In recent days Australia’s Minister for Social Services has made yet another attack on the poorest and most marginalised people in the country. If you’ve been reading the news you’ll recall that these attacks began back before Christmas, when cuts to services and payments were rumoured.
Those of you who read International news will be aware that very similar cuts and changes are happening in the UK. Also at the behest of the Murdoch media and its tory toadies. In the UK these policies have been linked to increases in suicide amongst disabled people. But you won’t hear Rupert Murdoch complaining about that. He probably considers them to be “poor competitors.” Because life in the West is all about competing for that minimum wage job or a contract in a cube farm, while the 0.1% sit back and watch the interest on their Caymans’ accounts roll in.
People on a disability pension are disabled. They already suffer from a physical or mental condition that prevents them participating in the economy, as the media would put it. They’re disabled.
This latest attack specifically targets those living with depression and anxiety. People whose symptoms of anxiety and or depression have made it impossible for them to hold down a job. Andrews and McClure, neither of whom are psychologists, opine that since depression and anxiety are considered episodic that therefore there will be periods when people suffering from these conditions will be between episodes and able to hold down a job. That’s how they’re trying to sell their review.
There are already thousands of able bodied people who can’t find jobs, because there simply are not enough jobs. Insulting people publicly with taunts about “get off the couch” might deflect some attention from governmental mismanagement, but it won’t change the unemployment numbers. Kicking people off DSP will make the unemployment figures worse. This will be good for mill owners complaining about the minimum wage being too high or otherwise seeking to reverse Australia’s social development.
In addition to victimising people who are already disabled and affected by stigma and symptoms, what this does is funnel millions more dollars into religious organisations.
A person suffering from mental illness that is periodically better or worse is not likely to be able to compete successfully in the work force. Unless the government is planning on handing out funding to employers willing to take on people living with disabling mental illness. That doesn’t seem likely since they’ve declined to fund SPC and others just to stay in operation.
There is already a system in place for assisting those who are able to return to work. The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service has 160 offices around Australia and provides the necessary services to people who can look to get back to work. But that’s a Commonwealth, public service. The Australian government, increasingly in bed with religious organisations such as those implicated in the school chaplains program, seeks to cut public and secular funding in favour of bible bashers.
If you take a bit of a look at our Mr McClure, this all starts to make a bit more sense. Patrick McClure has been associated with Mission Australia, among other religious organisations. You may recall that Mission is involved in the so called work for the dole forced labour. That organisation also runs job seeker and housing agencies. They recieve funding from the Federal Government to operate these businesses as well as being religious and able to dodge paying tax on their profit.
Putting people with specific mental health disabilities onto a “working age payment” puts them under more pressure which is likely to make their symptoms worse. That increases the burden for them and their families as well as increasing health care costs to the public. Employers are unlikely to take on someone who has “episodes.” This means that more than 200,000 more people will be on the books at Mission and Salvo’s job agencies at a cost of something like $1,000 per week each, to the taxpayer.
It’s a bloody brilliant way of fattening the bottom line of Andrews’ religious mates. Choosing a group of people already having trouble keeping their heads above water, unlikely to be able to mount a vigorous defence against these policies. People who have been stigmatised and degraded repeatedly in the Murdoch media, that has sought to create a stereotypical belief that the disabled are all lazy rorters who choose to be ill rather than work. Taking advantage of a picture that has gradually and carefully been built up over a long time, to serve exactly this purpose. Then subject them to a punitive system that results in more opportunity for religious exploitation.
The question will be, are Aussies vindictive enough to be willing to pay a grand a head for this little endeavour?
If we were seriously considering the welfare of human beings the best and simplest option would be to pay a basic living income, as is being discussed in Switzerland. But this is not about the well being of people. This is a ruse for a business deal. A bloody lucrative one at that.