Imagine this. You are a 30 year old working for the CSIRO. Maybe you are a scientist with a degree or perhaps an electrician with a trade qualification. The Liberal government has cut the 2014 budget to the CSIRO and 400 jobs go. You get some redundancy pay but you have a mortgage, young family and all the associated expenses. You need to look for a job.
The redundancy keeps you going a few weeks while you apply for jobs, and manage one or two interviews. Money runs out and there is still not a job offer. In spite of your best efforts, you have been unable to get re-employed. Lots of applications; a few interviews; a few knock backs; a few decisions pending. You need money to live so go to Centrelink and start on unemployment benefits. Eventually after a few months, a job comes up and you are back in the workforce.
Good thing it didn’t happen a year earlier when you were 29. No benefits for six months. Who would look after you then? The Salvation Army? Would you have to stop paying your mortgage and risk loosing your house? Would you have had to live off a credit card and build up a substantial debt? The government seems to be saying to under thirties, pay them nothing because they are too young.
I am not sure of the source of the quote, but it has stuck in my mind for many years. “The first duty of a government is to protect the most vulnerable”. How is removing unemployment benefits for the first six months for under thirties protecting the most vulnerable?
I understand there will be some people who misuse unemployment benefits. They choose not to work and live off benefits. If you want to address this issue, do you do it by penalising both the legitimate and illegitimate claimants?
Imagine rejecting all tax claims for work related expenses because some people rort the category. What would happen if a surchage was put on all income by tradies because some work for cash to avoid tax? What politician would try to sell that policy? Yet we can deny unemployment benefits to all under thirties for six months because some abuse the system.
The whole budget is an abject failure in protecting the most vulnerable. The unemployment benefits is just one of many examples. Those examples illustrate a philosophy that says vulnerability is not something we as a government should address. Let the vulnerable sink so those who are coping well can thrive. A philosophy that says we can lie to get into government, then expect to be forgiven once we break our promises. Is this what we want from a government? Is this what we are prepared to accept from a government? This little black duck thinks not.