Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Public housing tenants at risk of losing home under re-elected Howard government

Highlights of a press release from DH's favorite politician: Tanya Plibersek, Shadow Minister for Human Services, Housing, Women and Youth

Australians living in public housing will be at risk of losing their homes if the Howard government is re-elected. Minister Mal Brough plans to tender out existing public housing dollars to the private sector. There are more than 300,000 families who live in public housing across Australia – all whose residency will be at risk if the Coalition is re-elected. Labor supports private sector involvement in affordable housing initiatives but not at the expense of existing public housing funding.

Without Commonwealth investment in the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement States will be forced to cannibalise their stock.

The States and territories have made substantial efforts to maintain or increase their public housing stock - including hundreds of millions of dollars recently committed by Victoria, Queensland and NSW in particular.

In contrast, the Howard Government has ripped $3 billion out of public housing over the last decade in the last three CSHAs.

Under Mal Brough's plan, States may be forced to sell off a portion of public housing stock in order to maintain the rest. With housing affordability at record lows it is more important than ever to maintain a strong housing safety net for the most disadvantaged Australians. With vacancy rates plummeting and rents projected to increase on average by 28 per cent across the country by the end of the decade, more Australians are at risk of becoming homeless.

Only Labor has put forward serious solutions to address the housing affordability crisis.

Labor has committed to investing $600 million in a National Rental Affordability Scheme to stimulate the construction of up to 50,000 new affordable rental properties across Australia, for rent to low-income households at 20 per cent below market rates.

A Rudd Labor government will also protect existing public housing funding levels when it replaces the CSHA with a National Affordable Housing Agreement in July 2008 and work with the states and territories to boost the supply of public, community and crisis housing.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A One Way Street called "Mutual Obligation"

What a disgusting sham!

While the poor are monitored, goaded, and shamed for a pittance, the government fails in its obligation to provide a livable income support payment, not to mention affordable housing, decent health care, and all the rest of it.

While the onus is on individuals to account for their every movement, to to educated in their entitlement, there is no onus on government to provide clear and simple policies.

While the onus is on individuals to pay back erroneous claims, there is no onus on the government to backdate claims that people dont know they are entitled to, or apply for in the mistaken belief that there is natural justice operating somewhere.

Not only drowning, but raging

Sunday, October 28, 2007


DH has coined a new word for our troubled times:

Renthoppers (n): people who hop from rental fryingpan to fire and back again, trying to minimise the pain. Small dispossessed bands begin to roam from state to state searching for affordable housing, eventually turning into a mighty plague of itinerant workers heading for Canberra, hopefully there to settle on the Howard goverment till it sinks under their weight, but only after having chewed NSW Labor out to shreds for its mismanagement of public housing. And who knows, the terrain left fallow may yet undergo a greening.

Origin of the term: Inspired by South African writer Can Themba's memorable phrase about shanty town workers who spend their lives "Jumping like fleas from contingency to contingency". .

Image: Lifted from the CSIRO http://www.csiro.au/images/mediaReleases/Locust_plaguesml.jpg

Turnbull leak: Product differentiation between rat and sinking ship?

You gotta wonder whether Turnbull sprung the leak as an early product differentiation marketing strategy for next time round

Malthus rules OK

Give living things an inch and they will take a mile. Think locusts. (See also Renthoppers, below).

Whoever we vote for, the better they make things, the more we'll imagine it's a licence to consume, and the bigger the final crash will be.

Perhaps it's already too later.

Megafires in California. TWISTERS? In NSW!!!???

We are the only species that can choose whether to emulate locusts or gods.

We appear to have chosen locusts as our role models.

Ignorance and greed rule.

Given the choice between self-regulation to ease pressure on resources, or the scapegoating and destruction of vulnerable populations, humans have not chosen wisely in the past.

Behind the successes of agriculture and medicine come the grim reaper, new epidemics at best, genocide at worst.

Compassion fatigue is one of the first symptoms. Thanks to the efforts of a small heroic minority of activists, journalists and thinkers, there will continue to be lip service to minority rightsfor groups like us housos, the disabled, "foreigners", housing latecomers, the aged, the sick, the unlucky, the farmers, the list goes on, but the stronger majority will turn a blind eye to the crumbling of the infrastructure that supports us. We're all looking to lifeboats now.

It's really up to us minorities to get our acts together because no one else will do it for us. From what DH has seen of her neighbours, there's little cause for optimism here either.

Oh, why bother...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fergeddabout da election already

Being heartily sick of all the infantile blather, the scare campaigns, the desperate grinning, teeth baring and teeth sucking from the 3 stooges, DH urges readers to forget about the election, get on with their lives, vote for Labor, and especially, if you're lucky enough to live in Sydney, the brilliant Tanya Plibersek would make a knockout first female Prime Minister of Australia.
Then, once we have Labor in in the Canberra, will come the next fun part, getting the gloves off and getting stuck into NSW Labor.

Howard's Poison Chalice

Has anyone noticed that now that Lazarus has run out of bypass options, he is planning to run the country from beyond the grave?

By committing the next Federal Government, which is bound to be Labor now, to massive and irresponsible tax cuts and misapplied spending, he is handing over a poisoned chalice from which he and his ilk can blame labor for inflationary spending over the life of the next few governments.

Let us hope that Labor for once will do the pragmatic thing and make its own distinctions about core and non-core promises when it comes to taxation policy.

It's all very well to blame politicians, but when the swinging voters are arguably, very arguably, greedy morons, whaddayagonnado?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ask not for whom the Worm Turns, it turns for Thee

As the Bishop said to Lazarus, "Ask not etc ".

There was poor Johnny, chewing his cud, sucking at his teeth and looking miserable, banging on and on about the unions in the absence of a decent argument, taunting Kevin Rudd with tactics that DH hasn't seen in action since primary school. Meanwhile Kevin ran rings around him in flexibility, in thinking on his feet, in marshalling facts, in deflecting Howard's increasingly desperate personal attacks. A great effort given the enormous hopes of the majority of the population riding on his performance.

And what about Howard's vision for the future of education: it's all fast forward to the past.

And what about the sight of Peter Costello and Lord Downer of Baghdad grinning like fools in the audience?

You did yourself proud and struck a blow for free speech!

Sick day dilemma

DH has been struggling with an URTI for the last couple of weeks. The antibiotics are not working, and though she could go to work as she is not feverish, her body is crying "Please take me back to bed"

DH is reluctant to take a sickie. She likes her job, being assistant co-ordinator of a team which provides an important service to the public. Due to chronic under-staffing and under-resourcing in the Public Service, there is a lot of pressure on everyone in her team to do their jobs, and on her boss especially as he coordinates the whole shebang. DH considers him to be a hero, and hates to leave the team in the lurch. Nevertheless it is scandalous that our important services are being run on shoestrings. DH has worked in the past year at several government departments, a politician's electorate officer, and a university department, and its always the same story.

The reason none of these workplaces collapse is because everyone who works there is giving 150% of their time and energy, in overtime, in patience under extreme duress, even to the extent of dipping into their own pockets to pay for things like office supplies, phone calls, taxis etc.

There is, needless to say, no slack in the system for people to get sick.

DH gets paid by the hour. Given that she is on a subsistence income, she needs to think very carefully about whether she can afford to take a rest if she is not actually at death's door.

While temp rates are meant to yield a higher rate than permanent rates for the same job to cover the loss of sick pay, that is simply not true anymore, if it ever was. DH is still being paid $30 an hour as a project officer, same as she was 10 years ago.

Oh, except that last week she managed to extract a $5 an hour increase from her employer, who, due to chronic understaffing, insufficient funding for proper administrative backup, is dependant on her.

Under the circumstances, she has been slinking around ever since, feeling like a blackmailer, and wondering if she deserves it. (Another one of unspoken pressures of individual bargaining, btw). Not conducive to the feelings of high-self esteem that we know are necessary for a strong immune system.

In short, between the guilt of letting the team down, worry about how to pay for next week's bills with a loss of a day's wage, and what if she doesn't feel better tomorrow????? and the time taken for unburdening herself on this blog, which is a better and more healing outlet than lying in bed and weeping, it is now 10 oclock, DH has finally taken the decision to have a day off.

And so to bed...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Go, Kevin, Go

... all our hopes for a fair and just Australia are riding on you.
OTOH, if you blow it, or if Labor doesn't win the election,  the shame will be on the electors who are prepared to sell out our democratic heritage and our public infrastructure for a mess of pottage, or a few extra quid in their pockets

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Carers Week Special! Check these health costs

Weekly Net Income for 2 people $886, Rent $320, Health Costs $305, Gas and Elect $50, Weekly Bus Tickets $49.50, Alcohol units consumed, cigarettes smoked, illicit drugs consumed, savings lost at the pokies: Are you kidding? Where do you think you are? Bridget Jones Diary?

What's left for food, phonebills, insurance, union fees, clothes, groceries, cleaning aids, gardening supplies, insect killer, holiday and Xmas gift savings,: $186.00

So how come DH's health costs were so great this week? Given that she's got nothing much wrong with her except depression, (and what carer isn't depressed?, plus the drugs needed to control the side-effects of the anti-depressants. DH is basically being drugged to be a happy little worker.
Note to Tony Abbott: The cost of giving carers a decent carer's pension, might be less than the PBS costs of drugging them to work. )

Family health insce 106.10
Prescription (Regular Monthly) 98.90
Prescription (Quarterly) 11.90

DH had the flu this week so other costs were

GP Gap fees 25.00
Antibiotic 15.99
Analgesic 5.99
Cough suppressant lozenges 7.99

While at the GPs, DH, being a seniorish citizen also complained that her feet were killing her, and so the GP recommended

Anti-inflammatory ointment 8.95
Arch supports 29.95
TOTAL 319.78

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Medication tips for the Working Poor

  • Disabled?
  • Chronically ill?
  • Hounded back to work by Welfare-to-Workhouse?
  • Lost your pharmaceutical benefit?
  • Can't afford your prescription meds any more?
On behalf of her fellow working poor, DH has volunteered her body for a medical experiment, a delicate clinical wallet-relining procedure, and the results so far are positive: She is still alive.
And the good news is:
Your only financial outlay is a good sharp razor
No, not like that, silly people.
You also need a bit of acting talent and a fair bit of chutzpah
Here's what you do
  1. Go visit your local GP, (Finding one who still bulk bills is good)
  2. Tell them your symptoms have dramatically escalated
  3. Apply liberally any of: graphically clutching your side, limping, downcast gaze, wild-eyed, suspicious gaze, or similar extemporisations
  4. Convince them you need a larger dose of your meds. (Go for 4 times, but even 2 times larger is good)
  5. Voila! Your medication costs have just halved or quartered per month!
  6. Simply apply the razor as exactly as you can. (Avoid pill-cutters, one of the greatest minor frauds practised on the gullible citizenry. Unless you take triangular pills, of course)
Its very important to follow this procedure. Simply going to your GP and asking for a double dose because you can't afford your meds anymore will be met with frowns of disapproval and nonsense about how, "This is not good clinical practise, because you cannot deliver a stable dose"
DH has been doing this for a couple of months now, and she's still more or less OK, if somewhat woozy, erratic, and unpredictable from time to time. On the other hand, she can apply the savings to other health improvers like better food, and gym fees, thus doing a favor to herself and long term health benefits to the taxpayer

Monday, October 15, 2007

Happy Carer's Week, one and all!

$268.50 a week!

That's what the Howard Govt expects sole parent carers to survive on


To Tony Abbott and all your good Christian Right-to-Life mates,

Put your money where your mouths are, you hypocritical hounds!
If you can't guarantee disabled people a life equivalent to that of an average middle class Australian, you'd be kinder to kill them at birth.


The appalling statistics:

56% of carers suffer moderate depression*
40% of carers suffer severe depression

2,600,000 Australians are carers
500,000 are on call 24 hrs a day.
104,000 are dependant on the Carer's Pension

* Cf 6% of the general population

Shocking rates of depression in carers

High rates of depression in carers
Adele Horin October 15, 2007

CARERS who look after frail, disabled or mentally ill relatives suffer "extraordinary" rates of depression and have the lowest level of wellbeing of any group in society, a study reveals.
Their dissatisfaction with all aspects of life is more pronounced than other marginalised groups surveyed, such as unemployed people who live alone and people on very low incomes.
"This is truly sad stuff," said Robert Cummins, of the school of psychology at Deakin University, who will present the findings today at the launch of Carers' Week.
"We have been doing research in this area for more than six years … and I'm not aware of any group that has ever been found to have a wellbeing score as low as carers."
The study, based on the responses of 3750 carers to a detailed questionnaire, showed 56 per cent would be classified as moderately depressed compared with 6 per cent of the general population.
"This is an extraordinary result," said Professor Cummins, who publishes the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, a regular measure of how satisfied people are with their lives.
Almost 40 per cent of the carers were estimated to fall in the "severe" to "extremely severe" range of depression. The average carer also experienced moderate levels of stress.
The special report on carers compares their wellbeing in July 2007 with that of the general population. It shows high levels of life dissatisfaction among carers even in the presence of mitigating factors such as having a higher income and being in a relationship.
Among the 83 per cent of carers who live with the person they are looking after, the level of wellbeing was the lowest ever measured for any group in 17 wellbeing surveys since 2001.
Professor Cummins said the average wellbeing score for Australians sat between 73 and 76, while the average score for carers was 58.5; for those who resided with their frail, disabled or mentally ill spouse, parent or child, the score was 58.4.
The wellbeing score is calculated from responses to questions about health, relationships, safety and community involvement.
Joan Hughes, chief executive officer of Carers Australia, said: "I know the feelings of anger and frustration among carers, and many of the things that could help them have been spoken about for long enough."
She said 2.6 million Australians were carers, and half a million were in particular distress from being on call 24 hours a day. As well, 104,000 were dependent on a Centrelink carer pension and a further 400,000 received a small fortnightly Centrelink allowance.
"This means a substantial group of carers lives on incomes well below the minimum wage," she said. "The Federal Government has given one-off bonuses of $1000 or $600 in three budgets but what we need is a doubling of the carer allowance and the establishment of a carer superannuation scheme."
The study revealed sole parents to be the most distressed carers. Carers who looked after children were worse off than those who looked after a spouse, and women were much less satisfied than men.
Professor Cummins said there was no evidence carers adapted to their situation if their duties continued for longer than two years.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Misery: Where to now?

DH reports a sad rite of passage. The passing of her TEIS
This week she pays $16 more rent then her net wage.
And she's sure she's not alone.
Yesterday, even on full rent subsidy,  she couldnt afford the $32 weekly bus ticket, and had to spend her last $5.80 on the full fare to and from work.
What profligacy brought her to that state, you may ask? She blew her last weeks salary on $120 worth of work clothes for summer weather
Where to now?
Quit her job?


D-DAY: DH begins to pay rent at 30% of gross salary

Net salary received today (weekly). . . . 618.00
Rent + water due today (fortnightly). . .
Going out backwards by . . . . . . . . . . . 16.00

Only art and literature can express DH's feelings now.

Annual income twenty pounds,
rent nineteen nineteen six, result
Annual income twenty pounds, annual
rent twenty pounds ought and six, result
(Charles Dickens' Micawber Principle)

Picasso: Weeping woman

For Gorsake, what are they waiting for?

Jump, man, jump

John Howard as we will always remember him.

Clinging on to power right down to the last finger nail.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

DREADING next week

DH is DREADING next week.

From then on, nearly half her take home pay will be rent. As she is paid weekly, but rent is fortnightly, this means that every second week, she will have between $30 - $40 a week left after rent.

That's when TEIS, the 3 month grace period ends during which tenants who have not worked for 12 months pay the the old subsidised rate, to give them a chance to catch up. It's a DOH version of Centrelink's Working Credit Scheme.

DH appreciates how fortunate she is compared to renters in the private market of course. Let us hope that populist politicians will not use this to divide and rule by siccing the lower classes, (which now includes the middle class) against each other to fight for housing which should not be this scarce in a wealthy country like Australia.

Here's another thing. She can't afford her medications and has been razorblading them by half, which means she is not in the best of shape, and to make matters worse, she has to take a new drug which is not on the PBS, as the old one has been withdrawn from the US market for its risk of heart and lung damage. The new drug would cost her $150 a month.

Not complaining for her own sake, but as an indicator of the GODAWFUL housing, and health, mess 10 years of Howard has left for the country.