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Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

With the release this week of the 688 pages  of the Workplace Relations Amendment (Work Choices) Bill 2005, the gloves are off and the debate is on over so-called work choices.

Another round of social engineering from the Federal Government is the Welfare to Work changes to be introduced on July 1, 2006. (A quick world-wide google of "welfare to work" is interesting -  WelfaretoWork.org recently changed its name to Business Interface, Inc. to: better communicate its role as a demand-side workforce intermediary whose primary focus is to help businesses fill critical workforce gaps by employing the economically disabled).

Marie Coleman has been getting traction in the Welfare to Work debate for sole parents and people with disabilities in Australia. She has reported on the work of the National Foundation for Australian Women and the National Centre for Economic and Social Modelling for Webdiary, looking at rural communities at risk under Welfare to Work policies, and considering our Prime Minister's next exciting adventure.

NATSEM and NFAW have released their third report into the Welfare to Work changes. Marie introduces the report and Webdiary has published the Introduction and the Conclusion below.

NFAW logo

Welfare to Work - new data


by Marie Coleman, NFAW

New authoritative modelling in the third report from the National Centre for Economic and Social Modelling (NATSEM) shows that nothing can stop the current Government proposals from creating the perfect poverty trap.

The Report was commissioned by the NFAW, with the aid of a grant from the Don Chipp Foundation.

The first and second NATSEM Reports to the NFAW on sole parents and people with a disability may be found on the NATSEM and NFAW websites.

The essential problem lies in the rigid Cabinet thinking which insists that all persons of workforce age, regardless of their special circumstances, ought to be on Newstart Allowance (unemployment benefit) - a payment initially designed for short-term unemployment relief.

The NATSEM modelling demonstrates that without significant change to aspects of Newstart, such as to the income test, or to taxation treatment of additional earned income or to the activity test, individuals with a disability and women and men supporting children who attempt to improve their circumstances by entering the workforce, face shocking Government imposed income losses.

The Prime Ministerial statements about the Industrial relations legislation make it clear that people who are 'unemployed' - which means people such as a sole parent claiming Newstart, or people with a disability claiming Newstart, or for that matter a sole parent whose youngest child turns six and is exiting welfare support - must accept whatever work conditions an employer is prepared to offer them - or lose any entitlements to Newstart.

They'll not be able to pay the rent, put food on the table, and if they are on a part-allowance, they'll lose up to 75 cents in each dollar earned.

Sole parents with a child aged 6 or over who are not in a position to work, for example because the child has a disability, or the parent does, or the parent is caring for an aged relative as well, or home schooling, will be on Newstart but may be temporarily exempt from having to look for work.

Even though the Government recognises that these families cannot be expected to take on paid work, when they are moved from the pension to Newstart, they will lose $29 a week, 11% of their basic payment. As well, the temporary exemption is less secure than their current rights.

These are the things which the Government must examine. NATSEM demonstrates there are realistic change options.

Options for reducing the adverse impact of the proposed Welfare-to-Work reforms upon people with disabilities and sole parents

by Ann Harding, Quoc Ngu Vu and Richard Percival

Report to the National Foundation for Australian Women, 3 November 2005

1. Introduction

In the May 2005 Budget the Federal Government announced a range of proposed welfare to work measures, to take effect from 1 July 2006. Among the numerous measures announced in the Budget were significant changes in the income support policies for sole parents and people with disabilities.  Currently, sole parents with a qualifying child aged less than 16 years who meet various income and asset tests can receive Parenting Payment Single (PPS), which is subject to the pension income test and payment rate rules. Those sole parents who are in receipt of PPS prior to 1 July 2006 will continue to remain on that payment and be subject to the 'pension' income test (which is more generous than the 'allowance' income test), until their youngest child turns 16.  However, new compulsory work obligations will be imposed on this group from the later of 1 July 2007 or when their youngest child turns six. These new obligations will be satisfied by working part time for a minimum of 15 hours a week or by searching for part-time work and participating in Job Network or other services.1

The major changes are for those sole parents who apply for income support after 1 July 2006. Those who have a child aged less than six years will still be eligible to receive PPS. However, as soon as their youngest child turns six, they will be transferred to Newstart Allowance (NSA) and be subject to an obligation to seek part-time work of at least 15 hours per week.  Those whose youngest child is aged six years or more at the time of application will be placed straight onto Newstart and be obliged to seek part-time work of at least 15 hours a week. 2 

Moving to people with disabilities, under the current system those with physical, intellectual or psychiatric impairment at a sufficient level to make them unable to work for at least 30 hours a week (or undertake training that would equip them for work) for at least the next two years are able to receive Disability Support Pension (DSP). DSP is also subject to the pension income test and payment rate rules. Under the proposals, those people with disabilities who are in receipt of DSP prior to 1 July 2006 will generally continue to remain on that payment and be subject to the 'pension' income test.3  Current DSP recipients who give work a go will have a right to return to DSP within two years if they start a job but are unable to sustain it for any reason (Dutton, 2005a). Those people with disabilities who apply for income support after 1 July 2006 who are assessed by the new 'comprehensive work capacity assessment' as being able to work 15 to 29 hours per week at award wages in the open labour market will be required to seek 15 hours or more of part-time work a week and will be placed on NSA or Youth Allowance.

While the 'grandfathering' provisions mean that sole parents or people with disabilities who are currently on pensions will remain on them, the proposed changes will have a significant impact on those sole parents and people with disabilities who apply for income support after 1 July 2006. NSA provides a lower payment rate than PPS and DSP, has a much harsher income test, and is associated with much less generous income tax concessions. As a result, many sole parents with school age children and many people with disabilities will receive much lower incomes than under the current rules. Our previous reports suggested that sole parents will be up to around $100 a week worse off and people with disabilities up to around $120 a week worse off under the proposed changes relative to the current system (Harding et al, 2005a, 2005b, 2005c, 2005d). In addition, most of those affected will face much higher effective marginal tax rates under the proposed new system than under the current system.

Since the publication of our earlier reports, many parliamentarians and numerous organisations involved in public policy have contacted us requesting information about possible policy options to reduce the adverse impacts of the proposed reforms upon the incomes and effective tax rates of affected sole parents and people with disabilities.  This paper canvasses a limited number of possible options for change.

Section 2 of this paper analyses the impact upon people with disabilities of the proposed reforms and some possible amendments to those reforms. Section 3 repeats the analysis for sole parents, while Section 4 concludes.

1. The Government also announced new spending of $390 million over four years to help increase employment amongst parents of school aged children, including a new Employment Preparation service.

2.There is now one major exception to this. Family and Community Services Minister Kay Patterson announced on 12 September that parents of children with profound disabilities would become newly eligible for Carer Payment. This is a 'pension', which means it has a higher payment rate and more liberal income test than Newstart Allowance. This is effectively the only group that the government has so far exempted from the move to Newstart from pension.

3.The exception is people applying for DSP between 11 May 2005 and 30 June 2006, who will be assessed for DSP under the existing 30 hours test but be reassessed in periodic reviews against the 15-29 hours test after 1 July 2006. Those able to work 15 to 29 hours per week will be shifted to Newstart and be required to seek work.

2. People with disabilities

     2.1 The DSP and NSA programs
     2.2 Disposable incomes and EMTRs

Download PDF or a Word document of entire report.

3. Sole parents

     3.1 The PPS and NSA programs
     3.2 Disposable incomes and EMTRs

Download PDF or a Word document of entire report.

4. Conclusions

Since publication of our earlier reports highlighting the substantial cuts in disposable income and the higher effective marginal tax rates resulting from the Government's proposed welfare to work reforms, many have contacted us asking about whether there are feasible options to ameliorate these adverse impacts. For people with disabilities placed on Newstart Allowance, we have modelled three illustrative possible options in this paper:

  • a higher maximum payment rate of NSA for those with disabilities of $228 a week (due to the higher costs faced by such people) (Option 1);
  • extension of the Pensioner Tax Offset and the associated liberalisation in Medicare levy shade-in arrangements (Option 2); and
  • the combined impact of the above two options (Option 3).

Option 3 would reduce the high effective marginal tax rates faced by people with disabilities placed on NSA and would also reduce their losses relative to the current DSP system. There would still, however, be major losses in income for those placed on NSA rather than on the existing DSP.

We have also modelled the impact of Option 2 for sole parents with one child aged six years and over. Other possible options for sole parents that we have not modelled here include:

  • an increase in the NSA  'free area' for each child after the first; or
  • an increase in the NSA payment rate for sole parents.

The Government has recently announced a series of circumstances that might qualify parents for temporary exemption from the 15 hours per week minimum participation requirement. Primary carer parents who are foster carers, distance educators, home schoolers, parents with large families or who care for a child with an illness or disability may be eligible to seek temporary exemption (Andrews, 2005c). In addition, parents who have been subjected to domestic violence will continue to be temporarily exempted from participation requirements. It is also clearer that primary carer parents will not be expected to take-up work if that work is to occur outside school hours, if no suitable child care is available, or if the cost of care would result in a very low or negative financial gain from working. However, it is important to note that all such parents will still be placed on Newstart Allowance, rather than PPS or DSP. Thus, if they have no private income, they will still be at least $29 a week worse off in 2006-07 relative to remaining on pension - even for long periods of 'temporary exemption'.  Another possible option would be to allow affected parents to return to PPS, perhaps with re-assessment on an annual basis, if their 'temporary exemption' appeared to involve a set of circumstances that were unlikely to change for many months.

A final issue is that the relative losses experienced by sole parents and people with disabilities placed on NSA rather than pension will increase over time. The maximum payment rate for Newstart is indexed by the CPI, whereas the pension rate is indexed by the higher of AWE or the CPI. As a result, by 2008-9, for example, the maximum payment rate for Newstart Allowance will be about $42 a week lower than that for Parenting Payment Single (rather than the $29 a week apparent for 2006-07.) In addition, while the pension 'free-area' is indexed to the CPI, the allowance free-area is not indexed, so that the relative losses for those with private incomes will grow further through time. Indexation of the two allowance threshold parameters would resolve this latter issue.

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re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

And I still have no Howard-authored or authorised answer to the question: What work is so important that the sick must be dragged from their meds to do it?

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

That $29 is more than 10% of anyone's weekly income is farcical. That the Government who keeps declaring such big surpluses is prepared to cut this from the most disadvantaged in society as a means to push the workforce participation rate up is obscene.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Sam Richards, there you go, posting unsubstantiated generalisations again.

"On a related point, despite protestations form the Welfare Lobby everybody knows that the Disability Support Pension is becoming a de-facto early old age pension for mature unemployed people. I know plenty of DSP bludgers and I am sure you do too."

Could you provide the statements of everybody to confirm your opinion? Also evidence, such as medical records, of these DSP bludgers that you know.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Terrence we are discussing disabled people who can work. So what if their abilities are less then the average person? Life sometimes gives you tough breaks but the point is, if you can work for a living, you should.

Do you propose to also give stupid people special treatment compared to highly intelligent people? What about more unattractive people in the modelling industry?

Staying at home when you can be working for a living is not good for a society either. It breeds laziness and a contempt for work which is far too common already in Australia.

On a related point, despite protestations form the Welfare Lobby everybody knows that the Disability Support Pension is becoming a de-facto early old age pension for mature unemployed people. I know plenty of DSP bludgers and I am sure you do too.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Gina, it is obscene. Our current leadership is too stupid to recognise the function of balance in our society.

So blind in fact, that it perceives its mandate as to exterminate by any means, rather than justly compete with, anything that challenges its own limited perspectives.

It has the foresight of a brat monopolizing a see-saw. It has simplistic one dimensional views of everything. Just look at this web-site for examples: The Middle East, Industrial Relations, Immigration, Terrorism. Welfare to Work is just another bit of unbalanced, Orwellian disguised bean counting.
There really are people in our society with disabilities who will never work and who will always need support.

To conveniently classify them as unemployed and pretend that they can be encouraged to work by starving or subjecting them to periodic esteem destroying reassessments is a gross obscenity.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

I agree with the Govt. Disabled people should work, if they can, like everybody else. What makes them so special that they should get more money? They want equal rights right up to the point that they have to work like everyone else.

As for the fact they may end up on little more income then they are on now by working is beside the point. They should be working, if they can, full stop.

Terrence Ed: Sam, Maybe the fact that they're not like everybody else, (in health/ability) has something to do with the fact they deserve special treatment.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Sam, your analogy comparing the disabled to the 'stupid' and the 'ugly' is offensive. I agree that there are very real problems with the DSP, and the issue of facilitating welfare to work measures for the disabled certainly needs addressing. Your prejudiced generalisations and obvious inability to empathise indicate that you are probably not in the best position to make a worthwhile contribution.

I'm interested, exactly how many is plenty? Do you genuinely believe that people on the DSP sit at home all day in preference to going to work? Do you think you are the only one that appreciates the dignity of being a working taxpaying contributor to society? Do you think that after suffering misfortune one becomes a bludger by default? How do you come up with such notions?

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Sam, as the sole parent of a child - one of three - who for some years needed regular specialist treatment including Paediatrician, OT, Physio and emergency hospital visits, I can assure you it was impossible for me to hold down a job for some years.

While I am able-bodied, and am now working (no thanks to the system I assure you, and in a crap job that does my family few favours) I can fully understand the difficulties involved in a person with a disability (as defined by government, remember) managing from day to day with dignity. Everyday things become that much harder - and that is not even counting the stigma associated with certain conditions.

Currently, there are not many employers willing to take on persons with disabilities. After the IR changes, I'll wager there will be markedly fewer, simply because there will be no incentive for employers to make any effort to accomodate ANYONE let alone those who need special treatment.

Clearly you have absolutely no idea what sole parents and people with conditions defined as a 'disability' are up against. Why make the system harsher than it has to be? I see this proposal as the government's moralistic judgement to punish people for not being Mr or Mrs Average. And isn't that the economic rationalist way: blame (and punish) the victim.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

"WelfaretoWork.org recently changed its name to Business Interface, Inc. to: better communicate its role as a demand-side workforce intermediary whose primary focus is to help businesses fill critical workforce gaps by employing the economically disabled. ..."

Well, there you have it: a temp agency for a pool of newly-created slave-labor.

Back in the late 80s I heard someone say - and I can't remember who, someone at work I didn't know well - that the Republicans intended to bring back slave labour and the poorhouse by 2000.

I thought I'd never heard such a crackpot notion.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

These attacks on the unemployed, disabled, single moms/dads were put to us long before the new IR changes and we really should have seen they were an advance of what was to come.

The changes will not kick in until July next year by which time business should have in place the necessary requirements to take on the new working poor and underclass of Australia-the ones who Kevin Andrews insultingly tells us must have the "dignity" of a job-no matter how low the pay and how bad the conditions.

It won't work but it will lead to severe hardship for many. In the crazy new world of John Howard employers will be so enamoured with feeling towards their fellow man that they will take on two workers at low wages for every one on high wages they can rid themselves of. This wacky thinking comes from this pampered Canberra lot who have no idea of how it really is out there in the real world and rely on instruction from the corporate class.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Spot on Michael. The other nifty little result will be that as people are forced onto Newstart and then required to take any job offered, Howard will claim that unemployment has fallen. What will be accomplished is that those who are currently on welfare will be working for wages which in effect will be not much more than they are getting from welfare payments-actually less once you take tax rates and increased spending as a result of going to work. Meaning of course that employers in labour cost only businesses will be able to employ people for little more than the dole. Oh hip hooray. What an advance.

Isn't Australia the prosperous one, now we have a workforce that works for less than they need to feed themselves. It just shows what great economic managers the coalition are. What a sorry lot past policy makers must have been. To think that we thought we could have an economy where people who worked could expect to keep themselves in some kind of dignity! What kind of country guarantees people rights at work as a matter of right and not of charity? How backward! I am so glad we are moving to the front ranks of the 19th century-again. Away with all that 20th century nonsense. Forward to the past I say-chop chop!

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Michael de Angelos: "This wacky thinking comes from this pampered Canberra lot who have no idea of how it really is out there in the real world and rely on instruction from the corporate class."

Oi! Michael! PLEASE could you and others NOT refer to Federal Politicians as "that Canberra lot". Canberra is a city of 300,000 people who are largely normal, and know plenty about the real world. A majority of these people, in fact, are staunchly opposed to the current government. It would be nice if Webdiarists set an example by ceasing to use a lazy periphrastic usage which tars the citizens of Canberra unfairly with a brush intended for others. It is time that non-Canberrans got over their hate affair with Australia's largest inland city, it really is.

If you really need a periphrastic placename, try: "that Kirribilli mob".

And I don't think that said Kirribilli mob are being 'instructed' by the (big) corporate class so much as 'ordered'. Unfortunately, I think the same is true of the Big Westralian and his mates. The sooner we ban corporate donations to political parties and go back to 1 voter, 1 vote, the better.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Sam Richards, in answer to your question "What makes them so special that they should get more money?", firstly, they get bugger all money to begin with.

But I would like to briefly tell you something about my sister who receives a pension due to schizophrenia. She is, unfortunately, not currently capable of holding down a job. This has not always been the case but as her illness has progressed and her day to day reality becomes more and more removed from what you would probably consider to be 'normal' holding down a job will be out of her reach for quite a while to come.

She failed to make a court date recently because she didn't even know what day it was - when your head is full of strange thoughts, looking at a calender is not high on the list of priorities. Sometimes she doesn't remember to eat and has lived without a phone or electricity as cutting them off was easier than managing to pay the bill. The pension at least keeps a roof over her head but this is supplemented by my parents who continue to help her out when she is in danger of being evicted. There is no point in attempting to reason with her and if you ever try out of frustration, her usual response is to cut off all communication.

As much as our family tries to help or get help for her, the system doesn't allow it as she is a legal adult which protects her right to privacy, as it should - even when it means protecting her from receiving any help at all.

If you can't feel any empathy for her, put yourself in the shoes of a grandmother who is trying to keep her daughter alive after a suicide attempt with three grandchildren in another room. That's a small glimpse of reality for a family living with mental illness.

What the pension means for the grandmother is that she knows her daughter will at least have the ability to pay her rent and eat when she decides to go off the family radar screen and also that her daughter has a tiny amount of dignity in the face of overwhelming odds. You sleep much better when you know your sister AT LEAST has a safe place to sleep.

The rest of us all work and pay taxes and those taxes combined more than pay for the cost of my sisters pension. If the above case was someone in your own family, how would you feel?

Also, to second Andy Christy, a lot of Canberra despises the current Federal government. They remember the slash and burn in the public service courtesy of MMW and the subsequent politicisation of the top departmental posts which has worked to the governments advantage in being able to cover up incompetence as with the recent DIMIA scandals.

When the Prime Minister declared he wouldn't be living at the Lodge (his wife prefering the Sydney climate perhaps?) and that Cabinet meetings would take place in Sydney instead, Canberra experienced a recession with the closure of many businesses that had come into existence to support the business of the Federal government. The government is made up of those who are elected from all over the country but only 'Canberra' ever gets the blame. To all those who enjoy a bit of Canberra bashing, look to your own houses first.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Having worked with the unemployed and DSP receipients in the past with Job Network, I know just how insane these laws are. The government, of course, has scant idea on the plight facing these people, and, as they the most vulnerable in the community, are therefore the easiest target.

My work with JN offered an unique insight to the inherent troubles facing the disadvantaged in their daily search for sustainable employment.

The government has not answered the simple question when relating to the plight of these people: How do they get a job? When you have a reluctant employer, concerned about disability or length of unemployment, an abyss of qualified training, and accompanying job placement, scant regard for the stigma placed on these people as social pariahs and lazy misanthropes, and a general unwillingness to properly tackle the underlying problems facing these people, where do you go?

It is all well and good to declare from your lofty position that, "disabled people should work." This is the government line, and there is little scope for definition. In reality, to declare that is to declare that you understand the street from your 33rd floor window. In other words, you have no idea what is happening, and are willing to toe the party line, regardless of the social cost attached to it. Who is the misanthrope, now?

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

It is painfully obvious that Sam Richards has not bothered to read the factual and sensible things that other posters have written. Like Scott I have worked for a Job Network provider and can endorse everything he has said.

But then again if you prefer to remain bedazzled by your government's lies then by all means continue to post nonsense that will make you a laughing stock.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Margo, since you asked, I think “middle class welfare” is out of control in Australia.

The last election was a disgrace with both parties bribing parts of the electorate with welfare, seniors and families. The Liberals especially targeted already wealthy people with welfare.

As for your example about single income families, I think there is a good case for family income splitting for tax purposes but I totally disagree with the current welfare approach to this problem.

Margo: Thanks Sam. I like consistency and you've got it!

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

S Marker I am not calling for people like your sister to go on these programs. Remember I said “if they can”, so please do not misrepresent what I said.

Brock Turner, I do not believe my comparison was offensive, just true. Yes disabled people have problems, and so do others. Many “disabled” just have “bad backs” remember (yes a generalisation but it is so true and self evident I do not feel it needs any justification).

Mardi Black, I was not discussing your situation but since you brought it up. I am sick of sole parents who want special favours. What sort of a society are we creating where people do not want to work? Families single or otherwise since the beginging of human time did what was required to put food on the table. Multiple jobs or whatever. Now single parents just refuse to work and want welfare. You “encourage” them to work and they complain that after taxes they are not greatly better off. They are better off but not enough for them to want to get off their arses and do it.

I think society is on a downhill slide with these attitudes.

Sam, do you think it is 'a special favour' to give tax subsidies to middle and upper income families where one parent works and the other stays at home? Do you think 'middle class welfare' of this sort is wrong, and if not, what distinction do you draw here?

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

From the Australian: Joyce happy with welfare-to-work legislation progress

The government will today announce a watering down of its tough welfare reforms following sustained pressure from coalition backbenchers.

Senator Joyce said the Nationals had sought changes on a number of issues which related to regional and rural Australians, in particular single parents.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

From yesterday's Australian, PM caves in on single parents


SINGLE parents will be given two extra years on higher welfare payments to retrain and prepare for a job, as the Howard Government softens its welfare package.

Top-up payments of about $20 a week will also be paid to thousands of single parents as part of a raft of concessions designed to placate testy Coalition MPs.

After months of negotiations, the parliamentarians are expected to formally endorse the modified welfare package at a partyroom meeting in Canberra tomorrow so it can be introduced into the parliament on Wednesday.

The Australian's headline: 'caves in' implies a major renunciation and many backsteps from the original policy. Not so. More like just taking a single turret off the sand-castle, and stepping up a little higher from the rising tide...

Coalition parliamentarians, particularly Nationals, have demanded a raft of changes to ensure that the package is equitable.

Particular concerns have been raised about the impact on single parents and pensioners with disabilities in rural towns, where there are fewer job opportunities.

Sounds like a few Nationals members read Marie Coleman's Webdiary article on rural communities at risk.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Disturbingly, the federal government says it has “softened” the unpopular Welfare to Work shambles by upping the required ages of dependent kids from six to eight years.

At the same time, parents are often cautioned that children must not cross roads alone until they are ten years, no ifs or buts.

Prepared to do a lot of Lollypop, Mr Andrew? I’d like to see that.

Margo: When did we forget Howard's fistful of dollars for one parent in two parent households to stay at home to look after the children - our most precious 'assets'? When did his barbecue stopper promise to help parents better balance work and family responsiblities fly out the door - see the IR package - and why is this topic now closed? Why must we run faster and faster towards an ever receding finish line, to use Howard's metaphor for how to keep 'the economy' strong? Why does a strong economy mean the lives of our least advantaged citizens must get even tougher and even more tightly controlled by the government? Have the set-in-stone answers dictated the questions, and if so, how did that happen?

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Mary Jenkins, so you oppose single women mothers working when their youngest child is 8 years old?

Well how about when the youngest child is 12? 16? 18? 21?

At some stage those women will have to work or do you think they should get a lifetime welfare pass? Or maybe you think by then they will be in their 40s and may be able to squeeze in to a disability pension for the rest of their life. There are after all plenty of “women’s problems” you can claim as an ailment.

Dee Bayliss, all I see here are people who seem to think that life long and easy to get welfare is a God given right in Australia.

So what if it is tough to hold a job and raise a child? Who said it was supposed to be easy? When you see single mothers complaining these days on TV about money it is not for food, it is for the children’s sports and excursions and remedial lessons.

Apparently in Australia now to be on the lowest rung of the economic and social ladder, that is long term unemployed and with children to support, does not mean you have to do without exotic sports and advanced education techniques.

What is being poor these days?

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

A single mother (divorced) with two children goes to a job interview
when her youngest son turns eight. She negotiates her terms of
employment at the job interview:

1. I can only work between 9.15am and 3 pm, no longer than 3pm Monday to Friday as I have to pick up my children from school.

2. Every Thursday I will need to finish at 2 pm as school finished early
that day.

3. I will also need pupil free days off.

4. I will need to be off during school holidays.

5. If my children are sick I'll need to be off work to take care of them.

6. I am also on call if my children are sick at school or there is an
emergency of some kind at the school.

7. I cannot access or afford such demanding childcare services, my
children are my responsibility.

What choice has an employer when other single people with no such
demands apply for the same job?

The Government's welfare policy of forcing single mothers into the
workforce when their youngest child is eight is nothing more than a
vicious attack on single parent women. It devalues the role of mothers
as homemaker. The assumption is that a single mother does nothing at
home or in her community like helping out at the school. She may even be
a carer of elderly parents. It gives no worth to the most important role
of a parent - that is being responsible for the welfare of their own

Shame on you Mr Howard and your Government.

Mary Jenkins
Organisation of Un(der)employed People WA Inc.
Po Box 1378 Bibra Lake WA 6569

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Why does the PM’s policy makers complicate laws when the Government decide to change them?

Who drafts these laws?

Are the consequences discussed by real people ie those that the new legislation will affect most?

Howard has back tracked, from forcing singles mothers to work when their youngest child goes to school, to when the child is eight. This rule is just as bad. Why must it be there in the first place? It is so petty.

Then again the distance a person must travel to a job was reduced to a still inappropriate distance.

· Why are all these petty little items brought into serious legislation?

· How will the distance be measured and by whom?

· Will it include the journey to work via the school the traffic hold ups and parking problems that take time?

· Such trivial items of distance to and from work will not make workers more productive or encourage people into the workplace, especially if they can’t afford to run or buy a car.

. So what is the point of all this nonsense in a serious bill? it is just to control people.

· Have the possibility of time taken to travel to work on public transport been considered too?

· Is all this IR just exercising authority ‘over’ people by employers, government and its agencies that victimise people on welfare?

· Such poorly drafted legislation needs to be questioned.

Today all workplaces are being scrutinised except parliamentarians. MP’s waste time shouting at each other during question time, is this productive? I think not.

People’s perceptions of time wasting inefficient MP’s is they are totally unproductive and don’t deserve all the benefits they acquire from the taxpayers after all they are only on a limited contract. Other people onlimited contracts do not get huge super payouts after a short term like 3 or 4 years. If re-elected their contract should starts again like other people instead they build up their super. Only corporate CEO's and MP's and bureacrats are able to have such lucrative job conditions.

Mary Jenkins
secretary of the organisation of Un(der)employed People WA Inc
PO BOX 1378 Bibra Lake 6569 WA
08 9418 2117

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Sam Richards, I take your point but I still have a problem with arbitrary comments about disability pensioners and whether or not they should be working. You and I can't know what every single disability pensioners story is and generalisations accusing them on mass of cheating just make it harder for those who really need the pension to survive. Bob Harkin's story illustrates another problem with the system.

To be honest, I'm scared that someone will arbitrarily decide that my sister is fit to work as she doesn't seem to have anything 'wrong' with her at first glance but wtih an attention of several minutes on any given subject before going off on a tangent into something else, I don't fancy her chances of holding down even a menial job.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

I am presently surviving on a disability support pension, and the operative word is "surviving", but just barely.

I'm now 59 years old. I suffered a stroke in December 2001 that has, after extensive rehabilitation at my own expense, left me partially paralised on my right side, though minor, but extreme numbness on that side with the result that, If I don't hold onto something, I frequently fall over. I am also subject to frequent bouts of vertigo.

During my productive years, I owned and managed businesses that employed from 19 to 167 Australians.

My last business went pear shaped in 1997, but unlike the James Hardie Industries, Alan Bonds, HIH and the like, all my employees received full entitlements and were offerred new jobs at equal to or greater than when I employed them.

I did not hide my assets or avoid my responsibilities.

I have professional qualifications and extensive experience in busiess and law.

By December 2003, my dwindling assets were nearly depleted and I sought assistance from Centrelink.

After little success while on NewStart and a spectacular (and painfull fall at the Centrelink offices, my Centrelink advisor urged me to apply for the disability support pension. My application was granted in September 2004. But I continue to apply for suitable work.

My doctors advise me that I should work no more than 12 hours a week. I accept that I cannot work the 50 to 60 that I did through most of my working life, but I think I am capable of more than 12 hours per week, though I will not be as productive as I once was. I am more than willing to take a job for which I am qualified at lower pay than I had previously received.


These new amendments are cruel and mean and not in the spirit of the Australia that I know and love.

But I guess Sam will say that I am a bludger.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

I remember that from 1988 until 1993 I was a single parent to my then teenage daughter. I was on a good knock throughout that period and had high income.

Compared to the circumstances of any single mum on a pension with young children, it was a piece of cake. But, damn, I found the experience to be extreme hard yakka.

I came to have great admiration for the tenacity and dedication of a number of unskilled mothers that I came to know over the years. Collectively their everyday achievements were marvels and well beyond my capacities even when I was fit and wealthy.

If we were a fair society, we would give them more, not less.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Ms Challitta,

I apologise for taking the approach of first addressing you by your first name without invitation, but, after all, I'm just a man.

Though I hate to disappoint you, I am not a wild eyed idealist or utopian. In 1975, I returned to Australia from an executive position in the US, where I also earned an MBA degree from the Wharton School. I became the Managing Director of an Australian subsidiary of an English multinational firm. I really do understand that people will never all earn the same, nor do I believe that they should.

But I do believe that a modern prosperous society can continue to be modern and prosperous and at the came time be generous to its most disadvantaged, at least sufficient that they can survive with dignity.

I reject the American model of ecomomic prosperity that forces large segments of the population into abject and desparate poverty.

We saw a lot of it in the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina, more than 10,000 people are homeless in Detroit. 63% of the population in the Appalachian regions of the US livbe at or below the poverty line. 42% of the children of single mothers in America live in households below the poverty line. Many are not strangers to going to bed hungry.

Is this the society we want here? Is this the economic prosperity promised by the Prime Minister?

Decency and a tiny bit of the cream is all that's required and all that I want.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Bob Harkins, it's not just the wealthy and the greedy that want ever more. Nowadays, just about everybody wants ever more and for doing less.

It's trying to get the balance right that is the issue. We are never going to be equal in that we are never going to all earn the same wage or income as it just doesn't work that way. The sooner we all agree on that and accept that, the better.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Jolanda, that is exactly what the whole of the recent changes in both IR law and Social Services law is all about. The most wealthy and the most advantaged want ever more. Absolute greed without bound. Mean and nasty greed at the expense of beggarising the population.

Our parliamentarians have demonstrated their personal greed consistently over many years. I personally always found it curious that Bob Hawk and his sometime mate Keating could afford multimillion dollar mansions on leaving Parliament and not just one. On a PM's salary? It's all the extra parliamentary rorts that are beyond the imagination of the working stiff or the small business owner.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Bob Harkins, unfortunately history will show that if you give some people an inch, they will take a mile.

We have to take human nature into consideration! Humans tend to be greedy.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Mary Jenkins, that's exactly why jobs need to be flexible and that is why the "full time" job with all its entitlements that used to exist really isn't viable any more.

If an employee can only offer certain times and services then they should be welcoming changes in IR Legislation so as to ensure that the market changes to suit their needs and stay sustainable.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Bob! Please don’t think that I meant anything by using your full name. I just copied and pasted as that way I don’t get the name wrong. I didn't even think about it, sorry.

I never meant to imply that you particularly thought that we should all earn the same but I do think that there is some confusion in society as to the role of the employer and the role of the employee and I think that is because people feel cheated by the system.

Giving more handouts to those that are disadvantaged is not going to help them feel dignity. Of course they need help in times of need, but, we need to help people get out of the rut that they are in, not just pay them to stay there. Unfortunately there is a welfare trap.

We need to also ensure that we don’t produce or create any more disadvantage. We need to ensure that the system is set up to provide equal educational opportunities, providing support and encouragement regardless of social standing or nationality. Then, whether a person is successful or not is entirely up to them - at least then people wont feel cheated.

What hope do Aboriginal children in their "disadvantaged schools" have. What hope do those in the poorer disadvantaged areas have when they have to compete in academic competition with those from private schools who have access to an optimal learning environment.

The system isn't fair and is creating a lot of the problems that we are experiencing.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Margo: “Why must we run faster and faster towards an ever receding finish line, to use Howard's metaphor for how to keep 'the economy' strong?”

Not long ago, I found out, Margo.

At about smoko one day last winter, I went to our biggish public hospital, pretty crook and in huge pain, and lined up for many hours, then was put on trolley for many more hours, while through the curtain about a foot from my face a bloke I knew died after the savagery of a failed resuscitation attempt – all at full volume SurroundSound.

None of the real horror came from any lack of sweating, purposefully frantic hard yakka by the scant nursing and medical staff.

They’re not there for the money – it’s the job. And the job is in a place which has been systematically asset-stripped by Howard and the very dirty private health insurance industry.

Howard’s point is that if you are poor, this is how you will die.

If you’re blind, no public hospital will fix cataracts in under two years. Or rotten hips, spines, knees or other lucrative orthopaedic parts.

Good medical treatment is only available for those in massively taxpayer-subsidised private insurance.

Or the wealthy “self insured.”

At the same time, our world-renowned Medicare system has been destroyed – not smashed as Howard promised in the eighties, but nibbled away, as a rat will nibble in a grain silo.

The Rodent saw Medibank come ashore in 1974, when he entered parliament under the leadership of the absurd ninny Billie Mackie Snedden.

In 1975 he went to the Treasury benches after the Bjelke-Kerr coup, and became treasurer on the coat-tails of Sir Philip lunch – a corrupt, grubby do-nothing drone in the Holt-McMahon tradition.

And remained asleep at the wheel (or is that in the teapot?) until March 1983. Medibank was smashed, but Medicare rose from its aashes, hated and reviled by the Liberal party, but enjoyed and widely used by Australians.

These days good, solid preventative visits to our GPs have been ripped out of our bulk-billing system.

The waiting rooms at public hospitals remain packed. State Premiers run chicken from this Terror.

Why did they negotiate with Howard on “Terror” but leave our public health system for dead?

I was admitted at about 4am, but only to an ancilliary “emergency ward” unit.

Days after the emergency took me to the hospital, I received emergency surgery (registrar level), and was admitted to a packed public ward, with days’ worth of painkillers zonking me to the eyeballs.

All of us (public patients) were ill and probably each brimming with our own brand of Golden Staph. Wound smashing infection set in, in a way which does not occur in private rooms.

Months later, I have a painful wound requiring daily dressing. Similar wounds in privileged circumstances usually heal quickly and cleanly.

This is how the poor die in Australia – not with a bang, but a whimper. Howard’s Forgotten (but nonetheles loathed) People.

I hope yez got insurance Margo , or yez fit as a Mallee Bull. I hope yez wuz insurable.

Our stretched public hospitals are still where Australia trains our best doctors, many of whom go off as well-versed surgeons and physicians.

Our public nurses are paid less after years of training and slog than are the average Inner City cocksucking finance or insurance capons in the first days of their soft, lilywhite-handed criminal careers.

But we’re still thousands of yards better off than almost all of the world “running] faster and faster towards an ever receding finish line.”

At least I wasn’t stuck under rubble at the bottom of a cliff in the Vale of Kashmir with winter and gangrene setting in.

Peter Classwar 101 cont’d Woodforde

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

PS: I don't give a toss what you call me.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

I really think you need to re-read the report on which we are all commenting, Ms Challita. Other than a side comment from me, I do not believe anyone has advocated increasing so-called "handouts."

The new welfare legislation is concerned with making it more difficult to receive what you call a handout, to "hand out" a fair bit less and to deepen the poverty trap even more by reducing the economic incentives for the disabled and single parents (not all of whom are female) to work.

I personally take offense at the notion that what I presently receive by way of a disability support pension is a handout. In my productive years, I paid millions in tax and provided the vehicle for many more millions of various taxes (paye tax, sales tax, payroll tax, and the beat goes on.)

Do I have no legitimate expectation that: in return for my contributions; in return for my training of over 100 apprentices who are now taxpaying tradesmen and tradeswomen; in return for the people with spinal injuries that I employed; in return for my long term contributions to wheelchair sport in Australia, particularly in NSW; I now get enough to survive with, rather than have the little I get chipped away or be forced to do menial labour of some sort.

National Socialism in Germany in the last century had a slogan: Arbeit Macht Frei. It was emblazoned at the entry to the Bergen-Belson camp and others. It was applied to not just the madness of the attempts to exterminate Jewish people, but also the handicapped, political prisoners, Gypsies. No bloody handouts there.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Bob Harkins, sorry but I call a pension or welfare a hand out as that is in essence what it is. I don’t know why you would find it so offensive, if you didn't want to have to go on a pension because of the stigma that might be attached to it, then I think that you should have planned for disability or retirement so that you didn’t need to go on welfare instead of getting upset at me.

It’s this entitlement mentality that is causing the majority of the problems and confusion. We all pay taxes and they are to pay for our cost of living and services. Nothing is free and for some the cost is higher than for others, and so is their standard of living.

The taxation office is neither a superannuation fund nor a bank where money is kept to then be returned by way of a pension.

We can’t sustain that type of process and administration. Maybe that is why so many services are depleted of funds and are falling apart. We are burning the candle at both ends with the attitude and that feeling of superiority that doesn’t allow us to appreciate and see things for what they are. If you don’t work for it then it is a hand out, no matter which way you want to look at it.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Like the vast majority of your posts, Mrs Challita, I find this one alogical.

How does one plan for "disability"? Not all risks are either predictable or insurable, not all lives are lived in cotton wool and no-one "should" have to pay tax nor do all people do so.

On the one hand you seem to want the system to give you something you haven't planned for and on the other you seem to demand that your "taxes" entitle you to specific benefits. They don't. All collections go into consolidated revenue and no part of what you contribute is allocated to any paticular governmental expenditure. It's like a great big honey pot and first in best served. When the honey runs out we need to gather more.

I really think it is time you acknowledged what has passed between us. I agreed to look at your case for no fee. I determined that I could not help you on the (extensive) material you supplied. I have apologised for keeping you waiting. You were not happy with my decision and are determined to obtain "justice" as you see it wherever you can.

Interestingly enough, contrary to your expressed views about planning for disability or misfortune, you do not seem to have planned for yours to the extent that you are prepared to pay for it.

I do not recall the bunch of flowers, the thank you note or the effusive offer of a gratuity in return for the hours I spent considering the material you had given me. I, of course, had not asked for nor was I entitled to any such but I had planned for the lack of it - I was not disappointed.

Under the circumstances, however, you will forgive me Madam, if my view of your comments either directly or obliquely about me and my profession strike me as somewhat coloured. That colour adds an additional weight in my view to your comments about the less fortunate amongst us and their ability to control their destiny.

I cannot see for the life of me why someone who is poor but has done the best he can according to his lights and his ability all his life is not entitled to be looked after at least a little with food, shelter and such comfort as the system may afford him in his declining years. I hope for his sake he did not spend his life planning for that particular disability.

Your attitude expressed in these annals robs me of sympathy for your view.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Margo, I'd be honoured.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Yolanda, you are perfectly correct. It would have been extremely easy to protect and salt away most of my assets before my company got into difficulty.

I was then already a solicitor practicing in the misnamed jurisdiction of Equity. I understood trusts and knew how to make them bullet-proof.

I should have screwed my employees and creditors. For sure, in your philosophy, I should have been as greedy and selfish as my more clever contemporaries, Alan and Christopher and Abe. Greed is good if you already have more than you need, bad if you do not have enough.

I have no-one to blame but myself for not anticipating that a clot of blood would seriously affect my right hand side motor abilities at age 55 and cut my working life short. I should have realised that no-one would ever employ me regardless of my skills or qualifications.

I'll get by. And, luckily, my life expectancy today is far less than the average for blokes my age, so I won't need to be part of the Unlucky Country policies of Mr Howard for too long.

My early life lessons included duty, responsibility and community. Sadly, I guess, they did not include lessons in greed, selfishness and callousness to my fellow man. When I was practicing law, I did far too much work pro bono for my own good.

Thank you for this late life lesson in greed.

Work will make you free. Good slogan!

Margo: Hi Bob. I can't employ you because I'm fully committed, to say the least, but you sound like my kinda bloke, and the day might come... Would you be interested in doing some comments editing on a voluntary basis to see if you like it?

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Well Malcolm, let me see. We have a small business and we had "income protection" for many years to protect us from disability when we could afford it. WE can't afford it now but we have superannuation to protect us in our retirement and life insurance to protect our family in case of death. If we were making lots of money and didn't have four children with special needs we might even have savings.

Of course not all people work and earn enough wages so they can’t pay all of this but nowadays even those that do have money spend it and don’t put it away because then it will mean that they wont get the pension. I never said that those that are in need shouldn’t be helped. Why do you insist on trying to discredit me? I just said that we need to be better educated and we need to make better choices and we need to be required to take some responsibility as the honey pot isn’t bottomless and honey is running thin.

This is the problem with the system. It’s a honey pot and it is first in best dressed. So far too many people, because people are either greedy or they just don’t care, spend their money, or even give it away to family so that they don’t have any so that they can get handouts. That’s reality - it doesn’t pay to be good.

I don’t know why you are bringing this matter between us up in this thread. Contrary to what you think I am not the one that has the problem and attitude, it is you. If you want to come clean and put it all out in the open you will recall that I did thank you when I picked up the documents, I didn’t give you flowers because let's just say I didn’t think that they would be appropriate and I didn't realise that if I didn't it would be thrown in my face.

When I got upset was when you responded to one of my posts in another thread and pretty much referred to my case, and implied that you had seen the documents and implied certain things in order to try to discredit me. You will remember that I responded by posting the first paragraph of your letter to me that said, in as many ways as you possibly could that I was not your client and that you never agreed that I would be your client and that you therefore owed me not duty of care or otherwise, so in essence what you wrote in your letter after that about the matter was worth nothing as you absolved yourself from any legal responsibility to tell me the truth or to afford me any duty of care and you made it very clear. So forgive me for being disappointed but you are the one that brought it to this forum and tried to use it to discredit me. Of course I understand that you were under no obligation to me so therefore I let it go.

Please remember however, that it was you that made the connection between us on Webdiary - not me and you presented it in a manner that was aimed to discredit me and my family. I responded because I was so disappointed that you could have done that publicly, and I will stand up to protect my family’s name as many times as necessary as I am sick to death of being discredited and defamed.

Our matter is being put before the Court and we will fight this until the system affords my family procedural fairness and does the right thing and investigates our serious allegations. When the time is right and if the system keeps trying to cover it up, I am going to publicly post the documents and hold my own public investigation on the internet on a blog. Then we will see what the public thinks about the documents that I have and what has been done to my children and family and then the truth will be told!

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Bob Harkins, no you shouldn't have screwed your employees and creditors. What you should have done is, when things were going well, you should have protected your income just in case something happened and paid into superannuation and saved.

If we don't start teaching people properly how to plan for the future and save and if we don't make the honey pot a little less sticky and sweet we are going to be in serious strife. Disability these days is a common thing, most people suffer some form of disability as they get older. We are not a healthy people. WE are all going to go downhill if we continue on this path as the system cannot support so many people on pensions and keep them at a decent level of living and also keep the system and society functioning at an acceptable standard and level - something has to give. I think we are already seeing that happening.

We need to take responsibility and be trained to look ahead and plan. This living for today is causing serious problems.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Mrs Challita, If I wanted to discredit you I would do so properly. You have placed me in a position where my ability to comment about any of your allegations is hampered.

You sent me a private email asking me to look at your matter. I said I would, I did. Given the extraordinary obligations that have been placed on us by the new Legal Profession Act, I was simply making it clear that considering your matter was without any liability whatsoever. If you want to publish my letter, that is a matter for you. Please do not, however, quote selectively from it.

I'd love you to publish your material so people could make their own assessment about your allegations and there could be an end to the matter.

Margo: I'd prefer to close the topic, Malcolm. Jolanda, no more of this on Webdiary, please.

re: Welfare to work: creating the economically disabled?

Of course Margo. Let Malcolm have the last word.

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