What a Bunch of Sick Individuals!


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.

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

  1. C@tmomma,

    No need to apologise – it’s just that I knew I had a late-finishing meeting today, so when I read his email I breathed a sigh of relief 🙂

    As for your clones from the rib … EEEWWWWW!

  2. ‘They only have to regurgitate Abbott’s slogans and confusions, his lies and contradictions, for their man to make it to office.’

    With a bit of luck we might have PolitiFact in Australia in a couple of months which would blast Abbotts’ lies out of the water and any other pollie that tried to peddle misinformation via the MSM.

    Bill Adair, founder of factchecking website PolitiFact has been working with Peter Fray, former editor of SMH re launching PolitiFact Aus. in the next few months.

    The website checks and exposes not only political but also advertising porkies. Particularly fond of this from a CNN reporter re an advert “a claim that PolitiFact found to be a Pants on Fire falsehood”

    Can’t come quickly enough for mine.


  3. So Joe Hockey has admitted HE won’t be able to get back to Surplus soon either? IF he becomes Treasurer(from the Bloomberg article):

    Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey said at the Bloomberg Australia Economic Summit two days ago that the true deficit will likely be wider than projected, making it impossible for him to commit to a time frame for achieving a fiscal surplus.


  4. Just a comment of the beautification of the Big Green Boxes by the blue rinse genteel ladies.
    In Qld, Newman’s Govt is talking about bringing seven, yes 7, years in gaol for graffittist. Isn’t painting graffiti on Govt property vandalism even if it is pretty flowers?

  5. Our PM is a very clever woman. Inviting the ‘littlle bald-headed dunny rat’ to represent us at Baroness Thatcher’s funeral is a master stoke. Of course, it had to be a Tory, no-one from Labor would have wanted to be there. But a past PM instead of the current pretender to the throne? Brilliant. I bet Tony already had his bags packed. Now he has found out he’s not getting another free trip to London. More work g\for those gyprock repair blokes, I think.

  6. G’day Laurie!
    Pleased to make your acquaintance at The PUB. 🙂
    Thank you for that link to PolitiFact. It certainly is the case that with The Parliamentary Budget Office, now up and running, and being ignored by the Opposition, and PolitiFact, which will likely be derided by the Opposition, also with skin in the game, we can only hope that they build up the weights on the Opposition in the run-up to the election that will see them crumble under that weight. 🙂

  7. [o BB won’t have to do much “bouncing”.]

    I thought it was BB who misbehaved last Friday.

    Is this his punishment?

  8. Thanks for the greeting c@tmomma. I have dropped by here before but I am mainly in the bleachers lurking.

    Just a little anecdote after a discussion with my great-nephew, 1st yr science student at Monash and of a family not into discussing politics.
    We were talking about Climate Change and I told him of Abbott’s IPA inspired plans for the CC Commisssion and Renewables Fund which shocked him. He then said that he liked Julia Gillard and thought that she had introduced some good policies, that he really disliked Abbott and his lies and was well aware of the media bias.

    He was off to work but I managed to get him to follow up on the Libs Fraudband and to check out the IPA.

    Just when you think that the electorate has been blindsided by the shite that is vomited up by the Conservatives, a little bit of sunshine came into my life last Sunday. Can we hope that there will be enough people that have switched off their gullible genes and can see through this ghastly threat to our democracy in the form of Abbott and Co?

  9. jaycee,
    I move in mysterious ways. 🙂

    I just heard on the news that Ex-Tropical Cyclone Victoria 😀 now off the SE Coast of WA may bring some much-needed rain to the SE Coast of SA over the weekend.

    I hope it comes to pass for you. 🙂

  10. Laurie,

    Good to see you again!

    Well done with your great-nephew – who will probably chat with his friends …

    Every little bit helps.

  11. Laurie,

    Nice to hear what the younger generations are thinking. Not always in a position to see what they’re thinking. Thanks for the insight.

  12. “@InsidersABC: On #Insiders : Barrie Cassidy interviews @PGarrettMP ahead of COAG talks on #gonski next week. Panel @markgkenny David Marr and Niki Savva”

  13. Morriscum is a nasty piece of work. I hope they keep trotting him out while Tony hides behind Peta’s skirts, because it isn’t a good look for them.

  14. Here in Melbourne, the Age and Herald Sun have been focused on footy dramas. Initially with The Melbourne Football Club and now with the James Hird and Essendon drama. The Age have released text messages between James Hird and Steve Dank, the sports scientist. Herald Sun today have gone with emails. Interesting to watch how the Age is going against James Hird and Herald Sun, going to bat for him. On the other hand, Patrick Smith in the Australian reckons James Hird should step down as Coach, pending final investigation.

  15. SK

    It has been fascinating to watch the development of the Essendon saga. In many ways, it mirrors politics

  16. victoria,

    I think Australia is about to lose a few ‘heroes’ a la Marion Jones and The tool on his bike. It isn’t going to be pretty.

  17. Excellent question

    [dear @TurnbullMalcolm, if I pay your $5k for FTTH and you then privatize @NBNCo, what return will I get on my investment? #NBN #auspol]

  18. SK

    Hird maintains he has not done anything to compromise the team or the club, and has refused to step down.
    But as per your example re Marion Jones, she seemed lovely, but was a bloody cheat. You cant judge a book by its cover

  19. Has anyone bothered to ask Abbott or Morrison the latest big question – if Tony is going to stop the boats within months of being elected in September why will he need drones in 2017?

  20. I’ve been having a look at the submissions for the Victorian state redistribution in October and the boundary changes are pretty interesting so far.

    The Labor one looks the most dramatic, abolishing a few seats (Ripon, Lyndhurst and Warrandyte to name a few), the Liberal one is just snipping and shifting here and there, while the National one is trying to sneak another seat in for themselves around Alexandra.

    I’ll have a closer look at them over the weekend. Here’s the link for the submissions.


  21. Puff tMD,

    … I sharpened my claws in the comments

    You certainly did!

    The title of this thread is an apt description of most of the people commenting on that excellent article.

  22. denese,

    how doo u leave a post at blloming bergs?

    Just go to the bottom of the article and press the word ‘comments’. 🙂

  23. Well done at Bloombergs, Puff. Put in a few ‘likes’ for you there but couldn’t be bothered posting.

    Your sole supporter there summed it up well in pointing out that the comments seemed to reinforce exactly what the PM is up against, and they don’t even realize it.

    Joining in, however, reminded me too much of the worn-out arguments on Ruddstoration, or with the Liberal trolls at the other place.

  24. denese,

    I typed a comment but cannot get to go any further

    I clicked open id

    Type your comment, then click ‘Comment As’ in the box in the lower right hand corner. It will give you a range of options to log in to the site with, or you can create a Bloomberg profile.

    I just commented and it worked for me. 🙂

  25. Lovely comment from the Bloomberg article(other than Puffy’s, of course!) :

    Jay Dratler Jr. 12 minutes ago

    Sometimes an unbiased foreigner’s impressions can provide perspective. Here’s are some from a Yank who’s visited Australia five times, including most of March for the last four years:

    1. An unemployment rate that “unexpectedly rose to a three-year high of 5.6 percent.” We Yanks can only envy that.

    2. A dollar about 5.5% higher than ours. For most of my life (I’m 67), it was lower. High currency hurts export manufacturing, but it’s also a sign of economic strength. (It makes us Yanks feel a bit poorer when we travel in Australia.)

    3. A vibrant, rapidly growing and upscaling economy, to which I as a visitor can attest. Economically, Australia is an impressive place.

    4. A *real* leader who’s willing to stick her neck out to do the right thing. If you believe in global warming, or if you just don’t like acid rain, mercury pollution, and particulate poisoning from coal, a carbon tax is the simplest, clearest, most direct and most effective means of fighting those evils. So far Ms. Gillard is the only leader worldwide to recognize that fact. (Our President is doing something similar, but less effective, by declaring carbon dioxide a pollutant, which is all he can do without Congress.) Am I—a visitor—the only one seeing Australia’s weather getting more extreme year on year?

    5. A campaign based on identity—-in Australia’s case gender, in our case race. Who benefits from that, and who has the incentive to start it? Can you really make a credible argument that the one whose identity is in question gains from starting down that road?

    6. Temporary and recent budget deficits as the sole substantive opposition issue. That emphasis may appeal to a certain type of voter, but long-term thinkers aren’t among them.

    Our President won again despite a strikingly similar opposition, with much harder arguments to make on points 1 and 3. So this Yank thinks it likely that Ms. Gillard will similarly muddle through.

  26. 6Pack – Aircraft landings (Shellbell posted over the road):

    Untidy ‘go-around’!

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