Wednesday, July 21, 2010

For Whom To Vote If You're On The Dole

It's election time again, so as usual both Parties are throwing around money left, right and centre like clowns throwing candy at kids at a birthday party. What fun. 

It's early days yet - the election having been called just last weekend, but already it looks like schoolkids and their parents will get a cash break, especially private school kids; this phenomenon otherwise being known as "middle class welfare", or welfare for people who tend to complain about how bad they have it because they took out a 700 thousand dollar mortgage on an expansive suburban house when they really shouldn't have and now demand society take care of their kids. Bludgers haha.

But what about those of us genuinely on the dole for whatever hard luck story we have to tell? What's in it for us? Well, neither party, in fact no party - not even the Greens - is saying anything about dole bludgers, so you have to look under the radar for the hints.

If you are on the dole you may have noticed some changes to the way you "report" (that means, hand in your fortnightly form) recently. The previous Coalition government brought in all kinds of "proactive" things such as making jobseekers fill in "dole diaries", increasing the amount of jobs searched for declared on the fortnightly form from two to four, meeting various kinds of "mutual obligation" requirements, such as working for the dole which somehow never seemed to be mutually re-obligated by being offered a job.

Under the Labor government however, things have, very quietly, got simpler. OK, so there's no big increase in payments, but it would take manna from heaven for that to ever happen in this country. Notwithstanding, the Labor government has quietly got rid of the dreaded and useless waste of paper that was the "dole diary", where you had to record 10 jobs a fortnight for up to 3 months only to have a petulant Centrelink officer glance at it and throw it in the waste bin (literally). Better yet, this Labor government has got rid of the arbitrary requirement to physically shuffle in to a dole office and hand in a form to some dour looking, condescending public service fat (actually, literally obese, in 80% of cases) cat once a fortnight in order to receive a payment.

You can as of now, do it all on-line, and just declare that you have been looking for work, instead of putting down the obligatory 4 jobs whose phone numbers you looked up in the Yellow Pages and which no one ever bothers to check anyway & which is just wasting everyone's time really. But mostly the jobseeker's time in that they always had to physically make time to come in to fill out the form and travel in to the office - time which could be better spent looking for work after all. Or watching the cricket on Channel 9, or drinking beer and writing poetry, or however it is you fill your bleak, empty days whilst on welfare.

Seriously though, I think this is a brave thing for Labor to do - considering that in our climate of virtually full employment, a lot of those on the dole right now are people who are genuinely sick and cannot get a disability support pension, because their condition has not "stabilized" (ie they are not at death's door, gasping their last breaths just quite yet), nor get sickness allowance since that no longer exists (thanks Howard) - or are newly arrived people, refugees likely, who are in a high state of stress coping with learning a new language, recovering from the trauma of war and maybe losing loved ones, and getting used to our cities and whose last need is, seriously, to learn how to fill out a dole form, unless it is a legislative requirement, which it thankfully is no more.

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