Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Monday, April 17, 2006

St Vincents: Welfare to Work Legislation `Immoral'

I note belatedly the equally belated return of Channel 10's `Meet the Press' to our screens for 2006, now inconveniently programmed an hour before the ABC's Insiders, so you a) have to get up half an hour earlier on Sunday to watch it and b) can't go straight from one to the other (and c) note to Channel 10 - it makes it easier for both Insiders and Sunday to discuss and/or pinch stuff from your show - both a good thing and a bad thing). No doubt a good political interview show is not on Channel 10's To Do list, as it doesn't involve voting anyone out, it's not a reality show, and it doesn't involve celebrities. Well, not in the Channel 10 conception of any of these things, anyway.

This weekend's guests were the always interesting Shadow Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, who naturally had a few things to say about Peter Costello's Hendy-Warburton report on the Australian tax system (as did the Sydney Morning Herald's Ross Gittins and Alan Kohler, both of whose assessments of the report are well worth reading), and The St Vincent de Paul Society's Dr John Falzon, who labelled the Federal Government's plan to refer `extremely vulnerable' persons who are unable to get a job under the strict new provisions mandated by the Welfare to Work legislation passed last year as `immoral'.

For my money, the second interview was the more intriguing. St Vincent de Paul has decided to opt out of the government's framework, arguing that it in fact represents a transition from welfare to another form of welfare - one that doesn't help a person in need better themselves, but simply makes them feel worse and more ashamed about their situation. And he's dead right. Anyone who's ever had to opt for welfare of any form (and people from all walks of life have) will know that the whole system's set up to make you feel lousy about getting welfare. As Dr Falzon put it, there's too many sticks and not enough carrots.

Welfare to Work is the government's way of having its cake and eating it too as far as the dismantling of the welfare state is concerned. Palming its responsibilities to the most vulnerable people in society to charities such as St Vincents is a tacit acknowledgement that such people still exist, but an abrogation of their responsibility to deal with them. As Dr Falzon noted, the advent of WorkChoices means that the issue of welfare and who receives it is about to become more important than ever. Australia has never had a working poor before, yet this is already changing.

Unfortunately (and not coincidentally), Welfare to Work was starved of attention at the time it was passed by the Senate, given the attention that was - quite rightly - paid to WorkChoices. Now that the effects of some of the legislation that was rushed through at the end of last year are beginning to show, many of the debates raging at the time - and particularly this one - should now be reopened and be given the space they deserve.

Transcripts of both interviews available here.


At 11:56 am, Anonymous Naomi said...

Thanks for the heads up!

Dr John Falzon and Tanya Plibersek are speaking at Katoomba Civic Centre on Saturday 22 April 2006, at 2pm, at a forum on welfare and work.

All are welcome.

At 8:47 am, Blogger Minotaur said...

Good stuff, should be well worthwhile. Plibersek's article on the mental health system in today's Herald is also worth a read - given the PM's politically charged speech to the Menzies Institute yesterday, I think we're going to hear a lot more on ideology vs policy in the next year or so ...

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