Abbott’s “reform” of welfare system

a red/white/blue poster done in the style of the Barack Obama "Audacity of Hope" posters. The image is of Tony Abbott, and in block letters underneath, it says "NOPE"

Tony Abbott "NOPE" poster

ABC: Abbott calls for dole crackdown.

Listening to Allison Carabine talking with Deborah Cameron on Local Radio 702, the point was made that most of what he’s calling for is already part of the system (suspending payments for people who don’t take available jobs, disability payments subject to medical certification, etc etc). Abbott’s ideas that aren’t currently part of the welfare system, like quaranting 50% of all payments for “essentials” only, aren’t part of the system for a damn good reason unless you’re somebody who just really likes punishing the poor.


Categories: ethics & philosophy, parties and factions, social justice

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20 replies

  1. This quote struck me the most: “Mr Abbott says up to 60 per cent of disabled pensioners have a treatable condition, and should be on a lower benefit.” The SMH coverage described this as “Mr Abbott says 60 per cent have a potentially treatable condition and they should be on a different, targeted payment that would not be as generous.”
    This seems to target at least the following groups:
    1. people who for any reason, including expense or side-effect trade-offs or simple lack of “can’t try 300 different and partially incompatible potential treatments, have a life to live” time and spoons are not pursuing a potential treatment for their condition (sometimes but not always with their health care provider’s agreement)
    2. people for whom a treatment that is theoretically plausible does not work
    3. people for whom a treatment does work, but not to the extent of allowing them to earn a living wage
    It also involves these people and their HCPs in massive documentation problems including medical disclosure above the level already required. It sounds distinctly like Abbott envisages anyone who does not have a visible and permanent physical impairment, and some who do, as receiving a substantially reduced pension in the event that there is some treatment that is thought to have worked for someone assigned to the same category of disability once.

  2. I feel the need for some “People with disabilities are not your medical guineapigs Mr Abbott” t-shirts coming on.

    some treatment that is thought to have worked for someone assigned to the same category of disability once.

    At least that’s what he heard from a friend of a friend who apparently read it on Facebook or something. That’s scientifically rigorous right?

  3. ”this is right in the Northern Territory, it can hardly be wrong elsewhere”, he says.

    Wow, big assumption that this is right for the Northern Territory there Tony. Even though I have lived there and while, yes, I do believe that the Northern Territory is like another country – they do things differently there; it is not different enough for blanket welfare proposals like this to work for everyone. But of course having enough people on the ground to help on a case by case basis would mean it would cost more and it is just so much easier to tell other people what they can and can’t do with their money rather than have anyone give them some assistance to live their lives to the fullest.

  4. Today in treatable conditions, i.e., conditions that have treatments: multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, congestive heart failure, all cancers, severe COPD, end-stage renal failure, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, schizophrenia, cerebral palsy, and severe rheumatoid arthritis! Get every single person with these diagnoses off the pension, stat!

  5. You forgot endometriosis, L! It’s not like someone told me when I was mentioning that I was applying for disability when I was still getting the dole and that I had doctor’s certificates explaining how fucking sick I was that the person I was talking to looked at me like I grew another head and said, “That’s treatable, isn’t it?” This person was behind the desk at Centrelink.
    Oh wait – That’s EXACTLY what happened!
    Sure, I can get “treated” for endometriosis. Except the BCPs leave me even MORE sick and sore and suicidally depressed, the nerve-centric pills currently kill my ability to orgasm and depress me and give me migraines, half the anti-inflammatories do sweet-fuck-all, and I’ve had enough surgeries to be going on with, *thank* you. I’ve had three laps in five years. Minor surgery, not counting all the other times I had to go under general anasthaetic for all the other things that go along with endo because, joy of joys, it’s NOT a guest that comes alone. I would love to sit down with Tony and explain to him the gory details of my condition, and the treatments that don’t work, and the utter demoralising point where you go to your doctor and they shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, I’m fucked, I don’t know what else we can do for you.”
    And considering I want children, then no, a hysterectomy is not an option. But I have a feeling it’s just what these grubby buttwipes would tell me to get, just to keep the precious dollars rolling and the economy healthy.
    The whole thing makes me fucking sick to my stomach.

  6. This is definitely one of those things that is simultaneously so important and terrifying that I find it personally hard to picture activism about it because ARGH WHAT IF HE GETS ELECTED ARGH? Sadness.

  7. Plenty of disabilities are treatable, even impermanent. That doesn’t make them any less disabling.
    The article I read (sorry, I forget which one I was) made the psychophobic dog whistling even more explicit. A large part of what he’s getting at is that a lot of people just don’t like the idea that people with mental illnesses “get to” receive the DSP and be considered people with disabilities, when our conditions can sometimes be treated (even if they’re treatable, as Lauredhel points out, in other people with the same condition).

  8. Gee, thanks Mr Abbott. So glad you’re looking out for the Australian taxpayer.
    I’ve just come off a six week contract doing call centre work in Bunbury. I took the job because I’m on Newstart Allowance (i.e. the dole) and thanks to a lot of very expensive public works programs, Bunbury is now within approximately 90 minutes travel of where I’m living. Just. Newstart Allowance already has the 90 minute rule, which states that if I’m offered a job I am physically able to do, which is within 90 minutes transit time of my home address, I have to take the job or be cut off.
    So I’ve just come off a six week short term contract which required me to travel approximately 300km per day along country roads just as the commute. It required me to put approximately $50 worth of fuel into the tank of my car every second day (because the car could safely do about 450km on a full tank, and there were approximately five possible stops where I could refuel on the journey – two at the home end, one in Bunbury, and two more along the way, both closer to Bunbury than Perth). I was effectively out of the house for about 60 hours per week (35 hours of actual work time, plus approximately 2 hours commute either end of every single working day). I wonder, Mr Abbott, have you ever done such a thing?
    Let me tell you of the effect on me. I wound up exhausted. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I was exhausted. I had two days each week in which I was able to “recharge” – I spent most of both of these days asleep. I wasn’t doing housework. I wasn’t doing study (even though I wanted to). I wasn’t looking for other work (even though it was a short-term contract, and I didn’t think it was likely I’d be getting an extension). I was sleeping, because there was literally nothing else I was physically able to do. Then there’s the financial effect: I came out of that six week contract poorer than I went in. Why? Well, that $50 down the car’s gullet every two days was a part of it. Then there was the cheerful reality that my partner’s Newstart Allowance got cut off as a result of how much I was earning. Oh, and the happy truth that I wound up paying about $15 in bank fees and charges alone in February, as well as expecting to pay a similar amount this month. I had to buy new clothes for work, because I’d been out of work for so long my existing stuff was falling to pieces, or on the verge of doing so. Oh, and the cost of incidentals, like lunch and dinner (take-away stuff, because by the time I got home at 8pm at night, I was far too tired to actually cook a full dinner for two people).
    Why did I take the job in the first place? Well, one of the little things I haven’t mentioned in all of this is I have a chronic mental illness. I have chronic depression and an underactive thyroid gland. Both of these are known to have effects on a person’s energy levels, and depression has a known effect on motivation. I could possibly have argued the toss with Centrelink regarding taking the job, but the employer who was offering it had my Jobseeker ID, and that meant they could put in a note I’d refused a legit job offer and cut off my benefit before I’d even be able to make an appointment to discuss whether or not this was justifiable. So while I could have argued the whole mess, I’d be doing so after my benefit had been cut off for not complying with the existing rules. And even if I had been proven to be in the right on this one, I’d still have the history of the breach on my record, and it would count against me. One of the things I’ve learned over the process of nearly thirty years with depression is sometimes it’s just easier to take the path of least mental resistance and deal with the subsequent physical clean up.
    I’m now on sickness allowance for a couple of weeks (1 whole pay period, yays) while I get myself back to a point where I’ll be able to deal with the universe again. I’ve just had a new Job Capacity Assessment which recommends I be looking for between 15 and 21 hours work per week, part time (which suits me fine – gives me enough time to recharge each week and be able to do something other than just work and collapse). There’s just one wee problem here. Now, I don’t know whether you’ve looked at the job ads lately, Mr Abbott (although I’d suggest you might want to start…) but there’s an absolute lack of part-time work available. Every single job out there wants someone who’s willing to do it either on a full-time basis, or as a casual employee – and with casuals, what they’re wanting is someone who’s available to work full-time hours minus approximately twenty-five minutes, so they can avoid paying for annual leave, long-service leave, sick leave, parenting leave etc – so full-time in all but name. I’ve looked for part-time work before – and it’s the one search term which is likely to lead to a blank page back from Seek IT (oh, didn’t I mention? I’m also in the IT industry – I do tech support for preference. Let’s not get into the joys of working in an industry with sexism institutionalised to the point where I’m now considered unemployable because I’m too old, too fat, and too female, because I don’t look like the office cheesecake). I’ve had to withdraw from study again, because that six week contract I’ve just come out of coincided neatly with the first six weeks of the university semester (and while I had every intention of continuing the study externally, I just didn’t have the energy when push came to shove). So for six weeks of work (and the taxes paid on it) I’m now effectively six months behind the eight-ball, in a worse financial situation than I was to start with, and I’m mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted to boot.
    Sorry, Mr Abbott, but if you’re wanting the economy saved this weekend, I’m not available.
    Instead, why not have a word with your mates in the Chambers of Commerce, and ask them about things like introducing a wider range of permanent part-time jobs, so those of us who actually do want to work (and yes, I do want to work – I enjoy working, I like being able to get out of the house and see different faces on a regular basis, and the money’s nice too; I just can’t work full time because it totally exhausts me within about eight weeks straight) can find a bloody job to go to! That would be a lot more use than making me and folks like me jump through even more fucking hoops in order to obtain enough money to stumble along on.

  9. Abbott says he has been on this mission since 2002 when he was the employment minister. Yes, and what has changed since 2002? Well, the unemployment level for one. Honestly, with such low unemployment and a strong economy is this really The Pressing Issue for a conservative politician to be frightening everyone with?
    I can’t help but think that the timing of this is interesting. Is Abbott trying to reinforce the narrative around “Labor as the big taxing/big welfare spending government” during the carbon tax debate?

  10. Oh, one other small point to my rant above. As a human being, I believe I should not have to be compromising my dignity to the point of publicly breaking down in angry, frustrated or humiliated tears simply in order to have my honest rendition of my circumstances believed. This is what Mr Abbott effectively wants to make a commonplace in every single Centrelink office around the country.
    Now, I’ve worked for Centrelink (on at least three occasions so far) and I know for a fact that the way they treat their customers is roughly equivalent to the way they treat their staff (or vice versa, to be more accurate). So I have a lot of sympathy for the person I’m speaking to on the other side of the desk, or at the other end of the phone, or wherever – I know they’re just doing their job, and I know they’re not responsible for the policy they’re called upon to implement. I also know they’re attempting to do more and more with fewer and fewer staff (I wonder whether Mr Abbott is aware of how much of Centrelink’s core business has been shuffled to phone reporting and self-service, so as to reduce visible queues in Centrelink offices) and that everyone in the entire organisation is somewhat stressed as a result. I know it isn’t their fault, and I try to avoid snapping at the person I’m dealing with.
    This doesn’t stop me from getting furious at the system itself. I’m also not the only one angry with the whole system, either. I doubt any of the majority of honest, straightforward people who are seeking Centrelink’s help because they are in genuine financial need appreciate being treated like naughty children because of the (mythical?) few who rort the system.

  11. {{Meg}}

  12. Sorry to hear about your difficult circumstances, Napalmnacey, Meg Thorton. Those stories are the kinds of terrible realities people like Tony Abbott are likely to have never faced. I love LOVE the Tony Abbott – nope poster. Sums it up perfectly every time. How I long for a more compassionate world and a truly civil society where no one gets left behind.

  13. blue milk – Abbott is pre-empting changes to the welfare system that the ALP are planning on making soon. Probably trying to pull them more to the right by going extreme. With unemployment low and the economy booming the government wants to get more people into the workforce to reduce inflationary pressures.

  14. Hugs to Napalmnacey and Meg Thornton. We have agitation for welfare reform in the UK at the moment as well, especially disability-related claims (because politicians and random pub geniuses* are obviously better at assessing those than trained medical practitioners).
    * Why yes, I totally based this phrase on tigtog’s “random internet genius.”

  15. Abbott’s ideas that aren’t currently part of the welfare system, like quaranting 50% of all payments for “essentials” only, aren’t part of the system for a damn good reason unless you’re somebody who just really likes punishing the poor

    Actually income mangement already is part of the system and selectively applied across the country right now – with a wider application scheduled to apply sometime after 2011/12.
    youth, long-term welfare payment recipients and persons assessed as vulnerable by either Centrelink staff or state child welfare authorities.
    On the NSW North Coast businesses who currently participate in facilitating income mangement can be found here.

  16. And regarding ‘Treatable conditions’, there are a whole lot of people on waiting lists for health care already because of underfunding and understaffing in the health care system. Does that mean if you can’t afford to purchase your health care privately you are cut off from unemployment benefits as well? How could somebody like a roofer, or a childcare worker work in their profession with torn knee ligaments (18 mth wait)? or a bad knee fracture requiring early knee replacement (5 year wait).

  17. Chris – I know they say sticking the elbow into the welfare sector is an argument about inflationary pressure but I don’t buy it – for some time it has looked like we are close to the natural rate of unemployment, there is their anti-big vision Australia rhetoric, Abbott dog-whistling immigration rates (and not just those numbers made up by refugees) during the election campaign, and on top of that they know the types of occupations where there are labour shortages are not those readily taken up by long-term unemployed people.

  18. I am so depressed reading this.
    I have been suffering from depression and anxiety for a long time. I worked and worked even though I knew I was getting sicker and sicker. I pushed myself, because I knew if I quit work (and that was my only option, since I was on contract), then I’d have to deal with Centrelink, and the way everyone looks down on people without jobs.
    My mental illness got so bad that I ended up spending quite a good part of last year in psychiatric hospitals. For a few months, I wasn’t able to do anything, let alone look for a job.
    At the start of this year, I was starting to feel better, so I began to look for work.
    So begins the vicious cycle.
    I can’t find any jobs in the area I’m qualified in. Okay. That sucks but I’m dealing with it.
    I can’t find any other jobs, because people look at my resume, see my experience and qualifications, and think I’ll just coast until I find a job in my industry. I’ve been told this to my face, so this isn’t just paranoia. Trust me. I even applied to a job counting tram passengers, but not even an interview.
    The amount Centrelink pays me isn’t enough to cover my living expenses- rent, food, and bills. My family aren’t well off. I’m living in the cheapest rental I could find (sharing, of course). I’m getting into debt, borrowing money, just to get by.
    My anxiety is through the roof, and I keep looking, hoping someone will give me a chance and I can get out of this nightmare. I’m getting quite sick again. I can feel my mental health lowering with each week I have to deal with this.
    And then the Government and the Opposition enter into a dance to see who can treat me the worst, who can imply that I’ m lazy and useless, a drain on society, and if I just tried, I’d find work. I’m panicking just thinking about these reforms. With the exception of this place, every online and print outlet is full of people talking about how lazy I am, and how I need to be punished to find work.
    You know how I spend my week? Looking for work, applying for jobs, preparing for interviews, attending interviews, going to therapy, going to more therapy, and stopping myself from breaking down. Juggling all my commitments. I’m worn out and exhausted.
    I hate it, so much. The sad part is, if the government and society didn’t treat those who received benefits so badly, I wouldn’t have ended up getting as sick, as I’d have been able to quit.

  19. What is he talking about – does he think less than 50% of Centrelink payments go towards “essentials”, by which I assume he means food, rent, bills and transport (at least enough for “essentials” like food, job interviews, etc.)? Actually, payments don’t cover that. Transport (public) and nutrition are rare luxuries at the moment.
    Then there’s – oh yeah – health care, which, if I could afford it, would go a long way towards getting me back into work and out of welfare. I know you can get a rebate for counselling fees where you end up getting all but $20 back, but I can’t afford to pay $20, much less the initial, pre-rebate fee.

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