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Tag Archives: Newstart

MYEFO will be interesting

The latest Monthly Financial Statement from the government raises some questions regarding their claim/aim to be in surplus and their assertion that they are “paying down Labor’s debt.”

The underlying cash balance for the financial year to 30 September 2019 was a deficit of $13,853 million ie in the first quarter of this financial year, we have spent almost $14 billion more than we have received.

And there are implications for the upcoming MYEFO as budget predictions are falling short.

The net operating balance for the year to 30 September 2019 was a deficit of $15,209 million, which is $2,681 million higher than the 2019-20 Budget profile deficit of $12,528 million. The difference results from lower than expected revenue and higher expenses.

The fiscal balance for the year to 30 September 2019 was a deficit of $14,650 million, which is $928 million higher than the 2019-20 Budget profile deficit of $13,721 million. The difference results from lower than expected revenue, higher expenses and lower net capital investment.

There have also been downgrades for expected wages and GDP growth.

When it comes to debt, as at 30 September 2019, net debt was $401,749 million.

I tried to access historical monthly debt figures to check what the net debt was when the Coalition won office in September 2013, only to find the site has recently been changed and, for some unknown reason, the entire 2013-14 financial year no longer appears.

From memory, net debt was about $161 billion at the end of August 2013, so any suggestion that the Coalition have paid down debt is absolute rubbish.  They have increased it by about 250% during a time of global economic recovery.

Whilst the government doggedly stick to their determination to produce a surplus this year, calls for them to increase spending are becoming louder.

We need our own firefighting aircraft.  We need to bring forward infrastructure spending.  We need to increase Newstart.  We need to build affordable public housing, reduce hospital waiting times, and properly resource our public schools.  We need to fix the mess the Nationals have made of water management.  We need to decarbonise our economy.  We need rehab centres and emergency accommodation, particularly in regional areas.

What we don’t need is to waste hundreds of billions on obsolete weapons of mass destruction, billions on consultants and government advertising, and politicians who think attending sporting matches is more important than their day job.

We don’t need a surplus.  We need someone who has a clue about how to invest in this country rather than their own political future.

 

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PATH: Proles Accursed To HELL! Enough!

Since time immemorial, the worker has fended off constant attacks. PATH is another chapter in the Liberal’s playbook where they accurse the Proles to hell.

A Worker’s Labour is Valuable

The Liberal Party of Australia formed to oppose the workers’ parties.  How Liberals and Labor view the worker are worlds apart. PATH is a clear example of this.

Australian Liberals

The basis of the Liberal ideology is to enable growth in the free market. They believe the cost of labour should be as low as possible. Turnbull’s Liberals believe a worker’s labour should be a cheap commodity. The incessant need to eradicate workers’ unions and weaken industrial labour laws are a testament to this.

One could strongly argue that the aspiration of full employment is not on the Liberal’s agenda. High numbers of unemployed people result in a much larger labour pool. This, in turn, drives wages down. Or in the case of PATH – the creation of an opportunity where labour is utilised for free.

As Sussan Ley said on Qanda: Governments don’t create jobs

The neo-liberal ideology aim is to purchase a worker’s labour as cheaply as possible. Ideologues like Turnbull and Cash, view a law passed to create a pool of free labour, such as PATH, as an exciting achievement.

Australian Labor

The Australian Labor Party was borne from the struggle of the worker. They believe that a worker’s labour is valuable. In simple terms, they believe that the ‘supply’ side of labour has the right to participate in setting the value of the labour. Hence their close connections with the unions. In simple terms, Labour Unions are there to protect the working class from the disintegration of rights and fair pay as imposed by the ruling class.

From this perspective, laws that negate this right, disempower workers and remove individual agency.

This is a punishment inflicted upon the working class.

The Rise of the PATH

The Turnbull Government introduced the PATH Program in the 2016 budget. This bill passed the Senate on 10 May 2017; with the assistance of Cory Bernardi, Derryn Hinch, Nick Xenophon Team, Jackie Lambie, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Family First all supporting the Government.

Only David Leyonhelm opposed the Bill, along with Labor and Greens.

The PATH to Nothingness

The PATH program offers young job seekers an internship by contract with an employer. This contract legally reduces the value of a young jobseeker’s labour. The taxpayer pays the intern at a rate of $4.00 per hour.

This is $14.29 an hour less than the minimum wage.This is $6.04 less than a 16 year old junior and $16.08 an hour less than a 21-year-old level 1 employee rate set down for many industries detailed on the Fair Work Australia payment guides.

The PATH scheme enables an employer to decrease the value of the intern’s labour by a minimum of 80% based on the scantest of entry-level wages in the country.

intern wage decrease

Business is at the Centre of the Framework

Internships are often painted as ‘work experience.’  However, work experience places the worker at the centre of the framework.  Work experience is usually a short-term experience in a workplace.  This enabled the worker to determine if they should invest in developing skills to seek future work in that industry.

PATH places business at the centre of the framework. An internship is:

The internship is designed around the needs of the host organisation and the intern’s skills, experience and interests. (Item 4, Sample Path Internship Agreement)

The employer must sign off to agree that they have a vacancy available now or in the near future. They have already identified that they need staff to meet operational requirements. 

The employer is already in a willing position to outlay money on recruitment and selection of new staff. They are already in a position to employ a jobseeker in a casual, temporary or permanent capacity.

This is not an incentive to increase staffing. PATH is an incentive to reduce recruitment & labour costs for staff that the organisation has already identified are required.

Additional Cost Savings to Business

Businesses can make considerable savings in induction, training and performance management costs during the probation period, in addition to recruitment and selection savings.

The PATH program enables an employer to try a number of potential employees for free. This also frees them from all the associated costs during the probationary period.  

Businesses are able to increase profits through the tax payer funding the PATH program. This is not the same as work experience or on the job learning, such as an apprenticeship or traineeship. This is a free labour program dressed up ‘helping the jobless who seek to work.’

Lower Labor Costs Equal Increased Profits

The PATH program strips workers of their own agency. The worker has forced upon them, a lower dollar value in exchange for their labour. Employers have an opportunity to reduce costs and increase profit.

Labour, raw materials and other overheads are the inputs in the production of goods or services. The through-put is the phase that mixes all inputs, including labour, together.

The output, being the end product or service is purchased or consumed by the consumer at the point of sale.  The employer factors into consideration the costs of all labour and materials at the input and throughput stages. The final product or service is sold for a percentage amount above the cost to produce that product or service.  This is the profit.

The cheaper labour is, the greater the profit for the employer.  The Government is creating a legal way for employers to reduce the cost of one factor of production.

The PATH program simply offers employers a way to reduce the cost of developing their product or service, enabling them to make a greater profit.

No Employment Guarantee

The PATH program offers no guarantee of future secure employment.  It does not offer a qualification that may be determined by the worker to be a sufficient value to trade for the monetary value of their labour.

What are the impacts on the emotional health of a young worker, if they are not retained?  What are the supports in place?

Experience as a payment does not automatically equal the same value of labour. Labour is given in exchange for money, conditions and other benefits. There is no formal equivalent offered to the value of the loss of wages, such as a degree that has a beneficial use to enable the worker to sell their labour to another organisation. 

There is no solid case that this experience will be valued by the young worker so much that it will negate any negative affect the young jobseeker will experience if they are not retained.

My main area of interest is emotions in the workplace.  I would encourage other bloggers to approach the PATH program from the aspect of the emotional well-being of the intern. I strongly believe we need as many people as possible investigating this issue.

Work. Struggle.

We are working people.
Work.
Struggle.
Even laugh about it sometimes.
None of us are winners.
We’re survivors
(Cameron Wolfe – Fighting Ruben Wolfe by Markus Zusak.)

These six lines boom, boom, boomed like a heart beating in the middle of page 25.

Marus Zusak has captured the essence of so many Australians. This is who we are.

The struggle of the working class in this country is a dire story. Sure, we have a history of hard fought victories. But as long as free marketeers live and breathe on the parliament floor, this struggle is endless.

Past struggle lives like a dormant beast within every single worker.

The scars that punctured the body and mind, the endless nights staring at jail cell walls and the lives lost, of those before us, embodies the beast which stirs within the heart of every worker.

The Beast of Past Struggle

When Liberals and Conservatives think they can take away agency of the jobless. When they insist upon total control of their spending with a plastic card. The beast of past struggle stirs.

When they deny us and our children the opportunity of a skilled education, to learn a trade or a profession. The beast of past struggle stirs.

When they make a rule that says the weekends are only important to people who can afford to not work on the weekend. the beast of past struggle stirs.

And when they think they have the right to tell young people who are desperate for work that their labour has no value. The beast of past struggle stirs.

When the beast of past struggle stirs in many of us, the beast of past struggle ROARS!

In a civilised society, labour is purchased for its determined worth, not stolen through the rule of badly designed laws.

 

Originally published on The Red Window Blog

 

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

Mr. Abbott – These People Had a More Difficult Day Than Bronny.

This afternoon, Sunday 2nd August, 2015, Bronwyn Bishop, resigned as Speaker of the House, after public pressure over an expense scandal.

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister, told Australians that “it had been a ‘very difficult day’ for Mrs Bishop.”  I’d like to take this opportunity to share with Tony Abbott the range of people who have also had a ‘very difficult day’ today because of the cuts and broken promises and poor decisions of the Prime Minister and his Government.

  1. Asylum Seekers on Manus Island and Nauru living in squalor in detention indefinitely.
  2. The young person on Newstart who will starve for a month because they have no welfare income.
  3. The young person in Regional Australia who has run out of petrol and is stranded, because the only service station that takes a Basics Card is closed.
  4. The Single Mother who is waiting until Wednesday to buy milk and bread because her payments have been reduced.
  5. The person with a disability who has been transferred to Newstart who has to decide between eating and petrol, because if they don’t go to their ‘obligated inhouse training’ they will get cut off.
  6. The woman Asylum seeker who is so ashamed she is crying because she isn’t allowed a sanitary napkin, because the Guard said she can’t have one.
  7. The low and middle income earner pensioner who is stressed and upset about their future after pension cuts.
  8. The woman with postnatal depression who no longer can go to her counselling sessions because she can’t get childcare because she isn’t working or studying.
  9. The jobless Australians worried that work if even further from their reach because of your China Trade Deal
  10. The chronic pain sufferer who is going without and living in pain due to increases in medication
  11. The Federal Public Servants you sacked who are worried they will lose their home because they can’t find another job
  12. Indigenous Australians in Remote Communities because you have denied them basic essential services and who will have nowhere to live because you are closing remote communities
  13. Sexually Abused women and children Asylum Seekers in detention because you failed to act on abuse claims
  14. The homeless person on Newstart stressing they won’t be able to eat when they get cut off, because their personal life barriers are a hindrance to applying for 20 jobs per month
  15. The Jobless South Australians who could be employed building submarines but they are still jobless.
  16. The Mother who is worried that she can’t afford to take her child to the doctor because the bulk-billing centre is full and you have put up Medicare through the back door
  17. The 756,100 jobless in Australia
  18. Young unemployed people in Regional Australia doing twice as many hours of slave labour with no workers comp protections under Work for the Dole
  19. The Bushfire and Cyclone victims whose lives will never be the same because they didn’t qualify for disaster assistance after your changes to disaster assistance criteria
  20. Everyday Citizens in local communities who no longer have access to services or maintained roads due to your cuts to Local Councils

That is just a list of 20 examples of people who don’t just have a difficult day, they have a difficult day every single day whilst your Government is hurting everyday Australians.  Please call an election. It’s not just the Speaker who needed to go. Your entire Government needs to go.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

It seems easy to me . . .

Poverty and unemployment can make Christmas a very bleak time for some folk.  While thinking about their struggle I was overwhelmed by how we have demonised and abandoned so many who need our help, so I did what I so often do, escaping to my world of numbers, knowing there has to be a better way.

The Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz said:

“… it should be the task of every job seeker to make it their full-time job to gain employment … Because the data is overwhelming … If you are unemployed, the physical health, mental health, self-esteem, social interaction of that individual are all diminished.”

As Bill Mitchell wisely observes:

“If the unemployed have a responsibility “to make it their full-time job to gain employment” even though the income support payments the Government provides leave most of them impoverished (and deliberately so), then the Government has a responsibility to use its fiscal capacity to provide sufficient work.”

So here are some numbers to contemplate as some of us digest our Christmas feasts.

The Commonwealth spends $7.5 billion on Newstart Allowance each year and the number claiming is rising by about 5% annually.  It has also committed to give $5.1 billion to Employment Providers over the next three years and $525 million for the Green Army.

At present, the Newstart Allowance supports approximately 740,000 people without a job.

The national minimum wage is currently $16.87 per hour.

Instead of forcing unemployed people to work 15 hours a week to get their Newstart payment (with a possible additional payment of $20.80 a fortnight to help with costs of taking part in the Work for the Dole activity), why don’t we give them real jobs for 20 hours a week starting at the minimum wage. This would give them a wage of $674.80 a fortnight, give them some work experience, and also allow them some time to be studying or looking for other work.  Considering the maximum payment a single person with no children can receive now is $515.60 a fortnight, this would be a significant boost.

If 500,000 people were given jobs under these circumstances it would cost us about $8.8 billion a year, less than we are already spending ($9.4 billion), and the same as Joe Hockey gifted to the RBA.  It’s less than we spend on Operation Sovereign Borders and much less than Tony is spending on foreign built fighter jets and submarines…..to get half a million people into work and one step closer to moving out of poverty.

There are hundreds of thousands of jobs that can be created which meet current unmet community needs and would help people and the natural environment and which would be accessible for any skill level.

All it takes is for a government to have the brains, courage and heart to do it.

We need the Wizard of Oz.

Scott’s new targets

In October, Labor voted to pass nearly $3 billion in budget savings with revised welfare legislation which will see Family payments cut and young people on a disability support pension will have their cases reviewed.

The laws will:

  • reduce the primary income earner limit for Family Tax Benefit B from $150,000 to $100,000
  • limit the FTB – A large family payment to those with four or more children
  • review the cases of people under 35 who are receiving a disability support pension
  • include untaxed super income in eligibility assessments for the Seniors Health Card
  • remove scholarships for students moving between major cities

The most substantial cuts will involve those families who lose entitlement to FTB Part B, worth just over $3000 per year, when their youngest child turns six and is at school, although transitional arrangements will apply until July 2017. Low income lone parents will instead get a payment of $750 dollars a year per child aged 6 to 12 years.

About $10 billion in budget measures, including increasing the pension age, reducing the rate of increases to pensions and freezing family payments, remain blocked.  In a bid to woo the crossbenchers, the Government has “repackaged” those cuts and changes to a new series of bills.

The Government proposes to freeze all income-test thresholds for most benefits for three years, and FTB payment rates for two. Freezing payment rates is regressive, since lower-income families bear proportionally higher cuts.

Lone parents earning around two-thirds of the average wage lose between 5.7 to 7.1 per cent of their disposable income. A single-income couple with two school-age children and average earnings loses nearly $90 per week or 6 per cent of their disposable income.

Compare this to the $29 or less than 1 per cent of disposable income paid through the Deficit Levy by an individual on three times the average wage – close to $250,000 by 2017–18. High-income couples could together bring in up to $360,000 per year and not contribute an extra cent.

There will be no transition for unemployed people under 25, who will receive Youth Allowance rather than Newstart. People under 30 will be required to wait for up to six months before getting unemployment benefits and then Work for the Dole.

An unemployed 23-year-old loses $50 per week or 18 per cent of their disposable income. An unemployed lone parent with one 8-year-old child loses $60 per week or 12 per cent.

Senator Abetz backed down from his ridiculous idea of making unemployed people apply for 40 jobs a month which would have led to 30 million job applications a month when there’s not even a couple of hundred thousand jobs on offer.

The Government has also launched a tender process for a new $5.1 billion employment services plan and work for the dole scheme to operate for five years from July 1 next year.  One wonders which private companies will benefit from this $5 billion cash splash and whether the money would not be better spent creating jobs rather than providing slave labour for the private sector who will receive generous payments to administer the scheme.

I also wonder has this government done any modelling on increasing the pension age to 70.  When they increased the age for females from 60 to 65 in 1995 , women with disabilities in this age group increasingly claimed the DSP. The proportion rose from close to zero to about 13 per cent by 2013.  But as the number of women receiving the DSP went up, the number receiving the age pension went down by much more.

In 1995, only about 650 women aged sixty to sixty-four received the DSP and 211,000 received the age pension. By 2012, 86,000 female DSP recipients were in that age group, but only 28,000 age pensioners. So the total number receiving one or other of these pensions has nearly halved, and now the majority receive the DSP.

Increasing the pension age to 70 will just force more people onto the DSP and increase the medical and administrative costs to receive their payment.  So much for cutting red tape.

I sincerely hope Labor have the number crunchers working out exactly how much people are worse off under this government’s policies.  Add in the delay to the increase in the superannuation guarantee, higher fees for university students, cuts to health and education, increased fuel excise, scrapping the increase of the tax free threshold, and every single person is worse off though inversely proportional to their income and wealth.

The Australian Council of Social Service released a new report revealing that poverty is growing in Australia with an estimated 2.5 million people or 13.9% of all people living below the internationally accepted poverty line.

The report provides the most up to date picture of poverty in the nation drawing on new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Income and Expenditure surveys for 2011-12 and previous years. It finds that 603,000 or 17.7% of all children were living in poverty in Australia.

The poverty line for a single adult is $400 per week yet the maximum rate of payment for a single person on Newstart – when Rent Assistance and other supplementary payments is added – is only $303 per week. This is $97 per week below the 50% of median income poverty line.

It also emphasises the danger posed by Budget proposals to reduce the indexation of pension payments to the Consumer Price Index only, which is likely to result in higher poverty rates over time than would be the case if payments were indexed to wages and therefore community living standards.

Most at risk groups

  • Women – significantly more likely to experience poverty than men (14.7% compared to 13%);
  • Children and older people – face higher risks of poverty compared to other age groups (17.7% and 14.8% respectively);
  • Sole parents – at high risk with 33% in poverty in 2012 and 36.8% of all children in poverty were in sole parent households;
  • Born overseas – Poverty is higher amongst adults born in countries where the main language is not English (18.8%) than amongst those born overseas in an English speaking country (11.4%), or in Australia (11.6%);
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – ABS data does not include information to accurately measure this poverty rate, however 2011 HILDA data found 19.3% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in poverty, compared to 12.4% of the total Australian population;
  • People with a disability – latest available data does not allow this poverty rate to be calculated, however our previous report found 27.4% of people with a disability were living in poverty in 2009-2010 compared to 12.8% for the total population.

Abbott’s strategy to help these people is “we removed the carbon tax”.  Come on Labor, let’s compare that to all the other things they have “removed”.

Morrison doesn’t see helping these people as his responsibility.  He views them as his targets, the challenge he must face and subdue.

In the May budget they cut $44 million from the capital works budget for the National Partnership on Homelessness.

Three days before Christmas they axed funding to Community Housing Federation Australia, National Shelter, Homelessness Australia, disability groups and financial counselling services.

In the next budget, Scott Morrison is going to do something about making childcare more affordable.  This will be a welcome move if it isn’t just about making politicians able to claim for their nannies.

povertyHe will also be trying to sell Tony’s signature Paid Parental Leave Scheme or some sort of renegotiated version of it.  If it is means tested, completely unavailable to those over a certain income, then it may be worthwhile though it basically defeats Tony’s stated purpose of encouraging “women of calibre” to breed.  It’s interesting that this “workplace entitlement” is being promoted by the Minister for Social Security who wants the government to pay for maternity leave rather than the employer.  I guess Tony is desperate to have an answer other than carbon tax about what he has done for women but let’s not let it blind us to the needs of our most disadvantaged citizens.

As this government silences advocates for the homeless, the disabled, the young and the needy, our Indigenous and refugee communities, we, the public, must raise our voices to help protect our most vulnerable and to tell the government which direction we want this country to go.

“…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped. ” – Hubert H. Humphrey

The forgotten poor – until we need a few bucks

imageTony Abbott has vowed to lift the poor of India and China from their poverty by selling them coal.  But what about poor people in Australia?

Various ministers tell us that education, health and welfare are no longer affordable.  Others tell us that we have been too greedy and that the “wage explosion” and “toxic taxes” are the root of our problems.  Joe Hockey assures that “a rising tide will lift all boats” while the girlinator tells us we must “live within our means” to fix “Labor’s debt and deficit disaster”.

All of this is crap of course as can easily be shown by reference to the facts.

As a percentage of GDP, Australian government spending on health is the tenth lowest of the 33 countries in the OECD database and the lowest among wealthy countries.

The 8.3% of GDP spent by the US government, for instance, is higher than the 6.4% spent by the Commonwealth and state governments in Australia.

Nor is it true that total health expenditure – government plus private spending – are unsustainable. Australia spends about 9.5% of GDP on health services; the United States spends 17.7%.

As discussed on The Conversation, the real reason for co-payments appears to be ideological – a dislike of communal sharing even when it is to alleviate the financial burden of those already disadvantaged by illness.

Australia spends 19.5% of our GDP on social welfare, whereas some European countries like France and Belgium spend upwards of 30% of their GDP on the welfare system.

Australia ranks 25th of 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development with data available in terms of expenditure for unemployment.

The largest slice of our welfare payments goes towards the age pension. According to OECD Pensions at a Glance 2013, Australia’s public spending on the age pension is much lower than pension spending in Europe.

Australia spends 3.5% of GDP on the age pension, while Italy spends 15%, France spends 14% and the United Kingdom spends 6%.

A recent OECD report stated that Australia spends slightly less on education as a percentage of GDP (5.8 per cent) than the OECD average of 6.1 per cent. Although it also found that Australia’s total spend has increased relative to GDP over recent years, up from 5.2 per cent in 2000.

And as for a wage explosion, official figures show wage growth remaining at a historic low in the September quarter.  The Bureau of Statistics data shows the annual pace of wage growth remained at 2.6 per cent for the second straight quarter, as expected.

The index peaked over 4 per cent shortly before the financial crisis and has been on a downhill trajectory ever since, now running at its lowest level since the records started in 1997.

Abbott and Hockey also emphasise the need to increase productivity.  What they fail to mention is that, between 2003-04 and 2012-13, capital productivity shrank 23 per cent while labour productivity increased 14 per cent.  It would appear that the workers are doing the lifting while the owners of capital are very much leaning on them.

Meanwhile, the Australian Council of Social Service released a new report revealing that poverty is growing in Australia with an estimated 2.5 million people or 13.9% of all people living below the internationally accepted poverty line with 603,000 or 17.7% of all children living in poverty in Australia.  Over a third (36.8%) of children in sole parent families are living in poverty.

“Most of the poverty we found is concentrated among the groups of people facing the most disadvantage and barriers to fully participating in our community. Those most likely to be in poverty are people who are unemployed (61.2%) and those in a household that relies on social security as its main source of income (40.1%), particularly on the Newstart Allowance (55.1%) or Youth Allowance (50.6%).

This finding brings into focus the sheer inadequacy of these allowance payments which fall well below the poverty line. The poverty line for a single adult is $400 per week yet the maximum rate of payment for a single person on Newstart – when Rent Assistance and other supplementary payments is added – is only $303 per week. This is $97 per week below the 50% of median income poverty line.”

Since 1996, payments for the single unemployed have fallen from 23.5% of the average wage for males to 19.5%. Furthermore, the level of Newstart for a single person has fallen from around 54% to 45% of the after-tax minimum wage. Newstart has fallen from 46% of median family income in 1996 to 36% in 2009-10 – or, from a little way below a standard relative income poverty line, to a long way below.

Before the last election, the Greens had the Parliamentary Budget Office cost an increase of $50 a week to the Newstart payment.  It would cost about $1.8 billion a year.  Not only would this help lift about 1 million people from poverty, it would provide stimulus to the economy as every cent would be recycled, spent on survival.  It would lead to better health and education outcomes and facilitate more people finding employment.  It’s much easier to look for a job if you have an address and enough to eat and a little left over to buy an outfit and get public transport there should you get an interview.

Give low income earners more money, demand increases, creating more jobs and more profit – an upward spiral instead of the depths to which Hockey would like to send us (aside from a few polaris missiles like Gina and Twiggy).

$1.8 billion is how much we gave up by repealing the changes to the FBT requiring people to justify the business usage of their cars by keeping a logbook for three months once every five years.  Abbott and Hockey would much rather protect tax avoiders than help the poor.  Instead, they want the poor to carry the burden of finding the money to pay for their war games whilst delivering a surplus.

Let’s not forget, in April Tony Abbott decided to spend $12.4 billion ordering 58 more Joint Strike Fighters in addition to the 14 already on order.  The first Joint Strike Fighters will arrive in Australia in 2018 and enter service in 2020.

As part of the announcement, more than $1.6 billion will be spent on new facilities at air bases in Williamtown in New South Wales and Tindal in the Northern Territory.

But a specialist in US defence strategy has questioned whether Australia’s purchase is good value for money.

If Australia wants to be able to have aircraft that can go up against what China might deploy – in way of not only its own fighters but advanced air defences in years and decades [to come] – then I think you want something… like the F-35.

[But] if you think more about your military needs being the Afghanistan-style operations, the troubled waters of the South China Sea, counter-piracy, peace operations, keeping some degree of regional calm with some turbulence in the ASEAN region but not necessarily China, then frankly it’s a debatable proposition whether the F-35 is the best bang for your buck.

“If you think that that kind of high-end threat is not realistically where you’re headed with your military requirements, then it’s more of a debatable proposition.

In August, defence minister David Johnstone announced

HUNDREDS of millions of dollars will be spent bolstering the RAAF’s fleet — and the prime minister is in line for a new long-range jet, promising uninterrupted global travel.

The government plan — scheduled to be delivered as part of next year’s Defence White Paper — includes the purchase of up to four new aircraft: an additional two Airbus tanker-transport planes and one or two Boeing C-17 heavy lift aircraft.

One of the Airbus KC-30A multi-role tanker transports would be converted to a VIP configuration and would service the prime minister’s international travel needs.

It would carry the PM’s entourage and the travelling media pack, who are currently forced on to commercial planes as the government’s existing Boeing 737 BBJs are too small.

Since handing down its budget in May, the Government has given national security agencies an extra $630 million over four years.

The Government has also estimated that the military deployment to the Middle East will cost about $500 million per year.

Then we have submarines and unmanned drones and patrol boats and more – a seemingly endless display of military hardware – but we ask our defence personnel to take a pay cut.

I await Joe Hockey’s MYEFO with a sense of anticipation and trepidation.  Will the poor be asked to shoulder more of the burden or will Joe admit where the big bucks are to be found and have the guts to go after them?

Baby boomer protection

Why is the Abbott government offering $10,000 to employ people who are over 50?  We grew up in a time of free education and high employment so presumably these people already have some work experience which puts them in front of young job applicants.  Very few over 50s would have young dependent children.  Most would have accumulated some possessions over the years. They are also a lot closer to the end of their working life.

Whilst I can understand the despair of unemployment in middle-age, that $10,000, rather than being an inducement paid to an employer, could pay 40 Newstart recipients for a week.

The idea that young people are choosing unemployment because they are lazy is ridiculous.  This may be true for a very small minority but there are already rules in place to deal with people who are abusing the system.

Policies such as work for the dole, ”earn or learn” and intensive job-seeking ignore social disadvantage.  It assumes a level playing field, whereby all unemployed people can obtain work if they are incentivised to do so.

Anglicare have released a study into what works to get disadvantaged job-seekers into employment.

The paper, prepared by the Australian Centre for Community Services Research at Flinders University, says job-seekers’ individual aspirations need to be identified, as well as their life circumstances.  It reports success with broader capacity-building around work, including depression management, communication, fitness, relationships, cooking, budgeting and computing skills.

People out of work for the long term need individual skills and capability development to help them find and sustain a job, rather than simply being matched to job vacancies.

“Beyond Supply and Demand is a research paper on our network’s evidence of what works for people excluded from the workforce. Its findings are that we are most effective when we recognise the person – and their goals and ambitions – at the centre of exclusion and acknowledge their circumstances, and the barriers and challenges they face.  It’s what we call a “life first” rather than “work first” approach.

Anglicare services around the country tell us that a one-size-fits-all-approach to getting people into the workforce simply doesn’t work. Our most effective programs use a case management model, which provide services based on individual needs, build strong links with local employers and other support services, and provide post-employment support, such as job coaching, mentoring, peer support, personal development and career guidance.

Most Australians have hopes and preferences for their future, and many have important attachments to their families and local communities. People out of work are no different. They want a ‘normal’ life too; a job and their own home. And it is our job to see they get the chance.

Beyond Supply and Demand addresses issues at the heart of the McClure Welfare Review, how to shift the focus of working age welfare to getting more people into work. There is a lot of comment in the media suggesting people don’t try hard enough. Our evidence is that real jobs and individual support makes the difference.”

I was on the management committee for a homeless youth refuge.  We provided medium term accommodation for 15 to 24 year olds.  These kids usually did not have family homes they could return to.  Many of them lacked basic life skills and that was a large part of our program with them.  We worked on a rewards based system.  Residents were not compelled to complete tasks but were rewarded when they did with things like mobile phone credit or a dinner out with a person of their choice.  We helped them with applications for courses and jobs.  We had partnership agreements with employers and community housing groups and would provide outreach support when our residents moved out.  It was very rare for us to have to ask someone to leave because they were not pulling their weight in the house though we did have to refer a couple who were violent.

What is to happen to these kids if benefits are withdrawn for six months of the year?  The refuge cannot run on the small government grant it receives alone.

It is at the start of someone’s life when they need the most help and support.  It isn’t just work experience that young people lack, they also lack life experience and it can be very daunting trying to enter the adult workforce with no assistance.  Continual rejection takes its toll on the sturdiest of egos let alone on vulnerable youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

How are they to apply for 40 jobs per month or travel around to interviews if they have no income?  Where do they live?  What do they eat?  What do they wear?  How do they get anywhere?  How do they stay healthy?

Suggesting that they should head off to Tasmania for the fruit picking season is so trite.  Firstly you are asking them to move away from any family, friend, or community support they may have.  It also does nothing for addressing meaningful employment that would see people sustain a job.

I also note that our Prime Minister was not willing to move to where his employment is, a decision that is costing us tens of millions of dollars which could have supported many Newstart recipients for a long time.

Our youth are our future and abandoning them when they need our help the most is cruelty.  This government is fixated on punitive measures for our most vulnerable while working hand over fist to exonerate corporate malfeasance with amnesties for offshore tax cheats, changes to financial protection laws, and “safe harbours” protecting corporate directors from personal liability.

One must wonder at the priorities of these middle-aged white men who have reaped the benefits of the baby boomers era and who are now hell-bent on denying those same opportunities to our children.

Compare the pair

Joe Hockey’s budget has been widely rejected by the Australian people. And he knows it. How do I know he knows it? Because why else would he ramp up his rhetoric about welfare bludgers to desperation levels in such a whiney and pathetic tone?

This week Hockey’s been promoting hatred of welfare recipients by telling Australian workers that one month of their annual salary is being sucked away by these sub-human, leech-like, lazy, good for nothing dole bludging sloths. Ok, he didn’t exactly use these words, but this is the image he’s clearly trying to conjure up.

It is moments like these that I am reminded how important it is for independent media sites like this one, and independent voices, to get an alternative message out there. Because Hockey’s hobby of blaming Newstart and Pension recipients for all the world’s problems is not only bully-boy lazy, but it also completely misrepresents the situation to make it appear that the only people in society who benefit from government spending are those receiving welfare payments. And the mainstream media, on the most part, support this lazy myth.

The inconvenient truth for Hockey is that all Australians benefit from government spending of one kind or another, because without government spending there is no civilisation. And as I wrote recently, the key fact that Hockey will do his best to supress because it doesn’t fit his ‘let’s-blame-welfare-recipients-while-we-bring-about-an-ideologically-inspired-small-government’ narrative is this: it’s the rich who benefit most of all from the very existence of government. You don’t believe me? Well how about we compare the pair? Who’s really benefiting most from Australia’s publically-funded civilisation?

Olivia’s life
Olivia is 32 years old and rents a one bedroom studio apartment in western Sydney for $140 a week. Olivia has been out of work for two years ever since the manufacturing company she worked at sent all their factory jobs to China, and since then she’s been sending out resumes via the computer at her local library but hasn’t had a single call back. She completed a qualification in production systems at TAFE while she was working five years ago, but very rarely sees a job advertised requiring this qualification. Each week she receives a Newstart allowance of $255.25. After her rent and household power and water bills are paid, she is left with $90 a week for food (three meals a day across a week equates to $4.29 per meal, so sometimes she skips meals). Some of the food she buys includes GST so a portion of her spending goes back to the tax office. Olivia can’t afford to go out and walks everywhere as she can’t afford public transport. She avoids seeing a doctor as she can’t afford to go to the chemist to fill a prescription. She hasn’t bought new clothes in the two years she has been unemployed – when her clothes wear out she goes to the local op shop. Her TV broke eighteen months ago so she doesn’t have any entertainment at home, except when her elderly neighbour invites her over for a tea and they watch the ABC news headlines together. Olivia is an only child and her parents live on the Central Coast of New South Wales and don’t own a car, so she only manages to see them every few weeks when she has enough money for a train ticket. She has friends who call her sometimes to chat, but she can’t afford to call them as her phone never has any credit. Her friends don’t ask her out anymore because she can’t afford to do anything. Her life is lonely and miserable and most of the time she is depressed.

So let’s recap the benefits Olivia receives from government spending in an average week. She completed her education at a public school and co-funded her government funded vocational training at Tafe. She sometimes sees a bulk-billing doctor and if she got seriously sick or injured, she would have access to a public hospital. She could also call the police if ever she needed to. And she has received a Newstart allowance for two years, and hopes one day to find a job. So this hypothetical Olivia doesn’t exactly sound like someone who is really enjoying their ‘welfare Queen’ status while screwing tax payers, does it? She doesn’t sound like she’s benefiting that much from the civilisation she lives in.

Now let’s compare Olivia to Mark and Jenny:

Mark and Jenny’s life
Mark and Jenny, both 32 years old, live in a three bedroom townhouse in Wollstonecraft on Sydney’s north shore that they bought for $750,000 four years ago with help from both of their parents and the first home owner’s grant. Their home has appreciated by 4% each year since they bought it. Mark works as an accountant at a large pharmaceutical company in North Sydney, which sells many of its products via the government funded Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Mark takes the publically-subsidised train to work every day. Jenny works as a physiotherapist in a public hospital and drives to work every day on publically funded roads. Together they take home a weekly household salary of $3,000 after tax, and after they’ve paid their mortgage, they have around $2,000 each week to spend on life’s necessities like energy and water bills, insurance, internet, car payments, petrol, Foxtel, groceries, gym memberships, take away food, wine, beer, spirits, Friday night drinks, Saturday night dinner parties or movies, tickets to sporting events and concerts, designer clothes, books, magazines, gifts, pet toys, home wares and furniture. Each week they put money away in a savings account to pay for their yearly overseas holiday. Both Mark and Jenny needed a university degree to work as an accountant and a physiotherapist and they both contributed to the cost of their degrees through the HECS system, whilst most of the investment in their education was made by the government. Mark attended a public school and Jenny went to a private school, with the cost of her education partly funded by her parents and partly funded by the government.

Mark and Jenny have a good life and much to be grateful for. They are content in their work and have busy and enjoyable lifestyles. When you look closely at the lives of Mark and Jenny, you can see that government spending has not just influenced much of their success, but it has been at the very foundation of the civilisation where they enjoy their affluent lifestyles.

Joe Hockey (image from news.com.au)

Joe Hockey (image from news.com.au)

So back to Hockey. He is clearly trying to make the Mark and Jenny’s of the world resent Olivia. He wants Mark and Jenny to think about all the hard work they do each day (and no one is questioning that they do work hard) and to resent that some of what they earn is taken away from them and given to someone else who needs it. But what Mark and Jenny need to also understand is that they did not reach their level of happiness, comfort and first-world lifestyle on their own. The government funded civilisation that they live in enabled their lives and continues to enable their lives every day. It’s the fact that there are so many government-enabled lifestyles in Australia that makes Australia a rich country – a place where so many people make money by relying on others being able to afford whatever it is they sell. If there really is a class war going on in Australia as Hockey says there is, Mark and Jenny are winning and Olivia is clearly losing.

So rather than resent the tax that the likes of Mark and Jenny pay, and begrudging people like Olivia who benefit so little from our civilisation, how about everyone ignore Hockey and instead offer some gratitude for the opportunity they’ve been given to be part of a civilisation that gives them so much benefit? And how about some empathy for the Olivia’s of the world who exist day to day in poverty? Because the truth is, Olivia isn’t lazy. Olivia doesn’t bludge. Olivia just survives. And Olivia would love to pay as much tax as Mark and Jenny do, so as to reap the benefits of the position in their society that their highly-paid government enabled lifestyles affords them. Think about that next time you see Hockey blaming Olivia. Think about that next time someone talks about lifters and leaners.

Follow Victoria on Twitter

 

It is not them or us, they are us.

Australians have the highest median wealth per adult in the world ($233,504). We have the second highest average wealth ($428,250). We are a mere 0.36% of the world’s adult population but we account for 3.78% of the world’s top 1% wealthiest. The only nation with a more lopsided share of the top 1% is Switzerland.

So why is it that an estimated 2,265,000 people or 12.8% of all people are living below the internationally accepted poverty line used to measure financial hardship in wealthy countries?

Australia’s household wealth per adult grew by 2.6 per cent in 2012.  Wages in 2013 grew by 2.6%. On the other hand, since the mid 1990s, Newstart has gone from just below 50% of the median household income to now around 30% – which is an alarming $74pw below the poverty line .

Over a third (37%) of people whose main income is social security are living below the poverty line, including 52% of people in households on Newstart Allowance. The low level of this payment means that when unemployment goes up, more people are thrown into poverty. The Newstart Allowance has not been increased in real terms since 1994 so households relying on it have been falling further behind community living standards and into poverty.

There are almost 600,000 children living in families below the poverty line. About half of those children are in sole parent families, and one quarter of people in sole parent families are living below the poverty line.

In October 2012, the Australian Council of Social Service released a report urging the Commonwealth and state governments to take steps in their next Budgets to reduce poverty, by increasing income support for those in the deepest poverty, strengthening employment services for long-term unemployed people, and easing the high cost of housing for people on low incomes who rent privately.

People on social security and those in very low paid work receive Rent Assistance to help with housing costs, but at a maximum of $70 a week this is less than a third of typical rents for flats in capital cities and mining towns. 62% of Newstart recipients pay over 30% of their income in housing costs, placing them under “housing stress”.

“High priority should be given in the next Federal Budget to raising the Newstart Allowance by $50 per week for single people and sole parents, and the cuts to income support for sole parents should be reversed or at least delayed.”

There is a $149 per week gap between Newstart Allowance and pensions. In 1980, the Age and Disability Support Pensions and the Allowance payments such as Newstart and Widow Allowance were the same, at $58 a week. The Harmer Pension review of 2009 resulted in an increase to pensions but not to Newstart. Pensions increased by $32 a week. The Henry Taxation Review recommended that the same increase be given to Allowance recipients, which would equate to $50 a week in 2012.

Pensions are indexed in a different manner to Newstart. Pensions are indexed to Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE), the Consumer Price Index (CPI), or the Pensioner and Beneficiary Cost of Living Index – whichever is greater. Newstart is only indexed to the CPI. In September 2011, the MTAWE increase was 4% while the CPI increase was 2.5%, which resulted in an increase of $10 for pensions and $6 for Newstart.

Newstart and other payments are indexed twice yearly with the CPI, meaning that they are linked to increases in prices, rather than wages. That means they fall behind increases in community living standards. While the CPI rose by 17% between 2005 and 2011, average wages rose by 23%.

Newstart is less than half of the minimum wage in Australia. While minimum wage is $606, Newstart is $246 – 40% of minimum wage. Even taking account of income tax, a single unemployed person would double their disposable income if they got a job at the minimum wage. So there is scope to increase it without eroding work incentives.

As Dr David Morawetz, Director Social Justice Fund, says

“In Australia, we might not have the level of abject poverty that one sees in developing countries, and we have only a fraction of the world’s 1.3 billion poor. But in a country as wealthy and as lucky as ours, it is a travesty that there are still so many people living in poverty. We can do better.

Poverty is bad for our social relationships, and for our sense of community. It is bad for business. Most of all, it is bad for those who are experiencing it: for their sense of self-worth, for their physical well-being, and perhaps most importantly for their children, for our future generations. We all need to do something about it.”

David Thompson, from Jobs Australia adds

A lack of money inspires not just shame, anxiety, and occasionally stoic resignation, but also a powerful sense that things could be different. The basic decencies of respectful encounters with institutions, which can cost nothing, matter a lot. Many people living in poverty have immense reserves of energy and drive to make a decent living for themselves, and a future for their children, if only they are given the right chances.

Dr John Falzon, CEO, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council said

Our problem in Australia is not the “idleness of the poor.” Our problem is inequality. This is a social question, not a question of behaviour. We do irreparable harm when we turn it into a question of individual behaviour, blaming people for their own poverty. It is a matter of deep shame for a wealthy nation like ours that our unemployment benefits, for example, have been kept deliberately low as a means of humiliating the very people they were originally designed to assist.

Charities like the St Vincent de Paul Society will always be there for the people who are waging a daily battle from below the poverty line, but the message we are hearing is that people do not want charity. They want justice. And we support them in this struggle for their rights.

We support helping people into the paid workforce. The time has come, however, to abandon the foolish notion that forcing them into deeper poverty improves their chances of employment. You don’t build people up by putting them down. You don’t help them get work by forcing them into poverty.

We stand with all who are trying to create a good society; a society that does not accept the scourge of rising inequality and exclusion from the essentials of life; a society that does not humiliate people. New passions are springing up. They point to glaring contradictions. They also offer the promise that another kind of society is possible, and can be created collectively under the guiding stars of struggle and hope.

Even the Business Council of Australia (BCA) argues the Newstart payment ‘itself now presents a barrier to employment and risks entrenching poverty.’

It is difficult to be accurate about what a $50/week increase in Newstart would cost but it has been estimated it will cost taxpayers anywhere between $8 billion and $15 billion over the forward estimates.

While Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey tell us that spending $22 billion on Tony’s paid parental leave scheme, or $12 billion on US made jets that experts say are dodgy and will be obsolete before we ever see them, or over $10 billion on Operation Sovereign Borders, or over $3 billion in handouts to polluters, or countless billions on roads, are all good investments, I would ask them to consider the proven productivity gains from lifting people out of poverty. I would also ask them to consider the health benefits and consequent savings. I would ask them to consider the benefits of needs based education funding so children born into poverty have some chance of achieving their potential.

If we can’t appeal to your humanity, surely you can understand that economically it makes much more sense to increase the purchasing power of the masses, which will drive demand, which will create jobs, which will increase production, which will increase profits. Every cent that goes to a poor person will be recycled into the economy. Increased profits to billionaires go to off-shore tax havens.

Missing

I haven’t seen a film for 8-9 years. / It’s $12 – / I just can’t. / I have no social life/unless it’s free./I can’t afford to go to a café / and drink coffee – / I just can’t. / I tried putting $3 a day into my budget. I felt a little more human, / existing within society… / I had to stop doing it,/I couldn’t live anymore./Like being invited out to dinner / or a friend saying, / ‘do you want to catch up for a meal?’ I just can’t, no. / I miss it. Tracey

Dole bludger

I’m desperate for money./ If there were any jobs…/ …I’d be started at 9 o’clock this morning./ I have to tell everyone I’m a dole bludger and / I don’t have any money./ Nobody wants to know a dole bludger. / My family thinks I’m still working./ I got sacked four years ago. / I didn’t tell them I’m a dole bludger. / Mum would get upset,/ she wants my future to be secure. /To be able to tell my family that I’ve got a job…./ a proper job…. / Nobody wants to know a / dole bludger. Bettina

Keep your hands off the poor, Joe Hockey

In a speech to the Institute of Public Affairs yesterday, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey warned that a Coalition government would implement drastic welfare cuts, finger-pointed that “attacking spending and looking for structural saves was increasingly urgent”. With a deficit of anything up to $15 billion likely this year, and federal revenue forecast to be between $60 billion to $80 billion lower than expected in the next four years, Hockey needs someone whose hide he can take it out of.

Hit the poor. The IPA would have loved that. It’s the Liberal meme they’ve been hearing for years.

The LNP have it in their veins. To attack those on welfare because a few deficits are forecast is not a new policy issue, and the deficits are a fairly shallow excuse. Deficits are irrelevant. Attacking the poor is something that the LNP just likes to do.

Let’s look at a few interesting announcements from their last great purge on welfare recipients, which occurred during their failed Welfare to Work reforms of 2005-06.

  • “In May, PM John Howard unveiled a “Welfare to Work” package of changes to pensions for people with disabilities and single parents. These were part of the annual budget proposal, which also included tax cuts for the rich”.
  • “A new round of tax cuts for 9 million Australians, worth $21.7 billion over four years, is the main giveaway in Peter Costello’s 10th budget, which also aims to push 190,000 people off welfare and into work. The biggest winners are higher income earners, who are set to receive new tax cuts in addition to those they had already been promised from July 1 this year. People earning $125,000 or more will now be $42 a week better off from this July, and a further $45 a week better off from July next year”.
  • “The Government is likely to usher in a new wave of tax reforms by the time of the next election, promising relief for middle- to high-income earners and changes to the welfare system to encourage people into work. Mr Costello yesterday pointed to the need for continued tax relief – even beyond the changes to come into effect in July which will reduce the impact of the top tax rate of 47 per cent by raising the income threshold at which it applies from $70,000 to $80,000. The Government is also looking at cutting benefits for disability pensioners, with estimates that 150,000 recipients could be moved into the workforce”.
  • “Howard’s May budget, now passed, features some of the harshest reforms yet. They will be implemented starting July 1, 2006, to the detriment of an estimated 300,000 people. They affect all welfare recipients of working age, but impact the most gravely on people receiving disability and sole-parent pensions”.

Summary: reduce tax to the high income earners and cut benefits for disability pensioners. Budget surplus – $8.9 billion.

  • “New legislation will slash welfare payments for thousands of new claimants, and force single parents and the disabled into low-wage jobs. By driving down the living conditions of some of the most vulnerable members of the community, the government intends to create an enlarged pool of cheap labour available for exploitation”.
  • “From July next year, those on parenting payments – mainly women – will be expected to look for at least part-time work when their youngest child turns six and is ready for school. Their welfare payment will be switched over to the lower Newstart unemployment benefit” (my bold).

Summary: introduce legislation to slash welfare payments despite a $8.9 billion surplus.

There’s a lot to be worried about when Hockey talks of welfare reforms. As with the massive axe taken to welfare recipients during the Welfare to Work reforms, are we going to see policies based on class warfare ideologies ahead of social justice? Hockey lends us further insight. His speech in London last year included an unambiguous statement about the age of unlimited and unfunded entitlement to government services and income support being over in the Western world. As Patricia at Café Whispers reported at the time, he then made the mistake of appearing on Lateline that same evening and answering very pointed questions from Tony Jones about exactly what that might mean under a Coalition government.

Patricia wrote:

He repeated again his statement that “with an ageing population and an entitlement system that has seen extraordinary largesse built up over the last 50 years, Western communities, Western societies are going to have to make some very hard and unpopular decisions to wind back the involvement of the state in people’s lives.” At the same time he talked about Australians riding on the back of significant growth in Asia and the Government, if serious about their much vaunted “Asian Century, should start comparing us with our Asian neighbours when it comes to understandable levels of economic growth, inflation, employment and so on, rather than comparing us to countries in Europe and North America”. He then agreed with Tony Jones this included “entitlements . . . a significant issue”.

Having got this beautiful “Gotcha!” out of him, Jones did his best to tie Hockey down as to exactly which benefits he had in mind but got a lot of squirming and waffling in reply about it all depending and case by case issues! It’s worth watching! He wouldn’t be pinned down as to exactly which Asian countries he’d compare us with on social benefit entitlements, but he mentioned statistics for Hong Kong, Korea and Japan. You’ll have to forgive my poetic license in using India and Malaysia for rhyming reasons. After all, they are our neighbours in Asia and millions of people in all of those countries and elsewhere in Asia are currently living in abject poverty.

I was appalled to hear Joe Hockey talk about how we should look to our region for a model on welfare spending! Not so! We need to maintain and improve our mutual support standards here so that we can be a beacon to other countries around us! We are an example of what they can strive for! I can’t imagine living in a modern state which hasn’t found a way to look after its weaker and poorer members. Medical, educational and other social benefits should be fairly available to all regardless of economic status, and yes all need to make a fair contribution to their cost where they can.

Listening to the man who could be our next Treasurer I feared for our future more than ever before. He was talking as if he had no real understanding or appreciation of the enlightened society most of us are beginning to enjoy only now after centuries of struggle from the earliest days of organised labor in Western Europe. Almost a thousand years ago journeymen and their craftsmen employers were striving for improvement in their lives through the Guilds. In the 18th century ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ economist, Adam Smith noted the imbalance in the rights of workers in regards to owners or ‘masters’ in The Wealth of Nations.

The well-being of our society, its economy and its environment, is such that the fair entitlements of all its citizens are protected. Especially the poor and those on welfare for no fault of their own. For their sake at least, this Coalition team led by the likes of Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb must not come to power.

For their sake, keep your hands off the poor, Mr Hockey.

 

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