One of the more common complaints made by conservative contributors to social media debates, relates to the issue of welfare recipients, i.e., who is getting what. The more shared assertions are, that it is the generous nature of our welfare system that encourages migrants, asylum seekers and so-called economic refugees to come here.
Some of these complaints border on the absurd, others reflect a flimsy and ignorant grasp of economics, i.e., that a dollar spent on migrants is a dollar less spent on them. And still others offer such paltry objections that clearly mask a strong racist element.
These social media morons do this to invoke fear among us that a continued influx of economic migrants, refugees and asylum seekers will only place a greater burden on the health and welfare budgets and contribute disproportionately to the ever increasing deficit.
Treasurer Scott Morrison has, by his recent actions, made it clear that the issue of welfare is going to be high on his “things to fix” list. He, more than anyone else, probably realises that his future political success will be determined by what he does in his current portfolio, rather than anything he has done previously.
To the conservative mind-set, that means trying to return the budget to surplus, or at least, being seen to be doing so. For reasons unknown, Morrison has chosen welfare as his first target closely followed by health, even though there are more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. The conclusion, the simplistic Neo-liberal voter would assume, is because both are big ticket items.
That, however, does not necessarily mean that they offer big ticket savings. Last year, only 1366 cases were referred for welfare fraud prosecution. This is 0.02 per cent of all welfare recipients. Yet the government claims this “crackdown” will raise an extra $2 billion over three to four years, according to MYEFO.
As John Passant describes it, “This is fairyland stuff designed more to create a “dole bludger” atmosphere rather than to address the real issues of collapsing revenue and ways to get rid of the tax rorts for the rich and powerful.”
But it might not be so much a matter of savings that drives the treasurer to target these two areas. It just might be that hidden behind that claim lies a more sinister intent that has more to do with the vote winning issue of migration.
A recent study by the Irish-based EU organisation, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) includes a report that examined, the extent to which mobile citizens from central and eastern European Member States, take up benefits and services in nine host countries; the nine host countries being the more affluent ones in Europe, e.g. Germany, Britain, Sweden, etc.
The report found that mobile citizens from poorer nations have lower take-up rates of welfare support in host countries than locals. This is in contrast to one British tabloid, the Daily Mail, reporting that, “migration from Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East to Britain was “costing taxpayers billions of pounds a year.”
So-called concerned citizens will often cite, incorrectly as it turns out, that migrants turn up and claim full rights to whatever benefits they can claim. They will often claim the burden on the welfare system and displacement of native workers as their primary motive.
Given the detail in the European report it is reasonable to assume that the take-up of welfare benefits and public services in Australia by migrants is also lower overall than that of the local population, including social housing and pensions.
Unfortunately, the MSM here, who thrive on beating up raw prejudice among their readership will probably not be interested in the information contained in this report.
We know, however, that Scott Morrison employed 97 communications staff to monitor the media when he was Immigration Minister and we well remember his suggestion to his shadow cabinet colleagues in 2011 that they should take advantage of the community concerns about the influx of Muslim refugees.
Add to that, he recently made his feelings on future recipients of the aged pension very clear. One would think, therefore, that we are entitled to view any future comments and actions by him regarding welfare recipients and those receiving health benefits, through this same prism.