Sunday, 15 July 2007

Welfare "reform" madness.

On Saturday 14 July 2007, both the Liberal Party (Government) and the Labor Party (Opposition) announced eerily similar "Welfare reforms". Both policies are equally unrealistic and nonsensical (in my humble opinion).

In essence, both parties promise the Centrelink will monitor child welfare, assessing school attendance by children, and then will "punish" negligent parents (whose kids do not attend school), by garnisheeing some of their child support benefits (or other benefits), and then will ensure that the money which is withheld from their "benefits" is then used to pay for food, or electricity bills, or other needs of the family.

The idea is that this will withdraw income from negligent parents to prevent them from using the funds intended for child welfare, from being squandered on alcohol, gambling or other such indulgent expenses. I can see why a desperate Government might be panicked into taking this stand - but, but - Hello?

When did the Government ever have these kinds of powers - to decide who will spend what, on whatever bills?

How can Centrelink, which is already overstretched, possibly cope with this extra function? How on earth can Centrelink, which does not have those kind of policing staff at present, possibly be expected to fulfil this task?

Centrelink is not noted for having good links with the State welfare agencies (DOCS, etc), State Police and Educational authorities. Even those State agencies are not empowered to make these investigations , let alone buy food for needy kids, or supervise them getting to school.

The whole idea is crazy, totally crazy, and unrealistic. Indeed I would go so far as to say that it is a policy which is totally antithetical to the supposed "laissez-faire" political philosphy of the Liberal Party. The word "hypocrites" springs to mind.

(This critique of course, is temporarily ignoring - only temporarily - the outrages which the Howard Government is currently inflicting upon Aboriginal Families in Australia).

These dual policy announcements constitute a move towards Totalitarianism which would have made the infamous Ceau┼čescu regime of Romania blush. Remember media stories of all those abandoned children in orphanages, hospitals and asylums in the failed state of Romania, under Nicolae Ceau┼čescu? Can you imagine Australia accepting such outrages? Well, watch this space, folks. "Parents Rights" just evaporated in Australia.

In saying that, I am not sticking up for negligent parents - just asking quite how the Government is going to decide which of the families of ordinary Australians meets that definition? And, if we do, is it a permanent state of affairs, or is there a scale of negligence, or incompetence as parents, or are we to be judged, once and for all, by "Secret Agents from the Welfare"? Should we have a network of Informants - perhaps from the Tuckshop at school, or should the "nice ladies" from the "Harper Valley PTA" have a vote on our adequacy as parents?

The timing of two simultaneous policy announcements, and their similarity, smacks of heavy political espionage, and also a move towards "lowest common denominator" politics. It is a War on Welfare, to match the War on Terror.

It is going to be a bad lead up to the next election, folks.

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