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.



He lived a long and influential life that made an impact for 96 impressive years and involved him in a high profile career as a singer, actor and civil rights campaigner. The world has been enhanced by his presence.

I first encountered him at the cinema 50 years ago when I went one evening to watch him act and sing in a top quality movie called ISLAND IN THE SUN which was based in the Caribbean. This was when I first heard him sing the Banana Boat Song and caused me to take a huge liking to his Calypso music. It has stayed in my memory all those years. I remember it fondly whenever I painfully listen to ear deafening modern music which is absolutely appalling and without any soul or tone. Even worse is its capacity to make it impossible to have a conversation with anyone.

Belafonte went on to become a household name on screen and stage.

As the years advanced and, as he had always displayed in the passion of his singing and acting, he readily moved into the world of the civil rights movement as he had a profound sense of justice. He was living from experience, having as a black man suffered racial discrimination in hotels, restaurants, transport and public places, often denied admission because he was not white.

Regularly, he marched for justice with Martin Luther King and was often hit with police batons and arrested for disturbing the peace.

He went to South Africa to campaign for the release of Nelson Mandela causing the apartheid government much embarrassment as anti Mandela whites turned up in their thousands to hear him sing. Those people then hastily told all around them that they really were unhappy with his support of Mandela, but simply couldn’t miss his concert.

Poverty was on his agenda too, no matter whether the poor were black or white, and as the years advanced he became more politically radical and generated a huge number of outspoken critics.

But that was Harry Belafonte. He could never betray his conscience.

Some years back, I read a significant biography of his journey. It spelled out his life in fascinating detail. He lived his justice commitment in public and his songs always gripped people as an expression of personal compassion.

One racist incident I remember vividly.

When ‘Island in the Sun’ was first released, many bigots descended on cinemas in several Southern States of America and set fire to them in protest. The lead female actor in the film was Joan Fontaine who was white and she and Harry acted a couple who developed an intimate relationship. White bigots were affronted by this, claiming it would encourage black white marriages that would destroy American society. This was one of the fundamental reasons why he joined forces with Martin Luther King.

Belafonte was a MAN. He was not a BLACK MAN.

In writing this article, I recall two other African Americans whose lives were lived on a similar path to him.

One in recent times was Sidney Poitier who died last year. I immensely enjoyed his films TO SIR WITH LOVE and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER.

Another was a century ago. Paul Robeson, one of the greatest singers of all time. He was declared to be a communist because he fought for his right to live in equality with whites. His singing of OLD MAN RIVER was just magic. A wonderful way to die would be to quietly go to sleep listening to him singing and telling me that old man river will just keep rolling along.

In my book, A BEAUTIFUL SUNSET, the prime character of the story, who has a terminal illness, listens to Paul Robeson as he departs by Voluntary Assisted Dying.

But let us all also remember a great Australian, David Gulpilil. Like Belafonte, Poitier and Robeson, he too suffered unwarranted humiliation as an indigenous person, but highlighted his proud heritage in several wonderful films which greatly helped me to understand the racial issues Australia must overcome on its path to reconciliation. I will always remember his roles in THE RABBIT PROOF FENCE and THE TRACKER.

So, let me come back to Harry Belafonte. He showed us that famous actors and singers can use their fame to achieve great things for society. May there be many more like him.

The final words come from his great friend Martin Luther King,

‘I dream of the day when my children will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the quality of their souls’.

Everald (a calypso fan)