What a Bunch of Sick Individuals!

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Above: Tony Abbott trying out his new Welfare measures with his Advisers.

You want to talk policy?

Tony Abbott doesn’t.

I do.

What I really want to talk about now is a future Abbott government’s Welfare Policy (and may it never come to pass – please the Lord).

So, to begin, let’s start with the ecumenical Abbott’s concise and direct, though light on detail, statement about his Welfare Policy:

“I believe in an Active Welfare Policy, not a Passive Welfare Policy”.

So let’s try and unpack that tightly-scripted and opaque line to try and get a handle on what lies ahead for the citizens of this country from a putative Abbott government; and who may be, at some time in their lives, requiring a Social Security safety net to catch them when they need it.

To begin with, I think we can safely say, as a result of the cross-pollination between Abbott’s Conservatives, Cameron’s Tories in the UK, and the ultra-ascetic Tea Party Conservatives presently having an overweening influence on the Republican Party in the United States, that there’s a commonality of purpose and policy between them all. We can see the evidence of this by the trips back and forth to the UK and the US by Coalition leaders and MPs.

We have seen Joe Hockey go to London to give his “End of the Age of Entitlement” speech at the UK equivalent of the IPA, The Institute of Economic Affairs, the Tory Think Tank that Margaret Thatcher regularly tapped for her economics ideology and ideas.

Unsurprisingly, Hockey’s speech was received with much acclaim by the IEA, and the IPA in Australia, as it thematically paralleled their own agenda, as we have seen recently exposed via the IPA’s wish list presented to Tony Abbott.

Now, presumably, due to the fact that our Shadow Treasurer went to the UK to give a major thematic speech about welfare policy philosophy abroad in the Australian Federal Coalition, I think that I would be on pretty solid ground assuming a degree of heterogeneity between the Welfare changes that David Cameron has ushered in in the UK and those that Tony Abbott and the Coalition have in mind to implement here, notwithstanding the fundamental structural differences in the two country’s systems.

Of course, what we’re waiting for in this country is for a truly courageous and persistent journalist to ask Mr Abbott what he means by an “Active Welfare System”. However, until such time as he gets asked and then truthfully answers that question, we’ll just have to assume that it will operate along similar lines to those changes that have been enacted to the system in Britain. Also, as if that wasn’t enough, it appears that we will have a parallel track that borrows from the Asian “Filial Piety” model.

Therefore I am going to attempt to give you an outline of what both of those concepts means in reality so that you might be able to grasp a handle on a policy that dare not speak its name in Australia beyond the pithy blandishments of the Leader of the Opposition.

Will we see debasement and abuse of the poor, the disabled and the downtrodden accompanying these measures, in order to harden the hearts of the populace enough to agree to them? Will those on the lowest rungs of our society again be used for the sport of the wealthy, the fit and healthy, and their mindless troops in the Manual Labour and Tradesmen class, as John Howard did? Will they employ a similar frame to Cameron who has lumped the nation into two camps, “Strivers v. Shirkers”?

What I do know is that what all Conservatives have in common is an ideological zeal that is directed towards dismantling, to as large an extent as they can get away with, the post World War 2 social safety net for the most disadvantaged in their societies. Not vote buying exercises for the middle class or tax loophole closures for business or the economic elite, but a rending of the net that provides dignity for our society’s most disadvantaged. So as to give more money back to those that already have more than enough for a comfortable life.

So, firstly, let’s look at Hockey’s desire to imprint the Asian concept of “Filial Piety” onto Australia’s Social Security fabric.

For an elucidation of this I am grateful to Dr Verity Archer, who is a lecturer in politics and public policy at Deakin University, in an article she wrote for The Drum Online Opinion site on 18 May 2012, a month after Hockey gave the speech in London in April.

In it she makes what should be the obvious point: that this Asian practice puts most of the burden for carrying it out onto the shoulders of working age women:

Filial piety essentially boils down to families looking after their own, without government assistance. This means that women do most of the heavy lifting.

However, Dr Archer provides evidence from South Korea that such a policy also has what would be a financial plus for a Treasurer Hockey slashing and burning programs and Australians themselves metaphorically as he cuts a $70 billion swathe through the Budget:

As for supporting the elderly and the women who care for them, there wasn’t much of that either. Despite the aging population in South Korea, there were few government services for the elderly…Little was available in the way of domiciliary social services, community care, or housing. In a Confucian Welfare State it is assumed female kin will provide the social services that government doesn’t provide.

Now, are you beginning to see why Joe Hockey doesn’t actually mind being seen with a $70 billion Budget hole to fill? He is actually relishing the licence it will give him to cut into the Budget and its social safety net programs. And cut hard. Just like Campbell Newman in Queensland most especially, but of a piece with all the Coalition State Governments already well down this track – who equate a budget surplus with sound economic management.

Just imagine what a federal government overlaid upon all this would be like!

Finally, let’s take a stroll down Abbott Avenue, UK, to see what a National Government embarking upon an “Active Welfare System” looks like.

In Britain, the Cameron Conservative government have introduced a “Work Capability Assessment” and hired an outside the government company, Atos, to do the assessment of every Disability Payment recipient to decide whether they are “fit to work” or not.

What we generally know about these situations, is that the contracted company usually have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), or targets, built into their contracts, or else why hire them to do a job whose ultimate aim is to get people off benefits and save the Budget money?

I imagine a similar system will be instituted here by an Abbott government in order to weed out the ‘shonks’ with ‘bad backs’ from our own Disability Pension recipient group. However, will the reality be similar to that of Britain, where, in this story in The Huffington Post UK, Shadow Minister for Media and Member for Bishop Auckland, Helen Goodman, reported:

The stories of my constituents paint a terrible picture. One man, a double-leg amputee, was told to undertake an 80-mile round trip for his Work Capability Assessment. Another, who was treated for cancer in July 2010, was deemed fit for work before the results of his operation came through. And a district nurse, who has broken her back, has been told that she too is deemed fit to work. These are just a handful of the stories myself and my colleagues are now seeing every week.

Will we see criteria similar to this used by an Abbott government to transition people out of “Passive Welfare” and into “Actively” looking for work while they are on a government payment?

Currently the Atos administered Work Capability Assessments are wildly unrealistic, demeaning and unfair. Here are just a few examples from the written guidance. “A person who cannot mount or descend two steps” is deemed capable to work. “A person who cannot use a pencil or pen to make a meaningful mark” is deemed capable to work. “A person who is unable to navigate around unfamiliar surroundings, without being accompanied by another person, due to sensory impairment” is deemed capable to work.

Also supposedly fit for work is someone who “cannot learn anything beyond a simple task, such as setting an alarm clock”, or whose “reduced awareness of everyday hazards leads to a significant risk of… injury to self or others… such that they frequently require supervision.”

Such that, as a consequence: ‘It’s patently obvious that in today’s climate these individuals will not find a job, in fact in many cases they will slip off benefits all together. This will solve a problem for the Tories, who will be able to claim they’ve reduced the benefits bill. But it will leave many vulnerable people destitute. Some will end up on the streets.”

Yet the Tories outdid themselves even so after all this meanness. In April they legislated for a £2.5 billion tax cut for the richest Brits.

Hasn’t Tony Abbott already promised Gina Reinhart and the ANDEV cabal virtual tax free status, a tax cut by another name, so that they can have their way with the North of our country? You can guarantee the pound of flesh to pay for the development infrastructure for ANDEV, such as dams and roads, will come out of the Budget Savings from other areas.

I don’t think the money will come from slashing middle class welfare.

Only a sick individual would take the money from the most deserving and give it to the least deserving.

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1,524 thoughts on “What a Bunch of Sick Individuals!

  1. no sadly says I have to disable my pop ups did that.

    bottom right hand corner says post as

    then it takes me to another window

    what I typed is still there but of course I am the only one that can see it

    I would liked to add, the letters against a very similar to the the
    mindless trolling we get on blogs, that seemed to be worked by professional liberal trolls [ for want of a better word}

  2. Current press announcement that Woodside have canned their LNG project in WA. Not financially viable on current rates. Barnett staked a lot on that and will feel some fallout.

  3. this silly new thing of saying
    what are you smoking
    when they don’t agree . but its more likely

    they are just so ignorant they cannot think of anything decent to say

  4. last election

    I was handing out how to votes they even had young children handing them out

    I complained to the electoral office they told me they had no ruling on it

  5. o and their candidate . [ truly had no idea who the person was]
    I handed this person a how to vote,

    said to me well don’t you know whom I am

    I said NO

  6. yes that’s the one

    well those idots would soon find out if he was in gov

    that types with the toreis are the bottom of the barrel

    sound awful but you know what I mean

    I ask my son the other day if the methodone treatment could be stopped
    with them

    said mmm had not thought of that one,

    he runs a very good programme, and councels them also

    he told me when he is out socially the come up to him and thank him

  7. I’ve been to Bloomberg and ‘liked’ all the relevant posts, but there is no way i’m going to comment. I steer clear of all that Tory nastiness.

    I do have claws, of course, but I prefer to keep them sharp for the ‘bet you didn’t see that one coming’ kind of attack.

  8. 6Pack – Aircraft landings (Shellbell posted over the road):

    Worst landing I ever had was on an Olympic Airlines Dash-8.

    Smooth flight, then all hell broke loose as we approached Santorini at night.

    Aswe came from behind the mountain at about 1200 feet, it got really bad

    Bags and cups and saucers flying around, people crying out (including me at least once), arm rests being gripped, sudden drops, lurches and sickening, sudden ups, hostie sitting in her landing seat doing her nails…

    TWO go arounds, followed by applause once we got down on terra firma.

    Many kissed the ground when we finally alighted. I threw a discreet air-kiss.

    All ships we cancelled the next day. A tempestuous storm with 100kph winds.

    I had joined in the clapping, of course.

    The only other two times I’ve ever clapped a landing were on Olympic Airlines flights, once in Corfu after there’d been a punch-up on the plane between a passenger and crew leader (both females) and the other in Australia, during the pilot’s strike when the Olympic 747 we caught from Sydney to Melbourne stopped about 5 metres short of the end of the runway via the pilot planting what must have been both feet on the brakes.

    Funnily enough the reason we were on the the Olympic flight was because the light plane we’d chartered that morning to go from Bankstown lost an engine immediately after take-off and we’d had to make an emergency landing immediately. We declined the pilot’s offer of an alternative plane and so proceeded to Mascot to catch the Olympic Airlines flight.

    The guy sitting next to the pilot in the Cessna was my business partner who’d – just a few months before – been in Business Class on flight 811 from Honolulu to Sydney when the entire side of the baggage compartment blew off and nine passengers (including the guy across the aisle from my partner) got sucked out, three of them into the engines.

    My business partner was the calmest of of all of us during our subsequent adventures.

  9. gravel, to give you a bit of background, Bruce’s only involvement with politics was with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

    He felt very badly that Pauline and David Etteridge were dudded by Abbott and falsely put in the frame and jailed. He is appalled by the prospect of Abbott possibly coming to office.

    Although long anti-Labor, as you might expect from a former One Nation, as the article suggests he is coming around to a grudging admiration of Gillard for standing up to all that has been thrown at her.

    If he takes a political stance, it wouldn’t surprise me if he went for Katter’s AP, which is both non-conventional and closer to the nationalist sentiments of One Nation. However, on the strength of that piece, I’d suggest he might preference Labor.

    I don’t know how typical Bruce is, but he cares about his country, whatever his views on Labor. If there were others around like him, I’d say that is a very good sign.

  10. BB, I wonder if that side of the plane incident you mentioned could have involved a business acquaintance of mine, John Swan. He had a business doing travel industry window displays and our contract (at South Australian Tourism in Sydney).

    The saddest irony was that John sold his business and then went to work for Qantas, who were his employers at the time of the accident. It was extraordinary that he happened to be on that flight (not even a Qantas one) and got sucked out.

  11. Well I gave ‘Al Black’ on that Bloomberg article a very big piece of my mind!

    Not that he’ll probably read it because most of those guys are drive-by abusers. They seem to get told about an article favourable to the PM and then descend upon it to spew their vile bile.

    Oh well, it made me feel better. 🙂

  12. bruce wrote very well,

    the indifference he mentioned I feel will be aimed at abbott

    the references to abbott are very negative.
    is this how the public, that never get polled feel.

    also the fact that he wrote this on david donovans site

    are othesr drawn to the site and don’t comment
    are other people now seeing what strong person

    the Pm is??

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