Women & Children First: The Liberal Party Guide on How to Kick the Poor
One of the privileges of being a conservative government is the joy of kicking people when they’re down. Not rich people, silly! Poor people. They’re great targets, mainly because there’s heaps of them and their vulnerability means they struggle to get out of the way. Especially if they have kids. Actually if they have kids there’s more of them to kid!
Welfare recipients have always been number one on the public-shaming hit list. It makes the middle class feel so righteous to make them suffer.
One of the perennially favourite targets is single parents. The system has always had it in for them, and thanks to opinion makers like John Laws and Alan Jones the belief that scheming lazy women have kids for the pension still finds favour as a predominant belief about people who have a myriad of circumstances that underpin the reasons for their hardship.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been a single parent, but it’s not a walk in the park. It’s not something you choose for financial or personal benefit. It’s fricking hard work. Firstly there’s the grief and sense of failure from the breakdown of a relationship; sometimes it’s dealing with the ongoing impact of violence or trauma, the emotional impact of the relationship disintegration on the kids, the constant financial stress and the reduced impact of your ability to be both primary carer and primary provider.
Being a single parent is emotionally, physically, and financially exhausting. And you never feel like you give your kids what they deserve. There is never enough of anything to go around.
That’s where your good friends at Centrelink come in. They get to swing the government shoe that kicks single parents. I understand it’s not their choosing and have compassion for the people who work at Centrelink who have to enact some cruel and stigmatising policy – but perhaps they could refuse?
This year the government decided to crack down on people who claim benefits as a single parent while they are in a relationship. So if you are a single parent on Parenting Payment or Newstart Allowance with dependent children you will be receiving a love letter from Centrelink some time soon asking you to verify your relationship status. And they won’t take your word for it. You are going to have to door knock the neighbourhood to provide a referee. They have to be over 18 and can’t be an immediate family member and if they provide false information then it’s 12 months in prison!
Wow, if only this kind of punishment were delivered to the public-service staffers who cover for the misuse of funds by incumbent politicians! They’d have to build a new jail.
And don’t think you won’t get caught. Centrelink have a surveillance program that include monitoring you and what you post on social media! Finding a new relationship as a single parent is hard enough; now not only do you have to face the challenge of how the kids handle it, how the ex handles it – you have to deal with how the government handles it. And in my experience, your new partner might move in but generally they’re not prepared to become financially liable for the family you had with someone else.
Centrelink just made it a whole lot harder for single people with children to ever find love again. Not that you’d have time anyway. Not once the government push through ParentsNext. This draconian legislation requires women with children from six months old to participate in job-seeker activities. If you don’t go to an appointment – doesn’t matter if your kid is sick or you can’t afford a train ticket – you’ll have your payment cancelled.
Why not a public flogging? Stocks? Ironically ParentsNext is the government’s way of addressing intergenerational poverty! Ironically by using punitive methods to create a whole lot more poverty in a system that is certain to put babies and small children at risk.
ParentsNext is a breach of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It is also a breach of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women and it should be reported to the Australian Human Rights Commission.
It can’t happen. If we allow our most marginalised to be treated like this we are as guilty as the government that wields the whip. It’s evident to me that this government clearly hates children. It locks them up and detains them in offshore detention centres, and now seems hellbent on creating poverty and family stress for our country’s most vulnerable.