Thursday, September 1, 2005

Australia: Caught in a poverty trap

ONE of the delights of watching a superhero movie, be it of the bat or spider variety, is when the grotesque machinery developed and demonstrated by the hero's foes is turned back on them with typically devastating results.

So it is with the snowballing ACTU campaign ads against the Howard Government's industrial relations agenda.

For some years the Government has used our money to finance powerful advertising aimed at keeping us in lockstep with its agenda. Now Coalition MPs and senators quiver when the ACTU's emotive but effective ads infect their television screens each night. If I have a complaint about these ads, it is that they do not tell the full story of the Government's fourth-term plans.

Industrial relations reform is only half of what it is up to. The other part of the equation, which presumably the Senate will rubber-stamp without inquiry or pause, is draconian welfare [social services] changes that aim to create a desperate class of mothers, injured and disabled all willing to take up work on the low-wage, insecure jobs that will come about from the IR changes.

Well, that's the plan, anyway. Many will probably remain on the welfare scrapheap for less money than before because employers will favour the able-bodied and unencumbered. These employers will reason it is better to offer their existing workforce less as a first step. In this new Gotham, the twin forces of lowered wages and a meaner safety net will conspire to enlarge our population of working poor and further impoverish those below them.

The Australian Council of Social Service calculates the initial damage at 150,000 adults and an equal number of children from the Government's welfare proposals. But the toll among working folk is likely to be considerably higher. There are a million Australians including 350,000 children who are living in working-poor families. That is, they have some work but not enough to live decently. Up another rung again there are millions more workers who will be put under further pressure from the Howard Government, which is going to rattle the cages of the comfortable class.

The 300,000 people who will be forced on to activity-tested unemployment payments in the next three years are really fodder to help force down the wages and conditions of the working poor and of those on modest wages.

So the sequel to the ACTU ads, which depict a single mum being called in to work or face the sack, would show a Job Network or Centrelink official pressuring another young single mum to step into the breach and take her job. Who can save the working poor, the mums and the disabled from all of this?

In all likelihood, it will be those with some power but who have the most to lose from the twin effects of industrial and welfare changes.

And those people are Mark Vaile, Ian Causley, Warren Truss, Bob Baldwin, Luke Hartsuyker and Gary Nairn. These are the Coalition politicians whose communities will be hit hardest. They represent the new welfare-rich regions with large concentrations of single parents, disability pensioners and unemployed, and their economies are increasingly built on insecure or casual employment. Many in their constituencies survive on seasonal tourism for their livelihoods.

Wage and salary earnings figures reinforce their vulnerability. In 1999-2000 national average wage and salary earnings were $33,350. By comparison, in most of the electorates held by the aforementioned politicians, average wages and salaries were less than $28,500. McMillan (Russell Broadbent, Liberal) and Eden-Monaro (Nairn) did slightly better with averages of $30,687 and $31,148 respectively, but still well short of the national average and miles behind Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews's electorate of Menzies, where the average was $36,719. Remember that's a full $10,000 higher than Hartsuyker's seat of Cowper, the lowest placed electorate in the country.

While previous welfare changes have failed to create a large enough electoral backlash against the incumbents, the ripple effect of the combined welfare and industrial reforms will wash over a great many more voters in these communities and so are likely to cause real difficulties for the members in question.

National Party MPs among this band know only too well that in the last federal election Larry Anthony lost his seat of Richmond because of its rapid demographic transformation from rural stronghold to sunbelt welfare capital.

The Government's latest plans will accelerate the conversion of the remaining Coalition electorates sitting along the coasts of NSW and Queensland, undermining the voter base John Howard has so carefully cultivated.

It will be fascinating to see whether those most at political risk from the Government's proposals act like lemmings or take a stand. I can't see them wearing their underpants on the outside but then maybe they are the new X Men. They certainly have a large piece of evil machinery to turn around.

By Ross Fitzgerald 1 September 05

Tell your local MP that you care in 3 quick steps

ACOSS responded today to calls for cuts in the top tax rate.

Poor families face lower payments while nation debates lower taxes for high earners

“While the Government debates cutting the top tax rate for those on over $125,000 a year, it is preparing a Bill to cut future income support for sole parents struggling to survive on one fifth of this amount. The Parenting Payment and Family Tax Benefit for a sole parent with two children is around $415 per week.

“Recent research by NATSEM shows that, if the Government’s welfare to work proposals are implemented, sole parents whose youngest child is 6 years or over who apply for income support from 2006 will be worse off by:

* $29 per week if they remain jobless;
* up to $98 per week if they work for 15 hours a week at the minimum wage.”

“The changes would also raise effective marginal tax rates for many sole parents to much more than the 49% paid by high income earners (including Medicare Levy). NATSEM estimates that the proposed changes will increase the effective tax rates for sole parents earning $100 to $150 per week from 40% to 65%.

“Under the Government’s welfare changes, many of Australia’s poorest families will have to get by on less and will face a higher rate of tax.”

“Already over 40% of sole parents with school aged children on benefit are employed. It is only those sole parents who work full time and earn more than $700 a week who will be better off under the welfare changes. Even the Government acknowledges that it’s hard for a sole parent to do this and look after children alone.”

Ed: The Howard government stated that all 700,000 odd disability support pensioners would not be affected by the changes but all disability pensioners have been called to front a board and prove why they need to have any support at all.

So it's not just their doctor they have to satisfy now it is the hand picked kangaroo caught set up by the Howard Government that will make the decision to send those disabled people back to NewStart allowance and lose any pension concessions they may have been otherwise entitled to have like electricity, phone, and travel.

Sux if you have to pay $500 to see a specialist to prove that you've been disabled for ten years. Oh, Centrelink say they will accept your local GPs report but will it lesson your validity before the court?

Once these people are kicked off into NewStart they'll never be able to make the same claim again, ever and are less likely to be employed. So the end result is they'll lose the difference between their pension and NewStart including benefits and are thrust from certainty into an uncertain world.

If they are then held back from getting or being able to comply with work conditions then they can't rely on a living wage to support them whether they can work or not. And all the while Peter Costello wants to give the rich a pat on the back with more tax cuts.

This is the draconian, ruthless, sick and immoral behavior by the powers that be while they spend our welfare dollar on war and anti-terrorism to defend their stupidity from the very same war they started? There goes your social support wasted on death and destruction. Shame Howard Shame!


UK Firms reluctant over 'core jobless'
UK: Most employers refuse to consider hiring people with a criminal record or history of drug or alcohol problems, new research has revealed.

Costello's anti-Job Network weapons discovered?
THE Federal Government had cut $500 million in funding to private sector employment agencies to ensure taxpayers received value for money, Treasurer Peter Costello said?

Pity Labor Couldn't be United over Social Services Cuts?
HoWARd/Costello (funny fellow) Big Mac and Small Fries. And Beazely's Kentucky Fried Two Piece Snack Box for those on minimum wages who should be enjoying - better Medicare Rebates, Public Housing, Hospitals, Education and Transport Infrastructure but instead get just $6.00.

Happy mothers day: Single mums forced to work!
AUSTRALIA can no longer sustain its warfare system, but can sustain the social dollar and that depends on where your priorities are? USA/Iraq or Australia?

HoWARd Gov't could be slued, community warns
Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) members will join a rally in Victoria Square today, protesting against the anticipated changes to workplace relations.

Work for the dole and prison industry slavery
Work for the dole certainly offers a lot of variety. The impression given by the government is that most unemployed do creative and helpful work assisting the community.

'Social Services cheats' may face election next time around
The Federal fascist HoWARd Government is attacking the poor and underprivileged again (on all fronts - now including social services, disabled, single mothers, Medicare rebate and IVF treatment.

Single parents deserve a living wage and not persecution
Being a single parent is hard work. It means a lot of responsibility. But you are not paid properly to do this work. You are paid way below what is recognised as the poverty line. StandUp! Believes that looking after a child is a job and should be paid for like any other job.

Labor sees problems in welfare proposals
The Federal Opposition says proposed changes to Australia's welfare system are a cost-cutting measure and will leave disability and sole parent pensioners worse off.

Dismantle the war machine, slash taxes, privatisation and keep social services The Centre for Independent Studies report says the flat-rate income tax of 10 per cent would ensure most Australians could afford to pay for essential services such as health and education, instead of relying on welfare [social service] payments.

Costello to force single mums to look for work?
SINGLE mothers would be forced to look for work once their children reached school age, under a draconian welfare package outlined last night by fascist Pastor Peter Costello to bolster funds to spend on military hardware and the ongoing illegal and degrading war in Iraq.

The HoWARd Government is simply robbing the disabled blind
KERRY O'BRIEN: Federal cabinet adjourned today still undecided about the final formula for what has become politically one of the toughest reform challenges the Government will face this term. For the past two decades, the disability support pension has been one of the fastest growing welfare payments [social security payments.]

Encouragement is the key to social-services-to-work programs
Corporate Welfare! I think we should start with Ingeus Company. Telling us what we already know for $$$$!

Peter Saunders shake-up is long overdue: Welfare Not Warfare
Peter Saunders: Many DSP claimants are older men with limited skills who have had difficulty finding work?

Welfare Reform for Warfare Expenditure?
John Howard: "Self-evidently we would have liked the major combat to have gone differently ... [but] coalition withdrawal or defeat is unimaginable."

Govt plots post-July strategy?
Fascist Prime Minister insists he is not on a mission to punish welfare recipients [social services.]

HoWARd 'determined' to make the disabled woRK?
The Federal Government is considering a system of "coercion" and incentive to force the disabled to work. But what happened to 6 billion-budget surpluses? Why do they need to force disabled people to work? Do they need more money and less disabled people? Or do would they rather spend the money on WAR?

Opposition pension claims valid
The Federal Governments secret agenda to cut pensions, including the disability and single parent payments while spending billions on military hardware is just too much for most disabled people to accept.

Thousands march for disability protest
"We are not prepared to go back to the dark ages. This has to be reversed," Mr Preston said. "We are hoping that the community sees that we shouldn't be taking money from people with disabilities. These people have had it tough all their lives (and) there is already more unmet need than we can cope with."

Howard's Job Network Bailout
Up to 670,000 people on disability support pensions will be encouraged to sign up to the Job Network under a radical new plan to get disabled people off welfare and into work.

THE HILLSONG'S ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF ' NEO-LIBERALISM' Only a bent mind would envisage the possibility or think of the concept that a '2nd Neo-Liberal 'front' promoted by the right and posing as a Church would enter politics under the flag of "Family First Party".

Costello, Howard's Disciple

JOHN HOWARD AND PETER Costello lost their vision for Australia from the time they were elected and embarked on a vision for the neo-Liberals.

Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel?
Well praise the Lord the light is Hell bent here on Peter Costello, treasurer of the Howard Government who now has his own "flock" of onward Christian Soldiers.

Corporate Welfare

Corporate welfare or how to steal social services?
Ever wondered why there are so many homeless, why we need a 10 pc GST, lack of services for mental disability, still paying off the Olympics, poor public transport planning etc etc etc?


Work for the dole is legal slavery
Work for the dole was originally sold to us by Howard as a warm and fuzzy light work project. We would be working for nothing but we would be enjoying giving back something to the community, so it was reckoned.

Peter Costello commended this result in his budget speech. Even if we were to believe this figure it still means more than half a million living at a level much lower than that is recognised as poverty.

Mark Latham's, token gestures for older unemployed
StandUp appreciates the fact that Mark Latham is concerned about older unemployed people. His specialist job network proposal aimed at older people might provide a bit of assistance.

Work for the dole failure for two thirds
THE Un-Australian: " MORE than a third of the people who completed the Howard Government's work-for-the-dole programs last year were in jobs or studying within three months of finishing.

Work for the dole? $10.00?
StandUp! Wishes to draw your attention to a serious attack on all of us--work for the dole. We were assured that unemployed would not be forced to work in areas where employed workers would normally be employed. This has shown to be a lie! Under work for the dole, unemployed have been forced to carry out; concreting, tiling, landscaping, repairs, renovation, painting, gardening, nurses and teachers aid work.

A major independent study commissioned by the Government and released today under Freedom of Information by The Australian newspaper indicates that the 'Work for the Dole' program actually reduces the job prospects of unemployed people.

Youth welfare system unfair: ACOSS
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is warning urgent action is needed to fix youth poverty and disincentives for the unemployed to improve their job prospects.

Bringing up children Can we afford it?
Peter Costello expects us to carry out our patriotic duty by going home and having more children. But for most people it is a struggle to bring up one child let alone two or three.

Federal Budget: Tax cuts for the rich!
For the Howard government, unemployed people are not even worth thinking about.

Private job network agency blues
Can you trust a private job network agency? No you can't! A friend of ours is registered at MTC Marrickville.

Indigenous Social Justice Association Djadi Dugarang

Centrelink puts the screws on prison debt
A 1999 study by the Brisbane Prisoners Legal Service revealed that on leaving prisoners had an average debt of $14,031. Almost one in five had a debt to Centrelink while in prison. This debt arose as a result inability to cancel things such as leases, Social Security payments, utilities and telephones.

Democrats approve tougher welfare penalties: But how does that pan out?
There used to be an old saying in Australia" if your hungry steal a sheep and leave the pelt on the fence.

Six weeks, six months, six years: inmates have little chance of making fresh start Even prisoners who serve short sentences are likely to suffer long-term consequences, including increased rates of homelessness and unemployment.

Military Spending

Howard: We as a nation have got to invest heavily in defence?
Fascist Prime Minister John HoWARd has indicated the Government will make major changes to work place laws, cut disability support forcing the disabled to work and increase his defence commitment.

Hill primed for war!
Australian Caretaker Defence Minister Robert Hill has announced a multi-million dollar upgrade of the Pearce Air Force base in Western Australia. Hill says $87 million would be spent on a major upgrade of the base, which is Australia's main flying training facility.

Troop deployment not a deepening of effort: Hill
Deploying an extra 30 troops to Iraq was not a deepening of Australia's involvement because they were being sent to protect those already there, Defence Minister Robert Hill said yesterday.

Auditor Generals damning defence report
The Defence Department computer system upgrade has cost Australia tens of millions of dollars in a gigantic bungle, according to the Federal Opposition. The Commonwealth auditor-general has issued a damning report into the project.