Saturday, January 19, 2013

Making a Mockery of Single Mothers

If you've read my last post, you would know I touched on the fact that the government is in the process of transitioning 84,000 single parents (mostly mothers) from the parenting payment to the diminutive Newstart Allowance.

This equates to a drop in benefits of about $100 a week, with the aim of saving the government $728 million over the next four years.

The cut was perhaps part of the government's mad dash to try and make for a Budget surplus - a dismal failure, as the mining sector has taken a hit, thus the government coffers are running dry regardless.

Which has various welfare groups and unions asking why the government is still taking the steps to make these sorts of cuts.

Even Bob Katter, the hard-talking, hard-fighting country Queensland MP has criticised cutting the parenting payment.

It's easy enough to label single mothers as failures - for many of them, the choice is either to stay in an abusive relationship and expose children to domestic violence, or literally make a run for it.

And it does happen.

Yes, it's true that some take advantage of the system and have multiple children to multiple fathers, with the government stepping in as the role of daddy, but welfare is all or nothing - we can't discriminate against everyone because of a few.

Protests are being organised to coincide with the resumption of parliament, and it will be a thorn in the side of the Gillard government if more dire real world stories of struggling single mothers come to light in the media.

Speaking of the media however, they are already looking for different angles on the story.

Most recently it has been that single mothers are signing up to brothels, or signing up to strip clubs.

This quickly paints all single mothers as hookers and strippers and blatantly plays into stereotypes.

It might give attention to their plight, but only because the story has a quirky angle.

And never before has the media paid so much attention to Newstart (dole) recipients, who are usually the butt of ridicule, disdain, hatred, and who dwell on the lowest order of respect from the public.

So why, all of a sudden, when single parents will be forced to look for work for less money from the government, has it become such a big issue?

For one thing, it's been known for a very long time that the Newstart Allowance is grossly inadequate. The argument from policy makers is that the low amount of money is supposed to act as incentive for people to look for work.

Most of those people will only be able to find low paying casual work. What's the incentive if the choice is between a low paying government allowance that is at least a form of predictable income, and low paying short term work?

There's also little incentive to continue on into further study. ABSTUDY (for those over 25) is even less than the Newstart Allowance - so the incentive isn't geared to getting someone into a stable career, so quite to the contrary.

Centrelink will treat you the same and tarnish you with the same varnish as everyone else under their roof, and abolishing the parenting payment is only going to further expose how broken treatment of the unemployed are.

So at least in that regard, it's for the better, in that it will finally show how pathetically unemployment, and particularly long term unemployment, is dealt with in this country.

For percentage of single mothers however, many of whom are already working and unable to make ends meet as it is, taking away $80 or $100 per week will make many of them completely unable to cope, and will either wind up homeless or relying on charities.

For the sake of $728 million over four years, it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The economy is clearly slowing, and true unemployment is rising. It's also interesting to ponder whether the additional 84,000 people being shuffled over to the Newstart Allowance will be counted in the ABS's unemployment statistics.

So economically, it's already a failure. The parenting payment would already be spent on, well, parenting stuff - childcare, schooling needs, activities (if there's money left over), and other related services.

And if we want to poke fun at single mothers, let's not forget that the government itself played a part in encouraging everyone under the sun to make more babies - the Baby Bonus - sure, it was a product of the Howard era, but it's a bitch rich to target single mothers when you grease their hands with $5000.

So do you want to lift the birthrate for all socioeconomic classes, or do you only just want to lift the birthrate for well-heeled two parents families?

Crunch time is rapidly approaching for this Labor government, which is just beginning it's treacherous voyage into an election year.

It won't be able to do simple circus tricks to divert away the electorate's attention, such as stupidly blaming the Greens for all of the world's problems and for supposedly threatening dinky-die Aussie families.

They will need to be held directly accountable.

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