August 11th 2001

  Buy Issue 2614

Articles from this issue:

Cover Story: The building industry's Royal Commission

Canberra Observed: Telstra creates headache for Beazley pledge

Straws in the Wind: Peter's Friends

Western Australia: WA Liberals' preference deal could be decisive

Red light districts don't work

The Media

Singapore funds (letter)

Tony Abbott criticised (letter)

Birth dearth (letter)

Parenting payments (letter)

Tree cover (letter)

Drug Deaths (letter)

Middle Ages climate (letter)

LAW: International Criminal Court: the dangers

The companies driving US-Australia free trade agreement

Books promotion page

Tony Abbott criticised (letter)

by Marcus L'Estrange

News Weekly, August 11, 2001

"Straws in the Wind" (News Weekly, July 28, 2001) was wrong to be so favourably disposed towards Tony Abbott.

Minister Abbott may have been stating the bleeding obvious when he said that some people may be spending their way into poverty by drinking, smoking or gambling excessively. However, I believe he and the Government are testing the waters and are on the slippery slope to saying outright, as the "hard right" does say in the United States, that poverty is a personal choice: and to using this to absolve themselves from really dealing with growing poverty and to further attack the poor.

An example of this is the growing number of fines and amounts levied by Centrelink on those who don't attend a Centrelink/Job Network interview for a (non-existent) job, or for an almost irrelevant training course, or persons who fail other mutual obligation requirements.

Last year 250,000 poor Australians lost all or part of their miserable payments as a result of such "breaches". Another 172,000 poor Australians temporarily lost their dole payments (the lowest in the Western world) due to a Centrelink error. We must remember that the fine for the "heinous" crime of failing to reply to a Centrelink/Job Network letter is $340 - higher than the on-the-spot penalty for breaking the speed limit. Such is the viciousness of Minister Abbott's attack on the unemployed.

Given that the Government and Minister Abbott have been advised by the Commonwealth Statistician in his annual "Persons not in the Labour Force" unemployment survey that the real unemployment figure is two million with one job vacancy for every 27 unemployed, why are they so attacking those who cannot find work?

Simply put, to be honest about the real unemployment figures would then result in such an outcry that the present economic order would have to be fundamentally altered.

However as both major political parties are now heavily indebted to big business for political donations, both parties are so compromised that such change (e.g., payment for all overtime worked/shorter hours without loss of pay as in France) will not be allowed to happen.

Hence the attacks and the "bread and circus" charade of the present version of Mutual Obligation and Job Network.

Marcus L'Estrange,
St Kilda, Vic

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