazy, an undeserving burden for your fellow citizens to carry.
In addition, taxpayers pay excessively for their government to employ many thousands of public servants to manage a huge bureaucratic welfare system. In Australia, we call it Centrelink and it can justly be proclaimed as the most hated, inefficient and ineffective institution in the nation.
Far too many nations, especially Australia, have far too often had governments whose ideology has led them to want to punish welfare recipients, regarding them as sinners in need of repentance. The criminal application of ROBODEBT in Australia is a prime example of welfare persecution that caused people to suicide.
There just has to be a better way to create a just and decent society.
Indeed there is and it is called UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME (UBI), an enlightened alternative that a few nations have experimented with regionally and the results show noteworthy promise. The Province of Manitoba in Canada is a good example.
The basic plan is this.
*Every registered voter, who actually votes so as to prove their identity, will receive an unconditional monthly payment from government without applying for it. It should be at least the size of the current age pension and you will receive it until the day you die.
*If you also earn wages for work, or income from enterprise or investment, the UBI you receive will be counted as taxable income but you are not punished for working as currently happens with the age pension in Australia.
*If you choose not to receive UBI, you instruct government to pay it into a sovereign fund that is established for this purpose and is used for nation building projects.
*The cost to government of providing funds to pay for UBI is partially offset by the savings generated from closing Centrelink. The remainder is covered by ensuring that all tax evaders pay a minimum tax on revenue no matter how much they claim as losses.
*A prime benefit of UBI in social terms is that there is no such person as a welfare recipient. All stigma is removed as no one can tell what your personal position actually is.
*The existence of UBI means that there is never any need for governments to make relief payments to people when crises occur such as floods fires droughts etc. Everyone is receiving their UBI payment every month no matter what tragedies hit them.
*Mental health improves dramatically and its economic cost is reduced as UBI removes financial tension from millions of lives.
*More people will become self employed as they start small businesses knowing that if they fail they have their UBI to sustain the basics of life while they have another try.
As always, with every social initiative, special attention will need to be given to people who are in very special situations where they usually fall through the cracks.
The first step in introducing UBI into Australia will be for the Prime Minister to establish a Committee of Parliament to study it in depth and determine whether or not it can be designed to work effectively in Australia. If it reports positively, then legislation can be introduced to implement it.
If you agree in principle with UBI, please send this article to your local Federal MP asking him or her to advocate the establishment of a Committee of Parliament right now. It will take a courageous government to implement UBI but I think that our current Prime Minister and Treasurer may be the leaders to pioneer it.
UBI is not an idea that I have thought up. Far from it. I have simply been following its slow but purposeful introduction overseas, especially in Scandinavia and Canada.
The prime advocate here in Australia is a long standing friend of mine, Dr Karen Stenner, who is a highly experienced political scientist of excellent international repute. I am an enthusiastic volunteer on her team who, in my twilight years, wants to be part of the huge social and financial revolution that UBI will create.
You can follow Karen on Twitter @karen_stenner.
Join us in a journey to a safer and better future for all Australians.