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John Passant

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January 2013



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



I could live on $6321 a week

Jenny Macklin is a cabinet minister in the Gillard Labor government. Her portfolio  is Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

It is Macklin from Labor’s ‘Left’ who is leading the racist Northern Territory intervention.  She has spread income management from its test run on Aborigines to some other communities, ie to poor white people. This was always part of the racist strategy to pick the poor and most marginalised and then once the idea of bashing the income of blacks was accepted begin bashing whites’ social security payments.

Macklin is also the Minister responsible for the removal from 1 January this year of 100,000 single parents (90% of whom are women) from the single parenting payment or the partnered parenting payment to Newstart (the dole).

According to ACOSS, this will result in a loss in weekly income of between $60 to $110 a week for the single parent when their child turns 8. This previously (before 31 December) kicked in when the youngest child turned 16.

Macklin argues this will encourage more people into the workforce. It won’t.  As Penny Wong and Craig Emerson pointed out in 2005 and 2006 when John Howard tried something similar as part of his infamous Welfare to work program, all it will do for most of the single parents and their children is increase their poverty and misery. It will however save the Labor government $728 million over 4 years, which is the real reason Labor is doing it.

Current Finance Minister Penny Wong condemned the proposed Howard changes to parenting payments in 2005. She said there was no evidence that ‘dumping a sole parent or her children or a person with a disability in this country onto the lower dole payment would help them get work.’ Exactly, Penny Wong, exactly.

Remember Gillard’s famous ‘Abbott is a misogynist’ speech?

The same Gillard that very morning pushed the $728 million in cuts to the single parent payment through the caucus, impacting mainly on poor single mums. This is systemic misogyny.

These Labor attacks on single parents were all about a budget surplus. This has little economic rationale but in the current circumstances lots of political rationale for Labor as the servants of capital.

The fetish of a budget surplus is code for attacking workers and the poor to make us pay for the crises of capitalism, and if the single parent disgrace is any example Labor is doing it in an even more draconian fashion than the arch Tory John Howard.

The collapse in company revenue means that Labor cannot now achieve a surplus in 2013. Wayne Swan has quite rightly abandoned a Budget Surplus by 2013 as a key Labor commitment. Labor should abolish its attack on single parents too.

This shunting of 100,000 single parents into the deeper poverty that is the $245 a week that is Newstart prompted journalists yesterday to ask Macklin on Wednesday if she could live on $245 a week.

She replied: “I could.”  Her staff then tried to cover this up in transcripts of the interview by saying that what every Tom, Dick and Harry could hear was ‘inaudible.’  That was about as believable as the idea Macklin could live on $245 a week.

Why? Because this abandonment of single parents is specifically about pushing them deeper into poverty. It might also have the effect of putting downward pressure on wages across the country.

A desperate single Mum, wanting to feed her children, might take any below award paying job just to survive. Prostitution might even be an option for some as the choice between food for the kids or not forces single parents to make grim decisions just to survive.

In Jenny Macklin land $245 a week is enough to live on.  As a Cabinet Minister Macklin is paid $6321 a week, almost 25 times a much as someone on the dole. Out of touch comes to mind, but that is not because of Macklin particularly. It is Labor today which is out of touch with ordinary working people and those millions of Australians living below the poverty line.

That is the wider issue here, poverty and Labor’s policies of shifting wealth to the rich at the expense of the rest of us. The low level of the dole and shifting many single parents onto it are but a part of this increasing inequality and poverty in Australia.

More than 2.2 million Australians, including almost 600,000 children, were living below the poverty line in 2010, according to the Australian Council of Social Service in a recent report.

Here is part of what ACOSS said:

The key finding is that in 2010, after taking account of housing costs, an estimated 2,265,000 people or 12.8% of all people, including 575,000 children (17.3% of all children), lived in households below the most austere poverty line widely used in international research. This is set at 50% of the median (middle) disposable income for all Australian households. In the case of a single adult, in 2010 this poverty line was $358 per week. In the case of a couple with two children it was $752 (Table 1). This is the main poverty line used in this report.

A less austere but still low poverty line, that is used to define poverty in Britain, Ireland and the European Union, is 60% of median income. In the case of a single adult, this poverty line in Australia was $430 per week in 2010.

When this higher poverty line is used, 3,705,000 people, including 869,000 children, were found to be living in poverty. This represented 20.9% of all people and 26.1% of children. A major reason for the large increase in the number of people living below this income (compared with the lower poverty line) is that many households on social security payments have incomes (typically pension payments plus small amounts of private income) that lie in between the two poverty lines.

Even using the more restrictive figure, 2.2 million Australians living in poverty is 2.2 million too many.

Further, the number of Australians in poverty has been increasing over time.

Poverty is a social construction, not something natural. There is more than enough wealth in Australia to abolish poverty almost overnight.

The policies of neoliberal Labor and Liberal governments over the last 30 years have been to shift more and more wealth to the rich and business. The share of national income going to labour is at its lowest and to capital its highest since records began to be kept.

Ian McAuley’s graph in New Matilda starkly reveals this reality.

Inequality in Australia has increased since the 1980s. The OECD’s key country findings for Australia in its Divided We Stand report included the fact that the share of national income of the richest one percent increased from 4.8% in 1980 to 8.8% in 2008. For the richest 0.1% their share trebled, from 1% to 3%. The report on global inequality found it had increased across the developed world and said that in Australia this was due to two factors – growing inequality of incomes and less progressive tax and transfer policies and outcomes.

While the earnings gap between the top 10% and bottom ten% of workers increased by one fifth, the tax system ‘offset’ only about half that increase. This is indicative of deeper tax changes since 1980 in Australia. Tax has become less progressive. So why not tax the rich?

A Senate Committee in November for example found that the Newstart allowance was inadequate but did not recommend an increase because they didn’t know where the money would come from. Oh by the way, and totally unrelated of course, Gina Rinehart has $29 billion in wealth, Australian banks are the most profitable in the world, and we are a low tax country.

Some Labor members of the Senate Committee looking into the adequacy of Newstart payments broke ranks and argued for an unspecified increase. ACOSS and other groups, have argued for a $50 a week increase.  A $50 a week Newstart increase would still see the payment below the poverty line, only less so. Business supports an increase in Newstart.

People on the dole are over $100 a week below the poverty line. but it is not just people on social security payments who live below the poverty line.

There are also the working poor – those people with a family earning the minimum wage for example. On the ACOSS figures they are about $100 a week below what is needed to survive. Indeed over 400,000 Australians in full time employment were living below the 50% poverty line. Almost that many again working part time were.

At a time when gender is much on the agenda of the babbling brook of Parliament, the real issue is that ‘women (including female children) face a significantly higher risk of poverty than men.’

Is there a solution?

Taxing the rich and distributing some of the wealth we create for them to the 2.2 million below the poverty line or creating hundreds of thousands of well paid including renewable energy jobs, or both, would address the poverty of Newstart, the poverty of the single parenting payment, poverty more generally in a short period of time.

The shift of wealth to the rich over the last few decades and increasing poverty has been in part because we workers haven’t fought back. The time has come to tell the very very well paid Jenny Macklin and the ruling class she represents that the poverty she and the rest of the Gillard Labor government create through their deliberate policies has to end now. That can only come about through a massive societal and industrial campaign to prioritise the poor and working class over the rich and business.

Comments (see the link under the heading) close after 7 days.



Comment from Ross
Time January 3, 2013 at 7:30 am

According to Barnaby Joyce the banks have an exposure to the derivative market of $15 trillion.This 12.5 times our GDP. How can we bail them out?

Webster Tarpley proposes a tobin tax of 0.5% on all currency and derivative transactions.This would give our Govts $ billions in revenue.The only problem for the financial sector is that who will buy a worthless derivative when that market implodes?

Our banks must be made to separate their dereivatives from the real assets they hold in mortgages so we don’t lose our houses.

This is why we need to return to Govt banks that can create the credit like private OS banks do, but Govt banks can do it debt free thus reducing our taxes.

Since this market is way over valued the tax will provide the liquidity to stabilise our economies and reduce the influence of this parasitic derivative false economy.

BTW remember Dominic Strauss Khan the ex head of the IMF.Well he was going to re-regulate the banking/finance sector.That’s why he had to go.

The Depression of 2008 has only just begun and we can end it if we wake up and become politically active.Neither of the major parties have the solution.They are servants to our financial masters.

To solve the debt problem Abbott will bring in austerity,increase the GST and sell off more of our Govt assets thus making us prey to more foreign takeovers.

There is no reason for there to be a shortage of money in an educated, productive economy.The people have to take back the power of money creation.

Ross Gittens published this in the Herald last week. The Four Business Gangs that Run America. I never thought any journo here would print such an attack.Perhaps there is hope.

Comment from RANK FRANK
Time January 3, 2013 at 7:56 am

Increasing welfare payments only attracts
customers. Good government reduces
all types of expenditure.

Comment from Wise Owl
Time January 3, 2013 at 9:25 am

There is no way anybody can live on New Start, unless they can live rent-free with parents. Rent per week costs more than $245 a week, in itself. Then there’s food, electricity, etc, and that’s without a car to get to work and to apply for the 4 jobs per week required to get that measly amount. I barely make it on the Age Pension, and that’s almost double the New Start allowance. Excellent article. I agree with it all. Australia is becoming just like the USA, where the poor are considered expendable and are non-persons. So much for equality.

Comment from Denise Allen
Time January 3, 2013 at 9:38 am

Comment from Mary
Time January 3, 2013 at 9:58 am

Seems Australia is following the US line of keeping the poor poorer and the rich richer through the tax system which is unfair because the rich have so many concessions and means to avoid paying tax. Australia used to be egalitarian but now it is ruled by the rich corporations who care nothing for community apart from how they can be expoited. Mackin’s statement was inexcusable and she should be sacked for making an unlabor statement. Seems the party has a lot of navel gazing to do to rooti out those who support corporations first and forget about the vox populi. These are not true labor representatives and should join the liberals – or maybe they are liberals in disguise!!!

Comment from Gypsy
Time January 3, 2013 at 11:39 am

The Australian people must wake up or they will find themselves confronted with poverty and homelessness never seen by many of them in the past.

The criteria Macklin is using was tried in the Northern Territory on the indigenous aboriginal people.

First they used spin alleging aboriginal people were wasting benefits on booze and cigarettes, beating their wives, children and not feeding them. Unfortunately many of the Australian people believed the spin and agreed with the Government.

Now they are using similar strategies on the people who can least afford it, single parents.

Who will be next? The unemployed, the Pensioners etc.

Comment from Ben Rose
Time January 3, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Thankyou for this informative article John. We should be marching on the streets about this issue. Greens are the only ones campaigning against this disgrace.
Banks are really culpable in this too; major cause of over priced housing and rents. The solutions are simple:
Go back to a nationalized bank to keep the others honest.
Make it illegal for governments to privatize public assets without declaring their intent prior to an election.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 3, 2013 at 5:17 pm

“Yes” to a government owned bank and “No” to the privatisation of the people’s assets.

“Yes” to more tax on big business and high income earners. Yes to secure permanent full-time and part-time jobs.

“No” to dumping mothers on the dole.

To hell with Jenny Macklin and Tanya Plibersek.

Centrelink also needs to stop persecuting people who cannot find work, send younger dole bludgers to work in the mines, and lift Newstart by more than a paltry $50 a week.

Government can come good with its promise to supply jobs instead of leaving people to starve. It will end up being the job of the poor and average to feed even more homeless, destitute people.

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