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.



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