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Tag Archives: pensions

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

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The Grey Army

Young people starting out in life are a great resource for our future. Investing in them, giving them a helping hand to get started, is the responsibility and obligation of this generation. We must nurture them while they learn not only skills for employment, but life skills. When they fall, we must help them get up, dust themselves off, and help direct them on a better path. We must give them hope and reinforce that opportunities are available – help them to prepare for and recognise them and take advantage when they come around. They must have choices. The social and productivity benefits of this are obvious.

Cutting funding for the Gonski reforms, closing trades training centres, removing the tool allowance, saddling students with huge debts, cutting off the dole for 6 months a year, compulsory work for the dole, defunding youth advocacy groups and employment assistance programs – none of these measures seem to meet our obligation to our young people. They have been given an ultimatum -“EARN OR LEARN” – but many crucial programs that would assist them in doing this have been abolished.

We are offering them the Green Army or the Gap Year Real Army or find someone to support you for 6 months and get good at taking rejection.

At the same time, we are raising the pension age to 70, indexed to prices rather than wages so progressively diminishing comparatively, driving more people into poverty in the future.

Because less than half of the population between 55 and 64 has any kind of paid job, and only 30 per cent has full-time work, we are also offering $10,000 to employers to take on an over-50 employee. At the moment 400,000 fit and willing Australians over the age of 55 can’t get work.

I understand their stated reasons for doing these things, I just don’t think they have really thought it through or examined repercussions or alternatives. They have also exaggerated/lied about projections (quel supris), at odds with the ABS, which may add another reason why funding to our national bureau of statistics has been slashed.

Hockey said that the number of Australians between 65 and 84 would “quadruple” by 2050 but on the ABS’s high-growth projection (they do high, middle and low) there will be 2½ times as many people in this age group by 2050 than there were in 2010.

Hockey said “the percentage of people of working age supporting those over 65 will almost halve”. Using ABS projections, the proportion of people “of working age” (defined by the statistician as 15 to 64) was about 67 per cent of the population in 2010 and will be 63 per cent in 2050. (This figure is based on the ABS’s middle projections.)

Hockey predicted that only 37 per cent of the population would be of working age in 2050, yet the best available estimates from the ABS show it is in fact is between 61 and 63 per cent. Even if age-employment ratios stay as they are now, if productivity keeps rising at its present rate, average wages will rise by 56 per cent over that time. So those in full-time employment will be better able to provide support and services to the rest of the community.

Increasing the pension age to 70 will see a large increase in the number of people on the disability pension. A higher proportion of people aged 65-69 will have a disability compared to those aged 60-64. It would also give us the oldest retirement age in the world. Several countries have moved to 67 as Kevin Rudd suggested, the UK is going to 68, but 70 is pushing it too far.

It is also inequitable. Indigenous Australians have a much lower life expectancy than non-indigenous Australians. Males 67.2 years and 78.7 years respectively, Females 72.9 years and 82.6 years respectively (ABS 2005-07). The majority of Indigenous people would not make it to pension age at all unless we can close the gap. People from lower socio-economic strata also tend to have a lower life expectancy, as do remote rural areas compared to urban living.

Australia currently has the fourth-lowest level of public pension spending of any OECD country and is projected by 2050 to have the third-lowest level of pension spending. Where Australia is unusual is that it has by far the highest level of tax concessions for private pensions in the OECD, at four times the OECD average.

An increase in the pension age reduces the pension wealth of lower-income groups proportionately more than it reduces the pension wealth of higher-income groups. It favours the wealthy who are able to invest in superannuation. Under current regulations, they can start drawing on this at age 60, get very large annual incomes paying far less taxation than workers on similar incomes, perhaps invest in a new family home, which will not be considered an asset should they find themselves eligible for a part pension when they hit 70 which, because they live longer, will be an expense on the public purse for longer.

As it will not come fully into effect until 2032 it also does nothing to help the current budget deficit. On its own, it will not do much to help with future deficits as tax concessions for superannuation are set to outstrip it in a few years’ time. Many complementary policies will need to be considered, including a requirement that superannuation be taken in the form of lifetime annuities to ease the pressure on age pensions. Affordable long-term care would also appear to be essential in preparing for population ageing, possibly through some form of long- term care insurance.

As with young people, this should be about choice and utilising a valuable resource, rather than viewing both our young and our old as a welfare burden due to some number on a piece of paper. Older people should have the option of working and flexibility in their employment to allow for carer’s responsibilities for elderly parents, disabled spouses, or grandchildren. They should not be in competition with young people, fighting over a dwindling pool of jobs. Their experience, expertise, knowledge and service should be recognised, celebrated, and used in more creative ways.

Currently much volunteer work is done by retired people. Upping the retirement age to 70 would see us lose some of that vital workforce. Rather than a Green Army, we could have a Grey Army of volunteers who could transition to retirement or supplement their pension or superannuation with volunteer work that attracted some remuneration or concessions. This work is often more attractive to older people who may be more suited to it and they could mentor younger people who may be interested in joining them.

Defunding Landcare and then tendering out the Green Army to private service providers (who collect a handsome fee for their free workforce with no workplace entitlements) is a decision that continues to baffle me. They were such an obvious meld, dedicated passionate people teaching the young to value their environment and using their labour in meaningful ways.

Young people could teach older people how to use modern technology like computers and mobile phones and even remote controls. This would vastly enhance the lives of elderly people and foster mutual respect rather than disdain or antagonism.

Obviously, the best solution would be to create more jobs and to close a few tax loopholes rather than forcing people into poverty, and to accept that there will always be some people who need our help, and always a small minority who will abuse our help. Dealing with that small minority should not dictate social policy.

Our children and our aged have every right to expect our help and support and we have an obligation to continue to protect a society that sees this as an investment rather than a handout.

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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.

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