Media Circus: Is Welfare “Dependency” Really Our Greatest Social Evil? Really? Edition

Quoting (with permission) Paul Norton on FB:

You know there is something wrong when government ministers, parliamentary secretaries and their various shills use language that clearly indicates that they regard welfare and “welfare dependency” as greater evils than destitution, homelessless, starvation and the aggravation of chronic mental illness through a combination of ideological demonisation and bureaucratic harassment.

I think it’s time we posed the question: given a choice between a welfare system in which some people get money they don’t deserve but nobody dies miserably, and a welfare system in which nobody gets money they don’t deserve but people die miserably, which do we prefer? And does Bill Shorten have the ticker to frame the issue that way and declare which option he prefers?

Some news stories related to how we view the “undeserving” in the West these days:

The contrast with the rhetoric surrounding critics of the increasing wealth gap as advocates of “class warfare” is stark, and John Oliver sums it up (particularly with note to the national lotteries at the end) – the usual ‘don’t read YouTube comments’ caveat applies:


As usual for media circus threads, please share your bouquets and brickbats for particular items in the mass media, or highlight cogent analysis or pointed twitterstorms etc in new media. Discuss any current sociopolitical issue (the theme of each edition is merely for discussion-starter purposes – all current news items are on topic!).

Categories: economics, ethics & philosophy, media, social justice

Tags: , , , ,

29 replies

    • Yes, the Changing Places campaign is long overdue
      * * *
      Accidentally ended up watching some #turc coverage and then couldn’t look away – Stoljar was so naff, and Gillard was so composed answering his 30-different-ways-to-repeat-this-questions.

  1. Various items here and there about the government’s whole “we’re raising the security threat level” (from “extremely improbable” to “theoretically possible”) are doing their bit to increase the size of the SIWOTI fund. Ditto the number of MRAs (or at least MRA sound-alikes) who showed up in the comments of the ABC’s fact check article about whether young, childless women in the USA earn more than men.
    On the good news front, if things continue as they are at present, I’ll have an even hundred in the SIWOTI jar by the end of the year. Which means I could maybe afford some good booze to deaden the impact next year, rather than relying on the cooking brandy and sherry…

  2. (Oh, and speaking as a person who is currently dependent on welfare in order to do weird things like eating, paying bills and covering the rent… I don’t see it as such a terrible thing, quite honestly. At least this way the food gets bought, the bills get paid and the rent gets covered, which is better than the alternatives both for myself and for the retailers of food products, the utility companies who bill us, and the landlord who owns the place).

  3. Bad news for progress in addressing men’s violence against their female partners in the Pistorius verdict.

  4. Well, our terror threat level has gone from “be afraid” up to “be very afraid”.

    Mr Abbott said the Government has “no specific intelligence” of a plot to mount a terrorist attack.
    “What we do have is intelligence that there are people with the intent and the capability to mount attacks,” he said.

    Or in other words, if I were mentioning this to my psychologist, she’d be walking me through “being in the moment” exercises, and urging me to stop and consider whether the terror I was afraid of was certain, probable, or only possible. She’d probably also be using the term “paranoia” or “excessive anxiety” to describe what I was talking about.
    I shall be expecting the full-dress Security Theatre performance starting Real Soon Now, and await the arrival of the ASIO agents who are going to sprinkle breadcrumbs on the train tracks to prevent giant man-eating badger attacks. (You never know, it could happen!)

    • Megpie:

      I shall be expecting the full-dress Security Theatre performance starting Real Soon Now, and await the arrival of the ASIO agents who are going to sprinkle breadcrumbs on the train tracks to prevent giant man-eating badger attacks.

      Apparently there are no expectations of giant man-eating badgers at tonight’s NRL grand final in Sydney; according to the nightly news the security arrangements at the ground don’t appear anything beyond the usual. I’m sure we’re all greatly relieved.

    It’s tiny violin time for the “practically working poor”, a fictional couple with two kids and a $400K income. Some of the comments are delightful, and I don’t usually get to say that.
    I also liked

  6. Sorry, posted prematurely.
    And forgive me if this is a stupid question, but why would the government make a deal to freeze compulsory super? The government doesn’t pay it, except for the cocontribution for the low income workers, but that’s a separate provision. Which is to say why upset so many for no gain? Or is there gain I’m not understanding?

    • Arcadia, the point about compulsory super contributions is that it’s anti-libertarian in principle no matter what level it is set at, and obviously the Rupert brigades can’t be having with that.

  7. Arcadia – it’s lost revenue for the government. Superannuation is only taxed at 15% compared to say 45-50% for the high income earners or 30% for company tax if it doesn’t go to employees.

  8. So blokes who complain about women deliberately getting pregnant might soon have a way of avoiding that, if they are man enough.
    Woman dates women for a year and writes a book about it. Ugh. I am all for something that gives people more information about bi-sexuality as a real thing, but the article doesn’t say anything of the sort. It is treated more like an experiment and I am sure real bi-sexual people get sick of being told they are just experimenting. I also feel sorry for the women who might have thought the author was genuinely looking for a partner and who, I would think, have the right to feel rather ripped off.

  9. Mindy, I read that article too and was thoroughly unimpressed by the way she framed it as ‘I dated ladies so now I can tell you ladies all the things you are doing wrong’


    1. There are Australians who feel so thoroughly marginalised, membership in groups such as this seem like a good option.

    2. Cue an increase in harassment of Muslim Australians.

    3. Good work media outlets on posting the original videos.

    4. I am trying desperately to think about the people for whom religion is a way to contemplate beauty and peace. Strongly tempted to join militant atheism.

    • I’m already seeing an uptick in kneejerk anti-Muslim sentiment in my FB feed 😦
      My own kneejerk is simply asking whether ASIO’s intelligence on all this is actually credible or whether this is a case of operatives coming up with ridiculously overblown schemes that couldn’t possibly work and placing them in the hands of especially gullible wannabe jihadis in order to ensure the continuing ‘relevancy’ aka funding of ASIO, and whether I trust the Abbott government to be above manufacturing a crisis for the furtherance of their own agenda?
      I remember the 1978 Sydney Hilton bombing, and how the official story changed over the years, and that there still hasn’t been an independent inquiry.

  11. [This comment was also posted on The Conversation this morning, in response to Michelle Grattan’s article there]
    Okay, this bloke (who currently isn’t in Australia, from what I can gather from the reports) has said his followers ought to go out and behead a random stranger. This is not the same as it actually happening. I’m sure this nitwit said to his “followers” (who were more than likely a group of his old mates who are starting to think he’s got a few roos loose in the top paddock) that this should happen. Were the “followers” actually planning how to do it? Had they got beyond the whole “yeah, let’s grab someone off the street and knock their block off” to figuring out the how and when and where and what the hells they were going to use to do it?
    I’m willing to put money on the whole business boiling down to an exchange which consisted of “you guys should really do something like this to bring in more people!!!!1!!!eleventy” and an uneasy “ummm, yeah, sure mate…” on the other end of the phone (plus uneasy looks being exchanged around the table). I sincerely doubt the “requested” attacks would have eventuated.
    It’s worth noting: a lot of “terrorist plots” which are found by police and intelligence groups overseas tend to be either strictly amateur (such as the “mixable liquids bomber” plan thwarted by UK police back in the early 2000s – there were a number of professionals who were trained in or worked with such liquids pointing out online the rather significant problems with the plan within minutes… such as the tendency of the liquids these guys were purportedly going to be working with to melt plastic bottles) or jollied along into active stages by the very government agents placed in these groups to undermine them and catch them at it (there are several instances of this with regard to the US FBI – to the point where these days if the FBI says they’ve arrested a “terror cell”, it’s dollars to doughnuts they’ve done so after practically leading the poor schmucks by the hand through the process of creating their first explosive device). Committing crimes is a big step for a lot of people – this is why we don’t have massively exploding crime rates, why people aren’t robbing banks every week, and why murder isn’t as common as dirt. Going from the stage of “yeah, that’s a nice idea, let’s enjoy it in theory” to “let us carry this out” is something which requires either a lot of momentum, or a very special frame of mind.
    I suspect most of the readers here will know from personal experience the difficulty of moving from “ooh, that’s a lovely idea” to “let’s make it happen” for even the most pleasant of notions. It’s probably a couple of orders of magnitude worse for something like deliberate murder.
    So our political leaders have managed to find a group of patsies for their security theatre, and they’ll probably find quite a few more. But let’s not kid ourselves that rhetoric is the same as action, or that by catching a bunch of dills in their early twenties who have received a bloody stupid instruction from an even bigger dill who isn’t going to be catching the flack for it in person, we’ve achieved a major triumph in taking down “terrorists”.

  12. “I’m already seeing an uptick in kneejerk anti-Muslim sentiment in my FB feed ” — yes! I’m seeing people complaining about supermarkets carrying halal food, and refusing to buy it. Nonsensical xenophobic crap.

  13. Cory Bernardi and Jackie Lambie are demonstrating the superior thinking skills that got them elected by like minded citizens hoping to raise the bar for political discourse in this country. What a good thing the media is telling us exactly what they think.
    I am so proud to be Australian, I might cry. If I wore hijab, I might feel the same way; but for different reasons.
    An ASIO boffin was on the news saying when the terror alert is raised, the spooks can get money for extra shifts watching someone more easily. Kind of a “terror alerts are good for employment if you are a spook.” It costs millions of dollars to tap someone’s phone and watch them.
    We haven’t really moved on from spying on communists in the Labour Party, have we.

  14. I suspect Jackie Lambie is busy trying to be the next Pauline Hanson. The orchestration is different, but the song is still the same.

  15. Someone left Insiders on in my background and I’m listening to these so-called serious pundits totally buying into the Abbott Arnhem Land stunt as a helpful and meaningful exercise where TA genuinely wants to help. Yet during this week of conspicuous nailbag wearing, he didn’t get the water turned back on for the residents of Utopia, did he? Wants to help my arse.

    They are going to be able to detain people.
    This is terrible. And unnecessary. They’ve got some poor bloke from the Muslim community forced to say he supports it, when we all know who’ll be targeted.
    They had 800 police to round up one bloke who said he was going to murder someone. You think about all those women who report their partners are going to kill them: 800 police don’t show up and drive up and down streets.
    Lambie’s doubling down on her offensive Facebook post. A photo of a woman with a caption suggesting she is dangerous is not ‘honouring’ her.
    And for real: how many women wear burqas in Australia, anyway? I’ve seen maybe five women wearing niqab in my life, and not one burqa ever. What next, ban tattoos because of bikies?
    As for Tony and his ‘wants to help’: only if it’s a photo-op.

  17. I’ve seen one burqa. Total. There was one Muslim couple who lived in the catchment area for the Target store I worked in as a teenager and early-twenty-something. This pair were apparently fairly full-on, because the husband was in full Pashto gear (long pale beige tunic over creamy-white pants, plus creamy-white scarf/unwound turban around his neck) in the middle of Perth as well. The guy had skin as pale as mine and mousy-brown hair. The wife was wearing full burqa (in black), gloves and floor-length skirts in the middle of a WA summer. She didn’t speak (neither did he – certainly not to someone as insignificant as a checkout chick) so I’ve no idea whether they were both of European descent or not.
    My feeling about the two of them was that the guy was one of those people who’s as impressionable as wet cement, and felt this was the only “right” way to be Islamic.
    By contrast, I had at least one co-worker at the same store who was from a culturally Islamic family (I discovered this overhearing her talking about the whole business of Ramadan fasting) who didn’t even bother with a head scarf while she was at work or at school.

  18. I hate that I don’t know what to believe anymore while others seem so sure. Maybe they are Terrorgraph readers.

  19. When women choose to wear niqab here, some of it is “I’m holier than you”, some of it is pressure from family/community.
    If a woman wearing niqab is a ‘security risk’, so is a woman wearing a wig. I worked with a woman who had three fantastic ones (cultural signal – “my family is rich”)and they were all different. For the first couple of weeks of working with her I caused great amusement by being unable to recognise her when she wore a different one.
    Lambie is now squealing “I was taken out of context” and accusing the photographer of attacking her.
    Very very Hanson.
    It will cost $35 000 to fix the broken bore that supplies water to Utopia. The people have been waiting three months for it to happen. Water has been trucked in every couple of days, because that is easier than fixing the bore.
    I wonder how much it cost to have all the journos follow Tony around.

  20. I really liked this article by Jane Caro.

    I can’t help thinking that if he had gone to the police station with an older family member, and a lawyer, this wouldn’t have happened.
    I’m wondering whether family members had the English language skills to deal effectively with the police. I’m wondering if they had the financial resources for a lawyer.
    I’m guessing that as people who are “associated” with a radical group, it’s difficult to get support in the local community; where people are constantly being asked to repudiate radicals.
    Just tragic. George Brandis is already using this as a reason to rush through his laws further repressing the civil rights of anyone who isn’t him or Tony Abbott.

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