Friday, August 25, 2006

Shame on Hillsong: Enforcers for "Welfare to Work(house)"

Hillsong will get at least $650 of the $1600 stripped from unemployed people for minuscule breaches of Howard and Cronies' draconian Welfare to Workhouse rules. No other church group will touch it.
The Howard crew are happy to use Hillsong despite their shady past. Hillsong was stripped of a $414,479 federal grant this year amid claims it obtained the funds by deceiving the Aboriginal community that was supposed to be a beneficiary. (SMH).
Give them a call at and tell them what you think at 02 8853 5353.

Is DH a dole bludger?

DH has received two comments recently advising her to "get a job" and stop being a drain on the taxpayer. While 2 letters are hardly a statistical sample, we all know that their content is representative of the currents of resentment in the community. These are the currents that allow Howard and Co's Wedge Politics based on stereotypes and misinformation to get workers to cut off their own noses to spite their faces. Like bulls at a red rag, both DH's readers jumped straight to the conclusion that DH was a habitual dole bludger, when the reality is that she has held a variety of very responsible jobs (see her profile). Most of her periods of unemployment were years ago. before her child went to high-school.
Her search for work is subject to the demands on her as a carer of a dependant with a disability. She has various health issues of her own commensurate with her age and a lifetime of stress, having no family support whatsoever and no assets and resources other than her wits, often dimmed by depression. She works hard but cannot work fast, and its a moot point whether the economy will be better off with her gumming up the works somewhere. 
Nevertheless, rest assured,  she will be foisting herself and her various ailments on some unsuspecting employer any day now. But with the Right's Welfare to Work(house) jamming square-pegged employees willy-nilly into the first available round-hole jobs, all she can say is "Caveat Employer".

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Kafkalink phone interview

Pity the poor low-paid bugger at the other end of the phone, having to ask a raft of intrusive and offensive questions, and endure the flak from outraged interviewees, or face the prospect of taking their place on the other end of the phone.
John Howard has turned the Might Bronzed Oz into a nation of browbeaten accountants, smiling waiters, and whipped dogs. Pretty much in his own image.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kafkalink limbo. A tale of bureaucracy gone mad in Howard's bold new Australia

Weren't the Liberals supposed to stand against centralised control, the intrusion of the state in private life, and governmental red tape?

Such is ever the way with what Jung called "the shadow", the unconscious mind that acts in opposition to our conscious self-image. Thus it is that over time, Liberal and Labour may find themselves trading ideological places.

For now, Howard and Co, with their talk of a "relaxed and comfortable" Australia, have turned Centrelink into a bureaucratic monster.

Consider the good old days

You showed up at Centrelink with your documentation, grumbled in a queue for 10 minutes, had your details entered, were issued with an interim pension card so you cd at least afford a bus fare to look for work, and you went home. While you were sleeping, Centrelink did a background check, and your notice arrived in the mail with your payment details. END OF STORY

Consider Kafkalink

  1. Ring up. Are read an interminable list of disclaimers and rights (which every Australian citizen used to be able to take for granted). Your details are noted. A flurry of letters result, including "Confirmation of your intention to claim" and "Preliminary Claim for Newstart."
  2. This phone interview, however, is merely an interview to make an appointment for a 2nd phone interview. !!! But alas! Phone interviewers are booked out for another 10 days,.
  3. Mind you, the 2nd phone interview will not be your intake either. It is merely an interview to make an appointment for a 3rd interview :-) !!!
So for now, DH is in limbo between 2 phone calls that will decide her fate.
In the meantime, how is she to afford the busfare to look for work , or her medications?*

Fortunately, her backpay has finally arrived, so she personally will be able to limp along, but what about all the other poor buggers who are in the private rental market with no income?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sinatra's secret love children bludging off public housing?

What the! has Sinatra's secret love child got to do with public.housing???
SFA. But apparently the Sydney Morning Herald, our nations' top broadsheet (Melbourne doesn't count), saw fit to make this crapola the lead feature of its Saturday edition, splashing the story in giant type across its front page banner, while the national crisis in housing affordability didnt even rate, with Battlers in Bulldozers being buried unsung in News Review.
What IS GOING ON with the Herald??? Why is it pandering to the Lumpen-middle-classes? Why don't the people who are attracted to the this trash get a life???
Anyhow, DH wants to get in on the act. She will be monitoring sitemeter closesly to see if her new editorial approach will increase her rating.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A few corrections for SMH readers

DH spent about an hour talking to Debra Jopson, and is very happy about the report
Just a few things were misunderstood, probably lost among the verbiage due to DH's fondness for extended qvetching.

  1. DH is not personally threatened at this stage with expulsion from public housing due to "high" income, as she is not on a fixed term lease, having been a tenant before 2005.

  2. She did not sit on her bum being unemployed for 8 years straight. Her unemployment is intermittent, 8 of her 18 years as a sole parent. This is a result of: the insecurities of contract work; lack of affordable child care; and the added pressures of raising a child with a disability.

    While right-wing governments would love to force all workers onto contract, social security systems which require predictability and simple rules, cannot cope.

    This is why DH went through the hell of being hauled before the Rent Tribunal (see earlier months of this blog) and why she is constantly paying money back to Centrelink for reasons that are beyond even her advanced Excel skills.

  3. DH did not end up earning $46,000 this year, as her circumstances changed since talking to the Herald. She only started work mid-financial year. The spreadsheet below reports the actual situation (with $87 a week left after fixed expenses). At the time she spoke to Debra her spreadsheet was based on her full-time wage, but as the carer of a demanding teenager with a disability, she had to give up full-time work. Thanks to this, she was spared this year from having to pay HECS and Austudy.

    D'oH calculates rent on Gross income before HECS/Austudy comes off, thus creating a disincentive to education as well as work.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Day14: CentreLink refers DH to Vinnies for food vouchers

DH thinks this can't happen to people like her. But there it is. With Woolworths having lost her pay check, her company's accountant not able to issue a new one till next Tuesday, and her earliest Newstart intake phone appointment on 24th August, she can take cold comfort from charity if she wants to eat. (Oh alright, she can embarass herself and put the hard word on some of her elite friends to shout her a latte.  This is not the Sudan after all)
Can you BELIEVE IT???  You can't even get a PHONE appointment with Centrelink for a week!
And then you still have to have a further face-to-face interview, god knows when, before the all important concession card arrives in the mail, so that you can at least afford a bus fare.
In short, DH can expect to receive her first Newstart pay in approx 2 weeks if she's lucky!  
Meanwhile, she can go down to smelly old St Vincent's to be patronised by some gnarled and suspicious dry drunks (unless things have changed since the last time she dropped by) to collect her tins of Tuna, Corn and Beetroot. Anyhow, let's give Vinnies the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they've softened their brand of punitive charity in the past 10 years. DH will keep you informed.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hope for Housos in Balmain pre-selection

DH has had an opportunity to hear Verity Firth and Alice Murphy, the two candidates for pre-selection for the new State seat of Balmain talk about their commitment to public housing, Both are obviously passionate about the crucial role of public housing in retaining the social mix of the city. Both have the energy and intellect to think creatively about the challenges of housing policy:  Howard and Co crippling the States funding for public housing;  the dangers of ghettoisation within estates, the need to get developers to take responsibility for housing.
Now DH's poor brain goes into overload on the intricacies of policy and high finance, and she gets bored with the many motherhood statements that are the necessary evils of candidacy. But what she reckons we should be looking for in a candidate is someone who is naturally altruistic, passionate and warm-hearted, smart and quick on their feet,  flexible, able to listen, learn and bend to reason, has a track record of achievements, can reliably deliver on their commitments, and etc etc.
Both Verity and Alice have these qualities in spades, and DH can't resist adding that when it comes to mixing IQ and EQ, doesnt it just take a woman!
Whichever one wins, and selectors will have a hard time deciding between Bib and Bub, (both proud mothers of heart-meltingly adorable new babies), housos in the area will have an effective champion. They'll need one against the likes of the horrid Tweedle chums, Cherie Burton and Joe Tripodi.
And how good was it to open today's SMH and see Debra Jopson and co nail the ever-malodourous Tripodi (whose sole public statement as housing minister was to heartlessly threaten to deprive us Housos of our hard won BMWs!)

Day 13: Cheap banking: Woolworths "Ezy" banking loses pay cheque.

Balance Sheet: (Same as 2 days ago. DH still under financial house arrest. Food stocks running low.)
Ezybanking: $19.95 DR. Mastercard $1418.15 DR; Daughter's a/c $15.70; Cash on hand; $5 + breadcrumbs found in a coat pocket, half a jar of 5 and 10 cent pieces, Investments: Nil.
So much for cheap banking for low income earners! As if DH wasn't stressed enough, now Woolworths has lost DH's pay cheque. Her local WW is always running out of envelopes for the drop box, and she was advised by the staff to simply put her cheque in a plain envelope that they provided. Despite a premonition of doom, DH did as advised. 
Today she rang the bank. Just as she feared, the cheque is lost.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Day 12: Financial House Arrest:

Balance sheet: No change. Bank penalties due to insufficient funds $70 and climbing.

DH has been under house arrest for two days as she doesnt have the bus fare or the price of a latte to make it worth going out... Just as well the fridge is well-stocked. OK, so she and daughter are not starving because if worst comes to the worst she can put the hard word on someone.

And though she had to go cold turkey off some of her medications when they ran out, as it will be weeks before she gets her pension card and she cant afford them otherwise, its not life-threatening, just uncomfortable, and means she doesnt get enough sleep and snaps at her daughter.

She is doing this blog not because she is really in despair, but because she wants it on the record that this can happen to well-educated, competent, formerly middle-class women.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Anatomy of a work disincentive. The "Good Life" on $87 a week

Check the spreadsheet (pdf) or click on the image to see where the money goes

Here is one reason why DH was glad her contract ended. She worked 4 days (28 hours) per week. (As the parent of a disabled teenager, part-time work was all she could handle.) After D'oH rent, transport, privatised health costs, and fixed costs like gas and electricity, she had only $87 a week left.

Fixed costs btw, do not cover FOOD or any of the items below.

$87 a week had to cover food, drygoods, clothes, cosmetics, repairs, emergencies, household goods, medical and dental gap fees, taxis, holidays, daughter's university fees, textbooks, stationery and consumables, not to mention female unmentionables, and basic social capital goods, eg newspapers, club and organisation membership fees, outings, accidental losses, presents, charity donations, lattes…

So how does her family survive?

Her daughter also gets a disability pension, a princely sum of $160 per week. That's it, $240 per week for everything. She borrows from her mother's age pension at the beginning of the week, and her mother borrows it back at the end.

Why doesn't she work full-time or get a higher paying job?

Rent and tax take the bulk of it. Once she earns a certain amount, the percentage that goes on rent also increases. And once she earns over that, she begins to pay HECS, and Austudy, and must pay rent on the gross amount including money she nevers sees. And if she was one of the unfortunates who got their housing after 2005 and was on a fixed tenancy, she would be facing eviction for earning "too much".

Day 11: DH embarks on criminal career to finance bus-trip into town

Balance Sheet: Ezybanking: $19.95 DR. Mastercard $1418.15 DR; Daughter's a/c $15.70; Cash on hand; $5 + breadcrumbs found in a coat pocket, half a jar of 5 and 10 centpieces, Investments: Nil. Car: Nil.

It's all getting a bit too much like convict-era England. DH expects to be shipped off to Nauru any day now for the crime of stealing a loaf of bread.

She had to go into town, but didnt have the ante for a Metro 10. Nor could she afford 4 times $2.80 to do her errands. Though she is entitled to a Pension Card, she estimates it will be at least 3 weeks before the bureaucracy sends her her card.

So what could she do? She borrowed her daughter's pension card and fraudulently bought a pensioner excursion ticket!

The Outraged Taxpayer should just chill out. The State's coffers are still $98.50 in the black, as DH is still paying off a $100 fine when she got busted for using an out-of-date pension card for similar reasons earlier this year.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Decisions, Decisions! Pacific Island Cruise, Newstart vs Carer's Payment: which would you choose?

Yeah right. That's what DH chooses too. But as she doesnt even have the bus fare to Manly, she'll take one of the latter two.

The dilemma.: Should DH apply for Newstart now and go through the indignities of the dole diary, plus a possible 3 week period without payment while DH's pitiful holiday pay (about $850 net) peters out, or should she go for Carer's payment, which pays more, won't harass her as much, and is non-taxable, but risk another 12 week* wait with only $82 a fortnight income the whole time which is what happened last August when her previous job ended. Not to mention having to haul her daughter before the expensive medical specialist who knows her case (2 month waiting list) (and who chooses not to bulk bill).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Day 6. DH's termination pay not in account. Dire consequences predicted...

With only $35 left in her account, DH has been hanging out desperately for her final pay.

To her shock, it wasnt in her account this morning.

Ringing her company's accountant, she was informed that, being a termination payment, she was getting a cheque in lieu of the usual direct depost.

DH is very upset because her direct debit to HCF (health insurance) will now bounce, incurring a $35 bank fee. Plus her medications ran out a couple of days ago and she can't afford to replace them. This will mean a great deal of discomfort, though she expects to live...

She does not like to borrow from friends. It's the same old story, the ones who are generous are also poor. The ones who have money have psychic barriers that DH can't hope to scale. She finds it all very humiliating.

WIth only $30 in her account, plus about $70 left of her daughter's disability pension ($330 a fortnight) its going to be a tough week!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Day 2: DH helps to bring a new little houso into the world

DH put her money worries to one side today for one of the peak experiences that life has to offer. She was incredibly honoured to be asked to assist at the birth of one of her friends' children.

Although she is utterly overwhelmed, blissed out, high on oxytocin, fatigued, and in love with the new bub, DH cannot resist drawing a lesson from this awesome event.

The newborn is half Irish-Australian, half Polynesian-Australian.

The Godmothers are Aboriginal-Australian and Jewish-Australian.

The Doctors in the delivery room were by the looks of them, Anglo-Australian, Japanese-Australian, and Chinese-Australian.

The Theatre nurses and Midwives were English-Australian, Anglo-Australian, Of-Middle-Eastern-Appearance-Australian, and Indian-Australian.

And just to round off the atmosphere of ethnic and religious harmony, DH spent a long time in the waiting room overcoming her tendancy to xenophobia in conversation with a nice young Muslim-Australian waiting to operated on after an industrial accident.

All this mixed multitude is the "real" Australia, living and working together in harmony.

Now why can't it always be like this?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Day 1: ... and already, the bungling begins ...

DH rings Centrelink to advise her intention to claim a welfare payment. Advised by poorly-trained young Centrelink call centre worker to apply for Newstart rather than Carer's Payment because Newstart pays more!!!

Oh dear. News for Centrelink staff. Newstart pays about $100 less than Carer's Payment, and is taxable to boot.

But let's put this down to human error and move on, it's only day 1 after all.

Day 0: Unemployed again!

Balance Sheet: Ezybanking: $35.50 CR. Mastercard $1418.15 DR; Daughter's account: $93.68 Cash on hand; ~$15 + half a jar of 5 and 10 cent pieces. Investments: Nil. Car: Nil.

DH is unemployed again as of today.

Alas, lest she find herself in breech of some arcane new Kafkalink ruling, she must draw a veil of mystery over the circumstances of her severance, and can only say that her contract ended.

However, let her whisper the words "Work Disincentive" in your shell-like. There wasn't much financial carrot in the job, once D'oH had had their cut, once she lost her pensioner subsidies on things like transport and medications, (whose main purpose was to keep her tottering off to work in the first place).

See "$181 a week. How far can you stretch it?" below. She was only a few dollars better off than she was on the Carer's Pension, except that she was perpetually exhausted, and stressed out to boot, since her caring duties had not lessened one whit.

So since she baulked on the carrot of "Welfare to Workhouse", let Centrelink do its worst with the stick.

As a service to the public DH will be faithfully charting her descent through the

9 Circles of Centrelink Hell:

Follow her, if you dare, as she passes through the Dolourous Gates marked:

Through me the way is to eternal dole*;
Abandon all hope, o, ye who enter here.


* Of crse, Dante meant a different kind of dole, but it seems prophetic anyhow

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Scary scenario: If DH was in the private market rental

Good news! DH's market rent has been reassessed at $25 less this year than last.

That's $370 per week for a small two bedroom townhouse in the Inner West of Sydney.

That's a fair rent relative to the current climate of crisis in housing affordability.

But it also shows how terrifying the situation is for normal low income renters. DH's contract with her current employer ends this week. She's about to join the ranks of the unemployed.

Now DH loves a good horror movie, so just to get the chills running up and down her spine, she did a few sums, to put herself in the shoes of her unfortunate fellow Aussies, low income earners who do not have a hope in hell of getting into public housing.

Newstart is set at $410 a fortnight, rent assistance about S100, and her daughter's Disability Pension at $320 per fortnight.

If DH was in the private rent market in her area, heres how it would look

Household income pw $415
Rent per week $370
Leaving $35 per week for food, utilities, fares ....

Now that's what DH calls a disincentive to leave public housing!

You poor buggers renting privately in John Howard's Brave New Australia!

You say you voted for who?????

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Scabs of Hillsong

The established churches won't touch the repellent and unChristian policies of the Howard Government.
But you can trust Hillsong!  They're at it again! Willing to go wherever there is a buck to be made.
Of the $1776 (8 weeks Newstart) the Howard government will rip out of some poor unemployed single parent for microscopic breaches of the new "Welfare to the Workhouse" "reforms", $650 will go to Hillsong.
What for?
To help the self-same wretch claim back their $1776 so that they can feed their kids.
And that's not all, Hillsong will get a "counselling fee", no doubt well spent on counselling the poor on how to live without food for 8 weeks. Praise the Lord and pass the Bread and Water Ration.
Note to Hillsong:
Christians are meant to touch the scabs of the poor,
not be the scabs!