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Tag Archives: homelessness

Welfare Bashing the NEETS: The new team in the sport of welfare bashing

The acronym NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) is becoming more prevalent with those who enjoy the art of welfare bashing. For those who see themselves as a class above the unemployed, specialised welfare bashing is the new team sport.

Welfare bashing is no longer homogeneous. There are so many individual groups to welfare bash; it has now turned into a team sport. For those who enjoy the sport of welfare bashing, like any sport, it is very important to pick a side. Picking a side ensures the stigmatisation of anyone on welfare is further ingrained in society, because it adds to the generalisation that anyone on welfare is lazy and undeserving. Those who participate in welfare bashing see themselves as part of an elite class; even if they fail to recognise it in themselves.

Let’s have a look at four of the leading Welfare Bashing Teams, currently active in society today.

The Single Mother Welfare Basher

There are those who enjoy the art of welfare bashing the single mother. Gender is important here; because the act of sexual activity of behalf of a woman is still in 2016, considered a slovenly act by so many, particularly if it produces a child out of marriage.

For the women who have been brave enough to leave a domestic violent relationship; this too does not matter. Single Mother Welfare bashing jersey wearers truly believe that women are stupid and should have thought of not having kids if she was with someone violent.

No matter how you plead for leniency and understanding towards single mothers, the loud obnoxious Single Mother welfare bashers all point their fingers at the woman and her vagina as the spawn of all the evil in the world, which takes away their hard earned taxes.

Team Colours: Yellow and Red – (opposites to Purple and Green the power colours for women)

Favourite Stigma Play: Stigmatising mothers who are unable to work due to caring responsibilities as scum and a burden on society

War Cry: Keep your legs crossed!

The Unemployed Youth Welfare Basher

It is important to distinguish the Unemployed Youth Welfare basher as separate from one who welfare bashes all unemployed people. I have come across a significant peculiarity amongst some voices in mature aged welfare. Although these baby boomers are currently unemployed, it is not unusual for people within this group to see their welfare as more deserving than unemployed youth. I have seen some very disheartening comments from people who belong to mature job seeker groups and general welfare groups on social media. Including degrading comments about young single mothers as a particular favourite.

General comments about young people unemployed are normally associated with ‘laziness and bludging’ however conversations around mature aged unemployed are normally blamed on external factors such as ‘ageism and discrimination.’

Young people are seen as desperate to avoid employment and mature aged jobseekers are seen as desperate to find employment.

The media also encourages this separation. For example, A Current Affair appears empathetic to mature aged jobseekers, whilst demonising the rest of the unemployed, including single mothers (with hard hitting investigative stories like “should single mothers be forced to go on contraception?”).

Disparaging media claims about unemployed youth focus on young people rejecting jobs, participating in welfare rorting, ripping off the system, sleeping through interviews, choosing welfare over work and being idle and lazy, playing X-Box and eating Cheetos.

Regardless of how you ask for consideration that there are far more unemployed youth, than there are jobs for them to fill; the unemployed youth basher, will strongly argue that ‘they are not trying hard enough.’ They often compare their 1970’s utopia of going straight from year 10 into an apprenticeship as if that still exists today. They often still believe that free university education exists and that even TAFE is free and completely accessible for all.

Team Colours: Black – (opposite to white for poverty awareness)

Favourite Stigma Play: Stigmatising young unemployed people because the Government is too lazy to engage in job creation policy and laying the burden of this on jobless young people.

War Cry: YA BLUDGER!!!!! TRY HARDER!!!!

The Homeless person Welfare Basher

The homeless person welfare basher is a particular type of sick and cruel person. This type of welfare bashing jersey wearer places all blame on the individual and truly believes homelessness is their own making. They believe that the homeless are truly lazy individuals and do not want to work due to alcohol or drug addiction, or are just destructive young people who could go home if they really wanted to.

Race is also particularly important. Those that don this welfare bashing jersey see if people of colour are homeless; it is simply because their skin colour makes them drug addled, drunk, lazy and homeless, according to the loud mouthed, obnoxious, racist, vile crap that can smack you in the face all over social media.

This group champions official authoritarian responses to further degrade homeless people. The increased ban on homeless people using public restrooms, nail spikes to prevent sleeping in some areas and pop up sprinklers to deter them as well. Income management, especially for indigenous homeless people is a real vote winner for the Homeless Person welfare basher.

This group likes to point out that there are groups that help homeless people, so what is the problem? Some Government Ministers even like to blame the groups they cut funding from for the problem of homelessness; such as Western Australian Minister Liza Harvey who defended the use of sprinklers in Perth:

“The accommodation is there, the support services are there, the not-for-profit groups are there, the money’s flowing into the system. Clearly if there’s homeless people sleeping on King Street, those people aren’t doing their jobs properly.”

No matter how you much you plead for understanding and consideration of factors, which cause homelessness, the homeless person welfare basher will always, insist that all of these measures are avoidable. The ones that are not avoidable, such as mental illness or child sexual abuse, they should ‘just get over’ so they can stop being homeless.

Team Colours: Yellow (opposite to Purple the colour for homelessness)

Favourite Stigma Play: Stigmatising homeless people because they insist homelessness is their choice.

War Cry: Get off the drugs and get a job!!!

And Introducing….The NEET Welfare Basher

NEET hailed from the UK as a young person Not in Employment, Education or Training. The NEET Welfare basher is the hipster of all welfare bashers. They target this niche group of welfare recipients as the most abhorrent and lazy of all welfare recipients. In fact, it doesn’t even matter if the young person is in receipt of benefits; being under 25 they may well be reliant upon their parents for support. As long as the young person is not in school, TAFE, Uni or employed, the finger is extended to frantically point with judgemental criticism and wailing screams of ‘back in my day..’ at the NEET.

The NEET welfare basher is often someone who has had the luxury of getting a job when they were young, through the ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ or the ‘Daddy has rich friends employment scheme’. Or the woman who married someone quite young, who has the income to support both of them, whilst she stays at home and looks after the children.

The NEET welfare basher has had no hindrances to enter into university or has no confidence or financial issues with undertaking study. The NEET welfare basher also falls into the same category as the youth unemployment welfare basher who still lives in the utopia of the 1970s where public sector exams and entrance to the public sector was the norm, or apprenticeships for young men were in abundance, all done by just completing junior high school with a pass average.

The NEET welfare basher feels quite comfortable that they have the undeniable right to judge and stigmatise young people who are not engaged in employment or education, because to them finding a job or going to TAFE all seems so simple.

This type of welfare basher reassures themselves that there is nothing wrong with welfare bashing NEETs, because they believe that this group faces no hardships whatsoever.

They do not see themselves as stigmatising a young person who is the primary carer for a child or a disabled parent; or a young person who is disabled themselves. They just see it as degrading a lazy young person, who deserves it.

The NEET welfare basher can normally clear their conscience by asking a NEET who has been severely depressed due to constant rejection from employment, “RUOK” on that one day of the year. This self-absolves them from being arseholes.

The main factors associated with being a NEET are low level of education, low household income, having some type of disability, immigration background, living in a remote area, and a difficult family environment (Eurofound 2012). In tougher labour markets, the size of the NEET group will increase.

Regardless of how many facts that are presented by journalists who want to present the actual facts about NEETs; the NEET welfare basher reminisces about their youth and when they job hunted and how easy it was for them and waves the facts away with an indignant snarl.

Team Colours: Orange (opposite to Green, the colour for hope)

Favourite Stigma Play: Stigmatising young people who are not engaged in employment or education, because they truly believe after 30 odd years of a punitive jobsearch framework, coupled with the idea that ‘the free market will sort the jobs out’ that hindrances to employment for young people are just a myth.

War Cry: “Back in my day…”

In a country where we consider young people, ‘young’ up to 25 years of age and where the Prime Minister champions the ‘free market’ as the answer to everything, rejects Government intervention for job creation and truly believes that anyone can just go and be innovative and create an App to bring themselves out of poverty and into self-employment; welfare bashing will be an Olympic sport by 2020.

 

Originally published on Polyfeministix

If Malcolm was a Homeless Youth

The news reader triumphantly announced with over-enthusiasm the other day that our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his wife Lucy had spent $130,000 of their own money to refurbish the Lodge.  I think this was supposed to impress me, the listener and for some reason, I should feel buoyed by this news. However, I just made an instinctive ‘I’m gagging face” and kept on peeling the potatoes.

This made me aware of a few things. Firstly, how my body and face reacts and contorts subconsciously when our self-appointed, undemocratically elected leader speaks or if someone is praising him.

However, on a more serious note, this made me aware that Malcolm and Lucy were so comfortable and self-assured that they would be living at the Lodge for a long time; that they had no problem spending their own money on it.  They must feel quite safe and secure.

If Malcolm Turnbull was a homeless youth, safety and security would be the two things he either remembered and longed for to feel again or tragically had not yet experienced.  Wednesday, 13th April is National Youth Homelessness Matters Day. Today, I take a crystal ball view at the tautological, verbose, pontificated lectures Malcolm Turnbull would bestow upon us, if he was, (by way of innovative technology of course), somehow transformed into a homeless youth.

Housing Affordability and Availability

If Turnbull was a homeless youth, he would stand in the town square and provide us with a lengthy lecture on the gross unavailability of housing for low and middle-income earners in Australia. He would close his fist and jut out his chin and use marvellous adjectives to describe the abhorrence of under-funding and cuts to youth and community accommodation services. Cuts that mean the difference between support and safety or homelessness and fear.  He would speak of the absolute “criminal act” of negative gearing that gives tax dollars to people who own three or four or even fifty houses, when that money could be used to sustain a ‘viable and sustainable safe society for those who are homeless.’ He would tell us that, ‘as Australians we have no better duty than to stamp out homelessness.’  He would not grow up to be a Prime Minister who uses empty words and takes no real action. He would not grow up to be a leader who protects the rich and speaks of the poor as ‘others.’

As an outspoken young man with a love for politics, he would convey his heartfelt emotion that politics changes lives. He would stand upright and close his eyes as if to convey some magical transfer of emotional contagion and encourage people with all of his might and say  “Youth Homelessness matters so put the Liberals Last.

A Gonski Education

When Turnbull is happy he makes sure he is seen everywhere. On trams, trains, taking selfies in the street. When things don’t seem to be going too great for Turnbull, he skulks off without speaking to the media, head down hurrying the treasurer along into a waiting vehicle. He wants to be invisible at that point in time.

For some homeless kids, their homelessness is invisible. Some are not living rough on the streets, but possibly couch surfing with friends, relatives or sometimes complete strangers. Some have escaped domestic violence and may still be with a parent or siblings or they may have escaped sexual abuse and are alone and sometimes even ostracised or abandoned by family, just for being a victim.  Regardless of the circumstance, regular everyday kids can fall into homelessness quickly and some still try to maintain the normality of attending school. They still desire and deserve an education.

If Malcolm Turnbull was a homeless youth, he would be one of over the 20,000 plus young people of high school age who have no security, safety or privacy of their own home. Malcolm, not shy of the spotlight would stand up and argue that schools need more funding for specialists teachers and resources for children who may fall behind due to circumstances beyond their control. He would argue forcefully that he and others like him, ‘did not ask for this.’  He would advocate with great passion that we need to fund schools so every child is equal. He would tell us that, “We must recognise that our youth are our leaders of tomorrow and all children….. OUR children deserve an education.”

He would indeed give a Gonski. He would not grow up to be a Prime Minister who does not believe that education is for all. He would not grow up to be a leader with strong arguments to fund public schools and leave the public schools to the inequitable system of taxpayer dollars in each state. He would not grow up to the Prime Minister who disrespected and flipped off funding the most thorough review of education as “The full Gonski – Whatever that means.”

As an outspoken young man with a love for politics, he would convey his heartfelt emotion that politics changes lives. He would stand upright and close his eyes as if to convey some magical transfer of emotional contagion and encourage people with all of his might and say  “Youth Homelessness matters so put the Liberals Last.

Navigating Welfare and Income Management

Our Prime Minister is well known for his wealth. He has an enormous fortune and monetary wealth that most people cannot even comprehend (including me!). He defended his ‘freedom’ to use offshore banking in the Cayman Islands, claiming he has not broken the law. Luckily for Malcolm our laws protect the wealthy. These types of laws are protected and fought against from change by wealthy Australians. However, if there are laws to manage, control and stigmatise the poor and homeless, they are broadcasted with confidence and aplomb and the public are reassured how much these types of laws are needed to protect us from those who are unfortunate enough not to have a job.

However, if there are laws to manage, control and stigmatise the poor and homeless, they are broadcasted with aplomb and the public are reassured that these types of laws are needed to protect us from those who are unfortunate enough not to have a job. The protection of taxpayer dollars from the unemployed who live below the poverty line is paramount.

For some homeless youth, this is their world. A navigation of a welfare system where they are managed as a number, with no real practical assistance, punished by the implementation of punitive measures such cutting benefits and having their money controlled, monitored and restricted by the use of the Basics Card or the ‘Healthy Welfare Card’ if they are unfortunate enough to live in one of the listed areas.  The agenda of stigmatisation is underpinned by legislation and the culture of stigmatisation is enabled by politicians and the mainstream media, through the use of negative labels such as ‘bludgers’ and ‘welfare cheats.’

For some homeless youth, they are living in share accommodation with others and need income to pay for the necessities as food, clothing and shelter, electricity, transport and communication such as phone or the internet.

Many homeless youths desperately want employment to improve their circumstances. Some cannot manage employment, due to circumstances beyond their control. But yet, are still judged and still punished by the system.  Homeless youth face incredible barriers to employment, many which are hidden barriers to employment. If they find work, they are most generally amongst the working poor. Many have significant barriers preventing them from seeking work, gaining work. Even if they have work, they are prevented from sometimes taking shifts, particularly in regional and rural areas with limited public transport. They are often under agreements that have low wages or have penalty rates taken away. Some agreements are still under the Work Choices legislation.

If Malcolm Turnbull was a homeless youth, he would speak out against the stigmatisation and hindrances of the current welfare and job seeker assistance systems. He would passionately argue how demeaning stigmatising language is used by the media and some politicians. He would say that ‘cultural change against stigma for homeless youth, begins with our narrative.’ He would remind us of our responsibilities as citizens. He would demand action for practical solutions to assist those seeking employment. He would demand an end of income management and an end to punitive measures. He would twirl his glasses and deeply furrow his brow and speak of the untapped potential there is amongst homeless youth, if only they were given a chance.

He would not grow up to be a Prime Minister that whole heartedly supports every measure of a punitive, and stigmatising budget of his predecessor. He would march in the streets to save penalty rates. He would not grow up to be the great pretender who is now in a complete state of discombobulation because he used to say one thing and now does another. 

As an outspoken young man with a love for politics, he would convey his heartfelt emotion that politics changes lives. He would stand upright and close his eyes as if to convey some magical transfer of emotional contagion and encourage people with all of his might and say  “Youth Homelessness matters so put the Liberals Last.

Some of you may wonder why this blog post about homelessness has a political angle. Through my eyes, politics changes lives.  A cure for homelessness is not as simple as joining a protest, or sharing a meme or making a donation. All of those things are important, but the relief comes when the public push for change politically.  The relief comes when supportive and progressive decisions are made and implemented.

To me, the political parties and leaders we democratically choose to lead us, are our responsibility and we must, we simply must stop and think of the consequences of that vote. We simply must become more aware, more engaged and more involved in political parties or support independent candidates, wherever our persuasion lies. These elected representatives are the voices we choose to speak for us and for those we speak up for because they can’t. The wrong party, the wrong leader and the wrong decisions have dire consequences for individuals, communities and our nation. Jack Layton (Canadian New Democratic Party) sums it up as:

politics matters

Take Action Today for Youth Homelessness

and always – Put the Liberals and Nationals LAST.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

Australia versus USA on social housing – how do we compare?

By Dr Heather Holst

On a recent trip to the USA I was struck by the progress being made nationally to solve the homelessness crisis. A few major cities were proudly declaring they had ended veteran homelessness, while others claimed to have ended homelessness completely in their communities.

As deputy CEO of a major homelessness agency in Melbourne I was keen to understand how a country with a strong aversion to social welfare and government intervention seemed to be accepting a level of responsibility and even leadership in efforts to end homelessness.

I knew the US had a history of developing large scale affordable housing projects in several major cities. This was largely borne of the necessity to house a growing immigrant population and low income workforce throughout the early to mid-20th Century.

Much of the newer affordable housing development in the US is supported by low income housing tax credits provided to both not for profit and for profit organizations. For some large cities like New York the impetus for setting impressive targets like 200,000 new or reclaimed affordable housing properties by 2024 continues to relate to productivity and workforce.

New York Mayor Bill de Blaso has embarked on a serious campaign to boost affordable housing stock in that city by 200,000 because essential service workers like nurses, paramedics, and teachers have been priced out of the private rental market in that city. He also wants to provide housing for low income households (those earning under $24,000 a year) who have previously not qualified for ‘affordable housing’ because their income was too low.

Under de Blaso’s plan developers will adhere to mandated affordable housing quotas in where previously quotas were voluntary. The city will offer developers incentives such as the ability to increase the size of developments to compensate for the lower income generated from the affordable stock. It will also offer tax credits and other incentives for new construction. It will also extend financial assistance to landlords who offer or extend regulated rent to tenants that provides security of tenure.

In contrast Australia’s affordable housing stock has been rapidly shrinking in recent decades and all levels of Government have contributed to the crisis that we now find ourselves in. A combination of bad social policy, a lack of leadership at the federal level and a lack of planning and investment at the state and local levels has contributed to the housing crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of Australians today.

In 2011 Australia recorded a shortage of over half a million rental properties and working in the housing sector I can guarantee that number has increased since then. In Melbourne alone it is estimated that only 1% of rental properties are affordable for low income families.

A Senate inquiry into affordable housing in Australia reported in May this year that the market was not capable of solving the affordable housing crisis. The report was critical of the lack of a coordinated national response on this issue.

One of the findings that resonates with the success of the US model was the need to attract private investors into developing low cost housing. This will only be attractive to developers if incentives are offered along the line of the tax credits available to private investors in the US.

Despite cuts in federal affordable housing subsidy programs in the US, New York’s local government has prioritized a boost in supply through a coordinated effort involving 13 city agencies and buy in from more than 200 developers, and other interested parties. They have also committed $8.2 billion in public funds over 10 years to the plan.

The Low Income Housing Tax Credit in the US is part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Since its inception it has leveraged over $100 billion of private investment capital which has financed the development of 2.8 million homes for low income families.

It is now widely acknowledged now in Australia that housing affordability and homelessness are not marginal issues that we can continue to ignore in the hope that they will go away. There is no stereotype of ‘a homeless person’. While people from low income and disadvantaged backgrounds or those experiencing family violence, mental health or drug and alcohol issues continue to be hardest hit by the housing crisis in this country, it is increasingly impacting on middle class households.

So how can we learn from the US experience which is by no means perfect but has made significant inroads into a problem that really shouldn’t exist in wealthy, developed nations?
The most significant factor in the success of the US model is political leadership. This leadership comes from Washington and flows down to the states and local authorities who are taking up the challenge issued from the top to end homelessness in local communities.

The approach has been considered and well planned. Where it works best it incorporates well thought out public policy and strategic planning and financing from federal, state and local governments. It refocuses the issue of homelessness and housing affordability as an issue the whole community has a level of responsibility for.

I’m hopeful that Melbourne, with a Mayor who is genuinely concerned about homelessness and housing affordability and a strong philanthropic community that includes construction companies like Grocon, can come up with a New York style plan. It might not be as impressive in scale but it would send a message to Canberra and our neighbouring states that we are serious about an inclusive and humane future for our city. One that affords everyone the very basic right to safe, secure and affordable housing.

About the author: Launch Housing’s deputy CEO Heather Holst has worked in the housing sector since 1989. Heather joined HomeGround Services in 2009 as General Manager Client Services where she led the client services teams across all sites and programs.

Heather is passionate about ending homelessness and is committed to leading Launch Housing in working towards this mission.

Her housing experience spans homelessness service delivery, tenancy advocacy, homelessness policy, program development, research, rural homelessness service coordination in both the non-profit sector and government since 1989.

Heather co-authored the Opening Doors initiative and has contributed to key Victorian housing and homelessness innovations including the coordination of all services, transitional housing, standards, data, rights-based approaches and sector training.

Prior to working in the housing sector, Heather worked in the publishing industry for Penguin Books as a sales representative and then as reader and copy editor and for the Australian Women’s Book Review as business manager.

Heather has a Ph.D. in History from the University of Melbourne. She has published scholarly articles, book chapters and a book, Making a Home: A History of Castlemaine. She taught history for several years at Australian Catholic University, including in the Clemente program for people who have been homeless.

 

With all that is wrong with Australia, all we hear about is boats

I truly detest how this country is treating asylum seekers and I detest the policies of both the Coalition and Labor – none of which remotely consider the onshore processing of refugees who arrive or attempt to arrive by boat.

I also detest how the asylum seeker issue is thrust front and centre by the government as the issue which will most likely decide who wins the next federal election. With nothing else to take to the election, naturally it’s all that the government wants us to be focused on.

And of course, the compliant Murdoch media is an active agent in promoting the discourse in our popular consciousness that we need to keep our borders safe from ‘boat people’.

I live in hope that one day (soon, I hope) that we witness an Australian government adopt both a heart and a humane policy on ‘boat people’ and I would like to see it embraced by most Australians. The latter, of course, would require an absolute turnaround to our popular consciousness.

End of story.

I don’t want to talk about ‘boat people’ any more. With all that is wrong with Australia, all we hear about is boats.

Instead of the government and the Murdoch media telling us what the important issues are, we should be turning it back onto them.

Take away the blather and the bravado about our ‘right to be tough’ towards asylum seekers and dig into the core of what really is important to us and this is what you’ll find:

As at June 2015 over 753,000 Australians were unemployed. In September 2013 – the month of the federal election – the number was just over 706,000. So since the election 47,000 more people are out of work. What is the government doing about the trend? Nothing. What is the media saying about it? Nothing.

Are there more people unemployed in Australia than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Housing affordability has gone through the roof (excuse the pun) as have house prices themselves. The median house price in Sydney – our most populated city – is expected to hit $1,000,000 by the end of the year while Australia wide it sits at $660,000. Young people are now struggling more than ever to enter the housing market as the “Australian dream” of home ownership is under threat. But not according to our Treasurer Joe Hockey who insists that houses in Sydney are not unaffordable while the Prime Minister says he wants house prices to rise. That’s right. Rise. With young people struggling to buy a house at today’s prices our Prime Minister wants them to pay even more, despite the fact that housing affordability already represents a long-term structural problem that has been neglected for decades. So, what then can I assume our government is doing about housing affordability? Well based on the attitude of our Treasurer and Prime Minister, nothing. It’s not a problem apparently.

I wonder, are there more people in Australia struggling to or unable to buy a house than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Over two and a half million Australians, including over 600,000 children live below the poverty line. That number represents almost 14% of our population. Welfare recipients are most at risk of living in poverty, yet these are the people most likely to be adversely affected by this government’s budgetary measures. So is the government doing anything to reduce the level of poverty in Australia? No.

Are there more people living below the poverty line in Australia than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

On any given night there are 105,000 homeless Australians with 42 per cent of these being under 25. We do not hear the media talk about this as a damning blight of our society and neither do we hear the government offering any solution to it. But can we expect them to when Tony Abbott says that homelessness is a ‘choice‘?

And by the way, are there more homeless people in Australia than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Around one in five women in Australia have experienced some form of domestic violence. These are “epidemic proportions” to the point that domestic violence has now become a national emergency. As has the number of women killed by a violent partner: with at least one women murdered every week. What is the government doing about it? Not much by the look of it.

Are there more people in Australia experiencing domestic violence than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Australia is now the most expensive country to live in and Australians are “struggling to cope as the cost of living pressures bite“.  An estimated one in three Australians cannot meet their cost of living expenses on their current incomes. What is the government doing about it? Nothing. What is the media saying about it? Nothing.

Are there more people in Australia struggling with the cost of living than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Our economy is “grinding into stagnation” and rather than the three or so per cent growth each year we’ve come to expect, we might have to get used to 2 per cent GDP growth. And as a result, lower living standards can be expected while “everything here is going to be much tougher than before and compared to the rest of the world“. So what is the government doing about it (apart from blaming Labor)? Nothing. “The government neither has no idea – let along any proposal, plan or program – for how to boost Australian growth back up to three or four per cent per year“. They’re not even talking about it. Meanwhile, some of our largest and most potentially-innovative sectors are held back by the Abbott Government’s bureaucracy and regulation.

And will more Australians be affected by a stagnant economy and lower living standards than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Oh how I could go on. I only wish the media would too. I wish the media would tell us not only the truth about the Abbott Government but question their appalling attitude towards climate change, the environment, job security, racism, Indigenous Australians, human rights . . . take a pick!

And how about our spiraling debt?

And how about Tony Abbott’s record of lies and broken promises?

Yet, with all that is wrong with Australia, all we hear about is boats.

 

Home, home on the range

On August 4th, Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews launched 2014 Homeless Persons Week where he “reinforced the Coalition’s commitment to help those without safe and secure accommodation.”

Help them with what, I wondered, as every sign to date has indicated that this government is hell bent on increasing the number of homeless people and cutting off all support.  In the hope that I may have missed a new announcement, or was misunderstanding all the funding cuts, I read the media release to see what help was being offered.

Mr Andrews wants to “raise awareness of people experiencing homelessness and the surrounding issues.”

“On any given night in Australia, homelessness is a reality for over 105,000 Australians and these disturbing statistics represent individuals from all walks of life,” he said.

Perhaps it is Kevin’s awareness that needs some work because that figure comes from an ABS media release in 2012 titled 105,000 people homeless on Census night 2011Awareness was raised some time ago so I read on to see how this awareness would translate into action.

Mr Andrews said the Australian Government is committed to adopting a considered, methodical and measured approach to addressing the complex issue of homelessness.

I am growing to hate the word methodical.  It usually presages committees and consultants and coloured papers and millions spent on reviews with little achieved.  But I read on still clinging to the idea that a media release surely contained something concrete.

“We have made a good start with all states and territories signing the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, which will allow us to start working collaboratively to achieve a lasting legacy of helping all Australians find appropriate housing.”

What Mr Andrews fails to point out is that the states and territories already had a signed deal with the previous government and he had to be dragged kicking and screaming to renew the commitment, and in so doing, he cut $44 million that was to be spent on capital works.

Chief Executive of The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia, Dr John Falzon, said “The uncertainty remains despite the Government’s recent announcement that it will extend the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness (NPAH) for another year. Although the NPAH extension was welcome, the spending cut of $44 million to the capital works program aspect of the agreement was not. A commitment to addressing homelessness should be bipartisan. It is homelessness itself that we must cut, not the spending on homelessness.”

With the crisis in youth unemployment, and the government’s focus on “earn or learn”, they also made the inexplicable decision to cut funding to the Youth Connections program which provides funding to local youth services to support young people at risk of disengaging from education and work.

“This is a highly successful program, supporting 30,000 young people each year.  When we have national youth unemployment at 12.2 per cent and many regions as high as 20 per cent we cannot afford to end assistance now,”  Youth Connections National Executive Officer Rebekha Sharkie said.

“What’s more, 93 per cent of young people in the program who had reconnected with education, training or employment for at least 13 weeks, were still working or studying six months after Youth Connections.  That’s an extraordinary level of success and shows that this programme is too important to face the chopping block.”

Jobs Australia CEO David Thompson said the service was needed more than ever and should be extended or replaced with a similar service.

“There is a growing crisis in Australia of youth unemployment and disengagement. Some young people need a lot of support to successfully overcome the challenges and issues in their lives that are holding them back,” Thompson said. “Cutting this program makes no sense from an economic perspective: with an ageing population, we need more young people participating in work. It makes no sense from a social perspective: because if we don’t make the effort to keep young people engaged in education and work, then there’s a greater risk that they’ll engage in anti-social behaviour. And it makes no sense from a Budget perspective because giving up on young people means more of them will end up on the dole, costing the Government money, rather than paying taxes.  Youth Connections fills a critical gap in services and with youth unemployment at crisis levels in some areas, it’s just not the time to be cutting a programme like this.”

One service that will lose funding because of this decision is the Oasis Youth Centre in Sydney.  Run by the Salvation Army, it provides accommodation, case management, and a school which offers tailored programs for its 33 students.

“Students who come into our Oasis Youth Centre have a whole range of complex needs and they can’t attend normal school because of these complex needs they have. We work with them, we tailor the program to suit. Three young ladies who will complete their HSC this year, we have another 19 completing year 11 and then the rest are completing year 10 or completing basic numeracy and literacy classes.

The Youth Connections program, the education program we provide here is very important. So important that we’re going to look at how we can continue this Youth Connections program, the school right here, even after the funding is cut. That means we’ve got to look at the others services we’re providing and just see how we can continue to do this because we see education as an important part of stopping this endless cycle of homelessness. Around 44,000 young people every night homeless, and we’ve got to end this.”

Also affected by the cuts will be the Brimbank/Melton Local Learning and Employment Network which plays a vital role in brokering partnerships and fostering a strategic whole-of-community approach that supports young people’s education, training, transitions and employment outcomes in Melbourne’s west.  Key objectives include improved retention rates and educational outcomes, and improved transition outcome and development of work-ready skills in young people.

The Abbott government has cut $128 million in funding to youth connections, partnership brokers, and the national career advice programs—programs designed to assist young Australians finishing school and getting work.

These three programs are aimed at getting young people into the education and training they need to get a job and then getting them work. Youth Connections has been a fantastically successful program. It’s helped more than 100,000 people already and 80 per cent of people who go through Youth Connections are still in work or training 18 months later.

The average cost of putting a young person through a Youth Connections program is just over $2000.  Youth Connections works, it’s cost effective and it makes absolutely no sense when the Government’s talking about reducing unemployment to cut the very programs that help unemployed young people into the training they need or into the jobs that they can stick to.

Determined to read to the end of Kevin Andrew’s media release, I finally came to his “plan”.

“In the year ahead we will review housing and homelessness policies and programmes to examine ways to improve housing supply and affordability.  This review will feed into the Government’s White Papers on Reform of the Federation and on taxation.”

And there we have the strategy.  Tanya Plibersek warned in her speech during the week that

“The Government’s got a White Paper on Commonwealth-State relations that says basically that housing’s none of the Commonwealth’s business so what happens to public housing funding after June next year, who knows. We know that there were 10,000 more national rental affordability scheme properties to be built. This Government canned them in the most recent Budget as well so that’s 10,000 affordable homes that would have been available under existing funding except this Government has ended that program.”

Victorian Premier Dennis Napthine has warned that the national partnership on homelessness, which provides family violence services and accommodation for the homeless, including the government’s flagship ”Youth Foyers” program in Warrnambool and Ballarat, would be at risk without additional money from the Commonwealth.

When talking about the importance of education in breaking the cycle of homelessness, Tony Abbott made much of his decision to spend $30 million on truancy officers to keep aboriginal kids in school.  He did not mention that his government cut $1.6 million in funding in November for a school bus service that transported students from town camps to five schools in Alice Springs.

Add to this the cuts to legal aid and family violence programs, the closure of many refuges, and the withdrawal of any support for young people for half the year, and it is clear that this government has no concern about a growing problem and are instead exacerbating the situation of our most vulnerable citizens.

Mr Andrews concludes by saying “National Homeless Persons Week is a time for us all to reflect on what we can do to achieve long-lasting results in helping people stay out of chronic homelessness.”

It appears he is reflecting on how to abrogate any federal responsibility by passing the buck to the states.

My kids are ok, yours can go beg.

Photo: UAlbany

Photo: UAlbany

When I hear Joe Hockey say, with trembling lip, that he refuses to saddle his children with the nation’s debt, my hypocrisy radar maxes out.

For starters, Joe Hockey’s children will never have to struggle.  His wife is a very wealthy woman and they have substantial investments.

Secondly, this talk of our children being saddled with our debt is an obvious advertising strategy that the Coalition has adopted.  Whenever children are mentioned we get protective so it is a deliberate attempt to play on the heartstrings of families.

The trouble is that this statement bears no scrutiny.

If we are really concerned about our children we would be taking urgent action on climate change.  Putting that off for our kids to have to deal with sometime in the future is criminal neglect.

We would also be striving to make our society an even better one than the one we inherited.  We grew up with free education and universal health care.  We should not be going backwards in these most crucial areas.  Will our contribution to our children’s future be to say sorry, you may not enjoy the benefits that we did?

We fought for workplace entitlements like minimum wages and penalty rates.  Are we to say to our kids that your labour is worth less?

We have told our young people that they must “earn or learn”.  I am sure that every kid, and every family, would prefer that situation, but all I see is another three word slogan.  There is no plan for jobs.  Rather than increasing apprenticeships, they are closing trade training centres and increasing 457 visas.  They are making university education unaffordable – their justification being that no-one has to pay up front.  So apparently it is alright to saddle our children with huge personal debt, just as long as Tony and Joe can say look, no deficit.

With no old school tie network of daddy’s friends to give you a job, it can be very hard for young people with no experience to enter the workforce.  The soul destroying exercise of applying for countless jobs and being rejected every time can be heartbreaking.  Is it any wonder that some just give up looking or turn to substance abuse as their sense of self worth takes a hammering?

What is to become of these kids as we cut off any support to them for 6 months of the year?  Why are we abandoning them when they are just starting out on life’s road and need our help most?

We have evolved into a nation where someone’s worth is measured by their wealth, where there are no excuses tolerated.  If you aren’t wealthy you just aren’t trying.  What chance do our kids have to enter this merry-go-round?

A national snapshot of rental affordability in Australia has found there are minuscule and in some cases, zero, levels of affordable housing for people on low incomes, with welfare advocates saying some people will be forced to go without food to afford their accommodation.

The report, prepared by Anglicare Australia, found single Australians on government payments are “seriously disadvantaged” in the housing market, with less than 1 per cent of properties examined deemed suitable.

Single people with no children living on the minimum wage were slightly better off, with 4 per cent of listed properties found suitable, according to the study.

The study defined a “suitable” rental as one that took up less than 30 per cent of the household’s income.

It also found that couples with two children on the minimum wage had access to 12 per cent of properties surveyed, while just 1.4 per cent of properties were suitable for couples with two children on Newstart.

On the snapshot day, just 3.6 per cent of properties were found suitable for age pensioners.

Anglicare Australia executive director Kasy Chambers said the lack of affordable housing damaged the lives of millions of ordinary Australians.

“Limited supply does more than just drive up the price of housing. It forces those on lower incomes to spend more on rent than they can afford; compels them to forgo food and other necessities and drives them further away from social and economic participation.”

A coalition of peak housing bodies – including Homelessness Australia and the Community Housing Federation of Australia called on Kevin Andrews to make affordable housing a priority.  His response was that it is a state issue, and the federal government was “encouraging and supporting” states to streamline their planning and development processes, and review taxes and charges levied at home construction and purchases.

In other words, he couldn’t give a damn that his government’s negative gearing policy has made it impossible for many young people to enter the housing market.

A quarter of Australian properties are being bought for investment rather than to live in.

Over the last four years the number of investment property loans in Australia has grown by 37% compared to an increase of only 4% in the number of owner occupied loans, new data from Roy Morgan Research shows.

The growth in investment property loans over the last four years has come predominantly from the 35 to 64 age groups which account for 78% of the increase.

The study, which surveyed 45,455 Australians, showed while the proportion of over-50’s with an owner-occupied home loan has increased, the proportion of under-35’s with owner-occupied home loans decreased.

Roy Morgan communications director Norman Morris believes government policy is having an impact on loan types.

“Younger Australians may continue to find it difficult to enter the property market either for investment or owner-occupied because for both types they are competing with more cashed-up older property buyers.”

There are currently 105,237 people in Australia who are homeless.  That means that on any given night, 1 in 200 people in Australia have nowhere to sleep.  While Malcolm Turnbull joins the CEO sleepout in his comfortable warm swag, his government cut $44 million from funding for the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness.  This money was to be spent on capital works building shelters for homeless people and providing affordable housing for women and children.

There has been an upsurge of photos of Coalition MPs with charity groups with politicians exhorting us to donate more.  Someone needs to remind this government that the money they are spending is ours and I would much prefer to be looking after the vulnerable in our society and around the world than subsidising corporate greed and supporting armaments manufacturers.

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Someone was telling me that the Coalition Government is being run like the Catholic Church. It’s men in all the important positions. Abbott is like the Pope, his rule is absolute apart from the unseen deity who is in charge of all, Credlin. Who is God. “What’s so bad about that?” I wanted to know.…

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