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Guilty until proven innocent: The coalition’s welfare crackdown

Guilty until proven innocent: The coalition’s welfare crackdown

Friday 1 July, 2016
As a welfare recipient, Scott Morrison’s latest crackdown measures makes me feel as if I’m guilty until I prove myself innocent.
The story starts here...

Yesterday, Scott Morrison announced a $2 billion clamp down over two years on those who defraud welfare. It looked good on paper. But beyond the glass doors labelled Centrelink, the caged bird sings a different tune.

As someone who is a welfare recipient, and has a condition, I’ll let you in on a secret: the welfare system is not about welfare; rather the removal of.

Those who sit behind the desks and wield the power do not seek our welfare, but rather the reduction of the queue, and thus, the bare minimum.

The right job is any job. Qualifications, suitability or desire are not entered into the equation.

I seek what the rest of us do: I covet a position I can keep, and to never have to walk through the frosted doors again, or endure soul-crushing morning train journeys to be crossed off a list. Each walk through those halls, each workshop that states the obvious, strips away the last shreds of confidence you have kept, so by the time you do get in front of an interviewer, you choke due to the fear of what will come when they say “No,” which they’re sure to do.

Why wouldn’t they?

You’re on welfare.

But still the dance goes on:

Have you been looking for work?
Yes.
Did you get the job?
No.
Why not?
Due to my condition, I was unable to fulfil what the role required.
Condition. Do you have medical certifications?
Yes, I have supplied this.
Please supply the medical…and on it goes.

As Morrison pointed out, these measures will be taken out independent of the claimant (financial checks, disclosure of assets, monitoring of online transactions), but I feel all of us will have to endure the Morrison probe to be seen as on the level. Guilty until proven innocent. It seems that the hammer was favoured over reform. Taking this action is akin to curing the headache by chopping off a leg.

Living just above the breadline is not a glamorous pursuit. While prices climb through natural inflation, the amount to keep us afloat each fortnight does not change. So canned meat is pursued, as the eye searches for the tag that reads “2 for 1” or “40% off” with hopes for the best. With this new debt-centred focus, one would assume that the penalties for rule-breaking, whether deliberate or inadvertent, would be harsher and would surely bring that breadline closer to us. But even as someone who follows the rules, I’ve been penalised numerous times.

Complaining is pointless, because it’s not really your money. You just eat leaner that week.

The main point that has ruffled feathers up and down the Centrelink line is the assumption that just because we’re on welfare, that we’re all criminals. Morrison has done nothing more than landmine the environment in an effort to remove the wrongdoers, but there will be many of us engulfed as collateral damage in this operation.

Mr Morrison. Fix the house, don’t redouble the barbed wire in front of it.

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