Google+ Followers

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Paris and Berlin call for review of EU-Canada trade deal

Paris and Berlin call for review of EU-Canada trade deal

Paris and Berlin call for review of EU-Canada trade deal


The Canadian parliament in Ottawa. [Vince Alongi/Flickr]
negotiations between the EU and Canada concluded in October 2013, but
France and Germany now want to make changes to the CETA agreement’s
investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause. EurActiv France reports

While the free trade agreement between the EU and the US is still
under negotiation, the deal between the EU and Canada is, at least in
theory, all but wrapped up.

But French and German ministers now want to review the content of the
Canadian agreement, in order to remove any potential difficulties from
its dispute settlement mechanism, the ISDS clause. The clause is
designed to protect investments by allowing recourse to arbitration
tribunals in the case of conflicts between private companies and states.

The French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl,
travelled to Berlin on 21 January to discuss the issue with the German
Minister for the Economy Sigmar Gabriel, and the State Secretary at the
German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs Matthias Machnig.

Joint declaration

In a joint declaration,
the ministers of the EU’s two largest economies asked the European
Commission, which steers trade negotiations on behalf of the 28 EU
member states, to examine "all the options for modifying" the
ISDS clause in the agreement with Canada.

This request from Paris and Berlin comes after the Commission
published the results of a public consultation over the inclusion of the
ISDS in the EU-US trade deal currently under negotiation, the
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). An overwhelming
majority of the 150,000 responses opposed the mechanism. 

Yannick Jadot, the TTIP spokesman for the Green Party in the European
Parliament, said the declaration did not go far enough. "The member
states need to understand that the European citizens do not just want
the arbitration clause to be adjusted, but for the whole mechanism to be
abolished," he said.

If French and German opposition to the arbitration clause is nothing
new, France and Germany are breaking new ground in asking for the
negotiations with Canada to be reopened.

A source in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the
development. He said, "What is important is that the Germans are for the
first time accepting the link between the arbitration clauses in CETA
and TTIP".

>> Read: Germany threatens to reject EU-Canada free trade deal

Negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
(CETA) between the EU and Canada began in May 2009. They were
concluded in October 2013. The ratification will begin in the first
semester of 2015.

This next hurdle may prove difficult for the CETA agreement. Yannick
Jadot said, "The Commission considers the negotiations to be finished,
but the member states could very well say they are not satisfied".

Though it comes at a later stage in the process, the debate over
arbitration in CETA is closely linked to that of TTIP. If the principle
of arbitration tribunals is accepted in one agreement, it sets a

>> Read: France and Germany to form united front against ISDS

"The big American countries all have Canadian branches. If we install
the arbitration mechanism in one large, developed country, it will
become the standard," Yannick Jadot warned.

>> Read: ISDS decision delayed to end of TTIP talks

Canadians against change

For the Canadians, the dispute settlement clause appears
non-negotiable. "Canada and the EU have negotiated an ambitious,
balanced and beneficial agreement for both parties, which includes the
ISDS, and we will continue our efforts to implement CETA as soon as
possible," a Canadian government spokesperson told EurActiv.

The European Commission has yet to respond to the French and German
calls for renegotiation, but any backpedalling over CETA could weaken
their negotiating position for TTIP.

Opposition to CETA in the European Parliament is strong, and
the majority needed to ratify it is by no means guaranteed. Earlier this
month, Matthias Fekl said, "The majority in France and Germany is not
in favour of ratifying the arbitration clause in CETA as it stands".

The current objective is to come up with proposals to reform the
arbitration clause and reopen the debate during the first semester of
  • 2015: EU-Canada free trade agreement expected to be ratified across the 28 EU member states
External links: 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Pensioners hurt most by fees: researchers

Pensioners hurt most by fees: researchers

Pensioners hurt most by fees: researchers

Vulnerable: A study suggests the federal government's proposed Medicare co-payment will hit those 65 and over the hardest.
Vulnerable: A study suggests the proposed Medicare co-payment will hit over-65s the hardest. Photo: Michelle Mossop

New research has backed concerns the federal government's
proposed Medicare co-payment will hit vulnerable groups the hardest and
could deter them from seeking medical care.

The Sydney University study suggests the combined impact of
the higher co-payments will hit those 65 and over the hardest. A
pensioner couple will face additional out-of-pocket costs of $200 a

If the Senate approves the changes, the $7 fee will apply not
only to GP visits but to out-of-hospital pathology and imaging tests
from July 1, 2015. A higher co-payment will be charged for medicines on
the pharmaceutical benefits scheme starting in January, meaning general
patients pay an extra $5 per script and concessional patients an extra

''The introduction of co-payments won't be shared equally,'' report co-author Clare Bayram said.

''It will particularly affect people who need to use more
medical and related services, such as older people and those with
chronic health conditions.''

The study examined clinical data collected from the
university's ongoing national survey of GP-patient encounters. The
Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) program records
details of visits to a changing random sample of doctors.

It found one in four adult GP visits involve at least one
additional pathology or imaging test, meaning the minimum out-of-pocket
cost for the consultation was $14. About 3 per cent of visits involved
both tests or $21 in expenses.

The full impact of the co-payments and PBS changes will mean a
self-funded retired couple can expect, on average, an extra $244 a year
in health costs, or $199 for a pensioner couple, according to the
study. The average patient with type 2 diabetes would face additional
bills of $120 a year regardless of age, while families would pay $38
extra per child under 16.

Although pensioners with concession cards will only pay an
extra 80¢ for each PBS script, they have more prescribed medications
that will incur the co-payment increase than those without concessions.
Hence, they would be hit harder by the PBS changes than self-funded
retirees, the study found.

Dr Bayram said she was surprised by the size of the financial
impact on pensioners. ''It really emphasises that it's not going to be
evenly distributed,'' she said. ''These people need to use the services,
they're not making a choice.''

The university's findings echo concerns voiced by
professional health bodies. Australian Medical Association president
Brian Owler said it was ''good data'' that bears out the issues doctors
have identified with the planned co-payment.

''It actually shows it impacts the most vulnerable in our
society more than anyone else,'' Dr Owler said. ''It's the sort of
modelling that really should have been done before the proposal came

A recent COAG Reform Council report found 5.8 per cent of
patients were already delaying a visit or not seeing a GP because of
cost. That figure rose to one in eight for indigenous people. Similar
findings have been made by the National Health Performance Authority.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Unchristian Kevin Andrews and his deadly DSP changes

Unchristian Kevin Andrews and his deadly DSP changes

Unchristian Kevin Andrews and his deadly DSP changes

(Image by John Graham /

Disability support pensioner Cathy McQueen says DSP
changes foreshadowed by Kevin Andrews and the Abbott Government border
on evil and may kill Australians.

As someone who as depended on a meagre Disability Support Pension of $300 per week (partnered rate) for survival for years, Kevin Andrews’ announcement on the weekend that this benefit was going to be the subject of a major review, literally made my blood run cold.

According to reports, the only people who will be able to keep their DSP are people whose disability is 'permanent'.

I have reason to be concerned. My disability is possibly one day curable and it is episodic. It is also invisible: It is a mental illness — specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with the odd bout of major depression every so often.

While my disability has seen me scheduled to four different public
psychiatric hospitals and two private ones, nine times over a period of
18 years, I don't believe that will be enough to placate Mr Andrews.

You see, I am what they call a high functioning person with a mental
illness. That is in normal day to day life, I cope quite well and I can
certainly work at a high level too. I look and act completely “normal”.

It is just when I am put under stress – like in a high powered
journalism job for example – then I run the risk of becoming ill and
having my symptoms rear their ugly head.

I was a journalist for 17 years before my experiences in life and
journalism created such a severe case of PTSD that I could no longer
work. I couldn't even go out my front door at various stages, such were
the severity of the symptoms of this serious mental illness.

Psychological trauma
is a terrible thing, my psychiatrist says, and it actually damages the
brain. However, in Kevin Andrews eyes I would look healthy; I act
normal, apart from a bit of nervousness in public, and my PTSD is quite
possibly not permanent — with the right therapy and medication, one day I
might be cured.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to work just like he wants me to, which is
why I am studying for a law degree. I actually want to work for a
political Party as a policy adviser when I graduate. I know it is a job I
would be passionate about and I would adore so the chances of getting
ill are slim. I thrive on certain sorts of stress, for example.

But it would have to be the right job. If you stuck me in a job
waiting on tables or being a check out chick, for example, the stress
would trigger an episode of illness and I would be in trouble.

But this would be just what Kevin Andrews would want me doing.

He is also unlikely to let me get my law degree while being supported
by the DSP: I am sure the review will find anyone studying at
university can be considered to be working full time and, because it is a
law degree, I can almost guarantee I will lose my measly $300 — money
which enables me to get the distinctions and high distinctions I
achieved this semester, because I didn’t have to try to earn money to
support myself.

Andrews has it wrong — people on the DSP want to work, it is work
that doesn’t want us. Were I to have a PTSD episode at work, I would
lose my job — as I have twice in the past.

People – bosses and work colleagues – freak at mentally ill behavior.

If Andrews was serious about getting people off the DSP and into
work, he would be doing things like introducing quotas to the public
service, introducing draconian legislation to ensure that employers who
discriminated against people on the grounds of disability were dealt
with severely by the law and introducing financial incentives for
private enterprise to support disabled employees.

Instead – presumably as a pre-emptive strike to ensure people thrown
off the DSP have no-one to turn to – the Abbott Government has abolished the role of Graeme Innes, the Disability Discrimination Commissioner. (They retained their handpicked IPA 'Freedom Commissioner', however.)

If I wasn’t so anti Godwin’s law I would suggest some sort of fascist eugenicist policies at work.

It sounds dramatic, but I am starting to think it is quite possible they want to cull the disabled. According to The Guardian, when similar measures were introduced in Britain, people committed suicide and some even starved to death.

One way of getting rid of the burden of disabled people on society, eh?

The DSP is difficult to get, it is difficult to live on and it is
difficult to get off because employers don’t want to know anyone with a

Even if you try to hide your disability, when you sign on in paid
employment, the tax office informs the employer you are a DSP recipient,
which can often mean you get through your three month trial period.
This nearly happened to me with a part time job.

People on the DSP are, literally, the most vulnerable people in the Australian society.

The Abbott Government, with its overhaul to the DSP, it is not only
likely to harm and hurt them, it is abusing them and may quite possibly
kill them.

And Kevin Andrews? Just another Abbott Government example of a good
Catholic man — like Tony, like Pyne, Joe Hockey and God knows who else. Eight out of 19 cabinet ministers are Catholic, double the proportion in mainstream population. Four others belong to other Christian denominations.

Where has the Catholic Church gone so horribly wrong in producing these men without a modicum of compassion who want to harm the vulnerable. Where is their Christianity?

The changes to the DSP are bordering on evil and I am glad Labor will probably try to block them, given how supportive of disability issues Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is.

But until then, people like me will be living in fear of the phone
call or letter from Centrelink telling us our DSP is being reviewed.

Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Budget changes mean pensions will be $80 a week less within a decade: Acoss | World news |

Budget changes mean pensions will be $80 a week less within a decade: Acoss | World news |

Budget changes mean pensions will be $80 a week less within a decade: Acoss

Advocacy group says low- and middle-income families will be hardest hit by spending cuts and tax increases

cassandra goldie
Cassandra Goldie: 'This budget entrenches division in our community.' Photograph: Alan Porritt/AAP

Pensions will be reduced by about $80 a week within a decade because
of changes to indexation in the federal budget, analysis by the
Australian Council of Social Service (Acoss) shows.

advocacy group is part of a growing chorus criticising the budget for
focusing too much on spending cuts and not enough on tax increases which
they say has led to a far larger burden on low- and middle-income

Acoss analysis shows $19.2bn of the $37.2bn in budget
savings over the next four years will mainly affect low- and
middle-income families and $5.7bn are tax increases or savings in
programs which affect the rich.

The report, A Budget that Divides a Nation,
says pensioners on aged and disability support payments would lose
about $80 a week by 2024 after having their payments indexed to CPI.

Aged pension and DSP growth is linked to inflation, the pensioner living cost index and the average weekly male earnings; the budget outlined changes which will instead see them linked to inflation, which has been a lower rate than wages growth for the past few years.

is not possible to work out the exact impact on pensions over the long
term but, working on current economic forecasts, Acoss concluded the
pensions would shrink by $160 a fortnight.

The report also warned the budget would accelerate the trend of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It said changing unemployment benefits for people under 30 “fundamentally changes the Australian income support safety net”.

Australia has a safety net for all who need it and requires
participation in return. The budget turns this around by excluding an
entire group of people from basic assistance with exemption only for
select categories of people,” the report said.

The analysis comes as Jobs Australia estimates 100,000 trainee places would have to be created by next July for jobless people under 30 to take up the government’s “earn or learn” pledge so they can get payments.

than bringing us together in a truly fair, shared effort, this budget
entrenches division in our community: between young and old, and people
on high incomes and those struggling to make ends meet,” Acoss’s chief,
Cassandra Goldie, said in the foreword of the report.

threatens to destroy the social safety net that has served our nation
well – with severe cuts to to essential areas such as health, disability
support, income support, community services and housing programs. The
budget will damage far more than it repairs.”

The treasurer, Joe
Hockey, defended the budget when he addressed an Acoss lunch on
Wednesday and said it was not about making people happy.

He said
if productivity did not improve, quality of life would deteriorate and
the most vulnerable people would be the ones most affected.

there has been an expansion of the welfare system over the years and I
gave a speech on the end of the age of entitlement two years ago and it
was simply about making the point. The politicians have been as guilty
as everyone else in extending what is deemed to be welfare, higher and
higher up the pay scale, and what it means is you can do it and you can
afford it while you've got money coming in but then when the money
doesn't come in, how do you pare it back?” he said.

“And what we
really want to see is a strong safety net in Australia, an entirely
sustainable safety net in Australia, and the balancing act is trying to
reduce the spread of welfare but at the same time ensure that the
welfare safety net is strong.

“And also, importantly, to make
sure that there is appropriate support for those that are helping to
provide services to those most vulnerable in the community outside of
the government and that's a lot of what you do.”

The prime
minister, Tony Abbott, also defended the budget against suggestions that
the poor were harder hit than the rich, saying everyone has to shoulder
some pain.

While interviewing Abbott on the 3AW radio station on
Wednesday, Neil Mitchell said the deficit levy would not hurt
high-income earners as much as people being forced to go six months
without income support under changes to the dole.

“Well I don’t
want to ask you what you’re paid, Neil, but if you’re earning a half a
million dollars and that’s what the prime minister gets paid the tax
bill goes up about $6500 a year for the next three years,” Abbott

“There’ll be a freeze on MPs’ pay and senior public
servants’ and judges’ pay for 12 months and, of course, everyone will
pay the fuel excise indexation. The average family will pay about 40
cents a week more in the first year as a result of that.”

Mitchell responded Abbott would not miss $6,000 a year from his pay
packet the prime minister replied: “Look, I’m not complaining, Neil –
I’m not complaining. I’m saying that everyone is going to do his or her
bit so that all of us will be better off in the long run.”

Friday, 9 May 2014

Pension plan backlash

Pension plan backlash

Pension plan backlash



Shock poll: Voters have deserted Prime Minister Tony Abbott in backlash over plan to raise the pension age.

Voters have categorically rejected Prime Minister Tony
Abbott's increase to the pension age of 70. A fresh poll shows
two-thirds of voters oppose the plan.

Before a tough budget expected to include cuts to family
payments and a rise in petrol excise, an exclusive Fairfax ReachTel
poll has found strong opposition to extending the pension age. The
backlash has led to the combined Liberal and Nationals vote dropping to
38 per cent before preferences compared to the ALP, which is on 40 per
cent. That is a fall on the Coalition primary vote of 8 percentage
points after it secured 46 per cent of first preference votes at the
September 2013 election.

The Greens party remains around its election mark of 11 per
cent, leading to a two-party-preferred result between Labor and the
Coalition, based on preference flows at last year's election, of 54-46
in favour of the ALP - virtually reversing the election result.

Photo: Fairfax Graphics

But the poll also shows the government has won support for
its controversial deficit tax plan. More than half of all voters think a
hit on high income earners is justified to rebalance the budget.

The survey follows a series of polls in recent weeks charting
the government's fast-waning popularity as it manages a difficult
pre-budget period.

A stream of reports have signalled tax increases, a new user-pays focus for services, which means such things as GP visits will

attract up-front payments, and changes to virtually every level of federal government activity.

Asked ''would you support a deficit levy of between 1 and 2
per cent being imposed on high income earners to help reduce debt'', 54
per cent of respondents indicated support.

This compared to 32 per cent opposed, and 14 per cent undecided.

The deficit tax would add an extra 2¢ on top of the top
marginal bracket of 45¢ in every dollar earned above $180,000 in order
to raise between $4.8 billion and $5.2 billion over four years,
according to experts.

Coalition supporters appear most relaxed about the measure despite this cohort being most likely to be hit.

Sixty-three per cent of Coalition voters back the tax plan
and less than a quarter oppose it. Support is lowest among Labor voters
but highest overall among voters of all loyalties aged above 65 years
where it finds favour with 69 per cent.

The surprise finding may ultimately vindicate Mr Abbott's
politically risky decision to break a solemn and repeated election
pledge of no new or increased taxes.

With his government already bleeding supporters and trailing
Labor, the ReachTel poll of 3241 respondents suggests that trend could
become even more pronounced once the delayed pension age becomes

Taken on Thursday night, the survey showed two-thirds of
voters - or 68 per cent - opposed lifting the retirement age to 70,
notwithstanding that it is already moving in increments from the present
age of 65 to 67 by 2023. The government's plan will see that
incremental advance continued until 2035 when a retiree would need to be
70 to obtain the pension.

In recent days, government ministers from Treasurer Joe
Hockey down have been warning of across-the-board pain in the budget.
Some suggest the controversial debt levy, which seemed unthinkable only a
fortnight ago, would be among the least objectionable aspects of the

Taken on Thursday night, the survey showed two-thirds of
voters – or 68 per cent – opposed raising the retirement age to 70,
notwithstanding that it is already moving in increments from the current
65 to 67 by 2023. The government plan will see the incremental advance
continue until 2035 when a retiree would need to be 70 to get the

The ReachTel poll showed that in every age bracket and in the
three established voter groups – the Coalition, ALP, and the Greens – a
firm majority remained opposed to the 70-year-old eligibility.

The most marked difference was among Greens supporters who
opposed the plan decisively with 82 per cent against to just 7 per cent
in favour. Eleven per cent were undecided. Among Labor voters, 82 per
cent opposed the older age compared with 10 per cent in favour.

Coalition supporters were more evenly split with 46 per cent opposed to and 40 per cent for the change.

Read more:

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Paul Keating calls for longevity levy to supplement superannuation | World news |

Paul Keating calls for longevity levy to supplement superannuation | World news |


Paul Keating calls for longevity levy to supplement superannuation

Former PM says 2% or 3% of wages could go to a national insurance scheme to guarantee people over 80 income and care

Paul Keating
Paul Keating: 'superannuation mark two'. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP

Paul Keating says Australia needs a new government insurance scheme
for people aged over 80, which would guarantee elderly people income
support, aged care and aged accommodation for the remainder of their

The former prime minister told the ABC’s Lateline
program the insurance scheme was necessary because superannuation
savings were insufficient to sustain people living well into their 90s.
The growing cohort of people aged between 80 and 100 required a new
phase of policy thinking about retirement incomes.

He said a national insurance scheme should be funded by taxpayers through a “longevity levy of a kind – 2 or 3% of wages”.

who crafted the superannuation system, argued its adequacy needed to be
addressed, and that meant super guarantee contributions needed to
increase from 9% to 12% quickly. The government also had to move more
people off dependence on the aged pension.

But he said inexorable
demographic change required more than just these measures, it required
something more fundamental – it required “superannuation mark two”.

people on an ordinary income all their lives – having 80, 100, 120 or
$200,000 or more in a lump sum gives them that little bit of comfort in
retirement that there’s something to rely on, something to get them out
of trouble if they get really sick, support their kids if they have to –
all the things that they do,” Keating told the ABC.

“But we can’t
try and pretend that like a piece of Indian rubber – we can stretch the
accumulation from [age] 65 to 95,” he said.

“There’s not enough
of it now, and it can't go for 30 years, so we have to have, I believe, a
commonwealth insurance scheme for the 80 to 100s with a calibrated
precise product which guarantees people income support, aged care and
aged accommodation.”

“It's a classic model for an insurance
scheme, but it's got to be done in the 80 to 100 cohort while we
continue to build [superannuation] accumulations between 60 and 80.”

said it needed to be a government scheme because “no commercial insurer
can insure across generations and no insurer can pool this like the

He was dismissive of concerns from welfare groups
that tax concessions for superannuation are too generous, entrenching
inequities. When you look across a range of measures – “transfer
payments, family assistance, support for kids at school and the rest,
we've got a much more even society in Australia than say the United
States, than Great Britain or any of these countries – so these sort of
mealy-mouthed claims by the welfare lobby about superannuation are
fundamentally false”.

Keating also gave the Treasury a belt for
being antagonistic “to every tax expenditure that exists including
superannuation. The Treasury is a great department but has not a
scintilla of imagination.”

He contended if there weren’t generous
concessions for super, people would chase concessions elsewhere: “They
would negatively gear a house, buy shares in Westpac or BHP or the
Commonwealth Bank and doing tax-preferred thing.”

He said Treasury
had massively overestimated and overinflated the cost of superannuation
in terms of forgone revenue because of its philosophical antagonism
towards the tax concessions. “I mean, look, if I was still around I
would have massacred them for this,” he said. “Massacred them.”

Of the budget task ahead for the Coalition, Keating said the government should focus on delivering structural reform.

of the first things Bob Hawke and I did in 1984 was to put an assets
test on the pension to sit beside the income test. In those days the
pension was only income-tested, you could have a house worth $3m or 5m
and you still got a full pension, so we put an assets test,” he said.

those kind of structural changes which produce a medium-term change in
the budget trajectory and that's what is needed now – that is, we're not
going to remedy this in 12 months, we're going to remedy it over time.”

said governments should focus on structural reform which induced
behavioural change “to change the spending side of the budget” and then
rely on economic growth to boost revenue collection while the government
reduced outlays.

Keating was cool on notions such as extending the GST.

“You can't build a society where the low- to middle-income people carry the greater burden of the tax system,” he said.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

More reforms urged for tenants in social housing

More reforms urged for tenants in social housing

More reforms urged for tenants in social housing


High Costs: Leigh Watson.
ACT Shelter executive officer Leigh Watson. Photo: Graham Tidy

Moves by the ACT government to provide less expensive rental
options for tenants in social housing should be expanded further, policy
experts say.

Housing Minister Shane Rattenbury last week announced
reforms allowing tenants who previously paid 75 per cent of market rent
rates as part of the Affordable Rental Scheme to instead have rent
calculated based on their capacity to pay.

The plan will mean Housing ACT officials will assess tenants'
suitability for six rental levels using criteria such as household

ACT Shelter executive officer Leigh Watson said affordable
housing programs were less effective in the Canberra market due to high
private rental costs.

''Paying 75 per cent or 85 per cent of market rent is not affordable, because it is already totally inflated,'' Ms Watson said.

''What we say, and most people working in the sector say, it
is not affordable housing, it's just not-so-expensive housing. We'd like
to see this kind of rent-banding model rolled out to the other
affordable housing programs.''

The organisation advocates for people who are on low to
moderate incomes in the territory, as well as those who suffer from or
are at risk of homelessness.

''What is often quoted is that people shouldn't pay more than
30 per cent of their income on housing, and that's all well and good
but if you are earning $100,000 then paying 30 per cent is OK, but when
you're earning $40,000, you aren't left with much for other living

Ms Watson said existing programs did not take into account
the distances tenants in cheaper housing often had to travel for work,
as well as factors such as disability and family pressures.

The changes were welcomed by the ACT Council of Social Service.

The ACT's Affordable Rental Scheme was introduced in 2011 for
eligible tenants aged 65 or over who were having difficulty sustaining
their tenancies due to income or social factors.

While the government is yet to outline the cost of the
changes, Ms Watson said they should apply to about 320 affordable
housing dwellings, and more properties brought into the system.

Research expected to be released later this year shows retail
workers and women in the community sector could face housing stress
over rents and mortgage repayments in retirement.

''It's people working in supermarkets, people looking after
your kids. It's not just those at the pointy end with a range of
issues,'' Ms Watson said.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

It is not them or us, they are us.

It is not them or us, they are us.

It is not them or us, they are us.

have the highest median wealth per adult in the world ($233,504). We
have the second highest average wealth ($428,250). We are a mere 0.36%
of the world’s adult population but we account for 3.78% of the world’s
top 1% wealthiest. The only nation with a more lopsided share of the top
1% is Switzerland.

So why is it that an estimated 2,265,000 people or 12.8% of all
people are living below the internationally accepted poverty line used
to measure financial hardship in wealthy countries?

Australia’s household wealth per adult grew by 2.6 per cent in 2012.
 Wages in 2013 grew by 2.6%. On the other hand, since the mid 1990s,
Newstart has gone from just below 50% of the median household income to
now around 30% – which is an alarming $74pw below the poverty line .

Over a third (37%) of people whose main income is social security are
living below the poverty line, including 52% of people in households on
Newstart Allowance. The low level of this payment means that when
unemployment goes up, more people are thrown into poverty. The Newstart
Allowance has not been increased in real terms since 1994 so households
relying on it have been falling further behind community living
standards and into poverty.

There are almost 600,000 children living in families below the
poverty line. About half of those children are in sole parent families,
and one quarter of people in sole parent families are living below the
poverty line.

In October 2012, the Australian Council of Social Service released a
report urging the Commonwealth and state governments to take steps in
their next Budgets to reduce poverty, by increasing income support for
those in the deepest poverty, strengthening employment services for
long-term unemployed people, and easing the high cost of housing for
people on low incomes who rent privately.

People on social security and those in very low paid work receive
Rent Assistance to help with housing costs, but at a maximum of $70 a
week this is less than a third of typical rents for flats in capital
cities and mining towns. 62% of Newstart recipients pay over 30% of
their income in housing costs, placing them under “housing stress”.

“High priority should be given in the next Federal Budget
to raising the Newstart Allowance by $50 per week for single people and
sole parents, and the cuts to income support for sole parents should be
reversed or at least delayed.”

There is a $149 per week gap between Newstart Allowance and pensions.
In 1980, the Age and Disability Support Pensions and the Allowance
payments such as Newstart and Widow Allowance were the same, at $58 a
week. The Harmer Pension review of 2009 resulted in an increase to
pensions but not to Newstart. Pensions increased by $32 a week. The
Henry Taxation Review recommended that the same increase be given to
Allowance recipients, which would equate to $50 a week in 2012.

Pensions are indexed in a different manner to Newstart. Pensions are
indexed to Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE), the Consumer
Price Index (CPI), or the Pensioner and Beneficiary Cost of Living Index
– whichever is greater. Newstart is only indexed to the CPI. In
September 2011, the MTAWE increase was 4% while the CPI increase was
2.5%, which resulted in an increase of $10 for pensions and $6 for

Newstart and other payments are indexed twice yearly with the CPI,
meaning that they are linked to increases in prices, rather than wages.
That means they fall behind increases in community living standards.
While the CPI rose by 17% between 2005 and 2011, average wages rose by

Newstart is less than half of the minimum wage in Australia. While
minimum wage is $606, Newstart is $246 – 40% of minimum wage. Even
taking account of income tax, a single unemployed person would double
their disposable income if they got a job at the minimum wage. So there
is scope to increase it without eroding work incentives.

As Dr David Morawetz, Director Social Justice Fund, says

“In Australia, we might not have the level of abject
poverty that one sees in developing countries, and we have only a
fraction of the world’s 1.3 billion poor. But in a country as wealthy
and as lucky as ours, it is a travesty that there are still so many
people living in poverty. We can do better.

Poverty is bad for our social relationships, and for our sense of
community. It is bad for business. Most of all, it is bad for those who
are experiencing it: for their sense of self-worth, for their physical
well-being, and perhaps most importantly for their children, for our
future generations. We all need to do something about it.”

David Thompson, from Jobs Australia adds

A lack of money inspires not just shame, anxiety, and
occasionally stoic resignation, but also a powerful sense that things
could be different. The basic decencies of respectful encounters with
institutions, which can cost nothing, matter a lot. Many people living
in poverty have immense reserves of energy and drive to make a decent
living for themselves, and a future for their children, if only they are
given the right chances.

Dr John Falzon, CEO, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council said

Our problem in Australia is not the “idleness of the
poor.” Our problem is inequality. This is a social question, not a
question of behaviour. We do irreparable harm when we turn it into a
question of individual behaviour, blaming people for their own poverty.
It is a matter of deep shame for a wealthy nation like ours that our
unemployment benefits, for example, have been kept deliberately low as a
means of humiliating the very people they were originally designed to

Charities like the St Vincent de Paul Society will always be there
for the people who are waging a daily battle from below the poverty
line, but the message we are hearing is that people do not want charity.
They want justice. And we support them in this struggle for their

We support helping people into the paid workforce. The time has come,
however, to abandon the foolish notion that forcing them into deeper
poverty improves their chances of employment. You don’t build people up
by putting them down. You don’t help them get work by forcing them into

We stand with all who are trying to create a good society; a society
that does not accept the scourge of rising inequality and exclusion from
the essentials of life; a society that does not humiliate people. New
passions are springing up. They point to glaring contradictions. They
also offer the promise that another kind of society is possible, and can
be created collectively under the guiding stars of struggle and hope.

Even the Business Council of Australia (BCA) argues the Newstart
payment ‘itself now presents a barrier to employment and risks
entrenching poverty.’

It is difficult to be accurate about what a $50/week increase in
Newstart would cost but it has been estimated it will cost taxpayers
anywhere between $8 billion and $15 billion over the forward estimates.

While Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey tell us that spending $22 billion on
Tony’s paid parental leave scheme, or $12 billion on US made jets that
experts say are dodgy and will be obsolete before we ever see them, or
over $10 billion on Operation Sovereign Borders, or over $3 billion in
handouts to polluters, or countless billions on roads, are all good
investments, I would ask them to consider the proven productivity gains
from lifting people out of poverty. I would also ask them to consider
the health benefits and consequent savings. I would ask them to consider
the benefits of needs based education funding so children born into
poverty have some chance of achieving their potential.

If we can’t appeal to your humanity, surely you can understand that
economically it makes much more sense to increase the purchasing power
of the masses, which will drive demand, which will create jobs, which
will increase production, which will increase profits. Every cent that
goes to a poor person will be recycled into the economy. Increased
profits to billionaires go to off-shore tax havens.


I haven’t seen a film for 8-9 years. / It’s $12 – / I just can’t. / I
have no social life/unless it’s free./I can’t afford to go to a café /
and drink coffee – / I just can’t. / I tried putting $3 a day into my
budget. I felt a little more human, / existing within society… / I had
to stop doing it,/I couldn’t live anymore./Like being invited out to
dinner / or a friend saying, / ‘do you want to catch up for a meal?’ I
just can’t, no. / I miss it. Tracey

Dole bludger

I’m desperate for money./ If there were any jobs…/ …I’d be started at
9 o’clock this morning./ I have to tell everyone I’m a dole bludger and
/ I don’t have any money./ Nobody wants to know a dole bludger. / My
family thinks I’m still working./ I got sacked four years ago. / I
didn’t tell them I’m a dole bludger. / Mum would get upset,/ she wants
my future to be secure. /To be able to tell my family that I’ve got a
job…./ a proper job…. / Nobody wants to know a / dole bludger. Bettina