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Letters to the Editor:
Open letter to the Minister for Family and Community Services
Thank you for reconsidering your Department's Budget proposal in regards to the DSP [Disability Support Pension]. You should know however, that this will make no difference to the current situation. Although you promised existing DSP clients would be exempted, you cannot exempt them once they have lost their DSP entitlements through obtaining work of more than 30 hours per week, or any income exceeding eligibility for the DSP. People who are currently working with a disability are already affected by the rule, how will you exempt them? New Start Allowance (NSA) was developed and so much lower than pensions because it was thought of as a short-term payment, to help people over their temporary hard times. No one, not even able-bodied people can survive in the long term on NSA alone. How will people with a disability survive their long-term stay on NSA? You gave a wonderful passionate show about the $500 you believe the union movement will ask from the workers it delivered a service to. Five hundred dollars would hurt people on low incomes badly, as you stated in the Senate. Apart from the fact that unions would not demand such a sum from the lowest paid workers, and the decision did not prescribe any fees, you were right in that it would hurt people on low incomes a lot to loose $500. But what are you proposing for people who have even lower incomes than the lowest paid workers? Cuts between $1380 (just the $52.80 less) and $3900.— in cases where people with disabilities work part time. Tell me, would your mother have been able to live on $180 per week when she was so sick and needed medication, care and maybe access to transport? Certainly not! Could you turn your passion on in those areas you are looking after? Paid maternity leave for women has been introduced since many years in other countries, for example, I have not heard you talking about it. Last year you have clawed back $1000 from single parents and more, due to the new FTB rules and shared access. I really cannot see any justification for your newfound passion for the low paid workers who have to pay for services received. Maybe you need to re-arrange your priorities? Monika Baker
Un(der)employed People's Movement against Poverty Inc
Mr Abbott, Federal Workplace Relations Minister claims that he was misquoted when he had said the following at a conference: "If we are honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband — not withstanding all of his faults you find he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he's employing someone while he is in fact a boss" (Australian, 2-7- 02). I find the sentiment expressed by Mr Abbott extremely offensive and denigrating. Thousands of workers have lost their entitlements through no fault of their own — what has the Government and its Ministers done about that? There are workers who have been injured at work through health and safety neglect of their bosses — what is the Government's response to that? What about those people who lost their lives at work? For years there has been a struggle to curtail abuse both at home and at workplace — emotional, sexual, physical. All of a sudden we should be grateful for crumbs off the boss's table when he/she feels like it? I don't think so. I believe there has been quite a strong response to these comments from radio listeners, and rightly so. It's not a misquote, as Mr Abbott says. What he let out was the kind of society and workplace relations that his party aspires to — very much akin to workplace and domestic slavery. What next — kneeling before John Howard when he does his morning run? No wonder they hate unions and everybody who stands up to their bullying tactics. J B Lucas
We believe that to make paid maternity leave acceptable to employers and the general public the model needs to be broadened to take in unemployed and underemployed people. This flexible model will then benefit not only women or men taking maternity leave but also unemployed or underemployed people. The Swedish/Dutch model would transfer to Australia well: The job of an employed person who wants maternity leave for a year is given to an unemployed person. There are many qualified educated and professional unemployed people, particularly mature people on the dole, who would welcome a year's work. This model guarantees the unemployed person work for a whole year. The person on maternity leave would then get the dole for a year without being put on Job Search, etc. An alternative could be everyone moves up in the firm and the unemployed person fits in at the bottom end. However the rest of the employees may not like to return down the ladder after a year. The person on leave would then get the unemployment benefit for a year no matter what their job was. The cost to the taxpayer, the employer and the Government is nothing, in fact it will save the Government. In fact the Government saves because they would not have to service or provide case managers, etc to the person on maternity leave or the person who takes the job for a year who would otherwise be unemployed. After the year there may be a vacancy in the firm or there may not. However the unemployed person would have gained not only experience and their chance of employment but also self-esteem. On the social front the expectation of suicides of unemployed people should show some reduction. The unemployed figures would be greatly reduced and the self-esteem of many people would be lifted. A good social impact outcome. This model is a much better prospect for unemployed people than work for the dole. Our members report that work for the dole is soul-destroying, especially when it is all a person has been offered for six years. Self- esteem becomes depleted, many contemplate suicide or turn to drugs. It would be a win-win situation if the person on maternity leave accepted a reduction in pay for a year. This model would cost the employer nothing and may be more acceptable to employers and government. The model could be extended to any worker in the workforce to take leave for a year. This would benefit many employers whose workers wanted to go abroad to gain further experience. The long-term benefit to employers would be an advantage if the worker gains experience overseas or interstate when they return to the firm. Young people could request a year off to work in places like East Timor. This would encourage character development and help Australia's aid program in developing countries. A ceiling on who should have access to the unemployment benefit would prevent those on high income from gaining access to the plan. I believe this model has merit and should be explored further by the union movement. Mary Jenkins,Back to index page
Underemployed People's Union of WA