Friday, March 24, 2017

Today by Elle Hardy

The age of unentitlement
Injustice is on the rise in the punitive welfare state


Today it was revealed that terminally ill 21-year-old Rhys Pagalday had his welfare payments cut off because he wasn’t out job seeking. Despite being informed of his deteriorating condition, Centrelink didn’t even upgrade him to a full disability pension.

Rhys’ story comes after last month’s revelation that a depressed young man was pushed over the edge and committed suicide following Centrelink’s disastrous debt-collection push.

It also comes in the same week that parliament pushed through further punitive measures for Australia’s poorest welfare recipients in order to increase childcare subsidies for families with six-figure incomes.

And while it’s a cliché to compare welfare to politicians’ entitlements, Rhys’ story also comes in the same week that small business minister Michael McCormack defended his use of a $273 per night travel entitlement to pay rent on his wife’s conveniently situated investment property in Canberra. The current unemployment benefit is $267.80 per week.

Jacqui Lambie’s tearful speech about the pain and indignity of being on welfare has already been brushed aside.

The Labor Party, still unable to work out its modern constituency, is providing meek opposition to the welfare cuts for argument’s sake. It must never be forgotten that Julia Gillard’s drastic cuts to single mothers’ pensions were passed in the Senate the same day that she gave her world-famous misogyny speech.

The new protagonist in the theatre of the punitive state is surveillance, sexed up as “automation” and “big data”.

Enthusiastically touted as a money-saver by the government last year before the Centrelink debt-collection debacle, the welfare cuts have factored in savings thanks to technological advances. No one likes bureaucracy, but no one trusts a government to be altruistic, and certainly not this one.

Automation of the welfare system is marketed as neutral when it is in fact the latest implement of control and dehumanisation, further removing vulnerable people from those supposed to help them with the basic level of living and services expected of a wealthy Western democracy.

Meanwhile, the greatest welfare rorters of all, in unsustainable industries like aluminium manufacture and coal-fired power, continue to find themselves subsidised with barely a shred of scrutiny – and you can be assured that they won’t receive stressful collection notices or be forced to wait an arbitrary period of time for their cheque.

In the absence of a culture of compassion, stressful and dehumanising experiences with government will continue to proliferate.

Today’s links

Elle Hardy

Elle Hardy is an Australian journalist based in the United States. She can be found at


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