For those of you unfamiliar with Australia’s ongoing domestic welfare debate, you may relate to this from the narrative given by conservatives and gullible members of the general public in your own country … but either way, this is an article about the Australian experience.
I’ve divided it into 4 sections:
- The poor;
- The middle class;
- The wealthy;
This is probably (in general terms) roughly the same wherever you go, with circumstantial difference per nation state; but there are likely some peculiarities to the Australian scenario that are unique, including the jargon.
Arseholes in every country have a tendency of referring to the poor as lazy, dysfunctional, self-pitying, lost-causes, whom are wholly to blame for their circumstances, as they’re implied to be of flawed character, with limited potential, and their own worst enemies, making consistently bad decisions, with a consistently bad attitude. In Australia, this earns them the title “dole bludger”, coming along with all sorts of gross misrepresentations, invalid assumptions, unqualified assertions, and other highly biased opinions and perspectives.
Often those whom use the term dole bludger will be absolutely convinced of their delusional perspectives, and these perspectives are backed up by nothing more than the extremely dodgy and easy to debunk propaganda of – particularly, though not exclusively – the Murdoch controlled mainstream media empire.
Along with this meaningless propagandistic vilification of vulnerable people, comes the cherry-picked (and often utterly fabricated) data to justify the demonisation of an entire section of society – which (not coincidentally) is the exact same playbook used to vilify the indigenous/aboriginal Australians (apologies to them for the reference to being “Australian”, as I can imagine it’s not an identity label some of them may like, given the history of persecution, abuse, and murder of their people).
This cherry-picked and fabricated data is then used for a second purpose on top of the dehumanisation of vulnerable people, in order to aid the normalisation of their mistreatment … and that second purpose is to maintain the mythology of welfare fraud, and the mythology of cost-benefit propaganda relating to welfare as a whole, including the purported fraud … and here’s how that all goes down:
- A claim is made that some undisclosed or unproven number of people – as a general or specific sub-category of welfare recipients – are rorting (cheating) the system, or a similar claim that they’re being given extraordinarily luxurious benefits;
- These claims are in the vast majority of cases, utterly fabricated – without a single element of truth to them; in other cases their are omitted circumstantial facts which change the perception of the scenario, exaggerations, partial truths, and so on – all used to present a biased picture;
- In the mainstream media, some isolated and extreme example will be taken as representative of the whole, and blown out of all proportion to make the middle class angry – with the narrative clearly stated that: “these lazy bums are stealing your tax dollars” … and given the corruption of our political system, it would not surprise me one bit to discover that both the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and Liberal National Coalition (LNP) are guilty of intentionally manufacturing such situations, in order to arm the mainstream media with such “evidence” to justify such an agenda, at the request – aka lobbying of, aka bribery by – parties such as Rupert Murdoch.
Now … let’s have a look at the reality for the vast majority of welfare recipients.
- Aged pension = < $800
- Unemployment = < $530
- With rent assistance = < $700
- Immigrants = < $530
Now, I don’t know whether that aged or immigrant pension amount includes rent assistance as the adjusted figure does which I’ve added for unemployed (NewStart) benefits, but let’s just place all this in context:
- $700 is a guess at a theoretical maximum, I don’t think anyone on Newstart actually gets that much … but let’s use it anyway as if everyone on Newstart got that much;
- To find a half way decent share accommodation situation, the following is true:
- you must find housemates who actually want you to move in;
- you must find something that suits your bare minimum needs;
- you must find something that is available at least roughly WHERE you need it;
- you must find something that is available at least roughly WHEN you need it;
- you must find something that is available for at least roughly how long you need it;
- failing that last need (accommodation stability), you need to keep searching & moving until you do find it;
- prices in Australia for share accommodation are rarely less than $150 / week, more likely $200+, and;
- the lower the price, the greater the demand, where we already have a housing shortage in many areas.
- Given the very high probability for a lot of vulnerable people, that suitable share accommodation may not arise for their particular needs and circumstances, and which also suit the needs of existing tenants you’d be sharing with – it’s likely that what you really need is your own rental (just something basic that fulfils your minimum needs). However: even something basic is going to cost you (bare minimum) $250/week in most areas, in fact in many areas you’d be lucky to find something at $300/week – all of which is again in short supply, thus subject to heavy competition – and in all cases (both share and full rental), you’re competing against people with jobs, within the context also of the prejudice against the unemployed by real estate agents and landlords;
- Thus: to be able to smoothly transition between homes as a perpetual tenant, you’d effectively need to gain the maximum theoretical Centrelink (Australia’s government welfare agency, funded largely by the Department of Human Services) payment, and spend 100% of it on rent, leaving NOTHING for food, clothing, bills, nor anything else;
- There are supposed to be government housing services to ameliorate this difficulty, but in many areas they have no housing available, and of course there’s a whole stack of forms and research you’ve got to do in order to access the assistance they can provide (such as help with bond payments), but to fill in those forms – assuming you even find out about the service – takes a certain amount of stability in life that you might not have … so the system is set up to claim it’s helping, when in reality there’s nothing easier than falling through the gaps, and not even being in a position to find (let alone ask) for help;
- From this precarious position – particularly those at present whom are being denied a DSP (Disability Support Pension) by a corrupt process, engineered to intentionally deny that assistance – one must deal with every other problem (such as health problems) that you face, without enough resources to do so; because EVEN IF you were receiving our hypothetical “maximum theoretical payment”, such a payment is well below the poverty line, and even the poverty line itself is fraudulently calculated to make the system look fairer than it is … THEREFORE: you don’t end up handling your problems, they stack up, and they cascade into new problems that wouldn’t occur had you just been afforded the opportunity to deal with your original problems.
NOTE: people in this position CANNOT AFFORD to have the drug habits they’re universally claimed to have, CANNOT AFFORD to make the bad choices they’re constantly accused of making, and CANNOT AFFORD to access the “opportunities” they’re accused of ignoring … and if you’re already suffering from illness and injury (for which you receive no additional assistance), such mythical “opportunity” is in reality merely a claim that you’re not willing to place yourself at further risk for a job that probably doesn’t exist, you aren’t qualified for, can’t get assistance to be stable enough to retrain for, and would arguably constitute a denial of your basic human right NOT to place your health at such further risk.
A while ago (I still have many of them on disk) I downloaded original budget papers from the DHS (& others), covering financial years up to 2013/14 – and what I found by combining this with data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), was that less than 25% of the total spending was actual welfare payments, thus 75% of the money is actually just the administrative overhead of turning welfare into a political propaganda football, for the benefit of the mainstream political parties and their sponsors / supporters … the agenda being (as the saying goes): to point the finger at the lower class, to distract the middle class from what the upper class are doing.
There’s no such thing as “rorting” a welfare payment that keeps you under the poverty line, unless:
- You’re collecting multiple times;
- You’re earning enough – AND CONSISTENTLY AND SECURELY ENOUGH – to completely dig yourself out of the hole you’re in, including the entire backlog of unresolved issues you face, just to be at a bare minimum level of achievement of ALL of your basic human rights (as per the international declaration of human rights) … yet claiming welfare payments anyway;
- You’re faking or exaggerating some form of qualification for welfare, yet do not need the welfare payments.
In all the 46 years of my life, the ONLY people I ever met who were genuinely rorting the welfare system, were rich people … one was a British national (perhaps with dual citizenship) who owned her own home valued in excess of $1M, and yet received a pension – and it seems to me there does exist some kind of bias, corruption, or prejudice in the Australian system that favours British nationals over locals; the other case was a local multimillionaire business and property owner, who boasted to my face – knowing that I’d been denied a DSP, knowing that Centrelink had committed fraud in the arbitration process when I challenged their decision (because I’d told him the story), and despite x-rays proving my case – that he was receiving a DSP himself, and they (Centrelink) apparently couldn’t take it away from him.
Now, I’m not saying my experience of two cases versus my own is the limit of my experience, nor am I saying that my experience is indicative of the whole; but what I am saying is that I’ve gone out of my way for a very long time to talk to people about this, and the ONLY stories I’ve ever heard which seemed remotely reasonable or accompanied by anything sounding like evidence, confirm the conclusion that:
- Poor people rorting the system, is the exception not the rule;
- When it happens it’s 99.9999% because that’s what they’re forced to do to survive;
- They’re disproportionately punished for even minor accidental infractions of the rules;
- The rules and process are set up (arguably) to cause and incite such accidental and intentional infractions;
- There appear to be massive loop-holes & bias for people who don’t actually need benefits;
- This still represents a tiny portion of the total welfare budget;
- No one ever mentions those aforementioned loopholes and bias.
So … if you ever see a person on drugs, someone whom is homeless, and perhaps hopeless – understand this person IS NOT indicative of all people on welfare, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY understand they’re a victim not a criminal; the criminals are those who manufacture the circumstances by which people end up in such a position.
Remember also: everyone pays sales tax, so despite being poor, even the unemployed pay tax.
The Middle Class:
This one is brief and relatively simple.
There are some welfare payments that middle class people can qualify for, and sometimes these are effectively political bribes relating to elections … BUT … arguably the middle class often work very hard for what they get, so I for one am not going to complain about them getting the occasional bonus, they’ve more than earned it in a lot of cases, and it’s easily covered by their income and sales tax paid.
Now we get to the real end of welfare fraud, where it actually occurs – but aside from those isolated cases I mentioned earlier, most of this fraud is invisible, or not what might naturally occur to you … here’s how it goes:
- The wealthy disproportionately benefit from society & social services;
- The police think they’re more important;
- The courts think they’re more important;
- They get more use of infrastructure (because they can afford to use it);
- AND YET many of them are able to minimise their income tax to nearly nothing (or nothing), thanks to tax breaks, tax cheats, and various other means … not to mention their political lobbying power both personally and via corporate lobbying on their behalf;
- THUS: everything society has to offer, including the social stability from which they benefit, is effectively social welfare disproportionately provided to them, off the backs of other people’s sweat and suffering (not to mention other species and ecosystems that are exploited by their business and investment interests);
- The commons of the world are being ripped to shreds and polluted by the interests of the wealthy … and all of this arguably constitutes a form of welfare fraud: they put very little in (using the proxy of property to replace personal risk or sacrifice), and get a great deal out, with little or no responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
Corporate welfare is almost entirely fraud, there exists only 1 exception I’m willing to give any credibility to, which is where governments offer grants and subsidies to research, start ups, and small ventures – BUT ONLY where such ventures actually need the cash … unfortunately, most such things go to companies that arguably do not need the assistance, nor indeed do they deserve such assistance.
A good contemporary example of this here in Australia is the government stealing money intended to help people, and offering to give $1B to Adani, for a coal mine that nobody wants, which would arguably cause pollution the planet cannot afford, to a company with an appalling track record of ecological disaster, and ripping off its workers. This is a project with immense deleterious ecological consequences, which has been allowed to bypass even the piss-weak ecological protections of law that remain, on a continent which is desperately in need of every bit of fertile land it has, because most of it is desert. Worse still, it is a project that is lying about the number of jobs it will create, is intending to hire a much cheaper imported labour force (effectively slaves), that will deliver almost nothing to the local economy except the cleanup bill, and deliver almost all the profits to overseas interests.
If it weren’t for organisations like Get Up, you probably wouldn’t hear much if any coverage (certainly not of the honest kind) in the mainstream media.
The poor do it tough, most of the things they’re criticised for – even when true – wouldn’t be the case if they were actually supported to solve their problems, and not forced into those problems in the first place … because all humans have in their skulls an amazingly powerful organic supercomputer, thus all human beings have amazing potential, all you have to do is provide them with circumstances that allow them to express that potential, AND stop thinking you know better than they do about what they should do with their lives.
Poverty is a crime against humanity, and there’s no such thing as “welfare fraud” if you’re still below the poverty line (or barely at/above it) having committed such an accused crime … it’s all just bullshit, and only idiots and bigots believe in it.