By Tina Clausen
What is wrong with you? Your behaviour in Parliament is atrocious and unprofessional. You are like a bunch of squabbling children. Each trying to out yell, out do, out blame and desperate to get one-up on the other. I have never been more ashamed of our Australian politicians. You seem to have totally forgotten your reason for being there and what you have been elected to do. To SERVE the Australian PEOPLE and do what is to THEIR advantage and what will advance THEIR well-being.
Do we need to engage a behavioural therapist in order for you to be taught concepts of appropriate behaviour and constructive interactions? Maybe we can borrow some charts from Primary schools and put them up on the walls of Parliament to remind you. Perhaps something along these lines;
- No yelling
- No rude noises
- No interrupting
- No bullying or personal attacks
- No blaming others for your mistakes
With a few exceptions, you seem to have become career politicians. You act in ways that will benefit first yourself and then your party in your goal to amass lurks and perks, a long-term position, fat pension and cultivate big business and company contacts for lucrative post political top-end positions in the private market where you can continue to wield influence and control. Not to mention have access to your prior political colleagues in lobbying for advantages for your new company. A business or company that often seem to have benefitted from your past political maneuverings’.
The point scoring and blaming in parliamentary discussions is disgusting. Everybody jockeying for position and one-upmanship. Instead of Government and Opposition working together collaboratively as a group of adults in joint input of ideas, direction of and how-to for whatever is on the day’s topic list, you have your own set party, political and personal agendas and nothing will get in the way of that. God forbid you should come up with a compromise and a plan of action that is in the best interest of the Australian people and that you could all take joint credit for.
You have traded in your compassion, empathy and basic human decency in your scrambling to meet the expectations and demands of all the vested interest groups, lobbyists, big business and huge global companies that you serve and receive kick-backs from in all sort of manners – Political Party money donations, gifts, trips, invitations to desirable events, future career prospects etc, etc. You have chosen to ignore that it is the Australian PEOPLE that you are here to serve. Instead you have put us aside as a rabble and as the unwanted masses that just get in the way of you getting on with business as you please.
Which brings me to my next point. It seems some of you are finally waking up to the fact that more and more of us ordinary people are getting very angry with you and want to have a say about things that matter to us and our communities. So what do you do? You start discussing legislation that can shut down or limit the influence of citizen advocacy groups, you insist they must align themselves with one political party or the other just to maintain your self-serving status quo. You decide that welfare services must not engage in political advocacy for their various client groups and threaten to cut their funding if they do. You will do anything to silence and hinder making public and loud the voice of the people. Guess what? We don’t want to be silenced and are not going to be.
People join advocacy groups for all sorts of causes and concerns that go across the political spectrum. We may align with one political party on one issue but another political party on a second issue, or no single political party at all for that matter. You have been found wanting and people are looking for a different way of having a say. I get that you don’t like that, you prefer that you remain the elite and only the rich and powerful get to have a say. People like eg Mining billionaire Andrew (Twiggy) Forrest and his vision of and push for a Cashless Welfare Card for Australia’s most vulnerable and poorest people.
The idea started as a way of supporting individuals in some small, mainly indigenous communities where there were endemic levels of alcohol abuse and neglect of children but ended up being applied to everyone on Social Security aged under 65 in the selected communities irrespective of what an individual’s circumstances were. This despite, Andrew Forrest stating in “The Forrest Review – Creating Parity” that; “Income management was widely regarded as very helpful for vulnerable people, enabling them to manage their budgets, save for expenses and stay in stable housing. However, it is complex, it can be considered paternalistic and comes with a cost that renders it unsustainable and unsuitable for broader application. While income management is useful to stabilise an individual’s circumstances, it can make transitions off welfare and into work more difficult. An alternative that provides similar support for welfare recipients but includes them in the country’s mainstream banking and financial services system will do much more to build financial literacy and independence.”
So what has our Government done with that idea? They have decided to do the opposite of what was warned against and are now in the process of undertaking a broad application of the Cashless Welfare Card across Australia for Social Security recipients aged under 65 years. They have taken this initiative and turned it into a way of attacking, disempowering and disenfranchising the very people who most need our help in society. They have used it as a weapon to entrench the myth of the ‘welfare bludger’ and turn working people against anyone on Social Security benefits. Forget Robert Menzies – on the establishment of unemployment and sickness benefits 29th March 1944; “People should be able to obtain these benefits AS A MATTER OF RIGHT, with no more loss of their own standards of self-respect than would be involved in collecting from an insurance company the proceeds of an endowment policy on which they have been paying premiums for years.”
Voilà, we now have the Cashless Welfare Card that our Government is trying very hard to force upon ordinary communities all over Australia. Instead of being for individuals who may have problems with alcohol or drugs or who may have been found to neglect or abuse their children, they have in their wisdom decided that ALL people on Social Security benefits obviously engage in destructive addictive behaviours, they ALL neglect or abuse their children, they are ALL welfare bludgers who don’t want to work and every one of them must be subjected to a punitive punishment for their own good. Doesn’t matter if 99% of people targeted don’t have any of the above mentioned issues and manage their meagre Social Security payments as well as they can be and make the most of their finances via the cash market that many communities, small businesses and less financially well-off people rely on.
Suddenly the Cashless Welfare Card is a cure-all for addiction, child neglect or abuse, unemployment, being a single parent, being ill or disabled, being a student, for the very ‘crime’ of being in receipt of a Social Security payment. Our Government particularly seem to want to entrench in the public mind the view that the card will cure unemployment. This despite limited employment options nation-wide (depending on which statistics are being used, only 1 job available for between every 10 to 17 job seekers) and there already being extremely stringent and punitive mutual obligation requirements in place for jobseekers. Managed via the much maligned privatised Job Network Agencies.
It is also interesting to note the following comment. “Welfare must become a good deal for private investors … allow us to SHIFT services from the Government sector to the private sector” – Scott Morrison on Welfare 26 June 2015. Privatisation of Centrelink is slowly creeping in. For example, our Government’s announcement of the outsourcing of Centrelink Call Centre to UK company Serco, private company Indue having the contract for the Cashless Welfare Card where it currently operates. Indue have been receiving up to $10,000 in payment for each person forced on to the card. Indue also takes 1% of each person’s Social Security payment in fees plus keep any interest that people earn on what is supposed to be their money. $10,000 to manage peoples’ Newstart income of around $14,000 – makes no sense financially. The money could be better spent creating jobs. They could even raise Social Security payments by $50 / week to help bring people out of extreme poverty at a quarter of the cost of what Indue currently get paid. But no, privatisation by stealth is alive and well and if it serves to put further controls on people and disempower them, even better.
What has been really disturbing is the recent Senate inquiry into the Cashless Welfare Card and the call for public submissions regarding the impact and operation of the card. I have read the submissions from peak service groups, professionals, academics, business groups, welfare agencies, legal services and individuals etc. The vast majority of submissions had major concerns about the card and only a few were in favour of the card. Yet the four Senators on the committee voted 3 to 1 for the card and recommended to the Senate that the Government go ahead and implement the card in a further roll-out across Australia. Why is that disturbing you ask? Because the three Senators who voted for the card are from political parties who are in favour of the card and the one Senator who voted ‘no’ is from a party that are against a general roll-out of the card. It made me question whether asking for public submissions is just a token gesture of consultation and that no matter what input is received all committee members will just give a recommendation for or against according to party lines rather than listening to and taking into account information, facts and concerns received in submissions. If their Party says that planet earth is a flat square this will garner an agreeing ‘yes’ vote no matter what evidence is presented that proves otherwise.
You have privatised as many essential services as you can, allowing big companies to make huge profits out of things that should never be open for profit-making resulting in their unaffordability for the general population e.g. electricity, telecommunications, public transport, some medical services, etc. Now even stooping to privatising parts of Social Security for profit making out of our most vulnerable citizens. This is NOT in the best interest of the people of Australia.
You have allowed the housing sector to become an investors paradise via negative gearing and capital gains tax, resulting in too high a cost for buying a home and totally unaffordable rentals for large sections of our society. This is NOT in the best interest of the people of Australia.
You have allowed vested interests and big company lobbyists to have their desire for big profits to become more important to you than the needs of ordinary people. Pork-barrelling is rampant, welfare services have been bullied into silence with threats of or actual funding removal. This is NOT in the best interest of the people of Australia and you should be ashamed.
In short, you have forsaken the people of Australia and taken us back hundreds of years to something looking more like a feudal society where only the rich and powerful are catered for.
Don’t be surprised when the pitchforks and guillotine are brought out again.
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