Child abuse and alcohol is not confined to remote areas of the country nor is it confined to any one ethnic group. It is a national problem and it requires a national solution.

A national process that could be started in the ACT and which will help the children after the immediate impact of the Federal Initiative is something along the following lines:

The ACT Government could take $20M or 10% of the taxes and excise paid on the sale of alcohol in the ACT and which the ACT gets from the Commonwealth. This money is put into a special account and is to be spent on alcohol and child abuse problems. It does not matter how the amount of money is raised or where it comes from as it is the allocation of resources to the problem that is important. It may be more politically acceptable if it is said to come from a particular tax.

The money is given to projects proposed by:

  1. any local registered community group. The community group can be anywhere in Australia but it must apply for inclusion in the list.
  2. or broader community or charitable groups with a requirement to spend the money on measures that will help prevent child abuse or ease drug and alcohol related problems.
  3. special commercial groups who act like “fund managers” and who can assist in the evaluation and proposal of projects. They are available for “hire” from either buyers or sellers.

The money is allocated on the basis of an annual non compulsory vote of each adult over the age of 18 in the ACT. Each person gets a vote in which they prioritise their preference order for the project of their choice. A project has to get a minimum number of votes and there will be a maximum and the amount of money allocated depends on the number of votes and the number of people benefiting from the project.

The project who gets the person’s vote and is responsible for spending the money has to report back to each person voting for them every three months and tell them how the money was spent and what will happen in the next three months. One of the organisations in the list can be the ACT government. That is, a citizen of the ACT can say – I want my taxes spent in the ACT.

The advantage of the system is that it involves the whole community, both givers and receivers, and it makes the people ultimately spending the money responsible to the people supplying the money and it does not discriminate or single out any particular ethnic or social group. An organisation that does not spend its money wisely will not get votes the next year.

A reason for operating this way is that there will be community acceptance of the idea as “tax payers” are involved and make a choice. It is expected that links will arise between different communities in different parts of the country which will assist both areas in unexpected ways. Some people and organisations will add more personal funds.

Canberrans cannot be expected to assist all areas of Australia but they can be expected to look after people in their own community with alcohol and child abuse problems and because they are relatively wealthy they can assist others in some less advantaged parts of Australia. There are many positive aspects to people becoming personally involved in such relationships in contrast to “leaving it to the government”.

If it works for the ACT then it could be extended to the rest of Australia.

Importantly it can be set up to be simple and cheap to administer because most of the work is done by the receivers of the money.

The other important but difficult to explain effect is that because it is a market in projects the approach allows failure. There will be some projects and proposals that will not get funds, and they will lose support. This is important and they should be allowed to fail. It is difficult for governments to admit failure and to recognise that it has occurred whereas this proposal will set up a scheme that allows failure.

The market arises because there are a lot of buyers (the people in the ACT who bother to vote for projects) and sellers the groups with projects.

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