Archive for April 5th, 2011


The Policy on Returns

April 5, 2011

Under the Trade Practices Act 1974 and state fair trading legislation, your return policy must allow a refund to a buyer if the consumer goods you sold (other than by auction):

  • are or become defective through no fault of the buyer;

  • are not for the purpose you stated or the purpose the buyer made known to you;

  • don’t match your description or sample; or

  • have defects that were not obvious or that you did not bring to the buyer’s attention.

When a product does not meet the above requirements, the buyer can ask for a refund within a reasonable period of time. There is no set time limit for a buyer to obtain a refund. You can ask a buyer for proof of purchase. You can also ask them to demonstrate that any problem with the goods was not their fault.

Mineo Minuzo Untitled Moss-Covered Thingo, 2008

Image Credit: Mineo Mizuno

Anxiety: the gift to make you grow

By Pauline McKinnon (C)
Perhaps the title of this article surprises you? You may be startled at the concept of viewing anxiety as a gift – not a problem. You may initially think that I’m uninformed or that I don’t understand the pain of anxiety. Preferably though, this title may cause you to be curious enough to read on!  
Let me assure you that I know only too well the immense pain of living with anxiety. My own experience manifested as agoraphobia. It well and truly grounded me and I fought it hard for 8 years until I finally found the way to freedom. That was about 25 years ago and it’s been that long since I last experienced a panic attack.  
To my joy, those 25 years have been fully lived – in contrast to living with agoraphobia, where life is so limited. Those years have also produced 4 editions of my story In Stillness Conquer Fear, the establishment of my consulting practice, professional training as a family therapist and several other publications, some relating to children and anxiety. All that experience has helped me distil a different view of anxiety, something I’d like to share here.  
We know that anxiety can manifest in panic attacks, obsessive compulsive conditions, eating disorders, depression and various psychosomatic illnesses. We know that anxiety can cause immense unhappiness and emotional anguish and that the symptoms it produces can severely spoil people’s lives. Since I first told my story, anxiety disorders have become recognised as conditions to be diagnosed and treated in various ways . and many support organisations have developed to assist sufferers. This is excellent progress. But it highlights too, just how prevalent anxiety is within our community – and throughout, especially, the Western world. Therefore it seems to me that this prevalence is telling us something far more important than simply statistics. In my experience, everything happens for a reason! So for what reason might we be experiencing anxiety?  

Image Credit: Altered Cigar Box,
Usually, we assume, for no good reason. But we can make a choice here. We can choose to accept that anxiety is a diagnosable condition and that it happens because we are predisposed to such conditions, or that we’ve experienced a traumatic childhood, or that we’re unable to cope with difficulties such as the state of the world and so on. Certainly those factors give rise to anxiety, and we can settle for that view if we wish. But that would be a fairly limited view and may keep us well and truly stuck, helpless in our anxiety. Alternatively, we can choose a positive, liberating view of anxiety!  
Just suppose that anxiety, rather than being a ‘disorder’ was actually a gift to help us grow! Imagine how liberating that could be. Imagine that you could actually benefit from your anxiety by listening to the messages it has for you. You could heed those messages, learn from them, change something and lose your anxiety!  
Most of us need a bit of change. We grow out of childhood rather like a house that could do with some maintenance or renovation or even an extension that might make that house better, more whole, closer to completion. When we want to change our house, it’s often because the roof is leaking or the plaster is falling off the walls. To fix these, we need some help from the experts and some tools to work with . but it’s the signs of decay that get us started on the changes that are needed.  
Anxiety, in whichever form it affects us, is like the leaking roof or the cracks in the walls. The reason for our anxiety just might be a sign that can get us started on necessary change. So let’s begin to view anxiety differently. OK?  
Then we need to listen to its message. What’s going on in our lives to increase our anxiety? Have we been experiencing stress – and what is stressful for us? Are we caring for ourselves, eating properly and resting adequately? Are we overworked and exhausted, living with a sense of urgency? If so, why? Have we forgotten how to laugh and have fun? Maybe. Have we learned to be self-conscious, afraid of rejection? Where is this coming from? Are we too critical or judgmental of our self and of others? Why? Do we feel threatened by others? Why? What expectations do we have of ourself or of others? What pressures do we place upon ourself to achieve these? How do these pressures make us feel? Do we fear failure, rejection and isolation? How has this come about? Do we hold all our longing, regret, shame and concern within ourselves, burying real feelings and pretending all’s well when it’s not? How many roles are we playing . what are we pretending and what are we trying to prove? How much anger, frustration and disappointment gnaws at us deeply within, propelling us towards panic? How much tension are we carrying because of all these questions? And how depressing is all this?  
These questions usually reflect the beliefs we have about ourselves and how we fit into the society in which we exist. And because today’s society places tremendous emphasis on achievement, material possessions and personal profile, we are constantly receiving messages that incite self-judgment. This is the stressful stuff that makes people anxious. Especially those who are sensitive, conscientious and intelligent! Not surprisingly, these are the very things we also hear linked to problems such as drug abuse, chroming, youth suicide etc. These responses and the anxiety they create are all parts of the human whole of the 21st century. No wonder the statistics show a society that is slowly becoming crippled by its own anxiety!  

Let’s look a little more closely at agoraphobia, for example. This outcome of anxiety is regarded as the most severe. In my experience, the bottom-line message that agoraphobia hands out is this: I need this person beside me outside of home, or I need to feel safe by remaining in my room or in my home, or in my car or in my restricted comfort zone, because when I am alone or unsupported I fear I’ll collapse and be lost, without identity . swallowed up, somehow, which leaves me terrified, helpless, ill and insecure.  
The Spittoon from the Muse
In 1991, Pauline McKinnon taught me Stillness Meditation. Her autobiography inspired my recovery process….however, before I began to see Pauline, I had started taking Australian Bush Flower Essences, and with the whole she-bang – meditation/flower essences/CBT/sheer guts – and in 1987 had peeled back the corner on my soul……then there was that Saturn Return….
My perception of agoraphobia is more quirky, no less prosaic, and inspired by Robin Williams:
Agoraphobia is God’s way of telling you…..
.you’re spending too much time and money at the Mall.
There’s a No-Return Policy on Divine Gifts

Social Contracts & Stereotypes

April 5, 2011


 is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself.

As opposed to impartially providing information, propaganda, in its most basic sense, presents information primarily to influence an audience. Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda. Propaganda can be used as a form of political warfare.

Australia ~ The Lucky Country

Image Credit: Emeralds and Ash: everything is fiction

TONY Abbott, leader of the Opposition, (thank ker-rist for small miracles) will today outline a tough Coalition welfare policy that would cut back the pension for people whose disabilities can be readily treated and suspend the dole for young people in areas where job vacancies have not been filled.

Mr Abbott, declaring that ”sometimes government have to be firm to be fair”, will also propose making work-for-the-dole mandatory for those under 50 receiving unemployment benefits for more than six months.

And he will say that half the welfare income of all the long-term unemployed should be quarantined for purchasing ”the necessities of life”.

”Allowing people to stay on welfare when there is work they can reasonably do is the kindness that kills,” Mr Abbott will tell the Queensland Chamber of Commerce.

”It’s the misguided compassion that eventually breaks down the social fabric, as the more perceptive Aboriginal leaders have long recognised.”

The Opposition Leader’s hard line comes as the government is working on welfare changes, expected to be in the budget, to encourage people into work.

Mr Abbott says the reforms he is proposing ”even this government should not shrink from”.

Labor promised to retain work-for-the-dole but allowed it to decay, Mr Abbott says in his speech. Since 2007, participation has fallen 60 per cent to less than 10,000.

”Work-for-the-dole should be the default option for everyone under 50 who has been on unemployment benefits for more than six months,” Mr Abbott says. ”Reasonably fit working age people should be working, preferably for a wage, but if not, for the dole.” (Read Our Long-Term Unemployed Need Less Blaming and More Training)

He points out that disability numbers are set to pass 800,000 this year at an annual cost of $13 billion. This is about 220,000 more working-age people on the disability pension than on unemployment benefits. The dole is $474.90 per fortnight for a single adult with no children, compared with a disability pension of $670.90 for a single person over 21.

Mr Abbott says that with only just over 1 per cent of disability pensioners moving back into the workforce each year and nearly 60 per cent of recipients having potentially treatable mental health or muscular-skeletal conditions, it is time for reform.

”What’s needed is a more sophisticated benefit structure that distinguishes between disabilities that are likely to be lasting and those that could be temporary, and that provides more encouragement for people with some capacity for work.” Better directing of disability payments could help to part-fund ”much greater assistance to people with very serious disabilities”, as recently proposed by the Productivity Commission.

He says the government in Britain has reformed its disability pension, with more targeted payments for people whose disabilities might not be permanent.

Mr Abbott says suspending the dole for people under 30 in areas where there are unskilled jobs ”is perhaps the strongest signal that government could give that people must take opportunities to work seriously”.

Anarchist riots in Greece

”Why should any reasonably fit person be on unemployment benefits in Karratha, for instance, when employers can’t find cleaners to work even at well above award wages?”

The proposal is the stick to match the carrot of a relocation allowance the Coalition offered at the election for young people.

Long a supporter of quarantining part of people’s welfare, Mr Abbott says it is a ”justified interference in people’s lives because taxpayers have a right to insist that their money is not wasted”. [Does Australia violate human rights? Abso-fucking-lutely]

In the Northern Territory, people on the dole long term have half their money quarantined for spending on necessities. There are also trials of the arrangement in the Kimberley, Cape York and parts of Perth.

Mr Abbott confirms that his election policies for the relocation allowance and a job commitment bonus for young, long-term unemployed people who find and keep a job, remain Coalition policy, as does the parental leave plan ”giving most mothers six months with their babies at full pay.

Why Tony Abbott is right about welfare

Frank Quinlan April 03, 2011

When people talk about work-life balance it’s easy to get the idea that work is a necessary evil — something we do to make money so we can spend the rest of our time doing the things that really matter. But that’s not how Pope John Paul II thought about work. He insisted that work is how we find fulfillment. It isn’t just about making money to live; it’s one of the ways we live life to the full.

That’s why I agree with Tony Abbott’s argument that we need to reform the welfare system, even though I disagree with some of his suggestions on how to do it.

In a recent interview on ABC radio, the leader of the opposition argued that work isn’t just about the economy, it’s also about individual welfare and the social fabric. What he didn’t want to see ‘is people who might be participants in the economy just parked forever on welfare when there is an alternative’.

One of the things worrying Abbott is the growing number of people on the Disability Support Pension. He suspects many people on this payment could benefit from work but aren’t because of a welfare system that focuses too much on what they can’t do and not enough on what they can. He’s right.

Our welfare system is disabling. With unemployment payments at around $237 a week, there’s no mystery about why a person who’s struggling to find work would want to apply for the higher, but still inadequate Disability Support Pension (around $335 per week). But to claim the pension you need to keep showing how your disability makes it impossible for you to work. In other words, you need to focus on what you can’t do rather than what you can. That’s not the right approach.

The first step in fixing this problem is to eliminate the gap between unemployment payments and the pension. Unemployment payments are too low and need to be increased. The system is encouraging people to focus on their disabilities when it should be encouraging them to think about what they have to offer an employer.

The second step is to make sure that people who can work have real opportunities to work. One way of doing this is to follow Denmark’s example and create ‘flex jobs’ that come with wage subsidies for employers. It may be that in the short term creating subsidised jobs costs more than what government saves on income support. But as Abbott argues, work has benefits for individuals and the social fabric that go beyond the benefits to the economy.

Ascendant: Mad Monk

Image Credit: Loonpond

Part of the dignity of work comes from knowing you are making a contribution. This is why Abbott’s proposal to expand work for the dole sends the wrong message. It reinforces the idea that people on income support have it too easy and that being forced to work will make being on welfare less attractive. It sends the message that work is a bad thing and that any person who values their own wellbeing will try to avoid it.

A better idea is to reinvigorate the idea of mutual obligation. If a job seeker has done everything they can to find work but keeps getting knocked back by employers, the community should accept an obligation to provide a subsidised job, help the person overcome their barriers to work or both. Employers also have obligations, and sometimes it is employers who put up barriers. The government needs to find ways of making it easier for employers to meet their obligations.

One place to start is with government itself: the Australian public service. Despite a strategy aimed at hiring and retaining staff with disabilities, the proportion of Commonwealth public servants with a disability has fallen. The public service should be setting an example for other employers and demonstrating that job opportunities exist for people with disabilities if they choose to pursue them.

Like other major employers, the Catholic Church could also lead the charge to ensure there are opportunities for those experiencing disabilities and other barriers.

For policy makers, it’s a mistake to focus on the resentments of people who sit in focus groups or ring shock jocks complaining about ‘dole bludgers’ and demanding benefit cuts and more work for the dole. Too often people assume that if they can find a job easily, everyone else can as well. A failure of empathy is never a good basis for policy.

The key to good policy is to focus on the benefits of work and look at ways to offer those benefits to as many people as possible. When we start thinking about work as a punishment or burden we’ve lost sight of why moving people from welfare to work matters.

Frank Quinlan is the executive director of Catholic Social Services Australia. 

What I’m learning from Dorothy Day

Image Credit: Wrecked for the Ordinary  Social action for spiritual misfits

 Q: What are your future plans?

A: Resistance.