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Byron Shire
February 26, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Compassion Card

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Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: The Compassion Card

Ok here’s a little maths problem. Let’s see if you can do it. Jimmy is a middle-aged man who lives in Sydney. If, over a fortnight, he pays $450 rent, $200 food, $100 on petrol and his car, $50 for phone, $50 for electricity, internet and gas, $50 on smokes, $50 on incidentals like entertainment, or a parking fine, and he receives $501 per fortnight from the government as his unemployment benefit, how much does Jimmy have left?

The Answer is: Jimmy is living in his car. He’s long-term unemployed and you can’t live in Sydney, or many other places in this country, on $500 a fortnight. Shit you can’t live on $500 a week. He smokes a little weed, but he grows it and sells a bit on the side to pay for petrol. What he makes still isn’t enough to afford rent, which means he doesn’t get rent assistance. He’s homeless.

Consequently Jimmy also has an alcohol addiction – but wouldn’t you too if you were living in your car? Jimmy is unskilled, and he’s been largely itinerant for the last few years. He’s estranged from his family, and his work-history is patchy. His literacy is low, but he’s so ashamed by it, he’s spent most of his life pretending to be literate – so he’s never got the assistance he needs. There was a time when he was on a joist, when he used to pretend to read the paper so he had the appearance of literacy.

His years of employment have been mainly as a labourer on roads and building sites, but as he’s got older and his circumstances have become more challenging, he’s suffered from poor mental health, which means there are some days when he doesn’t leave his car. He feels like a loser, like there’s no way forward.

His car is running out of rego, and somehow he has to find the $1k plus dollars to keep it on the road. He lives with deep shame about his circumstances. He has no sense of a future – which is probably why his drinking has increased. The long days in the car are fuzzed out by cheap wine, and once a fortnight, on pay-day he goes to his local club, he has a roast, a few beers and he plays the pokies. He plays the pokies because one day he won $2k. That was how he got his car registered last year. He’s hoping it will happen again, because it’s the only plan he’s got to keep his car – which is his home, and the only hope he’s got of getting to a labouring job that starts at 4am, an hour’s drive away.

I forgot to mention, among a number of reasons why he didn’t do so well at school, was that one of the Brothers at the school he attended called him into the vestry one afternoon – and he went from being an altar boy, to being an altered boy – and he has lived with the deep emotional impact of that unaddressed trauma ever since.

He’s one of many people in their late 50s who have hit the scrap heap. This is probably quite a familiar story for long-term welfare recipients – the people to whom the Morrison government wants to issue a cashless welfare card.

Indigenous communities in remote parts of Australia have already experienced that indignity – they’ve gone back to colonial times with their local store having an absolute monopoly over their agency. When you remove autonomy and self-determination, you remove a person’s belief in their ability to manage their own life. You remove the opportunity for a person to develop the self-confidence they need to overcome their circumstances. Mind you, how do you overcome a circumstance that cannot be reasonably overcome anyway?

Instead of simply increasing Newstart, the government intends to issue a cashless debit card that will cost thousands per person to administer. Shouldn’t those thousands be going to increasing Newstart? The cashless welfare card is a punitive measure that punishes the poor for being on welfare. Imagine the shame when, everywhere you go, shop assistants will know that you are part of the Morrison Government’s underclass. There is no evidence to show that this system works to address any of the causes of long-term unemployment. However, there is overwhelming evidence that housing, support programs, counselling, health services, connection, community and a sense of purpose do work.

So why not save some $ on further isolating and impoverishing the vulnerable, and provide the support for pathways where they may rediscover their purpose and autonomy. Maybe instead of the Cashless Welfare Card we need to start using the Compassion Card.

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  1. This is a picture of a man in a left-hand drive vehicle. My guess is it’s a American photo. What does “There was a time when he was on a joist” mean?

  2. Mandy you are a kind and empathetic person.

    I am a single Mum, also an immigrant, in my mid 50’s.

    We are looking to move, from what I call Packer zone… the fire scenario terrified us so much we will never be the same.

    My landlady is CEO for 2 of James Packers companies(AMS), hired by Kerri, still she works for James.

    Refuses to read the Echo.

    Cannot wait to go,

    Thank you Mandy
    for being you, and filling so many hearts with intelligence and laughter

  3. Why don’t you go to Fitzroy Crossing or Halls Creek and have a chat to the women there about the benefits to them and their children of the cashless welfare card

  4. So distressing and people voted in a Federal Government that Will never change this Whatever has become of Australia while and since Howard was in power The problem is people think we get the government we deserve but in reality it is the poor and vulnerable who suffer the excesses of rotten government not the greedy uncaring swinging voters who have caused this situation

  5. Good story Mandy. Your writing is always terrific. Why don’t you use your political nouse
    In your stand-up routines? I reckon you’d be a bigger hit if you did.

  6. Well said Mandy. The other issue for Jimmy is that he has Buckleys chance of getting a job since he can;t afford to dress for an interview, he probably won;t be able to drive his car to the job interview (remember he has to apply for a large number of jobs to maintain his newstart) In other words the system is a punishment, not a helping hand. And John B, the problems in one community shouldn;t be used as an excuse to punish everyone. Yes, some communities might have extra problems, but a lot of that is due to the way Governments have treated these communities. Maybe a system where separate payments are made to each partner? Treating family violence (and spending all the dole on grog or drugs is violence to the rest of the family) by removing the ability of everyone to make positive decisions is not helpful.

  7. See. It’;s about choices – and good and bad choices, isn’t it? All of those bad choices Jimmy made and he expects society to pick up the tab. Why on earth did he ever want to be an altar boy, for Christ’s sake (oh, I get it). Scotty from Marketing (ScofroMo) and Mr Potato Head are too smart for us – they understand the truth behind the Jimmys of Australia. He had it all and then chose to be sexually abused; chose to be illiterate; chose to be an alcoholic and live in his car – so it’s all his own fault. He is one of Anne Rustedon’s pot-heads and Anne is a woman of the world and clearly understands choices and she knows a bad choice when she sees it. Scofromo didn’t choose to be a failed marketing hack, an incompetent PM with no policies, a total backstabbing, petulant, puerile, power-crazed arsehole who thinks that he is being bullied over his pathetic non-response to the bushfires and then climate change and then over his wish for a Royal Commission which he thinks will prove that none of it had anything to do with him and look where it got him. Mr Potato Head didn’t choose to be a walking resemblance to a dildo in a condom, with as much empathy as a house-brick and he’s turned out OK. Then there’s Anne Rustedon again who didn’t choose to be a total idiot, but in any case, she could choose to live on Newstart. Rather than make that choice, she chooses instead to claim an amount equal to the weekly Newstart payment out of the taxpayer for each night she spends in Canberra. Well, OK. That’s a choice, but it is working well for her, especially if she rents a cheap room in some other politician’s Canberra investment property, so makes a big profit out of each trip she makes to Canberra.

  8. We have a large property 30kms from Casino. We let a couple of homeless people stay there for free. The Richmond Council harrassed all threatening us with massive fines if we didn’t chuck these people out. It was a horrible distressing experience for us all. The homeless found other properties to stay on. They are now antagonistic, Not surprising when the government that are supposed to help instead hurts.
    This could all be solved very easy.

  9. Why not ask the people on Elcho Island NT who recently had network outage for days at a time and couldn’t do anything. Couldn’t buy food, petrol, anything!
    I lived in Fitzroy Crossing area for over 5 years. Basics card is not always the answer!
    Smaller shops owners nearby illegally held cards with pin numbers then took out the “book up” amounts but never showed customers receipts.
    They trusted the shop owner unconditionally! Not a good system all the time!

  10. With a “Born to rule” Evangelical Neoliberal Prime Minister and team, there is little hope that this country will move beyond the penal colony it was always perceived to be. The people are revolting and if we are not, we certainly should be!

  11. Members of the LNP have a warped view of humanity. They think everyone is on the take like they are so make a point of keeping possible competitors/opponents down. This iteration of LNP misanthropes has found multiple ways, some like the robo debt collection, not legal.

  12. $50/fortnight for phone? You can do WAY cheaper than that. I pay $10/month and im fully employed.
    a parking fine? Dont park where you arent supposed to, that problem is solved.
    $200/fortnight on food for one person? needs to get some lessons on eating from uni students. They can easily beat that.

    You might actually be able to have a point if you werent using totally unrealistic figures for your argument.

  13. Mandy
    Great story to blame the government of the day for all ones problems.
    Nice to display your compassion card for all to see Mandy.
    Makes a change from your usual dumping on men.

  14. Well Bob bravo for you. Since you have a job and you can read how about you help Jimmy who cannot read and has nowhere to cook.
    I love the way you can do better than a homeless man suffering from depression with practically no education.

  15. This not about ‘blaming the government of the day for all one’s problems.’ Instead, it’s about the government of the day creating unnecessary problems for unemployed people, at a cost of $12,000 per person per year in admin fees, paid by you – and other taxpayers.


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