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Trish loves to discuss Australian Politics. Her key areas of interest are Welfare, Disadvantage, emotions in the workplace, organisational behaviour, stigma, leadership, women, unionism. Trish is pro-worker, anti-conservativism and anti-Liberalism. Trish is a proud member of the Australian Labor Party and her articles are written from a Laborist / Progressive perspective. Trish's blog is The Red Window (polyfeministix.wordpress.com)

Website: http://polyfeministix.wordpress.com

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Choose! Or the Left May Die!

The Left has eaten itself for the past few weeks. The anger on Social Media regarding the decision making of Labor will have dire consequences. One consequence is the Liberals in Government for six, nine or twelve more years, or Armageddon; whichever comes sooner. For the Left to stop eating themselves alive; the Left have to make a choice about what type of opposition they support and Labor has to listen.

This Is It for the Next Three Years

For the next three years, the construction of the lower house is that The Coalition holds power and the Opposition Labor Party does not have the numbers to prevent any Bill passing in the lower house.

For Bills to pass in the Senate the Liberals can pass Bills by securing the support of three of the six right-wing individuals from the Crossbench.

In the Senate, the Liberals hold power, with Labor and Greens parties on the left and a six-person crossbench. the Six person Cross Bench are all Right Wing parties or Individuals. With one posing as a Centre party. The Cross Bench all hold right-wing ideologies. These ideologies span from Christian Conservatism, Nationalism and Centrism.

Political Risks for The Left

The risk for the Left, with the Right wing Cross Bench holding the balance of power, is they hold the power to trade anything they want in exchange for their support to the Government. The Right Wing Cross Bench ONLY hold no power if Labor or the Greens side with the Government.

Have a think about this. Go Wild! Have a good hard think about what trade-offs the Cross-Bench will make. Especially with Christian Conservatism and Nationalism, It could be anything from cuts to social security, defence spending, racist legislation, abhorrent Asylum Seeker (yes even worse) legislation, criminalisation of abortion – anything.

The Left has two choices.

We must decide right now; which type of opposition we prefer, by framing the long term consequences in the context of the left’s power and position in parliament. This is a very serious issue. Power exists in the construct of the environment and that environment’s rules enables who holds power and when. To get through the next three years, we really need to think hard about this.

But first of all, we need to settle some myths.

Labor Opposition Myths

Labor is the Opposition. They do not have the Power to implement their policies, strategies or ideas. The only party who can do that is the party of Government.

Labor does not have the numbers in either house to block any Bills or Legislation.

If Labor and the Greens join together, they do not have the numbers in either house to Block any Government Bills or Legislation. (So when the Greens tell you this. They are lying).

ALL Bills are written by the Government. ALL Bills debated and considered are written by the Government, unless the Government allows a Private Members Bill.

No Bills put before Parliament will be written by Labor, unless Labor secures passage to do so from the Government or via the Senate.

The content of the Bills by the Government are the Bills that need to be debated, and they are not based on the ideological position of the Labor Party; even if they pass with amendments. The amendments are from the ideological position of the Labor party only.

The Lower house holds no power for the Left. To hold power bills must be passed and progressed to the Upper House for Debate. This is the only house where a small amount of power, may be held under the right conditions and strategy for the left.

When the Greens make an amendment or put forward a motion and Labor does not support it; history almost always shows that this is not because Labor is against the “idea” per se; but because of a variety of reasons, including raising the motion in the wrong Bill, or using the wrong procedure in the Senate etc., This is an often used tactic by the Greens (power construct again here folks!) to position themselves as the Left Power. However, if you boil it down, they really are just treating us like idiots, because they know only the nerdy political freaks read the daily Senate Journals.

Choose or the Left Dies

At the rate of how fast the left is eating itself over the last few weeks, those on the Left who seek to divide us will see the left divisive and dead. I have watched a lot of friendships disintegrate on social media the last few weeks. We have a choice presented by the two major left parties below:

Greens most used option: Concede ALL power to the right-wing Cross Bench nutters by blindly protesting. Shame Labor for not conceding all power to the right-wing crossbench and misrepresent this to the voting public as “Labor voted against xyz” and flailing about fawning over words like ‘capitulation’. This option is to satisfy ego and create a false construct of power. It is not an option used that can protect the people in the current construction of this parliament. Conceding Power to the right is the exact opposite of solidarity.

This is the short term thinkers option. This is normally intrinsically motivated to satisfy ego and power.

Labor’s most used Option: Work with the Government to try to implement amendments. This secures support for a Bill, with sufficient amendments to provide protections to society, that is better than the raw Bill put up by the Liberals. This is based on the understanding that if amendments are not secured by the Labor party, without holding the balance of power, the amendments will be insisted upon by the Right Wing Cross bench of Christian Conservatives, Nationalists and Centrists. This choice prevents the right wing nutter trade-off.

This is the long term thinkers option. This is normally extrinsically motivated as considerations are about preventing the worst possible outcome for the people.

Scenario-Based Risk Management

The above choices can be explained via scenario-based strategic planning. Within this type of strategic planning, the focus is Best Outcome Scenario, Expected Outcome Scenario and Worst Outcome Scenario.

The Worst Outcome Scenario in the makeup of this Parliament is the Right Wing Cross Bench holding the power to negotiate and trade off with the Government for support. To prevent the worst outcome a contingency plan needs to be put in place.

In the case of this parliament, the contingency of the Greens Choice by conceding power and blindly protesting fails; as it allows the worst case scenario outcome. All it does, it makes people “Feel” like someone has stood up for them, but in reality, they have done the opposite by handing power to most extreme and radical of those in power who seek to harm them.

In the case of this parliament, the contingency of the Labor Choice by negotiating amendments is the only choice to gain any power. This is either via Government agreement or convincing the Cross-Bench to support the amendments.

Accepting the Ugly

With the makeup of this parliament, where the right wing hold power, as the Left, we must accept the ugly choices in this scenario. We must question ourselves upon every single debate of every single Bill:

Q1) Did Labor do all they can to secure amendments to provide protections in that Bill?

Q2) If Labor blindly protests, or votes down a Bill, do we accept the consequences of conceding the power to the Cross-Bench to negotiate all wishes, desires and trade-offs to secure their support for the passage of that Bill? Do we concede power as the Greens do always to Pauline Hanson, Malcolm Roberts, Jacqui Lambie, Corey Bernardi, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff to decide on our behalf?

The Left Holds No Legitimate Power

For every single scenario in Parliament for the next three years, the above choices are our choices for what type of opposition we want for every single Bill and every single debate. This is because the Left holds no legitimate power in this parliament. The Government also holds no legitimate power on their own due to the makeup of the current Senate. However, based on the ideological leanings of the Cross-Bench the legitimate power is more likely for the Right-wing Government than the Left.

The only way for the Left to gain legitimate power is to via amendments and negotiations with the Government and Cross-Bench to support this power. They have no power via protest or stamping their feet and saying NO! alone.

Short Term vs Long Term

Currently, the left is eating itself because of the strong desire to see the opposition just say NO! to the Government on everything. As argued above, the constraints of power in parliament, this is not as straight forward as it seems. As in Paddy Manning’s article in The Monthly; he speaks to the fact how the Greens will use this to their advantage. My argument in this article is that whilst I agree, with most of Paddy’s arguments, it is also up to us to decide if we want to ignore the parameters and constraints of opposition in the current parliament, and insist on protest and concede all power to the right-wing crossbench. Or we take the complexities into consideration.

We MUST decide if we want to allow the constructs of power in this parliament to divide us, or if we want to get behind Labor by thinking about the questions above. Dividing us, as the Greens always, always seek to do, only gives more power to the Right. (As we have seen as a result of their anti-Labor campaign in the last election via Stop Adani – it suffocated every other single important issue like work rights and healthcare and divided us all).

We MUST decide if we want Labor to be a protest party and adopt the Greens Choice of political strategy and concede power to the Right wing Cross Bench or do we want them to stand up for us and fight via amendments. There is no in-between. Blindly protesting does not enable negotiation power for amendment agreement making. Voting down bills in the lower house does not create the avenue for negotiation in good faith in the upper house. Sadly, decorum is stiff and boring and procedural, but it is still a thing.

Why Labor Needs to Combat Greens as Well as the Government

I know which choice is in the long term interest of all of us, and it is not misrepresenting using the only avenue to gain power via amendments as capitulation.

As socialists (well I am) we should be looking at the worst possible outcome for the most vulnerable. Protecting the most vulnerable in the makeup of this parliament does not include playing games and conceding all power to the Cross-Bench nutters via the Greens Choice.

It is trying to gain the only skerrick of power available to protect us by trying to amend bad legislation and eradicate the power of the right-wing Cross bench nuttery.

The improvement that Labor could make is to start hammering and keep hammering the power constructs of the current parliament. Stop using political words and speak to the people straight. We can take it.

Labor needs to sit the Greens on their backsides, by pushing them to explain their reasoning via the choices available right now and remind voters that the Greens hold no power and by blindly protesting they give ALL power to people like Pauline Hanson.

Labor needs to really push the Greens and be very vocal about WHY the Greens are too lazy to do any of the hard work in convincing the Cross-Bench to oppose the Liberal Bill or support Labor’s amendments. They need to insist that the Greens explain themselves to voters on this.

If Labor supports a Bill without securing amendments, they need to really explain loud and clear to the public, what the alternative risks the crossbench posed by allowing the crossbench to negotiate the Bill without Labor’s support and why Labor could not accept that risk. Once again, we can take it.

Getting a bit angry sometimes would also bloody well help. People out here are starving for real emotion. They need to feel protected and stood up for, and Labor needs to do that WELL with the cards and choices dealt by the voting public.

I choose Labor.

PS: I hope now I have (hopefully) demonstrated the choices and construction of this parliament in terms of power, how the three-year campaign by the Greens against Labor via Stop Adani, was never in our long term interest, but always, always in the short term interest of the Greens. And now we are suffering for it.

 

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Change the Rules – Casual and Insecure Work

Luke Hilakari, Secretary Victorian Trades Hall Council, tweeted on Budget Night, “I want the right to bargain for a fair pay rise. I’m not asking for a tax cut or a handout from Government. I want rights, not bribes.” As we move into the campaign period of the election, it is important to stay focused on why so many people are doing it tough and why a Government election bribe won’t fix it. This article looks at one aspect of why – casual and insecure work.

A War on Words – Casual Employment

In Australia, we accept the term ‘casual work’ as synonymous with work that is not full-time permanent or part-time permanent. That means, that the worker has no control over hours they work, they get no entitlements such as sick leave, carers/family leave, holiday pay or public holiday pay.

One of the key identifiers for people who use the term casual work is that it means to them that the worker does not have job security. An employer can dismiss workers at any time. They may work at a per job rate, that then an hourly rate. They do not have the security of a permanent job. Their job is either irregular or the worker is not there for the long term.

Most Australians don’t use the following terms to differentiate from casual employment; precarious, gig worker, seasonal worker, fixed term contract or labour hire worker.

Do the semantics matter? To stats lovers, yes. To the regular person on the street? No.

However, the Government has already started the War on Words. They are being very pedantic about what the term “casual means’ to try to make themselves look good.

Liberals Harking Back – Nothing Unusual About That!

The Liberal Party are harking back to the times of leg warmers, fingerless gloves and big hair to hold on to their definition of casual. Their definition only speaks to casual as a subset of insecure work. It does not include zero-hours contracts, labour hire, outsourcing. The Liberals are merely bracketing this group who receive loading on their hourly pay and do not receive sick leave or holiday pay.

The Liberal party will insist that ‘Casual has remained steady” over the last 20 years. However, that is open to debate. It is up to each and every one of us to question the semantics of the Liberal Party every day – but especially heading into an election.

The Fact Check article linked below explains there is no formal definition or complete data sets of insecure work and it is open to interpretation.

The Liberals use the term interchangeably with ‘insecure work’ where the ACTU says that casual work is a subset of insecure work and is work “that which provides workers with little social and economic security, and little control over their working lives”.

Unlike the Liberals, the ACTU live in the modern day era of Uber and Labour Hire along with all of us. Casual work in today’s terms has risen to approximately 40%. Importantly, more than half the workforce will soon be in insecure work if we do not vote the Liberal’s out.

One in four workers in Australia is in casual employment.

Here is @FriendlyJordies take on why it is hard to find a good job in  Australia.

 

Casual Work in Australia

The Parliamentary report into the Characteristics and use of casual employees in Australia provides analysis on the state of casual work in Australia.

One interesting statistic to note is the change of casual work share by gender. This is particularly important to note because of the semantics used by the Liberal party.

The Liberal party likes to paint casual work as something that women need to balance their home-work life and to help hubby pay the bills. Maybe even to afford to buy herself a nice soft dressing gown to wear as she merrily participates as one of the housewives of Australia doing the ironing.

And like everything they hark back to, it is true. Well that is, if you are still walking around singing “I’m too Sexy for my shirt, too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts” and it is 1992!

Casualisation of Work by Gender

However, what is quite unsexy is the rise of insecure work for men from 1992 to 2016. If the story of the Liberals is believed to be true and women are the secondary wage earner and men the primary wage earners, then the following also must be true. The erosion of our Industrial Relations system in Australia is an insidious contagion that now attacks the Primary worker regardless of gender.

Is this the attack on Men’s Rights some of the ragged dinosaurs in the Liberals and associated nutjobbery are always carrying on about? If so, the Liberals are the ones carrying the pitchforks.

This leaves both parties of a relationship in a vulnerable position and also, regardless of gender, if you are single. When you have to budget to pay bills, to plan ahead for anything in life, to apply for a car loan, house loan, white goods, save to fix the car and even to save for birthday and Christmas.

WorkChoices – Never Ever Forget

My mantra has been for years – WorkChoices – Never, Ever Forget! I mean, how could we forget when we now have WorkChoices by stealth. We got rid of Howard and we have allowed Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison to implement by stealth what Rudd killed.

The core of WorkChoices was to tip the balance of power back to the employer. One of the biggest aims was to turn hard working Australian people into disposable commodities at the lowest possible price.

The next biggest aim was to destroy the union movement by forcing everyone to sign up to Individual Agreements. They even tried threatening University workers with pulling University funding if workers chose the collective agreement over an AWA. In the same way, they attacked Universities, they also attacked Health workers.

WorkChoices by Stealth

What we have now is WorkChoices by Stealth. Above all, casualisation and insecure work is a systemic issue. The Liberals have brought this about intentionally. This is no accident. The current Liberal Government, enabling casual and insecure employment means employers hold all the power. Employers can dispose of workers at any time and they can be used as a disposable commodity at the lowest cost.

The forced implementation of AWA’s and tying AWA’s to Government funding was my first real protest. I was worried I would lose my job but I damn well ticked “Collective Agreement.” I was absolutely elated when Rudd won for this reason.

I will never ever forget the worry every single day. Would we have no protection from dismissal? Perhaps we would lose permanency and we would be casual workers tomorrow. Would our jobs be reclassified to lower paid work? John Howard made sure we could do nothing about it because he created new rules. He created rules that should be broken.

This is not a new tactic. The same tactic was used in the great shearer’s strike of 1891 and it will be used by Liberals if they are in power until the end of time.

Then if Nordenfelt and Gatling won’t bring you to your knees, 
We’ll find a law,” the squatters said, “that’s made for times like these.” (The Ballad of 1891)

 

Howard’s Anti-Worker Dream is the New Normal

The thing is, it was such a scary time for me because I know the feeling of secure employment. It is something I expected. Something I relied on. That was until the spectre of Howard loomed large and terrified our days and made us all sleep uneasy.

There are thousands and thousands of workers who have never, ever known the feeling of secure full-time work. Howard’s anti-worker dream is now a young worker’s ‘normal’ under Scott Morrison. That is why the Change the Rules campaign is vital to our social cohesion and standard of living in Australia.

Never knowing the feeling of a secure full-time job is absolutely unacceptable in Australia. Absolutely unacceptable.

I am really angry that we are still fighting the same battle more than a decade later
for us and for our children because of Howard’s anti-worker ‘children’ – Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

Change The Rules – Stop Forced Casual Work

The Change The Rules Campaign details two important rule changes to give casualised workers a better future.

Stopping Workers Being Forced into Casual Work

Employers will no longer be able to call someone a casual if the job is not genuinely casual. Too many employers have been converting permanent jobs into casual jobs. Labor has committed to stopping this.

Give on-going casuals the choice of becoming permanent

If someone has worked regularly for over 12 months and would like to convert to permanent work with the rights that go along with it, they would have the right to do so. It would be their choice.

Change the Rules for Secure Work

Too many of us are in casual or fixed term work. Australia has one of the highest rates of insecure work in the world. But the Morrison Government doesn’t even believe that insecure work is a problem. Other political parties have instead signed up to change the rules. They have committed to stopping jobs being casualised and giving casual workers better rights, as well as stopping employers bypassing local workers to use and abuse visa workers. (changetherules.org.au)

Change The Rules Campaign

Join the biggest movement for workers in Australia right now. Join the Change The Rules Campaign. Don’t forget to join your union. If you want to fight the Liberals, do the one thing they hate and one thing they can’t break – stand in solidarity.

I will leave you with my favourite Change the Rules Tweet today. This tweet has an important heartfelt message and it goes to the heart of this article.

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Green-Groups Bird-Dogging Labor is a Dog Act

This is one of the most important elections in our history. Bird-Dogging the alternative, progressive Government as a political strategy is a dog act. It risks punishing us with another term of conservative rule. Pushing a single issue agenda with the aim to suffocate the message of the Australian Labor Party is dangerous, classist, selfish idiocy. This is not good for the less privileged.

Bird-Dogging

Bird-Dogging is the political activist form of heckling. The intent of Bird-Dogging is to absolutely suffocate the message of the politician or party holding the event. Bird-Dogging is covert and coordinated. The idea is to get as many people as possible, sympathetic to your cause. The aim is to hijack a politician or a candidate speaking to the media or hijack a party event.

The idea is to covertly plant as many activists as possible in attendance at an event and push to ask as many questions as possible or make as many statements as possible about the activist issue. Activists achieve success if the politician spends a lot of time answering activists’ questions. This means the Bird-Dogging activists have suffocated the candidate’s message. They have drawn all the attention to the Bird-Dogger’s message.

It has come to light that Labor is the target. Greens aligned groups, such as the Australian Youth Climate Coalition and Stop Adani will participate in Bird-Dogging. They are not targeting the Liberals or One Nation. Their aim is to attack Labor using Bird-Dogging.

There is even a detailed Bird-Dogging Labor guide. This outlines the questions, responses and behaviour for Greens-aligned activists to attack Labor. (More on the Bird-Dogging Labor 2019 guidelines later).

Bird-Dogging up Close is Pretty Horrid

I witnessed Bird-Dogging in person from the Greens last year, before I knew what Bird-Dogging was. This was at a Labor held Banking Inquiry Information session event, held by Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh.

The behaviour of the Greens in attendance that night was verbally aggressive, demanding the floor and interrupting questions and answers. For example, they would scream out that the Labor Party has destroyed Industrial Relations. Flailing about yelling how the Greens were “The Original Unionists”. (I know right *rolls eyes).

The Greens’ demanded attention to ask questions. When answering, they wasted time making very long-winded statements about the Adani mine, other Greens driven issues, or taking credit for things Labor had done over the last 100 years. It was seriously bizarre.

Many people that night did not get to ask a question on a serious issue, because of the Greens Bird-Dogging strategy. Many in attendance were most likely very concerned about being ripped off by Banks – or had been ripped off by banks. Andrew Leigh did stay after the event and spoke to people one to one, but the benefit of the entire room hearing the question and the answer was lost. Some, may not have had the self-efficacy to go up to a politician and ask a question or may have thought they were a bother. That is not good for our democracy.

The night ended up with a couple of men having to intervene when one of the Greens men was arguing inches away from a woman union delegate’s face screaming about how terrible Labor is. It was very upsetting and I started shaking, even watching it.

Bird-Dogging Labor 2019

Last week, I came across the Bird-Dogging Labor 2019 Guidelines posted on Twitter. The person who posted the guide appears to be involved in various activist groups. However, they obviously think that this particular tactic targeting Labor is dangerous and stupid, considering we have had five years of conservative rule and the country is going down the toilet.

Activists received the Bird-Dogging Labor 2019 guidelines at a Stop Adani meeting in Brisbane. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition developed the guide. These guidelines detail questions and responses and behaviour towards Labor Politicians and candidates, working hard to try to win seats off the LNP in Queensland.

We can predict what some of Labor’s responses will be to bird-dogging and want to be prepared with factual & sassy answers ready to go! The way this is written is to have a few responses to predictable answers so we can keep MPs or candidates on point & answering our questions when we go bird-dogging! (Bird-Dogging Labor Guidelines AYCC).

A Slap in the Face by a Privileged Hand

The AYCC and Stop Adani intend to do everything they can to suffocate Labor’s key messages for this crucial election campaign. The ONLY other result if Labor does not win, is another term of the Liberal-National Coalition Government. These groups campaign for the Greens.

This campaign strategy is a slap in the face to the workers and the disadvantaged who deserve to have the courtesy of hearing about crucial progressive policy which will affect them. Not just affect them, but there are some policies Labor will be discussing, that will literally change people’s lives. This is a slap in the face to the working class, by a very privileged hand.

However, the AYCC states in their guidelines, that Labor (as detailed by Tony Burke) has a valid point in why Labor can’t stop Adani.

“Why is this our ask?
Labor actually has a valid point when they say they can’t commit to stopping Adani for legal reasons. This is because if Labor gets into government and then stops Adani by revoking their approval to build the mine (having committed to stopping it prior to the election), Adani could
then sue the Labor Govt claiming that a genuine review did not happen and therefore it was wrongfully revoked. Therefore, while we are still pushing them to Stop Adani, the specific ask (for bird dogging, MP meetings and conversations) is for them to commit to reviewing Adani’s approval and act.” (Bird Dogging Labor Guidelines – AYCC)

Bird Dogging Guidelines

The AYCC state in their document that:

“This document is created in reference to the principal objects of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition as stated in the constitution (p.3).”

The Bird-Dogging Labor 2019 – Messages and Response Guide details:

“We can predict what some of Labor’s responses will be to bird-dogging and want to be prepared with factual & sassy answers ready to go! The way this is written is to have a few responses to predictable answers so we can keep MPs or candidates on point & answering our questions when we go bird-dogging!”

The guidelines detail answers as well as suggested behaviour. Some examples are below:

Sassy

“Our position is clear” + “we’re committed to Adani not receiving any public money”

(sassy) Which position is that?

So in the above example, not only do the guidelines state what to say, but the behaviour to deliver it. Which is to be Sassy – which is defined as “Rude with no Respect”. This shows that they are not interested in a serious answer, but their own ‘show’.

Leave Brittany The Liberals Alone!

“Why aren’t you going after the Government?”

If you want to be the next Government, you need to be serious about climate action which means stopping Adani. When will you commit to a review of Adani’s approval?

In the example above, Stop Adani, Greens members (and possibly candidates or politicians) and the AYCC who will all be active “Bird-Doggers” already agree that Labor is being truthful that there are legal implications of why they cannot stop Adani. However, their excuse for not attacking the Liberal Party, or One Nation, is that the Labor Party wants to be the next Government. Well, heads up purists wreckers! The Liberal Party and One Nation also want to be the next Government too!

According to this failed logic of these dangerous ideological purists, it is best to attack and suffocate the message of the Progressive Labor Party, than to hold the Liberal, National and One Nation Parties to account. It is also best to do their very best to derail the Labor Party’s campaign, so Labor does not get heard and do not win the election when Labor is the Party most likely to work with and not against Greens Groups.

Vomit on them

“We’re not in the business of ripping up contracts”

Vomit on them***

In the example above, the AYCC is instructing Bird-Doggers to what? Vomit on the Labor politician or candidate? Disgraceful behaviour aside, once again, the contradiction is that the AYCC has already accepted and detailed in the guidelines. They agree that Labor has a valid point regarding legal implications with regards to Stopping Adani. Bird-Doggers agree that Labor is reasonable here. However, vomiting on the candidate is the solution?

Is Richard DiNatale going to accept campaign assistance from Stop Adani and the AYCC, when this type of abhorrent behaviour is a suggested behaviour towards candidates or politicians in the Labor Party? Maybe he could file it in his “To Do List” right under, “Do something about sexism and misogyny in the Greens”

Yell This at Bill Shorten!

When Bill Shorten tries to run away- yell this at him

(if they require shaming for inaction) Is your personal political ambition is more important than a safe climate future for young Australians?

When Bill Shorten tries to run away- yell this at him

(if they get angry/unreasonable with you) All I’m asking for is for you to review Adani’s environmental approval.

I find this suggestion quite bizarre. Its almost as if these Greens groups only read the Greens Newsletter. It is as if they swallow whole every low-base Bandt Rant about how awful Bill Shorten is. They appear to have absolutely no idea about the politician that they are planning to attack.

I think readers will agree with me that Shorten does not run away from questions. He has hosted 75 town halls across Australia. Bill Shorten fields many questions from the general public. He always asks the media if they have any other questions. The only time we see Bill Shorten running is long distance running, because well….. it’s basically his sport!

They also appear very confused about who is who. Bill Shorten does not display anger or unreasonable behaviour. That is Richard DiNatale when confronted about the sexist behaviour towards women by men in the Greens and asked what will he do about it. Sorry, my bad. That’s not right, the behaviour from Richard is more passive and indifferent on that issue. But the Liberals and Nationals and PHON, the parties who are exempt from Bird-Dogging…well they have lots of angry and unreasonable people.

An Assault on the Working Class

This election is one of the most important elections in our history. There are absolutely critical Industrial Relations reforms that need a Labor Government so they become an actual reality. Only a Labor Government can change the rules and give workers back, fairness, safety, protection and dignity.

These Greens groups will respond and say how innocent, cute and sassy, Bird-Dogging is and it isn’t aggressive at all. However, I have witnessed Bird-Dogging first hand. The rest of the country has witnessed Greens groups crashing Labor events en-masse. They are far from protesting respectfully.

Attacking the Proles while the Bourgeoisie are literally pushing people to suicide through Robo-Debt and literally pushing workers to their deaths with the ABCC, is a privileged, classist attack on the working class.

As Daniel Andrews (SMH 2012) said:

According to the Greens, everyone must compromise except them. They would rather protect their ideals than search for the common ground that might just protect the most vulnerable. Even with the purest of motives, a refusal to bend while launching endless criticism at those who are prepared to work for real outcomes is arrogant and self-indulgent.

An Insidious, Cancerous Parasite in Our Social Fabric

With all the debate this week about who is more dangerous, PHON or the Greens, the question should be for whom? I think we can all agree that a party that pushes a racist and divisive agenda such as One Nation is an insidious, cancerous parasite in our social fabric.

However, if the purism of the Greens and their associated activist groups, are successful in their aims to suffocate the message of Labor on every issue and the only issue people hear about is about a mine that has not been able to start for six years and signed off by the LNP Newman Government; then there is a very good chance the consequence will be that Labor will not win Government. Another consequence could be an increased presence of Liberals, Nationals, PHON and other right-wing Independents in the chamber.

I think we can all agree that the behaviour of Greens purists, which may result in the return of the worst Government and worst Prime Minister in our history, plus a few extra nutters like PHON winning seats, through “Greens-aligned Groups’ successful activism against Labor” is also an insidious, cancerous parasite in our social fabric.

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Dead Kids Are Not Sophisticated, Scott. Put Hanson Last.

One Nation flew to a foreign country to ask for millions. They asked USA gun lobbyists to interfere in our politics on social media. PHON got pointers from NRA for political strategy. One Nation is gutter trash. They are clearly UNAUSTRALIAN. They have no place in our society. This is no longer just opinion or left or right banter. Last night, Al-Jazeera broke an undercover news story of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party, negotiating with the USA NRA gun lobby to change gun laws and to try to change our voting system. This is an assault on our people and our democracy.

This is not Australia

If there is one thing that sets us apart from other countries, it is our strict gun laws. When our kids go to school, sure we worry. We worry they might get picked on, or the teacher is giving them a hard time, or they aren’t learning enough, or they might fall off the monkey bars…. We don’t worry that a deranged person with a grudge against society is going to walk into your kids’ school and shoot them dead. That is not Australia, but that is what One Nation wants you to worry about every single day. Not just worry about, but to actually create a society where kids in school lay dying by gunshot wound is a reality. What excuse will Pauline Hanson make as we bury our dead kids? What excuse will Scott Morrison make if he refuses to put them last?

So all you people scared of brown people and think One Nation speaks for you, will they speak for you when your kids are murdered in their classroom? Well? Will they? If you vote for this party you are trash. Nothing but trash.

If you are a leader who refuses to put One Nation last, you are trash. Nothing but trash.

Desperate and Hungry for Power

The video posted at the end of this article is the fully exposes the deranged sentiment of Pauline Hanson and the One Nation Party. They are lobbying for millions – millions from an organisation in a foreign country. They are hinting that they need them to interfere in our democracy for ‘support’ (interference) on Social Media. That means having people from another country, treat you, the voter like a mug. Like a mug. Like a mug.

They want Americans to infiltrate our social media to pretend to care about what you care about, when it is all about making millions for the gun lobby and winning power for One Nation. Not you. They don’t care about you. Its about money and power.

One Nation is so hungry for power, and so UnAustralian, that they are plotting with major organisation in a foreign country to use millions to try to get eight senate seats (or more) to change our voting system. We have the best voting system in the world. It is designed to keep the people you least want in power OUT. In simple terms, it is supposed to keep the bad people out. The dictators, the really dangerous politicians. It has done that….until now it seems. This works when decent parties – decent leaders, put the dangerous parties last. One Nation, along with a few others, is that party.

You Will Be Shunned

If this means nothing to One Nation voters, then these voters will contribute to mass shootings, in the streets and in the classrooms. This cannot be ignored. When the time comes, they will be shunned.

If this means nothing to Scott Morrison, then if he continues to refuse to put One Nation Last, he will contribute to mass shootings in the streets and in the classrooms. This cannot be ignored. When the time comes, Morrison will be shunned.

We Cannot Tolerate Morrison’s Weak Leadership on This

There has been a push from Media, Labor, Greens and other IND to push Scott Morrison to put One Nation Last. He has refused. Now that One Nation wants to change our laws to enable a society, where kids will be shot dead in their classrooms. Innocent little kids. Teenagers with their whole lives ahead of them – murdered in cold blood by a moron with a gun – what is his excuse now? What will Scott Morrison’s excuse be when this does happen? What will be Hanson’s excuse if that does happen? Has the NRA  trained her up in the appropriate “Gun Lobby” response?

After this expose – Scott Morrison has a National responsibility. This is not only to reject One Nation for their racism, but to reject One Nation for dealing with major influential organisations in a foreign country to influence our politics, plotting with organisations in a foreign country about getting the power to change our voting system – the heart of our democracy, and most of all, their vision to change our gun laws which will see our kids, OUR KIDS, dead in their classrooms. This is a complete assault on our people and our country.

Morrison may have thought it was a game and could balance the racism by playing it down. He might back the excuse that One Nation is “more sophisticated” but he sure as hell can’t now.

Howard had the guts to get rid of Hanson. We cannot tolerate Scott Morrison’s weak leadership on this. We just can’t. Put One Nation last Scott. Put them Last.

The Expose

“A three-year Al Jazeera investigation into the U.S. gun lobby has uncovered an effort by an Australian political party to seek millions of dollars in political funding while offering to soften strict, anti-gun laws in Australia. Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit used concealed cameras to track ‘Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’, a right-wing, anti-immigration party, as representatives travelled to Washington, D.C. to hold meetings with the National Rifle Association and other lobby groups, as well as the energy giant Koch Industries. One Nation’s Chief of Staff James Ashby was accompanied on the U.S. visit by Steve Dickson, the party’s leader in the Australian state of Queensland and a candidate in upcoming Australian elections. Ashby and Dickson were recorded seeking up to $US20 million for their election war chest while promising to soften laws, put in place following a massacre in Australia in 1996. The strict Australian gun laws have often been condemned by the NRA. Al Jazeera approached all the groups and individuals featured in this programme. None responded to our findings.”

Freedom of Speech: An Insidious Monster

No religion, race, or gender incited terrorism on our cousins in New Zealand yesterday. This terrorism was fuelled by the insidious monster of indiscriminate freedom of speech. Racist politicians, laws allowing racist hate groups to gather together and the depraved voices in our media give racism legitimacy of thought and voice.

We Felt the Pain and Witnessed the Horror

Friday, 15th March 2019 was a day of heartbreak and mourning. The culmination of racist hatred, Islamophobia and bigotry festered and erupted in a terrorist attack upon Australia’s dearest neighbour, New Zealand. The terrorist, an Australian, has killed 49 people, so far and injured many more. This gunman took innocent lives and ripped other lives apart. The gunman did not discriminate. Furthermore, he exuded as much hatred for a four-year-old boy, as he did for mothers, grandmothers, fathers, uncles and brothers, as he gunned them down as they participated in silent prayer.

An insidious monster motivated this terrorist. An aggressive, insidious monster valiantly protected by loud media voices and weak and divisive leadership. This monster is Indiscriminate Freedom of Speech.

Regardless of the harm indiscriminate freedom of speech may cause; advocates believe it has true value as individual freedom. Also, advocates of freedom of speech reject the reaction of disagreement or consequence. They see these reactions as a threat to their freedom. As a result, yesterday, we witnessed the horror that is the death of innocents. Indiscriminate freedom of speech gives licence to this hatred.

Discriminate Freedom of Speech

The only thing that can kill this monster is Repressive and Discriminate Tolerance.

Repressive tolerance argues freedom of speech as underpinned by the constructs of (small l) liberalism exists to share ideas and have those ideas respected unless those ideas cause harm. Above all, Herbert Marcuse believed that even in the 1960’s that the tolerance of ideas that were harmful to society encouraged a repressive society rather than enable a progressive one.

Marcuse does not argue for complete indiscriminate tolerance, but discriminate tolerance where we tolerate ideas unless they are harmful. We should frame and set aside harmful ideas. His argument is that unless this is done, we are tolerating for the sake of being tolerant and impeding progress of the Left.

Marcuse argues that indiscriminate tolerance is indeed beneficial in many forms of debate, howeverBut society cannot be indiscriminate where the pacification of existence, where freedom and happiness themselves are at stake: here, certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed, certain behavior cannot be permitted without making tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude.

The Pain of an Unequal Framework

Atrocities such as the New Zealand Terror attack, rip the blind fold off the wilfully blind and not so wilfully blind. At these times racism is alive.It is bright and it is loud. We see it clearly. Even the people like me who feel we speak up enough. Who call racism out. Who condemn and shout at racists. We become hyper-aware. But … I’m not a target of racism and many reading this are not targets either. That is why at these times we are hyper-aware.

A sudden striking of hyper-awareness occurs because you do not experience racism.

We co-exist in an unequal framework. We must always bear that in mind. Particularly, as allies. Listening and reflecting upon what targets of racism say, is more important than anything we say; because people who do not experience racism; inherently reap the benefits of power within this unequal framework.

In a democratic society, democracy is not pure. Debate exists within an unequal framework. The institutions of Government and the media as two examples, have privilege and power to define what is ‘normal’ for the majority and what is not. These entities have the power to stigmatise groups of people and spoil normal identity (see Erving Goffman). They have the power to place minority groups in the place of ‘weird and unacceptable.’

Our media in Australia gives the platform of legitimacy to racist thought and voice. Australian media has predefined for a long time that racist thoughts and racist voices are an important contribution to the development of society. That we must listen to them and more importantly, debate them.

However, today, we sharply see they are wrong. Others who experience racism every day, live that the media are wrong every day with many, including “The Project’s” Waleed Aly, that they are not surprised.

The power of our media resonates here:

“Under the rule of monopolistic media–themselves the mere instruments of economic and political power–a mentality is created for which right and wrong, true and false are predefined wherever they affect the vital interests of the society.” (Marcuse)

Tweets such as these speak volumes.

Indiscriminate Freedom of Speech Kills

Layers and layers of racist behaviours, actions and words are repeated every single day. In particular, racism is amplified by politicians and the media. In addition, our laws enable racism. The forceful arguments from the conservative, libertarian and nationalists platforms, that indiscriminate freedom of speech is vital for a just and fair society is now killing people. People are dying, literally, to satisfy the ego-driven desire for inane and depraved racists thoughts to be heard.

Indiscriminate Freedom of Speech, kills.

Weak political leadership trying to score political points dog whistling to racists for votes, kills people.

Politicians overtly inciting a negative stereotype and stigmatising an entire group of people, by wearing a burka, over-inflating statistics or suggesting eugenics through DNA testing, kills people.

Our laws that allow racists to congregate en masse targeting Muslims and our laws that allow hate groups to recruit and radicalise others to share their messages of hate and anger, kills people.

Our laws that keep Asylum Seekers imprisoned in indefinite detention; laws that enforce no investigation or redress or control measures when Asylum Seekers are murdered or suicide, kills people.

Our Media, who give paid breakfast airtime to racists; who invite them on dancing shows to build a profile for the purpose of assisting that racist individual to secure a political foothold, kills people.

Our Media, who adopt the stance of a stunned mullet, unable to muster up one difficult question to challenge extremist views, who welcome racists on their shows to amplify their platforms, who glorify and salivate and selfie-take with international “celebrity” racists, kills people.

Targets of racism always know this. Begging for it to stop fell on deaf ears because indiscriminate freedom of speech was more important.

Conveniently Discriminate

Discriminate tolerance (Marcuse) is framing and setting aside the ideas that should not be tolerated in a debate towards progress. We already do this as a society. We do not have complete indiscriminate tolerance, as those ideas will harm society. Our national security legislation is one example. Another example is Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act which makes hate speech unlawful.

However, those who sit on the right wing and the extreme right, the Conservative-Liberals, Nationalists and the Libertarians argue for complete indiscriminate tolerance. They argue that unless they can be completely indiscriminate, this impedes their freedom of speech, even if that speech is harmful. They want the section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act, destroyed.

However, at times like this, when blood is spilled in senseless, hate-filled murderous terror attack; we beg for discriminate freedom of speech. We are conveniently discriminate of free speech. A search of “Do Not Share” on Twitter returns hundreds of tweets of:

“Do Not Share the terrorist’s video or manifesto, because it contributes to terrorism”

The tweet below is a compelling argument for discriminate freedom of speech.

Ingrained Racism

This must be a turning point.

In particular, First Nations people also experience this discrimination.

In Australia, there is an ingrained system of stigmatisation and discrimination that First Nations people experience. The countless stories told by Indigenous people of deaths in custody, wrongful incarceration, abhorrent treatment in incarceration, mortality rates, racially discriminatory ’employment’ programs, access to health and education, under-funding of Indigenous services, poverty and every day casual racial discrimination….the list goes on.

In particular, let us never forget, the darling of the racist set, Pauline Hanson, (who also brought us the depraved, disgusting, gutter trash, hateful, racist mindset of Fraser Anning, now condemned internationally); started her tirade of racism against First Nations people and Asian people.

Last week Pauline Hanson and Mark Latham brought back attacks on Indigenous people with unashamed overt racism. They want people to vote next week in the NSW election for DNA testing of First Nations People.

If you have learned anything from the terrorist attack yesterday, you must use your voice to condemn this and put One Nation LAST.

A New Era

Today we wake up to a new day. Yesterday we saw the growing outcry of no longer accepting hateful voices.

Bill Shorten – All Eyes Are On You

After the New Zealand Terrorist attack, it is evident that every single politician who does not show democratic leadership to unite us and instead plays to the politics of fear and division will soon learn the transactional cost at the ballot box in May. We will no longer tolerate divisive politicians.

Furthermore, many suggest that Bill Shorten will become our next Prime Minister. Bill Shorten stands out head and shoulders as a leader who does seek to unite us. The current Government has a sordid history of politics of fear and division, particularly the Prime Minister. It is clear that Bill Shorten will be the next Prime Minister of Australia.

Bill Shorten, you have a huge responsibility ahead of you. Huge. You need to lead the way and be the voice that will be the emotional contagion to drive the eradication of stigmatisation, discrimination and racist culture in this country.

Bill Shorten – All eyes are on you.

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The Jobless Did Not Ask For This!

Who is responsible for jobs? Should we punish the jobless? Is welfare a right or a privilege? These are the questions the Government is too gutless to ask. By accepting the Government’s answers to these issues without question, it may be shaping a future we haven’t asked for. The Jobless didn’t ask for this!

The term “welfare” is often touted as synonymous with the word “problem”. The question we are not asked is, “Is welfare a problem?”

The Government is asking us to argue vehemently over answers to a question they are too gutless to ask. We should ask the Government questions.

Welfare Reform is a complex issue. However, the wider narrative has a huge impact on how we address reform in this space.

Welfare ‘Reform’

The Welfare Reform Bill currently before the house, is focused on using punishment as a blunt force to solve the ‘welfare problem.’ The Government is quite brazen in no longer hiding punishment as a measure.

One system of punishment is a demerit point system. Another is drug testing. Therefore, the Government has predetermined, that the jobless ‘do the wrong thing’.

The Liberal National Coalition have successfully chipped away at society, along with the opposition in some respects. That is, to create a sub-human welfare class who society appears comfortable to punish.

Punishment sits well with a large section of society. This is due to continuous stigma aimed at the jobless. In the words of Erving Goffman, we have actively inflicted upon the jobless a ‘spoiled identity.’

The Labor opposition opposes these measures. However, since the late 1980’s the Labor party has joined with the Liberals with the same mantra.. That is, the onus is on the jobless to find a job, rather than the responsibility of Government to sustain an economy offering jobs for all.

In short, the narrative over the last 30 years is that jobseekers need a paternalistic guiding hand to motivate them. Therefore, the Government shuns the notion of the jobseeker’s own intrinsic motivation.

Who is Responsible For Jobs?

The answer given to us over the last 30 years is that the jobless are a problem. The Government(s) place the burden on the jobseeker to find jobs, although these jobs may not exist. Where jobs do not exist, the Turnbull Government believes the jobless should create their own job. For ideological reasons, the Government shuns Government intervention and job creation.

The Government(s) have given us answers without asking any questions. They assume that we, in society, simply agree that the jobless are a problem.  The Government assumes that we agree that the Government is blameless. They assume we are completely happy with the amount and types of jobs available.

The questions the Government(s) are too gutless to ask is:

“Is the Government doing enough to ensure there are enough jobs for the people?”

“Is the Government skilled enough to implement the right solutions to increase available jobs?”

“If the Government does not believe it is their role to create jobs, is self-determination to create our own job by starting our own business, a practical solution for all?”

“Do we aim for a society where large pockets of ghost towns exist, along with a number of over-populated vibrant cities for workers to transition to, or do we aim for a society where the Government places the same commitment to develop all regions equally?”

Should We Punish the Jobless?

The answer given to us over the last 30 years is the we should punish the jobless. The punitive approach intensified during the Howard era, particularly financial penalties. The level of punishment today is very paternalistic and draconian. 

The problem posed is that the jobless lack motivation. The assumption is that inaction by the Government is acceptable. However, the Government does not ask us if we agree.

Over the Abbott-Turnbull period, the level of punishment aimed at the jobless is unacceptable. From the jobless starve for six months policy, to the demerit system, to restrictions on volunteer work for over 55’s, cashless welfare and drug testing are aimed to develop a society, I do not recognise as an Australian society. This causes me a deep level of concern.

The questions the Government(s) are too gutless to ask is:

“Is it fair to punish the jobless, if the Government fails to provide enough jobs?”

“Should the Government punish the jobless, if they do not have the skills or capital to start their own business, if they cannot find a job?”

“Is it fair to punish the jobless if the Government has not provided an adequate jobsearch system to support the jobless to match them to available jobs?”

“Although studies show that extrinsic motivation factors such as punishment, affect psychological well-being, hinder job search and not assist it, is it acceptable to punish the jobless?

Is Welfare a Right or a Privilege?

The punitive approach of successive Governments aim to reduce spending in the welfare space. It is evident that the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s aim is to reclassify those on welfare into a sliding scale. This scale appears to bracket those on welfare from ‘acceptable citizens’ to ‘bludgers’ to ‘drug addled sub-humans.’

The Government had one other criteria “genuine jobseekers”, prior to this bill. However, all jobseekers now fall into the realm of bludgers. Every measure in the current bill, is underpinned by a suspicion the jobless individual may be prone to deviant behaviour.

The punitive measures in the current reforms are very much focused on financial penalty. They seek to exclude or restrict access to unemployment benefits. This is done by classifying welfare recipients into normal behaviour (reward) and deviant behaviour (exclusion).

In short, to save money on the welfare bill (which we all pay for, including the jobless), the Government has provided us with the answer of normals and deviants.

They haven’t asked us the question. However, it is clear their answer is ‘normals and deviants’.

The Government knows that Australians will always apply the ‘fair-go’ to normals, but not deviants. In short, it is a simple equation.

Jobless+30 years of stigma = Deviants
Normals-Deviants = Less welfare spending

This question I have left until last because it is crucial to how we see our future as a society.  Most importantly, I ask readers to please ponder upon this question. This is because the Government tells us everyday who we are. We need to stand up and tell them who we want to be.Therefore, it is crucial to argue if welfare is a right or a privilege. This is intrinsic to who we are as a society.

The question the Government(s) are too gutless to ask is:

Menzies Welfare

As you can see from the excerpt above, unemployment and sickness benefits were introduced in Australia as a right, not a privilege.  Three generations later, the Abbott-Turnbull Government speaks of welfare as a privilege and not a right. They have changed the definition whilst we were not looking. Additionally, they again, provided us with an answer without asking us a very important question.

“Should Welfare continue to be available as a right to all people in society, from the recently redundant to the most disenfranchised in society, or do we aim for a society, where the poorest class are further divided by the Government into entitled humans and excluded sub-humans?”

Real Reform

Real welfare reform will begin with asking confronting questions and shifting away from arguing over the answers the Government provides without them posing an actual question.

If the Government took on the burden instead of the jobless, our conversations around the dinner table, would be very different. Importantly, these tiny conversations are powerful enough to shape public policy.

It is evident from some of the emotive speakers within the Labor opposition and crossbenchers, speaking to this bill, that the punishment regime has gone way too far. However, after 30 years of placing the burden on the jobless and praising punishment as a motivator, why is anyone speaking to this welfare bill, angry or shocked?

Real Welfare Reform can only happen when a leader dares to stand apart from the pack. This leader will remove the burden from the jobless. They will lead us by being brave enough to take ownership and responsibility for job creation. Most importantly they will not stand idly by and allow the jobless in our society to suffer from stigma in silence. They will unite us and not divide us.

They will look back over the last 30 years, look back to us and with true emotion say “Under a Government I lead, the jobless will never be punished again.”

I Just Want A Sally McManus T-Shirt!

I don’t know about you, but I have not felt like this in a long time! Sally McManus is a real life hero. Sally is a bringer of hope.

It Cuts Deep

Equality and fairness cut very deep for me. I was one of six children and my father was on the disability pension. I was raised in housing commission in a regional town, in Queensland. One thing my Father used to say to me is, “On the pension, you can’t improve. This is it. There is no more money than what they give you.’ I understood life was different for us.

From the moment I could read, I took a keen interest in politics. I would sit at the table and trawl through the Australian and Courier Mail, turning the pages (which were almost as big as the table). Amongst the political stories, I searched for hope.

I would stare intently at photos of Malcolm Fraser and Joh Bjelke Petersen. Through the eyes of a child, they did not even have kind faces. They looked important but uncaring.

Day after day, there were never any stories about hope for kids like me, or for mums and dads like mine. Did they not see us? Did they not know we were here?

A New World of Fairness

One day, I was sitting cross legged in the middle of the lounge room floor (like you do as an eleven-year-old). A man appeared on the television and he was talking about fairness.

The feeling I had inside was overwhelming. I felt very, very emotional. Finally, in the world of huge newspapers and two television channels, here was one of those important men on the television, but I liked him. He was so much different.

I do not remember his exact words, (I am sure there will be a speech somewhere), but this man said that he would fight to make sure everyone was equal. He would make things fair.

I knew he understood us, without even knowing us. He saw us.

I turned around to Dad and said, “Who is that man?”

“That man is Bob Hawke. He was head of the ACTU. He’s a very smart man and by God Ish, he knows what he is doing. Bob Hawke is going to be our Prime Minister one day.” 

In the world of six o’clock news and huge newspapers, I finally existed.

I drew his words in.

Finally, I had hope.

I felt hope.

Starved of Hope

As I have travelled through life since Bob Hawke, I have not felt that same moment of overwhelming hope. Of being seen.

My first real understanding of the opposite of Bob Hawke was John Howard and Work Choices. My first real protest was fighting against Individual Contracts imposed on University workers.

The Howard Era for me was an era of oppression. Of really pushing the working class to the floor. Of making sure if something went wrong, it was too bad. Suck it up losers! A world thrust upon us where we could not speak up and find justice if wronged. We just had to ‘cop whatever employers decided to give us.’ Even the sack. 

It didn’t matter if you were loyal, or really good at your job and worked hard, the threat of the sack loomed dark over everyone’s heads and you could tell others felt it every day too. They were dark times.

I will never ever forget Work Choices. Ever.

Still Starving

The night Kevin Rudd won office, I was deliriously happy. To cut a long story short, I was still sitting on the footpath at six in the morning.

Although Rudd knocked down the bad guy. I never had that same feeling of hope. No emotions stirred within me. I was not looking up to a man fighting for fairness. The same with Gillard.

Tony Abbott destroyed my soul. Enough said. I don’t need to explain.

Malcolm Turnbull has the personality and empathy of a cardboard box. One thing you pick up on when you grow up poor is fake people. His fakeness – his insincerity demoralises me on a daily basis, because every single day, I think of today’s kids that are kids like I was. He never will understand the world these kids live in.

I was starved of hope again. The desire to feel hope again was strong.

Sally

Fast forward to 2017. The biggest news was Sally McManus was the first female secretary of the ACTU. I had waited all day for her interview on ABC 7.30 Report.

Leigh Sales, a journalist known for interrupting Labor politicians was the interviewer. I felt trepidation. What games would be played? Was the aim to tear down another woman? Did Sales have trick questions up her sleeve? Would Sales cut Sally off to leave misinterpretations hanging in the air?

I watched intently as Sally answered the questions. A calm, clear, steely resolve. An explicit air of knowing her stuff. Of intelligence, higher thought and compassion. A voice of fairness.

Traits I search for in women to admire were before me in abundance. I was stoked!

The emotions that welled inside me, took me back to my childhood sitting on the floor. Here I was sitting, in the lounge room again, watching ABC again and hearing words about the ACTU and fairness again. But this time, it was a woman. How good is this, Right?

Then the words boomed out of the screen….

“It is okay for workers to break unjust laws.”

I drew her words in.

Finally, I had hope.

I felt hope.

I Just Want a Sally McManus T-Shirt

Ever since this day, I have watched intently and Sally McManus is everywhere. Fighting the good fight. Travelling all over Australia. Standing with workers. Speaking words of hope. Fighting for workers. Standing in Solidarity with the unemployed. Fighting for all of us. Knocking down walls. Smashing the insidious thought that has permeated our culture since Howard, that “Workers will get what they are given.” 

Telling us to stand together to not back down. A consistent strong unwavering message of hope and fairness, every, single day. Every, single day.

My desire to feel hope is finally fed.

An iteration of Howard and Work Choices will never ever rise again under Sally’s watch.

And that makes me feel bloody good. For me and for kids today who were like kids like me. I feel good for the workers. For the jobless. For everyone doing it tough.

I no longer search for hope. No longer do I desire to be fed. I wake up every day and eat hope for breakfast.

Sally sees us. We exist. She is present.

Sally McManus IS a real life hero.

I echo my Father telling me about Bob Hawke, the man from the ACTU but now about Sally McManus, the woman from the ACTU:

“Sally McManus will be our Prime Minister one day.”

I just want a Sally McManus T-Shirt!

House Music: The Rise of Ministerial Advisers

The rise of Ministerial Advisers is examined by Dr Yee-Fui Ng. Peta Credlin, Kevin Rudd and Children Overboard are interesting inclusions. This week I also introduce a new element in House Music – Senate Occasional Lectures. Senate Occasional Lectures are part of the Seminars and Lectures Series in Parliament House.

Dr Ng is a lecturer at RMIT. Her research interests are in the areas of political integrity and law. She has worked as a Policy Adviser to Prime Minister and Cabinet and as a Senior Legal Adviser in the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet. Dr Ng is the author of Ministerial Advisers in Australia – The Modern Legal Context. For this book, Dr Ng interviews 22 former and current Ministers and Members of Parliament, including four former Premiers, two former Treasurers, five former Senior Ministers, one leader of the Greens and two former speakers. Dr Ng uses theming to explain the findings in this lecture. I have paraphrased Dr Ng’s lecture below. The video link is provided.

House Music is a weekly blog where I discuss various Bills, Committees, Petitions and try to raise awareness of the valuable resources on the APH website

A New Political Class – Introduction

The 1970s saw the development of the modern Senate committee system. Therefore, this also saw the introduction of Senate Standing Committees and Estimate Committees. Importantly, the significance of this change is Senate Committees could hold the Government to account. This era marked the shift from Ministers relying solely on Departments for advice to the introduction of a new political class – the Ministerial Adviser. This new political class stands between the Minister and the Public Service.

The Role of the Ministerial Advisers

“It’s very hard to feel sorry for politicians” (Dr Ng)

In this opening statement, Dr Ng explains the complexity of a Minister’s role. Modern day politicians have many different responsibilities including, policy, the media and political issues. Advisers meet with stakeholders and interest groups as well as constituents. In addition, they must work with their Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and their political party. 

Furthermore, new Ministers face a complex system of bureaucracy inherited from the previous Government. Although the public service is impartial; Ministers may not trust a public service which has just served the outgoing Government. As a result, Ministers may seek partisan support from advisers who they can trust. This has led to the rise of the Ministerial Adviser. The Minister directly appoints their Ministerial Advisers.

Ministerial Advisers

The beginnings of Ministerial Advisers were in the form of the Kitchen Cabinet in the 1970s. A group of the Minister’s trusted colleagues ‘sat around the kitchen table’ and passed on advice to the Minister as well as developed political strategy. This has since formalised into the role of the Ministerial Adviser. 

This was a distinct shift from the Minister seeking advice from the impartial public service to a partisan adviser.

Ministerial Staff have increased by 173 percent over the last 40 years. in 1972 there were 155 Ministerial Staff. In 2015 there were 423 Ministerial Staff. 

Ministerial Advisers – Influential and Powerful

Ministerial Advisers are influential and powerful and work across a range of functions. Some Ministerial Advisers such as Chief of staff to the Prime Minister and very Senior Ministers were more powerful than many ministers and members of parliament. 

Often the Ministerial Advisers you find in the Prime Minister’s and Premier’s offices are more powerful than some Ministers. The Head of the Media Unit the Chief of Staff and maybe one or two advisers in Prime Ministers and Premier’s office, are more powerful, have more influence on the decision makers in most cases, than certainly Junior Ministers and more than most Ministers. (John Thwaite – Former Deputy Premier)

Intimacy

In addition, Intimacy develops between the Minister and their Ministerial Advisers. This is due to long working hours and high political pressures. 

There is an intimacy in the Ministerial office. People work ridiculous hours, you are living in each other’s other’s pockets, it is a relatively small area. You are under intense pressure. (Lindsay Tanner, Former Minister)

Dr Ng says that this environment is conducive to this type of intimacy. This intimacy gives more access, trust and bond than someone who is coming in to see you every two days.

Minister’s may see their Advisers more than they see their partner. (Steve Bracks former Premier)

Dr Ng describes this as a relationship forged in fire. 

Peta Credlin

Peta Credlin Ministerial Advisers

To demonstrate the power of Ministerial Advisers, Dr Ng offers Peta Credlin as a key example.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin is a well-known example of a formidable former ministerial adviser. Credlin was once rated as Australia’s most powerful woman. There were frequent media reports about Credlin giving directions to and berating Ministers and Members of Parliament. Credlin also sat in on cabinet meetings and vetted Ministerial staff selection and media appearances.

She’s tough. She is the player, she makes demands, she gives directions, she balls people out. (Liberal Insider)

Credlin undoubtedly had more power and influence than most Ministers. Dr Ng concludes that “The Star of Ministerial Advisers has well and truly risen.”

Reduction of Power in the Public Service

Dr Ng explains the important inclusion of Ministerial Advisers is the link to the reduction in influence by public servants.

For example, Kevin Rudd would ignore his department for months at a time. Ministerial advisers were Rudd’s primary source of advice.

Dr Ng also demonstrates an observable shift. A Departmental Secretary physically moved to give the front row seat at an important function to the (Premier’s) Chief of Staff.

A key point of difference is that Public Servants operate under a strict administrative and compliance structure for accountability. Ministerial Advisers operate in a largely unregulated framework.

The public service reforms of 1980s were intended to bolster the position of ministers compared to public servants, as well as to increase the responsiveness of the public service. (Former Prime Minister – Paul Keating.)

and

Intent of the Ministerial staff system was to counter the impact of the imperial public service that was not elected and an excessive influence of Government and was not under the control of the elected Government. (Former Minister Dr David Kemp)

The implementation of the Ministerial staff system was to reduce the influence of the public sector. Dr Ng explained increased efficiency was another reason.

Children Overboard – Efficiency over Accountability

Children Overboard

However, Dr Ng argues that the rise of Ministerial Advisers is the triumph of efficiency over accountability. The appearance of Ministerial Advisers before Parliamentary Committees is used to demonstrate this. 

In some instances, Ministerial Advisers have been banned from appearing before Parliamentary committees. This happened in the Children Overboard Incident.

In 2001, Prime Minister John Howard claimed that asylum seeker passengers threw their own children overboard. 

Within several days the public servants found out the children overboard story was false. They advised the Ministerial Advisor to the Defence Minister this story was false. However, Ministers continued to keep making statements that Asylum Seekers threw their own children overboard, as part of an election strategy. The press secretary for the Defence Minister asked the public servant to email photos to him. The photos were from Navy Sailors who had rescued terrified asylum seekers and their children when their boat sank. 

The public servants made it clear that these photos were not of the Children Overboard incident but as part of a rescue operation. The Minister released photographs of “children thrown overboard”. Although, the Ministerial Adviser was notified this was not the case.

(Photos of the Children Overboard incident were used in the 2001 election campaign.)

Escaping Scrutiny

A Senate Committee enquiry was formed to investigate the Children Overboard incident. The Government refused to allow Ministerial Advisers to appear before the Committee. The Senate Committee was highly critical of this and argued this move shunned accountability.

This means they do not need to provide an explanation for accountability. Ministers can effectively escape scrutiny for their actions and deny responsibility.

Dr Ng explains that this creates an accountability gap and Government seeking to ensure executive accountability is undermined. Dr Ng argues this is a failure at a systemic level and Ministers can avoid their own responsibility to Parliament.

Constitutional Conventions

Dr Ng explains the complex nature of constitutional conventions and the different powers between Standing and Select Senate Committees. She explains that the belief system of politicians plays into whether Ministerial Advisers should appear before committees. Dr Ng points to a conjuncture between law and politics.

Within the interviews, former Ministers Kim Carr and Peter Costello objected to Ministerial Advisers appearing before Parliamentary Committees on the basis it allows Ministers to evade their own responsibilities to Parliament.

It would look very weak if you sent your Ministerial Advisers in for you (Peter Costello – Former Minister).

Anna Burke, the former Speaker of the House, argued that Ministerial Advisers should appear before parliamentary committees for a variety of reasons. Burke argued that Ministerial Advisers should have appeared in the Children Overboard inquiry.

Belief or Law?

Dr Ng explains the disparity of belief about conventions and the decision in the Children Overboard inquiry about Ministerial Advisers not appearing before Senate Committee.

For example, a former Liberal Senior Minister said that conventions are only practised until they are broken.

Conventions can be in the eye of the beholder and do not survive a brutal assault driven by political reasons. On an issue of this kind, people tend to do whatever suits their short term political interests. (Former Liberal Senior Minister)

Dr Ng argues that various parties will adopt contradictory positions with regard to conventions.

Either the Minister needs to accept responsibility for what their staff do. You cannot say they are responsible to me, but I don’t care what they do. I am not going to tell you what they do because it is nobody’s business. (Dr Ng)

Dr Ng argues there is no legitimate reason to exclude Ministerial Advisers from appearing before Parliamentary Committees.

Ministerial Advisers are an important part of the system and in that sense, I think that they are accountable the same way as Ministers are accountable to the public interest. The public interest is protected by Parliament and when Parliament enquire into something, they should get all the evidence that they need. It has never been an issue in Western Australia. (Geoff Gallop – Former Western Australian Premier)

Dr Ng explains that it is only the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria that makes the case that Ministerial Advisers are prevented from appearing before parliamentary Committees, through a constitutional convention.

Conclusion

Dr Ng concludes:

There are failings at an institutional level in the Australian system of public administration. This has been exacerbated by the rise of Ministerial Advisers in the Australian system of Government, the manipulated behaviour of politicians and the unreflective adoption of the public management efficiency approach.

We are caught between law and convention, continuity and change. (Dr Ng)

Dr Ng’s full lecture can be viewed here:

Source: Senate Occasional Lecture – Dr Yee-Fui Ng – 21/07/2017 12:07:00 – Parliament of Australia

Originally published on The Red Window

 

Post-Coal Theming and Preventative Unemployment

The Anti-Adani protest has generated divisive anti-worker rhetoric. Preventative unemployment should be a key focus towards a post-coal world. This article discusses the importance of themes in the narrative towards a post-coal world and explores the approach to preventative unemployment policy.

Say No To Adani Is Just the Beginning

The anti-Adani movement is growing. It has progressed from a place of prominence on social media to a place of prominence in main stream media.

I have spent countless hours trying to engage with the Anti-Adani movement. I have persisted for a long period to bring the topic of jobs to the centre of the discussion. Placing the worker at the centre of the framework is crucial, as we move towards a post-coal world.

This is crucial because the Anti-Adani movement’s aim to shut down the Adani mine is just the beginning. It is not the end. A move towards alternative energy and away from coal is evident. Protests against existing mines are just a matter of time. The industrial landscape will change forever.

However, any discussion regarding jobs is dismissed and not taken seriously.

Screaming to Shut Down Jobs

Every Adani protester is protesting to shut down jobs and is part of a wider movement which will build and push to shut down even more heavy industry.

The wider narrative in the Anti-Adani movement, when the point of jobs is raised, makes this issue much bigger than Adani by default.

The Theming of Rebuttals

I have engaged almost every day in the Adani debate online, across various platforms for at least a year. In my experience, the rebuttals towards any argument put forward regarding jobs fall into a number of themes. The post-coal world is the framework for these themes, not just Adani per se.

Divisive 

This rebuttal insists that only Great Barrier Reef workers hold any importance and these workers are more important than Coal Workers.

Dehumanising

This rebuttal dehumanises coal workers as a lower status of human. Job creation for this group is not considered. There is the assumption that these workers work in a dead industry and it is up to them to get out. Some insist it is up to the current coal mine owners to transition employees out now. Protestors see coal as an ugly and dirty industry. Therefore, stigmatisation of coal workers occurs.

Externalising Blame to the Coal Worker

This rebuttal is related to the above and shifts the blame of climate change to the actual worker. ie Coal workers are ruining the planet.

The Assumption of Automatic Transition

Coal workers will all automatically transition to a renewables job and this is the best fit for ex-coal workers is the assumption.

The Assumption of Geographical Transition

The assumption is that renewable energy companies will hire the ex-coal workforce. The other assumption is the same location will house the new industry. See above.

The Dismissal of Impact

This rebuttal rejects that coal mining has any significant contribution to the Australian economy and renewables will generate much more revenue and jobs than coal. Also, local economies will remain unchanged. This rebuttal also assumes that small business or the allocation of public services funding and infrastructure funding will not change.

Sacrificial Lamb

This rebuttal insists that we must sacrifice all coal jobs for the greater good; because if we don’t then there will be no world and no jobs.

Personally Directed Themes

When I raised jobs as an issue, the following themes occurred.

Personal investment – The major theme is ‘pro-coal‘. It is my observation that participants in this movement are unable to differentiate between pro-jobs and pro-coal.

Another theme is “Queensland Bias” as it is my home state.

Guilt – The other major theme is guilt. This is usually a counter-argument after jobs are raised. For example, accusations relating to; not caring about the Great Barrier Reef, GBR workers, First Nations people and land rights and not caring about Farmers.

From my perspective, it is important to include the personally directed themes, as these themes are quite prevalent. In addition, I would argue that these types of retaliations are an active part of a phenomenon which dismisses the worker by delegitimising the concern of the pro-jobs advocate.

Political Difficulty

This poses problems for any politician who tries argue the point for jobs. Not just at this moment regarding Adani, but as this movement progresses towards the insistence of more closures of heavy industry. On Qanda, the panel and audience ultimately dismissed Senator Canavan when he raised the issue of high unemployment for local areas near the mine.

Political Theming

The theme around this post coal transition within politics is largely devoid of any conversation around the transition of jobs and skills. The political themes are:

Climate Change Targets – This theme is central to reducing carbon emissions.

Alternative Energy – This theme is central to exploring the use of alternative energy, rather than the importance of transition of jobs within this shift.

Renewables the Best Fit – Renewables as the best fit for coal workers is assumed. Attracting other industry is not discussed. The redistribution of the public sector is also not discussed.

The Importance of Themes for Transition

I have highlighted these themes, as I see them, as I believe they play a central part ensuring the recognition of the worker occurs. 

Through the attempt to understand the current phenomenon using theming, we can then identify the actors within the phenomenon and what impact the phenomenon has as it develops. We can use this insight to shape society.

The worker will remain in the background unless we reflect upon these themes. Therefore, the worker will be an accidental casualty of the movement towards a post coal world.

In addition, these themes contribute to the way we insist that political parties approach a transition. For example, the emphasis placed on skills transition and profession transition.

Most importantly, whether political parties implement curative or preventative unemployment strategies to address unemployment.

Preventative and Curative Unemployment Policy

Policy development towards unemployment takes two forms, preventative and curative. Essentially, preventative policy enables measures to prevent unemployment. Curative policy development is reactionary and punitive and seeks to address the consequences of unemployment.

On the Road to Somewhere

It is essential that political parties develop a solid transition plan based on skills and jobs. However, there is not enough detail in the current Labor and Greens transition plans. A focus on energy rather than jobs is evident. I have been unable to source a transition plan by the Liberal National Coalition Government.

The Greens’ transition plan discusses the rehabilitation of mines as the main alternative job for ex-coal workers.

Labor’s transition plan takes a more holistic approach. However, I would argue that some points such as redeployment and relocation do not focus on community.

A detailed transition plan consisting of where the new industry will be developed, a jobs and skills forecast, including projected employment types, such as ongoing and casual should be developed. In addition, an examination of the reconfiguration of new industry and public services should occur.

The road to where we are heading, how we will get there and what happens when we get there is now urgent.

Preventative Unemployment Strategies

The Shorten Labor Government does discuss preventative unemployment strategies as part of their transition plan. However, this is more implicit, rather than explicit. We urgently need a strong voice pushing a detailed jobs narrative.

Increase in Demand Side Employment 

As the transition away from coal jobs occurs, an increase in the demand for labour is essential. A forecast of job losses in coal areas should enable political parties to develop a blue print for planning.

Business incentives to encourage businesses to relocate and set up in local areas could be advantageous. In addition, job creation through Government intervention would be beneficial.

National Skills and Career Development Strategy

Often skills development is discussed from a curative point of view of ‘getting the unemployed skilled for work’. However, within a preventative strategy, the addition of career development is an essential addition. The development of new skills to supply labour is essential as the transition away from coal assumes an increase in unemployment. This shift is structural and understood. Therefore, the worker can complete career development programs during their employment with a coal based employer.

A focus on preventative unemployment would see a national strategy employed where employers are subsidised to release existing labour for new skills development training.

Funding of Universities to develop appropriate courses and recruit staff ahead of time is also vital.

Reconfiguration of the Labor Market

A micro approach to local economies should examine the requirements to reconfigure the labour market within Australia. Within a preventative strategy as alternatives or additions to renewable jobs and how this should be configured should be examined. For example, in conjunction with renewable jobs, local government areas may be identified as specific hubs. Such as telecommunications hubs, community sector hubs, aged care hubs.

A reconfiguration, redistribution and a reassessment of public sector need and staffing establishments required to adequately service the population should also be considered. Regional unemployment figures, rather than national unemployment figures, should be a measure of success.

A Strong Supply Side Voice in a Pluralistic Framework

The changes required towards a post coal world, including an increase in labour demand, a change of career and wages for many workers and a loss of increment/experience level is perceived.

The suppression of voice of the supply side of labour is a dangerous pressure from Liberal National Governments. They may argue that secure employment and strong labour regulations may reduce the desire for employers to employ more entrants into the new industry. They may argue that new industry in a new market is volatile and wages should be kept as low as possible and work as flexible as possible to enable growth.

However, a preventative framework should be a pluralistic framework. Therefore, the Government, employers and unions should work together to set the standards and improve worker security in new industries and in transitioning local economies.

From Punitive to Preventative Unemployment

Punitive measures underpin curative unemployment strategies. These have become increasingly harsh and prevalent since the 1990’s. Curative policies focus on the unemployed rather than the labour market. Therefore the motivations of the unemployed are questioned (and punished) rather than a recognition that there is not enough demand for labour in the market.

This transitional shift to a post coal world could also transition the job search framework. In a preventative system creating labour demand to match the under-utilised supply would be the focus. A preventative unemployment strategy would see a Government motivated to intervene to create jobs, invest in skills and career development.

In a curative system, the underlying assumption is punitive. The jobless are blamed for their own unemployment. This is usually a lack of motivation and intrinsic propensity to learn or work. ‘Curing’ the causes of lack of motivation or desire to work are the strategies employed. Currently, these are financial penalties and working as free labour for welfare benefits.

In a preventative system creating labour demand to match the under-utilised supply would be the focus. A preventative unemployment strategy would see a Government motivated to intervene to create jobs. Also, invest in skills and career development of new and transitioning workers and incentivize business.

The Worker Front and Centre

A consideration of the themes identified in the narrative in the shift towards a post coal society is critical to transition towards a narrative which places the worker front and centre in the climate change framework.

We need a detailed transition plan urgently. The implementation of preventative unemployment strategies will ensure a smooth transition to a post-coal world.

Suffer in Ya Jocks! Turnbull Scoffs at Disaster Funding

A natural disaster has hit Rockhampton every two years since 2008. When a Prime Minister thinks natural disasters are not a national issue, he needs to go. 

The Prime Minister has made another attempt to divide Australians and pit state against state. Frustratingly, he has turned his back on Queensland by refusing to assist with Disaster Funding. Explicitly, the Prime Minister does not see disaster mitigation as a national issue. In other words, Turnbull believes that if bushfires rage through NSW, that is a problem for NSW. Similarly, if floods and cyclones hit Queensland, therefore, it is a problem for Queensland.

Clearly, Turnbull’s leadership on this issue is pathetic. The People’s Prime Minister he is not!

Disaster Mitigation

Fires, Cyclones and Floods happen in Rockhampton, Central QLD. They aren’t just words on a screen. In essence, they are terrifying and destructive natural disasters that can leave families stranded, with no shelter, food, power and water. The frail and elderly in dire need of help. For some, it is complete devastation as they lose everything. Also, businesses close or are on the brink of closure.

I think everyone agrees that preventing death, destruction and massive blows to the local economy are all in the national interest.

Turnbull seems to believe that the free market will just always sort things out. However, Turnbull’s free market doesn’t help in in a disaster. Turnbull’s free market’s role is for you, the pensioner, the unemployed, the worker, the small business owner to dig deep into your own pocket and donate after every disaster.

In short, Turnbull doesn’t want to do a thing to prevent natural disasters.

Do we want a Prime Minister who will step up and help prevent the death of innocent people, the frail and elderly stranded in their homes without power, businesses copping massive losses as they shut their doors in times of disaster or one who does nothing and then cries into the camera in the face of the aftermath and then tells you to pull out your wallet?

Regional Towns in Central Queensland need urgent assistance to mitigate the impact of future natural disasters.  Rockhampton has faced fires, cyclones and floods, every two years for the last ten years. It feels as if we just get over one disaster and another is knocking on our door.

Mitigation saves lives. Queensland needs this funding now.

Category D Funding Application

The Palaszczuk Government submitted an application for joint funding with the Commonwealth to fund infrastructure and mitigation projects in regional Queensland.

The proposed funding includes:

  • $135 million Recovery to Resilience – Local Council Package to help the hardest hit local government areas undertake key infrastructure projects that will generate employment, boost the local economy, drive community recovery and build resilience.
  • $60m Recovery to Resilience – infrastructure package (Betterment) to enable important infrastructure that has been damaged by STC Debbie to be rebuilt to a stronger more disaster resilient state.
  • $15m Recovery to Resilience – environmental package to ensure the recovery of impacted environmental areas, recognising the important contribution our unique environment makes to the Queensland and Australian tourism industry.
  • $10m Recovery to Resilience – economic package, to support the recovery of industry and businesses in and around impacted areas that experienced significant disruption and damage.

Queensland Short Changed

The Palaszczuk proposed the package of $220 million. With the Federal Government proposed to meet half the funding of $110 million. On the 14th July, the Turnbull Government announced it will only fund $29 million.

That is a shortfall of $81 million dollars. I propose the Prime Minister stops dissing mathematics because that is a very large shortfall.

Christensen Vs. Landry

landry christensen

Turnbull, backed by Capricornia LNP MP Michelle Landry has refused to assist the QLD Government with category D funding, post cyclone Debbie.

Controversial LNP MP George Christensen, who recently crossed the party room floor on penalty rates, has voiced his disappointment with Turnbull’s decision and will fly his regional Mayors to Canberra to insist on more funding. 

Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen, whose own government signed off on the funding, was also “gutted” at the size of the kitty.

 

 

Michelle Landry, MP, has turned her back on her community. Landry, who holds her seat by 1,111 votes appears more concerned with gauging what locals think of the flood levee. The community has had a divided opinion regarding the flood levee for a variety of reasons.

Landry has bled every last political drop in every natural disaster since she was a candidate in the 2013 election. This includes blaming councils for fraudulent disaster funding claims and constantly blaming the State Labor Government.

Peak Flood Level? Peak Level Stupidity!

Landry’s argument is that Category D Funding is not for new infrastructure.  Landry’s rationale is that if Rockhampton already had a flood levee, then money could be used to fix it. However, Landry is opposed to money building a new levee to prevent the extensive damage flooding causes in the first place.  

“The State Government know very well that under Category D that there’s no new infrastructure built. If we had an existing levee and it was damaged, the money would fix it up.  (Michelle Landry Daily Mercury 13/05/17)

Landry might want to ask George Christensen where she can find some leadership and insist on this funding to keep people safe and businesses open. The temporary flood levee in Rockhampton recently saved many homes, which would have previously been inundated.

In 2015, Tony Abbott provided a meagre amount of funding under category D post cyclone Marcia. The basic idea which underpins category D for funding such as the QLD Betterment fund is:

The intent of betterment is to increase the resilience of Australian communities to natural disasters, while at the same time reducing future expenditure on asset restoration, reducing incidents, injuries and fatalities during and after natural disasters, and improving asset utility during and after natural disasters.

To insist that councils can only use this funding to rebuild an asset that has been destroyed and not build modern infrastructure to prevent further assets being destroyed by the next disaster; is most certainly a hair’s breadth away from reaching the level of peak stupidity.

Barnaby says Yes – Turnbull says No!

Barnaby Joyce backed the Rockhampton flood levee. However, Turnbull said No! Clearly, Turnbull simply does not understand regional Queensland. Why didn’t Michelle Landry say no to the disaster funding during this media opportunity?

Suffer in Ya Jocks

The Abbott-Turnbull Liberal Government have fought against helping regional Queenslanders post disaster in every disaster. They have cut assistance to individuals and families by removing Labor’s clauses for assistance criteria.

Sure Landry, O’Dowd, Barnaby, Canavan and Turnbull like to strut around town post disaster, like the lacklustre five. Their cowboy hats on and their concerned game face on point. However, that is where their hands stay – on their hats. Indeed, they find it too difficult to reach into their pockets to provide funding to actually help. Their postured concerned frowns and faux empathy we can do without.

In short, Rockhampton has experienced a natural disaster ever two years since 2008. If the Liberal National Government does not understand we need this funding because the recovery time between disasters is short lived, and we barely get back on our feet before the next one, then clearly they are completely out of touch with Queensland.

I imagine Turnbull lazing around in his Sydney mansion, pouring expensive champagne, raising his glass to the chandelier and with a smirk he says – “Queensland – Suffer in ya jocks!”

To Turnbull and Landry, I say

Rockhampton Flood Disaster

A Look Back at the Natural Disasters in Rockhampton
since 2008

2008 Floods Rockhampton


2009 Rockhampton Bushfires

2010-11 Floods Rockhampton

2013 Floods – Rockhampton

2015 Cyclone Marcia

2017 – Floods post Cyclone Debbie

House Music: Income Management QLD

Income Management is a hot topic of concern. This week, in “House Music” I discuss Income Management and the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs. I will also discuss the FRC in Cape York. The FRC is the Families Responsibilities Commission. This commission has input into income management restrictions in their community.

House Music is a weekly blog where I discuss various Bills, Committees, Petitions and try to raise awareness of the valuable resources on the APH website.  

Income Management Bill (QLD Commission)

The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs considered the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Queensland Commission Income Management Regime) Bill 2017. This Bill passed through both houses on 26th June 2017.

This Bill amends the Social Security Act (1999) and it includes an extension to income management in Cape York, Queensland until 30 June 2019. Cape York communities are participants in the Cape York welfare Reforms.

Cape York Income Management areasThe communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge are the original participating communities from 2007. The community of Doomadgee was added in 2015.

This Bill enables Family Responsibilities Commissions (FRC) to make a determination regarding income management for individuals in their community.

Cape York Welfare Reforms

Cape York Welfare Reform

Cape York Partnership Empowering Families

 

The Cape York Welfare Reforms initially commenced in 2007 through the Cape York Institute’s federally funded project headed by Noel Pearson.  This legislated reform commenced in 2008, once Pearson secured Government support. Therefore, this reform had tripartite support between Cape York Institute, QLD Labor Bligh Government with the support of the Rudd Labor Federal Government.

In addition, the outgoing Howard Government was very supportive of this project. The Howard Government funded the initial trial project, including funding for additional housing.

Four communities partnered with the Cape York Institute and the Queensland and Federal Governments in a Welfare Reform Partnership.

The main aim of this reform is to enable people in these communities to have empowerment and personal agency. Primarily, the aim is to achieve this through Indigenous authority, developing a culture of social norms and positive behaviour and improvements in living conditions.

A theme I discuss often is the negative narrative of the Government and their labelling of people on welfare.  The Cape York Partnership sums up powerful decision makers as they negatively describe those on welfare as ‘bludgers.’

This mentality is also shared by bureaucracy that sees people on the ground as incapable. Instead of simply providing resources and facilitating decision-making and action at the ground level, it hoards power and responsibility.

However, I personally do not agree with the term ‘passive welfare’ which the Cape York Institute uses in their final report. It is my view that welfare dependency is not about passivity because welfare is within a system of power which disables empowerment, agency and personal power.

A Different Type of Income Management

The theme of community driven self-empowerment is evident in the FRC reports.

A number of reports have been issued since 2011 about the progress of the reforms, including an ABC Four Corners documentary.  Moreover, the contrast of comments in the 2011 report to the current FRC reports, shows that years later, more of the community members are on board than at the time of implementation. In addition, a key theme in the 2011 consultations was that this needed to be a long term approach. ‘Things won’t happen overnight’.

Chris logan.JPG

 

 

“It is great for us to finally have income management in Doomadgee. We have issued 28 conditional income management orders to our clients and they have been well received.

 

and.. We know that income management is a necessary tool to see our community grow and we look forward to seeing the positive results it has for our clients.

 

We know we have many challenges ahead, but our team is strong and we will continue to work together to improve the lives of and prospects for the children of Doomadgee.”
Doomadgee Commissioner Christopher Logan

Family Responsibilities Commission

The Family Responsibilities Commission is a Statutory Authority under the Family Responsibilities Act 2008 (QLD). Respected leaders or Elders within the community make up the FRC. Importantly, the FRC has consultations or conference with community members to reinforce positive social norms.

The aims of the FRC are:

FRC objectives

The FRC receive notices from various departments about a breach of community standards, i.e. a child not attending school.

Decisions made at the conference are made fairly and with the best interests of the client and their family in mind. At the conclusion of the conference, Commissioners may decide that no action is necessary, reprimand the client, encourage the client to enter into a Family Responsibilities Agreement (FRA), direct the client to relevant community support services or place the client on a Conditional Income Management (CIM) order.

The key difference between this Income Management Program and the blanket roll out of income management that is being discussed at the moment, for example in Hinkler; is that the community owns and runs the program.

In the Senate Committee Hearing it was noted regarding ACOSS’ conclusion:

For example, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has acknowledged that the Cape York model of income management was not imposed by the government but was developed by the affected communities and that the FRC plays a unique role in case management, assessment and only refers individuals to income management as a last resort.

Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs

senate committees

The Community Affairs portfolio coverage includes Health and Social Services (including Human Services).

The Committee convened to consider the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Queensland Commission Income Management Regime) Bill 2017 [Provisions] on 22nd June 2017.

Committee Members

Senate Committees include representatives from various parties.

Chair, Senator Jonathon Duniam Tasmania, LP
Deputy Chair 
Senator Rachel Siewert, Western Australia, AG;

Members
Linda Reynolds (Senator) Western Australia, LP
The Hon Lisa Singh (Senator) Tasmania, ALP
Dean Smith (Senator) Western Australia, LP
Murray Watt (Senator) Queensland, ALP

Legislative Scrutiny

Other Committees also report through Committee in regards to the Bill.  The Scrutiny of Bills Committee had no comment on the Bill.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights made comment on the Bill. They noted that income management limits equality and non-discrimination, the right to privacy and family. They noted that the Cape York Reforms are different to the Northern Territory’s income management.

The Human Rights Committee also noted:

Notwithstanding this, the human rights committee noted that the application of income management in Cape York may be compulsory rather than voluntary and therefore drew the Parliament’s attention to the human rights implications identified in the 2016 Review of Stronger Futures Measures report.

An excerpt from the Stronger Future Measures Report states:

A human rights compliant approach requires that any measures must be effective, subject to monitoring and review and genuinely tailored to the needs and wishes of the local community. The current approach to income management falls short of this standard.

Consideration of Submissions Received

The Committee received seven submissions and all submitters supported the Bill and extension of the reforms to 2019. The Committee heard through submissions that the crucial role the FRC’s play in the reforms and the community, the increase in school attendance and child well-being, including better nourishment, were some of the main drivers behind continuing the reforms.

Extension to the Reforms

Since 2007, Cape York Communities have extended income management four times.  A crucial aspect is, under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) only the FRC can impose income management on an individual.

The Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku Aboriginal Corporation supported the extension:

When the time does come, the people of Mossman Gorge need to be empowered to drive what happens next so that we can stay on this road of positive change. The government can’t just suddenly decide to end Income Management and the FRC, without letting us plan so that we keep going forwards and don’t go backwards after making such hard won gains.

Income Management

The Committee considered the component of income management as a key measure in the Bill.  In addition to ACOSS’ comment above, all submitters agreed income management should continue.

This is not rolled out across all of Cape York. The submitters impressed that it only applies to at-risk individuals in communities as determined by the FRC.

Also, the FRC noted that individuals lose the right to ‘choice’ however, it is the FRC’s view that the benefits outweighed this. 

The Department of Social Services also agreed with the Bill and advised that a previous review of the reforms showed that 78% of individuals surveyed agreed that it had improved their lives.

The Committee recommended the Bill to be passed.

A Significant Bill

The Liberal National Coalition Government is pushing to roll out income management in more trial areas.There is an active protest against income management in the communities of Ceduna and Hinkler. The community I live in, Rockhampton, QLD has had income management in the form of the Basic’s card for some period of time now. However, this does not work the same as the Cape York Reforms. Instead, Centrelink determines who is income managed.

I felt that this is a significant Bill to include in this series because there is a variety of contemporary opinion regarding income management. In addition, as a regional Queenslander, I also think it is important to promote the positive work community organisations do in regional and rural communities. Unfortunately, this is largely unrecognised by the wider media.

Political Positions

The other reason is this can also clarify the position of at least three political parties. The Liberal and National Coalition, Australian Labor and the Australian Greens, all have different positions on income management. 

The Coalition Government is clear they want a blanket roll out of income management. In short, they are keen to implement cashless welfare widely. However, not in the same manner as the Cape York Reforms, but as a Government controlled and imposed measure.

Labor‘s position is that they do not support a blanket roll out of cashless welfare. However, as clarified by Senator Gallagher, they will work with communities that say they want cashless welfare, such as this program.

In contrast to the Coalition, Labor will not support cashless welfare in communities where community members do not want cashless welfare.

Whereas, the Greens oppose all forms of cashless welfare. This includes opposition to programs such as the Cape York Reforms.

A few weeks ago, the Australian Greens misrepresented Labor and implied Labor supported cashless welfare and voted down a Greens motion to stop it.  This erupted into quite a massive social media furore of attack after attack towards Labor.  I clarified Labor’s position, as per above, here.

Australian Greens’ Dissenting Report

The only opposition to the Bill within the Committee was from the Australian Greens. The Green’s reported to the Senate Committee that they have opposed this measure since it was implemented by the Howard Government. Therefore, they do not support this Bill.

One reason was that they believe it is not right for some people to have to conform to ‘somebody’s version’ of social norms. and this “promotes the idea that disadvantage is primarily a result of the individual’s failure to demonstrate the necessary social values and norms.”

I find it very confusing how the Greens argue that this is “somebody’s version’ of social norms. Clearly, from its inception, the people of the Cape York communities are the people who defined the social norms. Also, it is noted that a key success is that the communities own and drive this reform.

Apples and Oranges

The Cape York program of income management is different to other income management programs in Australia.

A recurring theme is that these reforms are viewed as a temporary measure. In addition, some argue that income management is another form of dependence.

Importantly, there is a long term view for communities to work together to the next stage beyond income management.

While income management has had a positive influence on Cape York communities, submitters acknowledged that it would be some time until it could be removed and that more progress could be made.

Discussions surrounding income management should take into account that there are different models. Models such as the Cape York reforms are supported by the community as well as by the people who have their welfare quarantined.

Anti-cashless welfare advocates (of which I am one), should acknowledge that every community is different. In addition, this is largely an Indigenous reform. However, every Indigenous person is also an individual. The commissioner’s approach to individual rights is especially relevant. 

Governments should note that a macro-view one size fits all approach of imposing income management on groups in a blanket fashion does remove agency and choice. Government regulated and forced income management is destabilising and stigmatising without the drivers of community and participant support.

Originally published on The Red Window

Vulnerable Jobseekers Are Invisible

Vulnerable Jobseekers need strong leadership. A shift away from a budget-savings model to a compassionate, supportive jobseeker-focused model is needed. The diverse needs of jobseekers, particularly vulnerable jobseekers, are ignored within the jobsearch framework and welfare reforms.  Vulnerable Jobseekers are becoming increasingly invisible.

Vulnerable Jobseekers – Increasingly Invisible

Think of the word ‘Jobseeker’ and close your eyes.  Who do you see?

The jobsearch and welfare framework ignores the diversity of people seeking employment.  The shifts in the jobsearch framework over time have sought to encompass more and more welfare recipients. This is a concern because it neutralises the personal circumstances of the individual. The label ‘jobseeker’ will apply to almost all jobless individuals under the current Welfare Reform Bill.

Vulnerable people in dire circumstances and highly experienced former workers are viewed through the lens of sameness and homogeneity.

Invisible and Inexcusable

The term jobseeker is an active term – one who seeks a job.  This also disguises the involuntary nature of the act of job seeking for many.  Cases of terminally ill individuals forced to seek work have been brought to light over recent years.

The shifts in policy over time, also place a cloak of silence over the most vulnerable in society. Explicit in the current welfare reform bill, and implicit in the language of Government is that the vulnerable people will no longer have ‘excuses’ for not meeting job search requirements.

In other words, legitimate behaviour displayed in the face of complex life circumstances will render vulnerable jobseekers and disabled jobseekers inexcusable. Their normal behavioural response to complex situations, intolerable and punishable by law.

The most vulnerable suffer the most in this type of punitive system.

Increased Participation

The aim of Governments over time is to increase participation of disabled people in work. The Liberal-National Coalition and Labor Governments have supported shifting disability support pension (DSP) recipients off the DSP and transferring them to the lower paid Newstart.

The Welfare to Work reforms, under the Howard Government, is the most significant change-point in the jobsearch framework for disabled people. Reducing welfare debt, by decreasing the number of DSP Recipients, was the main economic driver of these reforms.

‘Disabled people should not be left behind’, has been the mantra of both the Coalition and Labor Governments.

The System is the Problem

There are some success stories for enabling vulnerable jobseekers into new work.  However, people with an episodic mental illness can experience more distress and increased barriers in this system. 

Many disabled recipients are now on the lower rate of Newstart. They do not qualify for the DSP.  A review of the Welfare to Work changes indicated that among people with disabilities, 67 percent experienced no change, 29 percent were financially worse off and 3 per cent were better off. Income losses were up to $99 a week.

In addition, since 2006, the financial penalties for ‘non-compliance’ are more wide reaching and harsh.

This will only become more prevalent under the current Welfare Reform Bill. This is because reasonable behavioural responses to complex life problems are considered ‘unacceptable excuses’.

Financial stress is an identified barrier to employment and positive mental health. This is a serious concern because this group already live 20% under the poverty line. 

Quick Through-Put

Industry concern at the time of the pilot testing of the Welfare to Work Reforms for disabled participants was the shift to outcome-based payments for service providers.

In essence, a concern of a quick churn out culture. That is a lack of consideration for quality job matching or individual job seeker supports and a focus on placing vulnerable jobseekers in any job.

Some eleven years and five Prime Ministers later, after thousands have experienced disadvantaged, unfair expectations and punishment for non-compliance; the Reference Group for Welfare Reforms (McClure et. al) have highlighted quick throughput as an issue.

The Government recommendation in 2015 was to increase payments linked to outcomes. Seventy percent of funding is now linked to 26-week outcomes. A change from 40% previously.  However, this is not particularly ideal.

A Change in Funding Approach

The other change John Howard implemented was a shift from block funding to the outcome-based funding of employment services.  Once again, five Prime Minister’s later, this approach has become increasingly accepted and embedded.  I despair at the acceptance of this approach by both major parties, with little review or criticism.

Arguments for outcome-based funding models are usually from an economic-centric rationale focused on budget savings – rather than a client-centric rationale – focused on quality outcomes from the client’s perspective.

An Enabling Environment for Attacks on Jobseekers

I would strongly argue that outcome-based funding is a serious contributor to the deteriorating support and cultural attitudes displayed towards jobseekers, as reported by organisations such as the Australian Unemployed Workers Union.

There is a plethora of personal recounts by vulnerable people in extremely dire circumstances. Involuntary jobsearch and financial penalties apply to this group.

Personal Recounts such as:

“I came close to committing suicide because of the way Max treated me” – A First Hand Account  and

Centrelink and Job Agencies Discriminate Against the Sick

Are heartbreaking recounts where privately contracted employment agencies not only exacerbated mental health conditions but seemingly were the reason the mental health condition was introduced in the first place.

Absolutely unacceptable.

A Stronger Shift To Outcome Based Funding

Personally, since the late 1990’s I have expressed concern about the shift in funding models.  I have had a consistent concern since its inception that the personal financial breaching of jobsearch participants, impedes outcomes and punishes individuals unnecessarily.

I express serious concern that a higher percentage of 26-week outcome-based funding for employment agencies, is more likely to increase punitive measures on vulnerable participants. It is more likely to see vulnerable jobseekers with an episodic disability placed in the too hard basket and increased penalties applied, and less complex clients given more time and attention.  

Most outcome-based employment services contracts have tiers of payment, where people who face more difficulty finding and sustaining work attract higher payments (Department of Employment 2015Lu, 2014). Despite this, several studies found that the incentives to service the most difficult clients were insufficient: these clients had poorer outcomes, were underserved, or ‘parked’ (Business Council of Australia 2014Koning and Heinrich 2013National Audit Office 2015). At the other end of the spectrum, ‘cream skimming’, the practice of favouring easier to serve clients, was also evident (Davidson and Whiteford 2012). (Emma Tomkinson, 2016)

An Empty Echo Chamber

The jobsearch framework has evolved into an empty echo chamber. Complex life-situations of homeless people, women escaping domestic violence, individuals recovering from sexual trauma, the physically disabled, those with psychiatric disabilities, silent disabilities and homeless young people, for example, are all viewed as ‘excuses not to seek employment’.

There are many recipients now on Newstart who have undiagnosed mental health conditions. Also many with diagnosed mental health conditions in regional and rural areas cannot access the appropriate services and treatment. In turn, they are financially penalised for this lack of investment in support.

There are many individuals who are treated blatantly unfairly, financially punished and driven to the depths of despair, exacerbating mental health conditions and some committing suicide.  This is absolutely unacceptable.

This is a very under-reported phenomenon in the mainstream media.  These individuals receive little voice by way of organised protest. These vulnerable citizens receive little attention in the political space.

When a situation such as the Robo-Debt disaster occurs, there is a furore about mistreatment and unfair and harsh measures.  However, largely, politics ignores the unfairness and punishment jobseekers experience.

Strong Leadership is urgent now, to completely review this system and develop in its place a jobseeker-centric model of employment support. 

A Jobseeker-Centric Model

The Welfare Reform changes occurred in 2006 and further reiterations of Howard’s model have occurred over time.  These reiterations are by both the Liberal-National Coalition and the Labor Governments.

Specialised support services have deteriorated, such as JPET. The Gillard Government moved to a one size fits all one-stop shop model. Also, smaller community-based organisations were less likely to win contracts. In their place, much larger ‘financially stable’ organisations won tenders. This saw the merger of many smaller community-based employment services and the demise of some. Lost under these changes were local knowledge and expertise and a community-centric focus.

The current shift by the Abbott-Turnbull Government imposes further difficulty on vulnerable jobseekers. This is through a higher compliance for employment services for 70% 26-week outcomes. Agencies will leave complex jobseekers behind and pursue the outcomes which fund them.

The shift to wielding a much bigger stick by focusing on ‘unreasonable excuses and compliance’ for vulnerable people and more punitive measures, is frankly, quite frightening. The shift to homogenise the diversity of jobseekers is a major concern, as to the future ramifications of this move.

A shift to a client-centric model focused on quality outcomes as self-reported by the client is now urgent and essential.

Strong Leadership Urgent!

Strong leadership in this space is crucial and quite urgent.  A shift towards a jobseeker-centric model requires an enormous shift in thinking by political parties. 

It requires a shift from a budget savings approach. A shift from the underpinning thought that jobseekers do not want to work. The satisfaction of jobseekers and a focus on needs-based supports and outcomes is crucial. A shift towards recognising episodic illness and complex life situations.

Crucially, a shift away from forced participation. An objective underpinned by financial penalties for vulnerable people. Vulnerable jobseekers are in complex circumstances and are already living under the poverty line.

It is simply hypocrisy to participate in the CEO Sleep Out during Homelessness week and actively contribute to the harsh regime that contributes to it.

Intimidation and Bullying

The Government frames jobseekers as potential employees. However, the bullying, intimidation and punitive measures imposed upon them, in the most unreasonable manner, would not be acceptable in any organisation.

How can a Government remain unchallenged in this space?  Should privately contracted companies receive a reward for the harsh treatment of vulnerable jobseekers?

Why is the mistreatment and harsh punishment of vulnerable people, considered a ‘positive outcome’ in this policy sphere?

Jobseeker Satisfaction

Organisations that value their employees take job satisfaction seriously. Jobseeker satisfaction should be central to jobsearch models because it will enable jobseeker focused continuous improvements.

Assessment of job satisfaction for new workers is vital. Vulnerable workers self-reporting workplace bullying also a serious concern. Corporate culture and attitudes towards long-term unemployed new workers is also critical to understand.

Visible Jobseekers

A jobseeker centred model will push the current model out of the comfort zone it has been in for twenty years.  A model which gives voice to jobseekers will push Governments to respond to build a better model focused on supportive outcomes.

A jobseeker centred model is essential because it will make jobseekers visible again.  It will give jobseekers personal agency.  Vulnerable jobseekers will have a stronger internal locus of control. They will give voice to the access and supports they need.

Exposed will be the urgent need for Job Creation.  This will place pressure on lazy Governments who do not meet their responsibilities in this space.

I hope for future where the privately contracted punitive outcome based model is extinct and a nationalised public sector operated, jobseeker centric model, focused on quality supports and jobseeker satisfaction exists in its place.

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Welfare Reform: Turnbull is No Menzies

Turnbull’s claim that the Turnbull Liberal Party is a party embracing Menzies Liberalism, is a self-delusional fallacy. In terms of progressive welfare reform, the Menzies Liberal is dead. 

The neo-liberal/conservative successors of Menzies are the insidious pathogen that flows through the Liberal party’s veins to sustain its current mutant form. Menzies views on social security and Turnbull’s stigmatising and punitive approach are poles apart.

Deviants and Outsiders

Since the 1990s The Liberal Party of Australia has embraced the Thatcherist concepts of framing the jobless as ‘deviants and outsiders.’  Increasing punitive measures imposed upon the jobless has existed since Howard. Howard embraced Thatcherism and punitive measures have spiralled out of control since then, with each successive Liberal Government. Turnbull’s Welfare Reform Bill, currently before Senate Committee is increasingly worse and is no exception.

I will use Adam’s Equity Theory to explain how those who embrace the tenets of Thatcherism, encourage societal divide, anger and acceptance of punitive welfare.

Equity theory

Equity Theory is based on the logic that humans will make social comparison’s between themselves and others. In doing so they assess effort exerted for reward gained.

Social division is created through the use of negative narrative. Categorisations such as ‘bludgers, loafers, lazy and more recently ‘the taxed not’, forces humans to make a comparison with others. To determine if one is in the ‘in-group or the ‘out-group’ is a natural reaction.

Therefore, they encourage the public to actively compare their personal input into society against those on welfare. Is their personal effort (work) for reward (income) equal with those who receive financial ‘reward’ for no effort?

A stigmatising narrative drives the view that reward is equal. When in reality it is not.

The first Thatcher government was able to launch an anti-welfare campaign by tapping into deep-seated resentment of `something for nothing’ welfare beneficiaries, to especial effect when it could be suggested that those in receipt of the state’s generosity were largely `outsiders’ (Phillip M. Larkin)

Enabling An Angry Society

Equity theory is a motivational theory. However, it also belongs to the grouping of justice theories. This is because the construct of justice underpins the motivational factors and behavioural response.

How an individual perceives distributive justice shapes our culture.  This sets down the parameters of the socially acceptable response to express anger at unfairness.

For example, union activism is (largely) a socially acceptable way to express anger and protest unfair work laws. The behavioural response is anger. The motivator is to achieve equality for those worse off.

Manufactured Unfairness

In the context of welfare, the perception of unfairness through the lens of distributive justice is manufactured by those in power who have an inherent dislike for those on welfare.

The use of a negative stigmatising narrative creates this enabling environment. The perception that those on welfare receive an equal reward for no effort is championed by influential politicians and political commentators. Therefore, this creates an enabling environment for the public to express anger towards those on welfare.

In the seminal research of distributive justice and relative deprivation, the connection between perceived injustice and aggression is clearly evident. If a state of injustice exists and it is to a person’s disadvantage – that is they person experiences deprivation – he or she will display anger. (Einarsen et. al)

However, in the instance of manufactured unfairness, deprivation is a subjective perception.

In this instance, the collective views those on welfare as ‘better off’ (as they expel less effort for the perceived ‘same’ reward). Therefore, the collective considers their situation as ‘worse off’ and unfair (deprivation).

As Newstart is 20% below the poverty line, in reality, this is clearly not the case. However, the negative narrative and the layering of punitive welfare measures over time, masks this.

Punitive Measures Creep

In contrast to the union activism example above, the collective’s behavioural response is largely influenced by what I term as “punitive measures creep”.

This is the gradual increase in scope and intensity that punitive measures are imposed on welfare recipients by the Government.

The collective accepts increasingly harsh punitive measures. This is because they perceive these measures redress the unfairness. It is a fair punishment for the lack of exertion in exchange for the ‘same reward’. In essence, they no longer feel deprived.

Therefore, the collective is content with widening the scope of welfare recipients who must comply with punitive measures. They also accept the harshness or intensity of the measures as justified.

For example, although the opposition parties successfully prevented the implementation of Abbott’s ‘starve for six months‘ reform, there was some acceptance amongst the public.

Radical versus Incremental Policy Innovation

I would strongly argue that Abbott’s six-month wait also saw a large movement of rejection because it was not a gradual change.  Whereas, historically, the changes to punitive welfare measures are gradual.

As with the development of products, sometimes radical innovation is rejected. (A famous example is Apple TV). Incremental innovation is generally low risk and more acceptable to current users (i.e. IPhone 4,5,6, and 7).

Turnbull’s current welfare reform Bill falls into the realm of incremental innovation (if we can reach across the divide and apply this term). This Bill widens the scope of those who need to participate in ‘job search compliance’.  It also widens the scope of the types of welfare recipients who are labelled ‘jobseekers’. Sickness Benefit recipients, for example.

This Bill also gradually increases the intensity or harshness  of measures, by removing what is deemed ‘an acceptable excuse.’  For example, those with the classified disorder of drug addiction will no longer be exempt.

So Mr Innovation is actually innovative – just in a really shitty way.

Menzies On Social Security

Menzies Welfare

The Robert Menzies viewed through the lens of his election speech in 1946, is no comparison to the values displayed by the Turnbull Government.

Throughout his speech, Menzies framed the jobless as a ‘temporary necessity.’ 

Unlike the Turnbull Government and Abbott Government, Menzies recognised that there was not enough work for everyone. Menzies spoke of full employment. His view was to create enough jobs for everyone. Not to punish them for his lack of job creation. However, Turnbull does. 

A Necessary Incident

Menzies Quote 1

In this excerpt above, Menzies demonstrates that he understands that there is not enough work and his passion is to change that.

The Turnbull Government Obsessed with Social Security

Below, Menzies is detailing his intention to invest in Australia and build jobs, rather than focus on welfare.  Although this is the mantra of the Turnbull Government (Jobs and Growth) it is not evident in their actions.

Menzies Quote 2

It would appear that as there are 17 job seekers for every job vacancy and the Government has submitted another Bill with a focus on imposing more punitive measures on the jobless, therefore it would appear that the Turnbull Government has “turned its back upon these matters and devotes all its attention to social security.”

The concentration on punitive welfare instead of investing in real jobs and opportunity is a hallmark of the Liberal Governments of Abbott and Turnbull. It appears these were not Menzie’s values at all.

Turnbull’s idea that his leadership represents Menzies, is a self-delusional fallacy. The Menzies Liberal is dead.

The Mutant Form with No X-Gene

The Abbott and Turnbull Governments are a mutant form of what once was. The Marvel Comic Mutants, we know as the X-Men and their nemeses, exist in their current form as they are ‘post-human’ because they carry a special gene.

The X-Gene is a ‘super-human’ gene. In the example of Menzies, we will frame the gene as Menzies frames himself. For the purpose of the argument, if we were to view the X-Gene as a super-human who has a vision of progressive values and compassionate towards those on welfare; then Turnbull evidently does not carry this gene.

The closest Turnbull will ever get to the X-Gene is his adoption of X in MacGregor’s X-Y theory. This is because he views those on welfare, as unmotivated and unwilling to work and he needs to come down upon them with punishment and authority.

If Turnbull perceives Menzies beliefs as reflective of his own leadership; and believes he has the capacity to champion this now, he is a bit late to lead this change.

Turnbull is the late starter stuck in the barrier and Shorten is a length away from winning the race.

Blankets Urgently Needed in Central Australian Communities

Yesterday I made a donation to Waltja.  They are raising money to purchase blankets for people in Central Australia. Donation platforms to assist people in dire need should not need to exist in Australia in 2017.  Especially if the cause is a flood.  Please support this cause.

Waltja

https://www.waltja.org.au/

https://www.waltja.org.au/

Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi Aboriginal Corporation (Waltja) is a community-based organisation.  They are an independent organisation and receive funds from the Commonwealth and State and Territory Departments.

Waltja Tjutangku Palyapayi is in the Luritja language. It literally means “families, for everybody, really good together”, or the short version, “doing good work with families”.

Waltja works with Aboriginal families in remote Central Australian Communities. They service 900,000 kilometres squared.  To put this into perspective, the Prime Minister’s electorate of Wentworth can fit into this area 23,684 times. Waljta services an area approximately as big as the O’Connor electorate  – the third largest electorate in Australia.

They coordinate a range of projects: Aged Care and Disability, Caring for Elders, Disability Bush Service, Emergency Relief Fund for Vulnerable Groups, Family Mental Health, Kapaliku ngurra yirritinguru – A Community Based Arts Project, Money Management Information, Tjutangku Tjukurrpa – Social Enterprise and Reconnect Youth Support Program.

Traditional Aboriginal Women work across various remote communities and they work across nine languages.  In 2014, they received the award for “the best-governed Indigenous organisation in Australia.”

Today, they need your help.

Waltja Warm Blankets – The Donation Plea

They have a Pozible project to share the story of Central Australians affected and to attract donations.  A once in 50-year flood has wiped out the supply of warm blankets. Temperatures can plunge to below freezing in this area of Australia.

It gets cold in the desert

This excerpt from their Pozible Donations page explains further:

When you think of Central Australia you probably think of a hot dry desert.

But come winter, the desert is anything but hot.  Nights drop below zero and the orange sands turn white with frost. Because of the cold, each year there are elderly or vulnerable people who don’t survive.

But not this year, not on our watch!

Waltja always puts extra money and supplies aside to be ready for the winter months, but to at the start of the year, Central Australia experienced a one-in-50-year flooding.  We had as much rain in two and half weeks than we would normally have across the whole year.

Roads were cut and many people who had been travelling to town for shopping or visiting family were stranded with nothing but the clothes on their back. So we did what anyone would do – we cracked open our supplies put aside for winter to help the many women and children, and elderly, who’d become trapped and homeless by the flooding.

Click Here to Share the Warmth this Winter

Campaign donate

Share the Warmth this Winter by Waltja

When you think of Central Australia you probably think of a hot dry desert. But come winter, the desert is anything but hot. Nights drop below zero and the orange sands turn white with frost. Because of the cold, each year there are elderly or vulnerable people who don’t survive.

Waltja needs to raise $75,000 dollars for 3000 blankets including transport.  To date, they have only raised $16,154.00

Demand Better!

After you donate, please write to the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion and cc the Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mr Bill Shorten. Please enquire why, after a natural disaster, a pledge campaign is necessary to raise funds for blankets. Please ask why the funds are not readily available from the Government. Also, insist upon immediate action.

I just did.

In 2017, the right to keep warm is a basic right. This is simply not good enough.

House Music: Welfare Reform and Drug Testing

This is the first of a weekly blog about Parliamentary Business. This week: Social Security Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill, Senate Committee Inquiry and a Petition against Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients.  

Every week, I will discuss selected Bills,Petitions and Committee Inquiries. Where appropriate, I will discuss Matters of Public Importance raised in Parliament. Through this weekly blog, I also hope to create awareness about the APH website and encourage active interaction.

Bills

welfare reform bill

Social Security Amendment Bill (Welfare Reform)

Quick Recap: (Not the entire list)

  1. Will remove seven current payments and reduce them to one jobseeker payment.
    (Remove: Widow B Pension, Wife Pension, Bereavement Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance) and
  2. Establishment of a drug testing trial and
  3. Removal of exemptions for drug and alcohol dependence and
  4. Changes to Reasonable Excuses and
  5. New Targeted Compliance Framework and
  6. Claim Provisions (Benefits will no longer be backdated to date of claim)

Discussion

Please note: this section is a discussion, therefore it is from my own point of view. Please read the official Explanatory Note because this will explain the information as tabled.

Streamlining Payments – Everyone is a Jobseeker

It appears the Government’s aim is to punish as many welfare recipients as possible. Even those with a reasonable excuse.

Therefore, bereaved, widowed and incapacitated due to illness are all now “Jobseekers” under this Bill.

Even those genuinely incapacitated will need to participate in jobsearch.

jobseeker payments

These individuals will be scooped up into the same nauseating bucket the Liberals carry around at their sides filled with condemnation and labelled “Bludgers.”

Widow and Wife’s Pension

age2bdiscrimination

Since at least the 1990’s Governments have changed access to the Widow’s pension and Wife’s pension.  These pensions are primarily the domain of women, because they are now unable to rely on a husband’s income due to his illness or death. This is another move to completely cancel these payments. Hence, my view is that they should be revisited and reinstated – not abolished.

These recipients, mainly women, are not bludgers.  They are often active in family life and the community. Individual case managers should support Mature-Aged jobseekers in a voluntary program. A 20-year-old at a counter telling them that they haven’t done enough, should not exist. They should not live in fear they will be ‘cut off’ because they are the mercy of the system.

A Blow to Mature Aged Jobseekers

Mature-aged jobseekers are currently able to participate in voluntary work. This will no longer be the case. Are the Liberals suspicious this is a ‘loophole’ to avoid paid work? That is how The explanatory note reads to me. The vile deep bucket labelled “Bludgers” now includes volunteers.

Schedule 9 – Changes to activity tests for persons aged 55 to 59

volunteer

The Liberal Party does not value the contribution of volunteers (particularly women). Many mature aged women and men, who have not worked, would have a history of active participation in the community and schools. In addition, they often perform caring duties for grandchildren, because formal childcare is difficult to access and punishment is ludicrous, because this is a valuable contribution to society.

Mature Aged Jobseekers, seek employment, often because of illness, death and/or bereavement of a loved one and therefore should participate in voluntary jobsearch. Jobsearch can have an emotional toll on a mature aged individual, therefore, specialised case managers who understand this demographic need to support this group.This is because the sudden requirement for jobsearch can be a shock and furthermore is a huge disruption to their regular routine.

Financial Penalties – Every Single Time – For Everyone

financial penalties

The nature and extent of jobseeker compliance is harsher in terms of punishment and wider in the scope of recipients it is proposed to encompass.

I would describe the widening and intensity of financial penalties as ‘welfare punishment creep.’

This term describes the growing number of welfare recipients financial penalties apply to and the increasing lack of consideration and reasoning for which penalties are applied. 

This new Bill recommends a financial penalty to all jobseekers, with no consideration for a reasonable excuse, it appears.

This Bill proposes:

compliance

and

compliance 2

This section in the explanatory memorandum reads as if the Liberal Party has the assumption that every welfare recipient is trying to rip off the system, and they will find any excuse to get out of working‘.  Do the Liberals see all welfare recipients as underhanded and dishonest? Did you really think they would stop at cheezel eating X-Box players?

Drug Trials

drug testing welfare

This Bill also introduces the ‘infamous’ drug testing for welfare recipients. Also, see here for previous posts relating to welfare and drug testing and false positives.

 

Welfare recipients are required to agree with participation in drug testing:

drugs

The Government’s Mantra

The Government is implementing these drug trials under the premise that drug tests will show that jobseekers are not willing and able to participate in jobsearch.

A one off drug test may not show any indication of long-term or chronic drug use. Drug tests may not indicate the individual is unable to participate in jobsearch. In addition, as different tests test within the limitation of different time frames and this will not always ensure natural justice.

Urinary Drug Testing
This picks up drugs in a person’s system 3-4 days prior. This does not indicate chronic drug use or the inability to jobsearch or indicate impairment to work.

Hair Testing
This will only show drugs used at least four weeks prior 

This means that not only are the most recent three to four weeks invisible, but so too are drugs used prior to the growing time of the hair tested.  This approach approximately samples from a month prior to hair collection back as far as four months prior to hair collection depending on the length of the hair sample.

This means that a jobseeker is penalised, even if they are in a period of cessation.

..if the cessation of drug use does not extend back to further than four months prior to sample collection, the subject may argue that any drug found reflects use prior to the time of cessation

The other concern is that chronic drug users will simply shift to drugs because they are not detected in hair testing or urine testing.  Especially relevant is one such drug is GBH (liquid ecstasy).

GBH is the drug that saw 21 people hospitalised earlier this year.

Testing requires rigorous standards. Otherwise, contamination can occur. The NATA information paper also indicates that false negatives and false positives can occur.

Vulnerable People and the Right to Fairness

It is vital that welfare recipients experience compassion and fairness.

Another concern is jobseekers who are on psychiatric medication can return a false positive (see linked article above).  Statistics also show that many individuals who are drug dependent have a comorbidity of mental illness.

The Australian Government’s own Department of Health and Aging reports that:

Comorbidity or the co-occurrence of mental disorders and substance use disorders is common.

The DMS-5 classifies Drug and Alcohol Abuse as a disorder.

“substance use disorder describes a problematic pattern of using alcohol or another substance that results in impairment in daily life or noticeable distress.”

Therefore, individuals are at greater risk if they have a psychiatric disorder, with a co-morbidity of drug addiction, or have a substance abuse disorder.

In addition, it is this specific group who are most likely to not have the self-efficacy to use the complaints system.

Fairness is an issue.  When we are dealing with the most vulnerable in society, this is a major concern.

If the Government is concerned about substance abuse, they should invest in prevention and support services and not punitive welfare.

Please see the petition below and sign it!

Australian Liberals – Wanna Be UK Tories

Malcolm Turnbull Theresa may

These types of measures of consolidating payments is in line with the approach of the UK Conservative Party.  This was largely rejected by the Social Welfare Sector in the UK.

The Sickness that is the UK Conservative Party is on display right now. That is thanks to Jeremy Corbyn. No credit to the former UKLabour party given. Do we really want to vote for a Government that follows suit?  We are the country of the fair go. Not a country of abject poverty.

Senate Committee Inquiry

senate committees

The Social Security Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill has concluded it’s second reading and is now referred to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs.  This committee covers Health, Social Services and Human Services.

Individuals and organisations can submit their opinions or proposals to the committee for consideration.  Here is the information on how to write and submit a submission.

Submissions should be received by 4 August 2017. The reporting date is 4 September 2017.

There is not a lot of time to participate in feedback on this Bill, therefore, if you are against these changes, I would encourage you to write a submission as a direct protest.

Signing change.org petitions and sharing memes have their purpose, however, a submission is a direct voice to the Committee considering the Bill.

Petitions

petitions

Many people regularly sign online petitions using platforms such as change.org, however,  I would like to raise awareness that there are always petitions online in Federal and State Parliaments.

In fact, The House can only accept e-petitions that have been submitted via its e-petitions website. Signatures from other electronic or paper petitions cannot be added to your petition.

The petitions page is worth bookmarking.  Submitting petitions to parliament (State and Federal) and supporting official petitions submitted to Parliament is also critical in the stand against an issue.

To support a Petition:  Click on the Petition Link.  Complete your details, tick the terms and conditions box, go to your email and confirm your signature.

Standing up for progress – Achievement Unlocked!

Petition: Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients

We ask that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial, preventing the invasive and stigmatising practice of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients.

Petition Number
EN0256

Petition Address
To the Hon. Speaker of the House of Representatives and Members of the House of Representatives

Petition Of
Certain citizens of Australia

Petition Reason
The petitioners request that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial of drug testing for welfare recipients.

The petitioners request that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial of drug testing for welfare recipients. The suggested “random” selection of subjects by profiling people thought to be high risk will lead to discriminatory selection, while income quarantine and compulsory treatment are ineffective measures that will further marginalise the vulnerable. Rather than supporting people into employment, this will force those with substance abuse problems to disengage with the system and seek other means to support themselves. This reflects the experience of other jurisdictions, where mandatory testing has proven expensive and ineffective. Such resources would be better targeted towards supporting our overburdened treatment sector, as metropolitan and regional service providers continue to be understaffed and underfunded.

Petition Request
We ask that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial, preventing the invasive and stigmatising practice of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients.

I hope you enjoyed this first weekly review of Parliamentary Business. Until next week….

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