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Tag Archives: Drug Testing

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.”

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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