This is the first of a weekly blog about Parliamentary Business. This week: Social Security Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill, Senate Committee Inquiry and a Petition against Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients.
Every week, I will discuss selected Bills, Petitions and Committee Inquiries. Where appropriate, I will discuss Matters of Public Importance raised in Parliament. Through this weekly blog, I also hope to create awareness about the APH website and encourage active interaction.
Please note: this section is a discussion, therefore it is from my own point of view. Please read the official Explanatory Note because this will explain the information as tabled.
It appears the Government’s aim is to punish as many welfare recipients as possible. Even those with a reasonable excuse.
The bereaved, widowed and incapacitated due to illness are all now “Jobseekers” under this Bill.
Even those genuinely incapacitated will need to participate in jobsearch.
These individuals will be scooped up into the same nauseating bucket the Liberals carry around at their sides filled with condemnation and labelled “Bludgers.”
Since at least the 1990’s Governments have changed access to the Widow’s pension and Wife’s pension. These pensions are primarily the domain of women, because they are now unable to rely on a husband’s income due to his illness or death. This is another move to completely cancel these payments. Hence, my view is that they should be revisited and reinstated – not abolished
These recipients, mainly women, are not bludgers. They are often active in family life and the community. Individual case managers should support Mature-Aged jobseekers in a voluntary program. A 20-year-old at a counter telling them that they haven’t done enough, should not exist. They should not live in fear they will be ‘cut off’ because they are the mercy of the system.
Mature-aged jobseekers are currently able to participate in voluntary work. This will no longer be the case. Are the Liberals suspicious this is a ‘loophole’ to avoid paid work? That is how The explanatory note reads to me. The vile deep bucket labelled “Bludgers” now includes volunteers.
The Liberal Party does not value the contribution of volunteers (particularly women). Many mature aged women and men, who have not worked, would have a history of active participation in the community and schools. In addition, they often perform caring duties for grandchildren, because formal childcare is difficult to access and punishment is ludicrous, because this is a valuable contribution to society.
Mature Aged Jobseekers, seek employment, often because of illness, death and/or bereavement of a loved one and therefore should participate in voluntary jobsearch. Jobsearch can have an emotional toll on a mature aged individual, therefore, specialised case managers who understand this demographic need to support this group.This is because the sudden requirement for jobsearch can be a shock and furthermore is a huge disruption to their regular routine.
The nature and extent of jobseeker compliance is harsher in terms of punishment and wider in the scope of recipients it is proposed to encompass.
I would describe the widening and intensity of financial penalties as ‘welfare punishment creep.’
This term describes the growing number of welfare recipients financial penalties apply to and the increasing lack of consideration and reasoning for which penalties are applied.
This new Bill recommends a financial penalty to all jobseekers, with no consideration for a reasonable excuse, it appears.
This Bill proposes:
This section in the explanatory memorandum reads as if the Liberal Party has the assumption that ‘every welfare recipient is trying to rip off the system, and they will find any excuse to get out of working‘. Do the Liberals see all welfare recipients as underhanded and dishonest? Did you really think they would stop at cheezel eating X-Box players?
Welfare recipients are required to agree with participation in drug testing:
The Government is implementing these drug trials under the premise that drug tests will show that jobseekers are not willing and able to participate in jobsearch.
A one off drug test may not show any indication of long-term or chronic drug use. Drug tests may not indicate the individual is unable to participate in jobsearch. In addition, as different tests test within the limitation of different time frames, this will not always ensure natural justice.
Urinary Drug Testing
This picks up drugs in a person’s system 3-4 days prior. This does not indicate chronic drug use or the inability to jobsearch or indicate impairment to work.
This will only show drugs used at least four weeks prior.
This means that not only are the most recent three to four weeks invisible, but so too are drugs used prior to the growing time of the hair tested. This approach approximately samples from a month prior to hair collection back as far as four months prior to hair collection depending on the length of the hair sample.
This means that a jobseeker is penalised, even if they are in a period of cessation.
..if the cessation of drug use does not extend back to further than four months prior to sample collection, the subject may argue that any drug found reflects use prior to the time of cessation
The other concern is that chronic drug users will simply shift to drugs because they are not detected in hair testing or urine testing. Especially relevant is one such drug is GBH (liquid ecstasy).
GBH is the drug that saw 21 people hospitalised earlier this year.
Testing requires rigorous standards. Otherwise, contamination can occur. The NATA information paper also indicates that false negatives and false positives can occur.
It is vital that welfare recipients experience compassion and fairness
Another concern is jobseekers who are on psychiatric medication can return a false positive (see linked article above). Statistics also show that many individuals who are drug dependent have a comorbidity of mental illness.
The Australian Government’s own Department of Health and Aging reports that:
Comorbidity or the co-occurrence of mental disorders and substance use disorders is common.
The DMS-5 classifies Drug and Alcohol Abuse as a disorder.
“substance use disorder describes a problematic pattern of using alcohol or another substance that results in impairment in daily life or noticeable distress.”
Therefore, individuals are at greater risk if they have a psychiatric disorder, with a co-morbidity of drug addiction, or have a substance abuse disorder.
In addition, it is this specific group who are most likely to not have the self-efficacy to use the complaints system.
Fairness is an issue. When we are dealing with the most vulnerable in society, this is a major concern.
If the Government is concerned about substance abuse, they should invest in prevention and support services and not punitive welfare.
Please see the petition below and sign it!
These types of measures of consolidating payments is in line with the approach of the UK Conservative Party. This was largely rejected by the Social Welfare Sector in the UK.
The Sickness that is the UK Conservative Party is on display right now. That is thanks to Jeremy Corbyn. No credit to the former UKLabour party given. Do we really want to vote for a Government that follows suit? We are the country of the fair go. Not a country of abject poverty.
The Social Security Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill has concluded it’s second reading and is now referred to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs. This committee covers Health, Social Services and Human Services.
Individuals and organisations can submit their opinions or proposals to the committee for consideration. Here is the information on how to write and submit a submission.
Submissions should be received by 4 August 2017. The reporting date is 4 September 2017.
There is not a lot of time to participate in feedback on this Bill, therefore, if you are against these changes, I would encourage you to write a submission as a direct protest.
Signing change.org petitions and sharing memes have their purpose; however, a submission is a direct voice to the Committee considering the Bill.
Many people regularly sign online petitions using platforms such as change.org, however, I would like to raise awareness that there are always petitions online in Federal and State Parliaments.
In fact, The House can only accept e-petitions that have been submitted via its e-petitions website. Signatures from other electronic or paper petitions cannot be added to your petition.
The petitions page is worth bookmarking. Submitting petitions to parliament (State and Federal) and supporting official petitions submitted to Parliament is also critical in the stand against an issue.
To support a Petition: Click on the Petition Link. Complete your details, tick the terms and conditions box, go to your email and confirm your signature.
Standing up for progress – Achievement Unlocked!
To the Hon. Speaker of the House of Representatives and Members of the House of Representatives
Certain citizens of Australia
The petitioners request that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial of drug testing for welfare recipients.
The petitioners request that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial of drug testing for welfare recipients. The suggested “random” selection of subjects by profiling people thought to be high risk will lead to discriminatory selection, while income quarantine and compulsory treatment are ineffective measures that will further marginalise the vulnerable. Rather than supporting people into employment, this will force those with substance abuse problems to disengage with the system and seek other means to support themselves. This reflects the experience of other jurisdictions, where mandatory testing has proven expensive and ineffective. Such resources would be better targeted towards supporting our overburdened treatment sector, as metropolitan and regional service providers continue to be understaffed and underfunded.
We ask that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial, preventing the invasive and stigmatising practice of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients.
I hope you enjoyed this first weekly review of Parliamentary Business. Until next week….
This is the third article in a series which discusses how the One Nation Party leaders promote themselves compared to who they really are. Through this article I will discuss how One Nation is attacking the worker and the poor. I am asking One Nation voters to reconsider their vote.
Anecdotally and through observation of social media engagement; One Nation Voters do not represent the elite and wealthy class in Australia. The majority of One Nation voters appear to be either working lower to middle class or recipients of full or part welfare payments.
Other suggestions have been that this party is also the third party choice of ex-Palmer United Party voters. Voters for Palmer were identified as low socio-economic, suburban and rural voters, low education status, unemployed or working part time.
One Nation has decided to support the ABCC (Australian Building and Construction Commission) and six billion dollars worth of cuts to welfare.
The support for the ABCC will see a return of a star chamber style inquiry for workers who may stop work due to safety breaches (including deaths in the workplace). There is a punitive motive behind this commission. That is to deter workers from striking. By sending the message that they will may be fined or jailed if they stop work. The Government is protecting the profits of business.
The worker will have less rights than a murderer, rapist or drug dealer. They will not be entitled to a lawyer and they will not have the right to silence. They can go to jail if they refuse to answer questions.
For One Nation voters reading this, is this the type of workplace you want for either yourself, your family, friends or your children? How will you cope when your seventeen year old apprentice tradie is facing jail time? Facing jail because they chose to stop work because someone died from an incident on site? One Nation supports that the worker should keep working. They support this even if this means the hazard has not been controlled. They support this even if the workers may be in danger.
Here is what your support for this party, along with Coalition voters will bring to workers:
I get that there are many people out there who absolutely hate the worker and hate unions. These people normally support the Liberal and National Parties and Family First. I find it difficult to reconcile that One Nation voters would support a bill that endangers the life of workers. Or vote to see them jailed. I find it hard to reconcile that many people in this group fought hard against the VLAD laws under Newman in QLD, and would support a party that takes away the civil rights of the worker.
Abbott and Turnbull have worked their hardest to bash unions and create a lot of distrust. The existence of unions isn’t some fun game where you get to join in to bash unions. Unions have a legitimate purpose in the workplace. One of their key responsibilities is to ensure the employer provides a safe working environment. A safe working environment means you go home the same (or better) than you went to work.
I think there are a lot of people out there who should be standing up and on the side of the worker and unions. However for some reason choose the side of the elite and the wealthy. Why?
As a voter of One Nation, I have heard you say time and time again, that you “Stand up for Australians.” Well where is your empathy for working Australians? Where was your outcry the last few weeks when five workers died in construction and transport? Where is your attack on Pauline Hanson and her ilk? Crickets
Voting isn’t a game. Vote with your heart and your head. The support of this bill will ruin the lives of hard working Australians and you are now a part of that.
The harsh reality that One Nation voters will need to face, along with Liberal and National party voters, is that workers will die because of this bill.
If you voted for One Nation in the faith that they would be good for the “Average Australian” please start taking a lot of notice of what they support in the Senate and reconsider your vote.
The other plan that Pauline Hanson announced that they are supporting, is six billion dollars of cuts to welfare.
In a nutshell, this is taking money away from anyone who receives family payment, all pensioners (including veterans) and families who have just had a baby. In addition, if you lose your job you will need to wait for four weeks for any unemployment benefit. Some who live week to week will get kicked out of rental accommodation. They will not be able to afford food. They will not be able to even purchase items for hygiene such as soaps, shampoo or women’s sanitary products, which are essential, not a luxury item.
This will increase homelessness, poverty and crime. Having no money for phone or transport will actually make it harder for people to find work. This then makes it easier for the Government to punish people and cut them off unemployment for longer periods.
The original period was six months and Labor, the Greens and Jackie Lambie fought against this and now the Government is ‘compromising’ and have changed it to four weeks.
Here is a video about poverty in Australia. Pauline Hanson thinks that by making poverty worse, it will force people to get a job. You know and I know that, that is a ridiculous way to look at the world. Especially if you have lived it or are living it. Especially when you know that there are 19 jobseekers for every job.
I know people who voted for Hanson, understand what it is like to live week to week. I know they know what a struggle that is. Imagine at the end of that week when you are checking your bank every five minutes – there is another three weeks to go. What would you do? What is the party you voted for supporting? I am asking you very sincerely to really think about this. Please put yourself in their shoes, if they are not your own. I am asking you to have empathy for these people and I want to know why you are not angry – because I am livid.
Pauline Hanson is not standing up for Australians. It is time to have a think about whether she is just another politician who has pulled the wool over the eyes of voters. It is time to think about what her real motives are.
I am targeting Pauline Hanson and the One Nation party because they asked genuine good hearted Australians for their vote, on the illusion that her party would help people who are doing it tough. Hanson knows very well, that Australians are passionate about standing up for the battler. She marketed her party to appeal to those emotions.
I know that so many people have lost faith in politics. I know that so many people out there are looking for a third option. Pauline Hanson knows this and this is why she has made a come back. I am angry because she has tricked so many good people and promoted her party based on lies.
Pauline Hanson is an ex-Liberal party member who was sacked from the party because her racism against Aboriginal people and Asian people was so nasty, even the Liberals did not want her. She has always believed that those who own their own businesses are ‘harder workers’ than the average Australian worker and she has never had time for anyone on welfare.
For those who say that ‘I need to familiarise myself with Hanson’s policies’ she is proving that her policies are not worth the paper they are written on.
A leopard does not change it’s spots and Hanson will not change hers. If you truly voted for this party, not because you agree with her racist beliefs, but you truly believed that she would stand up for the battler and the average Australian. Please take heed of her history and her actions now and reconsider your vote.