Modia Minotaur

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

It Begins

Today marks the first anniversary of the Coalition's control over the Senate, and what a year it's been. It's also the starting day for many of the controversial pieces of legislation rammed through during that extraordinary year. Yes, there's increases in the Baby Bonus and, unless you're very rich, minor tax cuts. But for disadvantaged people - the disabled, low income earners, migrants, single parents, and the unemployed - the outlook is bleak, given the so-called Welfare to Work reforms that come into force today.

As I've said before, the impact of these changes was largely lost under the weight of outrage over WorkChoices, but they merit equal condemnation. Amongst the changes are a new `three strikes' welfare policy, in which single mothers and the disabled who are not deemed to be looking for a job with sufficient vigor are taken off welfare payments for two months. Yes, that's two months. As a workplace union delegate, I once presided over a case in which workers were protesting the company's attempt to stop pay for one week. One employee estimated that, after such things as child support and mortgage payments, he would end up with $5 per day to eat. But two months?

Sure, when a conservative government's looking for a free kick, single mothers are always available to take the blame for society's ills. But the disabled? That's clever.

There is barely an expert or industry body that doesn't believe that the real barrier to increased workplace participation is not the idea of a mother of three or wheelchair bound man being too lazy to look for a job - it's addressing the skills shortage via education and training, the two issues that were most woefully overlooked in this year's Budget. Unlike WorkChoices, whose full impact is a slow burning one, those deprived as a result of Welfare to Work will feel the sting immediately, and it's not likely to be pretty. Nor should it be.

More analysis of the impacts of the legislation at Australian Policy Online.

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