Newstart, Indue, and Raising the Rate

I’ve been meaning for a while to write about the way our government (and to a lesser, but not sufficiently lesser, extent, the media) has been increasingly pushing the idea that people who are poor have miserable lives because they deserve them.  Apparently, our unemployed people are too busy taking drugs, protesting climate change, eating avocado toast, and refusing to move to the country where jobs are supposedly plentiful, to actually job hunt properly and that’s why they remain in poverty.  (Incidentally, if you were considering moving to the country for work, please read this article first.  It turns out that this is bad advice, because moving house can get you cut off from Newstart unless you are very lucky.)

(Incidentally, note how disabled people are sort of… missing from this picture entirely.  Much like the $4.6 billion that wasn’t spent on NDIS funding, so that our budget could be balanced this year.)

On the other hand, the government is full of (fully funded) empathy for the hardship endured by small business owners forced to pay penalty rates, and is indeed wondering whether superannuation ought to be optional for lower-paid workers, too.  I’m sure this won’t place more pressure on the Aged Care pension in the long run.  And speaking of pensions, the government which can’t afford to raise the rate of Newstart can apparently afford to spend $6 billion a year on franking credits, a frankly unsustainable rebate only available to people who have sufficient savings to invest in shares (and the figures attached to this article suggest that the overwhelming majority of these people have savings of $1 million or more).

There are many, MANY, things to write about when it comes to this government’s attitude to poverty.  Hell, I haven’t even started on Robodebt – that’s a whole other post.  But right now, there is a Bill under consideration to expand the Cashless Debit Card trial to cover the entire Northern Territory, Cape York and parts of South Australia, with the goal of eventually expanding the card to all unemployed people, and possibly people on other forms of social security.  There’s a pretty good summary of the situation and how the Bill will work here, or you can read the amendments in their entirety here (honestly not that useful, I found), and an explanatory memorandum here.  The latter goes into some detail regarding concerns about the human rights of people on the card:

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights conducted a review of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, which notes that the Cashless Debit Card engages and limits three human rights: the right to social security, the right to a private life and the right to equality and non-discrimination.

But concludes that it’s all fine and definitely non-discriminatory, even though  the areas in which the expansion is taking place are all areas with high indigenous populations (according to this article, more than 80% of those affected will be indigenous Australians).  Fascinating.  Especially as, for all the talk of community consultation, no Australian government in my lifetime has been particularly stellar when it comes to listening to Aboriginal communities. No colonialism going on here, clearly.

I’m going to cut to the chase – the government is accepting submissions regarding the expansion of the Cashless Debit Card up until October 18, and you can make a submission here.  There are some guidelines on how to do so here

Since I’m sure that many of you know far, far more about this than I do, and some of you will have personal stories that are relevant to the submission, I didn’t want to make you read through all my ramblings.  But if you want some numbers and stats and arguments for your submission, as well as a few more other ways to take action on Newstart, keep on reading.  I suspect some of these will form the basis of my own submission. Continue reading

Priya and Nades

I think everyone in Australia pretty much knows about Priya and Nades and their family, but just in case you were living under a rock, they are Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka.  Nades has links to the Tamil Tigers; Priya saw her fiancé and several other men from her village burned alive.

Nades came here by boat in 2012 and Priya in 2013, and they settled in the town of Biloela in Central Queensland.  They met in Australia, married, and had two daughters, Kopika and Tharunicaa, now aged two and four.  While they were waiting for their claims to be assessed, they integrated into the local community.  Nadesh worked at the meatworks and volunteered at St Vincent de Paul; Priya was active in the community and would bring curries to the doctors at the local hospital.

In other words, aside from coming here by boat, they did everything that we ask immigrants to do – they moved to a rural area, they became part of their local community, they worked in jobs that are undesirable and hard to fill.

Priya was on a bridging visa that was about to expire and had been told that a new Visa was in the mail.  But instead, on the day after it expired, she and the family were arrested at home at 5am.  The family was flown to Melbourne and Priya and Nades were separated and made to sign voluntary deportation papers or risk being deported separately.  They have been held in detention for 18 months while their appeals were heard, during which time there have been reports that the children, in particular, have suffered from ill-health and not been given access to proper medical treatment.  Last Thursday night, they were told they were being deported.  An emergency injunction forced the plane to land in Darwin; the family was subsequently flown to Christmas Island.  There is some fairly harrowing video footage of the children screaming for their mother as she was dragged away by Border Force Personnel.

It is worth noting that the official DFAT advice on travelling to Sri Lanka right now is ‘exercise a high degree of caution’.  The state of emergency lapsed only a week ago, and could resume at any time.

It is also worth noting that the UN is pretty dubious about human rights in Sri Lanka at present.  Their Special Rapporteur on Torture noted in 2017 that torture was routinely used against Tamil security suspects, and a report from December last year on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism tells us:

In his report, the Special Rapporteur shares several key observations and human rights concerns with regard to the continued use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979, despite the long-overdue commitment of the Government to review and repeal it. The Act, inter alia, provides for an overly broad and vague definition of terrorism, lengthy administrative detention and ineffective judicial review, and extremely broad rules concerning the admission of confessions. He also expresses his concerns about the routine and systemic use of torture and ill-treatment under the Act and the conditions of detention. In particular, he found the conditions in the high-security wing of the prison in Anuradhapura that he visited to be inhumane.

Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur assesses that the progress of the new counter-terrorism legislation, together with the management of past cases under the Act, has been painfully slow, and this has, in turn, delayed the wider package of transitional justice measures that Sri Lanka committed to deliver in 2015. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur observed a pervasive and insidious form of stigmatization of the Tamil community. Tamils are severely underrepresented in all institutions, particularly in the security sector and the judiciary, despite the importance of ensuring that all institutions adequately reflect the ethnic, linguistic and religious make-up of the State.

So Priya and Nades would appear to have pretty strong grounds for concern.

But you probably know that already.

I’m mostly putting this here because I’ve seen a bunch of information about what people can do shared on Twitter and Facebook, which is useful, but it disappears very fast if one is having a busy day.  I’m hoping that if I put everything that crosses my timeline here, it will be easier for others to find.

If you see something cross your timeline that I haven’t listed below, please comment and I’ll add it to the list.  Note that comments are screened, but I’ll try to keep a close eye on this over the next few days.

THINGS YOU CAN DO

Ring the relevant ministers

David Coleman, Minister for Immigration – (02) 6277 7770

Peter Dutton, Minister for Home Affairs – (02) 6277 7860 (I’ll note that when I rang his office, the person answering the phone was pretty rude and uninterested.  So if you get a similar response, it isn’t just you.  Please do not be deterred.)

Scott Morrison, Prime Minister – (02) 6277 7700

If you aren’t sure what to say, the HometoBilo.com website has some good talking points here.  Believe me, you can’t possibly be as tongue-tied as I was this morning.  (Except when I was talking to Dutton’s phone-answerer, when I got so angry at his clear implication that I was wasting his time that suddenly it turned out that I had no nerves at all and quite a bit to say.)

Ring or email your local Coalition members

The Home to Bilo crew are asking people in Coalition-held electorates to ring their local members.  The feeling is that pressure from the party room might be enough to swing this issue.

You can search for your local member’s contact details here. If you aren’t sure of your electorate, you can search by your postcode (or you can look up your electorate here).

It would be rude to neglect our Coalition Senators, don’t you think?  You can find a list of Senators by state here – just scroll down to ‘Search Senators’ and put in your postcode.

Ring or email your local Labor and Greens members

And encourage them to keep the pressure on.  (And maybe to come up with a more humane asylum seeker policy, because you shouldn’t have to be a model family not to be sent back to torture, imprisonment or death.)

Send an email to the Big Three

This excellent website has quicklinks for you to email Morrison, Dutton and Coleman.  Personalise your email if you can, but really, every bit counts.  There are also contact details for Ken O’Dowd, the Member for Flynn, which is the electorate in which Biloela is located.

Not sure what to say? I’ve put the text of my emails below – feel free to use anything you feel works.  Don’t worry about making it perfect – imperfect and sent is better than perfect and sitting in your drafts folder. 

Follow the HometoBilo campaign

This is run by the Biloela community, and they have the most current information on how you can help.

Website: https://www.hometobilo.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/solidaritywithBiloela/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hometobilo?lang=en

Tweet, Facebook, and get your friends and family on board

Use the hashtags #HomeToBilo, #BringThemHere #LetThemStay.  And be aware that a lot of our favourite politicians are on Twitter and only an @ away…

Stop blaming the last election on rural Queenslanders

This may seem off-topic, but I did see a LOT of hate for rural Queensland after the last election from my left-wing friends.  And yes, there were clearly some people in regional Australia who voted for some terrible people.  But as we are seeing, there are also clearly some communities in regional Australia who are willing to devote an enormous amount of time and money and effort to protect a vulnerable family whom they have taken to their hearts. Good, caring people who will go the extra mile (or in this case, 1,800km) to look after their neighbours.  I think it’s really, really important that we remember this, and stop blaming regional Australia for everything that is wrong with our current government.  The government is big enough and ugly enough to be blamed in its own right…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sample email to the PM (note that the PM’s email inbox doesn’t seem to be working, and we are advised to send to the address below)

To: media@pm.gov.au

Subject: They’ve had a go.  Please give them a go.

ATTN: Prime Minister of Australia

Dear Prime Minister,

I’m writing in support of Priya, Nades and their children, the young Tamil family who have made their home in Biloela.

This is a family who have embodied what we ask for from our refugees. They have settled in a regional area, taken up jobs in areas where more workers are needed, volunteered for local charities and become beloved members of their community. Given the opportunity, they have the capacity to contribute enormously to Australia.

I understand that the legal situation is complex, and frankly not promising. But the minister has the discretion to intervene, as indeed he did for the Rajasegaran family only a few weeks ago. Such an intervention does not affect the laws around seeking asylum or other cases – it merely recognises that in some situations, a strict interpretation of the law does not lead to the most just outcome.

You have often spoken about the importance and value of families and of regional communities. I ask you to listen to the community of Biloela, who have taken Priya and her family to their hearts, and to advise the Immigration Minister to exercise his discretion and let this family stay.

Yours sincerely

 

Sample email to Coleman (just a few differences)

Dear Minister,

I’m writing to ask for your intervention in the case of Priya, Nades and their children, the young Tamil family who have made their home in Biloela.

This is a family who have embodied what we ask for from our refugees. They have settled in a regional area, taken up jobs in areas where more workers are needed, volunteered for local charities and become beloved members of their community. Given the opportunity, they have the capacity to contribute enormously to Australia.

I understand that the legal situation is complex, and frankly not promising. But you have discretion to intervene on compassionate grounds, and on the grounds of national interest – as indeed you did for the Rajasegaran family only a few weeks ago. Such an intervention does not affect the laws around seeking asylum or other cases – it merely recognises that in some situations, a strict interpretation of the law does not lead to the most just outcome, or the best outcome for Australia.

I ask you to listen to the voices of the Biloela community, and let this family stay in Australia.

Yours sincerely

Grief, anger, and micro-actions

So, how is everyone doing this week? I’ll be honest – I’m not doing brilliantly.  I try to make this blog as positive and hopeful as possible, because I don’t see that there is much to be gained by afflicting everyone else with my depression, but yeah.  It’s been a rough week.  (Also, work has been both busy and chaotic, and all my joints have decided they hate me, which is not improving my mood.)

Also, it turns out that underneath the depression I’m actually really angry, which is an emotion I find hard to manage constructively.

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Yes, this sucks. But we can’t afford to despair

If, like me, you live life on the progressive side of politics – or perhaps even if you live on the conservative side but nonetheless view climate change as an emergency, and see racism, poverty, and xenophobia as serious issues – you probably spent the evening staring at the election results in growing horror.

(Honestly, I felt so nauseated after a couple of hours that I switched off the coverage and stuck in our Keating! The Musical DVD. I mean, I figure I did absolutely everything I could to make a difference in this election – I could skip the aftermath with a clear conscience.)

And look, it really is pretty awful. The Coalition is not going to do a single positive thing about climate change, and we now have another three years of people on Newstart living below the poverty line and being harassed by robodebts and programs that are designed to punish rather than help, and people who need the NDIS being unable access it. We will have three more years of cruelty to refugees and three more years of cuts to the ABC, while Murdoch gets free rein over our media.

Also… we have just shown both major parties that running a scare campaign with basically no policies wins over running a policy-driven campaign. And that’s really depressing, because it means we’ve just taught Labor not to bother running on policy.

I’m not going to sit here and try to say that it’s all going to be fine, that we need to stay positive, that it’s alright. A significant proportion of or population voted out of fear or ignorance or just a lack of empathy or imagination, and we are all going to suffer for it, and it’s OK to feel stunned and angry and sickened and upset and depressed. The future looks pretty scary right now, and we need to come to terms with that.

We need to take time to grieve, and to be angry, and to be numb, and to do whatever we need to do to find a way to accept the reality we now find ourselves in.

And, honestly, that’s going to take time. I mean, I’m white, I’m mostly straight, I’m employed and reasonably financially secure, and I’m healthy. I’m several steps away from being directly impacted by most of the government’s awfulness, and I’m still terrified and deeply sad about the direction we are moving in. I can only imagine how people more marginalised than me must be feeling right now.

So I think step one for all of us right now is to grieve as we need to. That doesn’t mean we can’t do other things later – that we shouldn’t find our own ways to fight for what is needed, to protect our friends who are more vulnerable than us, to move forward so that there is still something left to preserve by the time we reach the next election.

But we don’t necessarily have to do all of that right now. And we definitely don’t have to feel guilty about not doing *everything* right now. If you need it, this is me giving you permission to take the time to rest and to find a way to be OK. You can’t fight the good fight when you are desperately wounded. Give yourself time to heal.

Because it’s  going to be a hard three years, and I need you to survive it, OK? Whoever you are, if you are reading this, you are needed, and you are wanted and you deserve to be OK. No matter what the government may say. So step one is definitely doing what you can to make that happen. Hang out with friends, read something fun and escapist, throw yourself into work, go for a bike ride, join a community choir – whatever works for you. Take care of yourself. Please.

Step two… step two is for when you are feeling less fragile. But when you get there, step two is to find the thing that you care about and the thing you can do. Maybe that thing is volunteering or donating money. Maybe it is being a good friend to someone who needs that. Maybe it’s raising the next generation, or maybe it’s joining a political party and taking the fight to them.

(Step Three is recognising that there is only so much that you, personally, can do, and doing that much, and not feeling guilty about not doing all the other things. I’m still working on step three, to be honest.)

For me? I’m going to sleep for four hours and then get up and try to enjoy Eurovision. And then I’m going to have another nap, and avoid news coverage and social media for a bit.

But step two for me is definitely going to include writing to my local member and anyone else in the ALP who I can think of and thank them for running a positive, policy-driven campaign. I don’t know if we’ll see another campaign like that after the way this one failed, but positive behaviour should be rewarded, and this much I can do.

Please take care of yourselves.

(And who knows… maybe the early votes will save us. But I have to admit, I’m not optimistic at this point.)

Edited to add: I wrote a post on self-care a few years ago.  It has belatedly occurred to me that it might be worth linking to from this post.  So here it is!

Make your vote count

So, the election is tomorrow.  You’ve done your reading.  You’ve maybe even listened to a few Eurovision songs along the way.  With luck, you have at least some idea who you are going to vote for.

There are two things I want to write about today.

The first is just to touch on how incredibly fortunate we are in our electoral system.  I’ve been corresponding with a friend in the US recently, and she mentioned in passing that she was in Australia during an election a few years ago and she couldn’t believe how many places there were that you could vote.  Airports!  Hospitals!  Mobile polling booths that go to aged care facilities and remote communities!  Coming from a country where restricting access to the ballot box is an actual strategy for one of their major parties, it was a revelation.

I write about our Australian Electoral Commission at almost every election, because it is a national treasure and we are so lucky to have it.  I think, though, that I’m going to just cheat this time and link you to my last post on the subject rather than writing a new one, because I just did a count and I’ve already written more than 140,000 words in this electoral cycle and I’ll be honest with you, I’m tired and I have a Eurovision party to bake for.

Also, there’s something else I really want to talk about in this post, and that’s about numbering all the boxes on your Senate Ballot, whether you opt for voting above or below the line.

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Voting in Wills – Candidates, Policies, and hey, are we a marginal seat now?

I feel like Wills has entered a new era in the last few years.

We’ve been a safe Labor seat since forever (setting aside that little lapse with Phil Cleary), and have been entirely ignored by both major parties, but in the last couple of elections, the Green vote has been creeping up, and I must say, it has borne dividends.  We got a new local member from the progressive side of Labor, we are suddenly being noticed in infrastructure planning, and in the last two weeks, I’ve been door-knocked by volunteers both for the Greens and for the Victorian Socialists. (The Greens volunteer seemed a little appalled by my interest in politics when we met at the tram stop and even more appalled when he knocked on a door that evening and yes, it was me again; the Socialist volunteer was absolutely lovely, and persuaded us to put up signage for Sue Bolton… and then nobody ever came back to us to deliver it, which is just such a classic Socialist Alliance way to behave – great ideas, no follow through.  Though having said that, Sue has been an excellent local council member.)

On Tuesday night I even got a phone call from my local Labor member, Peter Khalil. He is certainly working hard for my vote – the phone call lasted nearly half an hour, and ranged from climate policy and getting refugees off Nauru and Manus Island, to the need to raise pensions and fix the NDIS, the restoration of penalty rates, and solidarity with workers. He had a lot of good answers, was hardly rude about the Greens at all (!), and was actively positive about Sue Bolton… admittedly, she is also not much of a threat to him, but it was clearly important that she is solidly working class and unionish, unlike those suspiciously middle-class and thus untrustworthy Greens.  (I refrained from mentioning my own suspiciously middle-class background.  I suspect he guessed about my Greens-voting habits nonetheless.).

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The One and Only Cate Speaks Microparty Policy Fantasy League!

I have frequently noted that almost every small party – even the otherwise loathesome ones! – has one policy worth reading about.  Sometimes, you have to look really hard to find it, because it is buried in a sea of horror and revulsion, but that only makes it the more beautiful when you find it.

So this election, as a special treat, I thought it might be fun to make a collection of the policies that our smaller, weirder parties have come up with that stand out from the crowd. A Microparty Fantasy League, if you will.  Now, it should be noted that there are some parties on this list who I wouldn’t trust to legislate their way out of a paper sack, and who definitely shouldn’t be put in charge of policy on anything resembling a regular basis.  And it should also be noted that this in no way constitutes a complete policy platform.  But I think you will agree that there are, in fact, some unexpectedly good ideas on this list.

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Other Handy Guides to the Federal Election

If you are arriving at this blog in these final few days before the election, the odds are good that you won’t have time to read my extensive and Eurovision-embellished essays before you vote.

And that’s OK!  Nobody has ever accused me of being concise, and I get that people do have lives that don’t revolve around researching every single political party out there (though I do think it is worthwhile to research a few.  I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t think our choice of government was important!).

Also, I won’t deny that my blog posts are *full* of opinions, and reflect my own personal priorities.  They may not reflect yours.

So here, for your delectation, are a collection of other essays, blogs and Twitter threads that are designed to help you figure out who to vote for.  Most of them (all of them?!) are significantly shorter than mine.  Some of them have different priorities.  All of them are, I think, useful to any reader who is still trying to figure out who some of these small parties are.

Enjoy!

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Making your Mind Up! The Cate Speaks Summary / Voter Guide

Once again, my final set of voting preferences still requires a bit of tweaking, but I have grouped the parties into eleven categories, to help figure out where to put people on the ballot.  Why eleven categories?  Because that way I can give my favourite parties ‘Douze points’ and award the gun-totin’ racists ‘Nul points’ in best Eurovision style.  Also, it turns out that I do have eleven distinct categories, so there you go.

I’m not really ranking parties within categories – I mean, yes, based on how I feel about them right at this moment, I’ve put my preferred options at the top of each category, but I often make slight changes to my final rankings at the ballot box.  And some of those parties are ones I don’t have the option to vote for anyway.  Besides, I feel it’s good to preserve some minor level of mystique about my actual vote…

Finally, before you start reading this, allow me to draw to your attention the Senate Voting Card Creator website.  This excellent website allows you to list your parties and then your candidates in your order of preference, and then generates a printer-friendly list, so that you can easily see which numbers will go into which box when you vote below the line, and don’t risk missing a number somewhere.  I was very sad when Below the Line closed down, and am delighted to see that this website has now replaced it.

NB: I’ve noted the Group next to parties running in Victoria.  For parties running only outside Victoria, I’ve noted where they are running.

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Federal Election 2019: Meet the Science Party!

Summary

Website: https://www.scienceparty.org.au/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SciencePartyAus/
Previous name:
Future Party
Slogans:
Principles. Evidence. Progress.
Themes: Science, technology, innovation.  Generally progressive policies, extremely ambitious climate change plan, good on equality, excited about space, driverless cars and building a charter city called Turing.
Electorate:
Upper House: NSW
Lower House: Berowra, Grayndler, Kingsford Smith, Mallee, Perth Sydney, Watson
Preferences: The Science Party is standing only in NSW, and I haven’t found their Lower House tickets yet. In the Senate, they are preferencing the Australian Democrats, Animal Justice, Independents for Climate Action Now, the Greens, and Labor.  So a fairly standard left/progressive ticket, with a strong leaning towards climate change policy.
Previous reviews

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