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

Poverty, Unemployment and the Budget

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone reading this that I am horrified by the proposed budget.

Horrified doesn’t really cover it, actually.  I feel quite literally sick to my stomach at the thought of it.  It makes me want to cry.

There is so much not to like about it that it’s hard to know where to start, but the part I want to focus on today is the changes to unemployment benefits for people under thirty. The reason I want to focus on these changes is because I don’t see any way that it won’t result in people becoming homeless and possibly starving.

Under the new rules, if you are under thirty and become unemployed, you will receive no benefits whatsoever for six months.  During this time, you will be expected, during these six months, to participate in government-funded job search and employment services activities, whatever these are.  (I wonder how they expect people to get to these?  Neither petrol nor tram tickets are free.  Are they going to provide free public transport to job seekers?) After that, you get six months on the pension – which, if you are under 24, will now be substantially lower – during which time you must also work for the dole for 25 hours a week.  And if that doesn’t work, you are back to nothing.

The government says that this is about getting young people to ‘earn or learn’.  Setting aside the fact that they have just deregulated university fees and de-funded most forms of research that aren’t medical research (and hey, I work in the industry, I’m very happy that medical research didn’t get cut, but I do think there are other areas of research that are just as important), a combination that is likely to raise university fees to unaffordable levels, there are a number of problems with this approach.

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Living Below the Line

When I’m not writing about politics in this blog (or, you know, working full time and studying music part time and singing in more choirs than you can poke a stick at), I also write a food blog, Cate’s Cates.

Normally I wouldn’t mention it here, but this week, I am doing the Live Below The Line challenge, in which participants live for five days on a food budget of $2 per day in order to raise awareness of global poverty, and also to raise money for development projects designed to help people escape poverty.  This year, the focus is on education and training programs for young people in East Timor.  $2 is considered to be the equivalent of the extreme poverty line in Australia, and after a bit less than a day on this challenge, I can tell you that living on this budget hard work!

Also, I’m really hungry.

Anyway, I’m blogging about food and poverty and my experiences negotiating this rather painful challenge throughout the week, and (perhaps unsurprisingly, given the current budget news), my posts are getting somewhat political.

It occurs to me that these posts might also be of interest to some of my readership over on this side of the blogisphere.

It also occurs to me – because I am a shameless, SHAMELESS person when it comes to fundraising – that some of you might think that this is a sufficiently interesting or worthwhile idea that you might want to sponsor me.

Yep.  Shameless. That’s me.

Anyway.  The first of my Living Below The Line posts on Cate’s Cates can be found here.  There are four posts in the series so far – I’m hoping to post two a day between now and Thursday, and a final one on Friday when the challenge is over.

Already, I’m counting the hours.  Did I mention that I’m really hungry?

If you would like to sponsor me, you can do so by visiting this page.  Thanks for your support!

When $6 is more than you think

The government is trying to balance the budget, and since fighter planes are super cool they absolutely have to stay, but Medicare and pensions?  Not so much.

(Honestly, it’s really hard for me at the moment to work out which of the government’s policies upsets me most.  I suspect that this is a deliberate strategy on their part, in fact – if you create enough policies that rile up the entire left-leaning section of the population, but do them all simultaneously, everyone has to pick their favourite or succumb to exhaustion.  It’s divide-and-conquer stuff.  And I think it’s pretty disgusting.  But I’m sure you had figured that out already.)

Anyway, today I’d like to talk a bit about the idea of getting rid of bulk billing and having a minimum $6 payment to visit the doctor.  The reason I’d like to talk about it is that it sounds like such a minor thing – such a fair way to allow everyone to contribute to fixing the alleged budget blowout – but in fact it’s going to affect some of our most vulnerable Australians in a very negative way.

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