“He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich – both come to poverty.” Proverbs 22:16
The release of the federal budget this week reminded me of this verse. It is a pity Kevin Rudd, who is a born-again Christian, didn’t remember it. In spite of all the pre-budget hype about “cutting middle class welfare”, what we received was a budget that took from the poor and gave to those who, whilst they may not consider themselves rich, are most certainly very comfortable.
With great fanfare it was announced that pensioners will be receiving an extra $32 per week. Sounds great, until you realize the bit that wasn’t mentioned anywhere – those same pensioners will no longer receive the $1000 annual one-off payment that has been part of the budget for several years now. Take that off the overall picture, and the actual increase comes down to just a bit over $12 per week – barely enough to replace a couple of light bulbs with the new-fangled ones we are now forced to use because of minimal savings to overall power usage.
Even worse, those on Widow Allowance, the forgotten people of the welfare spectrum, received ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! Widow Allowance was already $116 per fortnight behind the pension, with the increase it will be close to $180 per fortnight behind. What’s more, those on WA have also received the $1000 bonus for the past few years, but now that is gone – so effectively this budget has CUT the Widow Allowance by nearly $20 per week. Mr Rudd and his cronies have already stated that they could not live on the pension, yet they expect people to live on $226.65 per week.
In the lead-up to the budget I spent the best part of a whole day, e-mailing every member of parliament in both houses to bring to their attention the plight of those on Widow Allowance. The buck-passing was something to behold: “You’re not in my electorate” (in spite of the fact that there are undoubtedly many women on WA who are in the electorates of these people) or “It’s not my portfolio” – yeah, right, so you only ever talk about things that effect your own portfolio.
One MP informed me that the Widow Allowance is pegged to the Newstart Allowance (I knew that!) and that those on WA are receiving the same as other “working age Australians.” My response to this is that just because it IS doesn’t mean is it SHOULD BE. The existence of the WA is an admission that women in this age group without recent workforce experience are extremely unlikely to be able to find work. Newstart is designed as short term relief for the unemployed, and by implication assumes that they will only be unemployed for a short term. On the other hand, people with disabilities and their carers (who may be “working age”) are recognized as unlikely to be able to gain full time employment because of their circumstances, and are therefore paid a pension. My argument is that the situation of those on WA is closer to that of disabled and carers than to that of those on Newstart, and therefore WA should be pegged to the pension, not to Newstart.
The same MP also said that payments to women should not reflect the position of their partners or former partners (in other words, just because a woman is divorced or widowed, even though her husband may have not allowed her to work for twenty years before it happened, she should not be treated differently from any other unemployed person.) However, this is a rule that applies only when it suits the government’s convenience. If it were otherwise, every married or partnered welfare recipient would receive the same as a single person, because their payment would not depend on the status of their partner.
So, pensioners emerge from the budget only about $12 per week better off in real terms, and those on Widow Allowance emerge around $20 per week worse off …
Meanwhile, working mums on up to $150,000 per year (that’s nearly $3,000 per week, a figure which most people would agree places one very firmly in the well-to-do bracket) will be able to claim $544 per week for 18 weeks paid maternity allowance. Spread over a year, that breaks down to a bit over $188 per week – just $38 per week less than the TOTAL INCOME of those on WA. What’s more, as far as I can tell there is no provision about how often a woman will be able to claim this – potentially one could go into the full-time baby making business, producing a bub every year, and have a permanent taxpayer-funded income of $188 per week ON TOP OF the income she could earn in the other 34 weeks of the year.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for families and I have grandkids myself. But it seems to me that someone on $3000 per week (or even half that) should be able to have the discipline to set aside enough money to be able to support herself for 18 weeks if she wants to take time out to have a bub.
By giving such handouts to those who definitely don’t need them, the government is denying a livable income to those who most desperately do need it. It is nothing short of oppressing the poor in order to give gifts to the rich. God’s word says that leads to poverty … a worrying thought for the direction this nation is heading.