Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Welfare to Work: An attack on the poor

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Coalition Welfare to Work program is a vicious attack on the most vulnerable of the working class and poor. The callous and outrageous nature of the attacks on parents, the disabled and the long term unemployed should make it clear to anyone who has not quiet understood it, that the bosses and their main political party, the Coalition are engaged in an all out assault on the working class.

The expression class war is no longer just an agitational slogan.

The intergeneration report by the government showed that Australians population was aging and birth rates declining and that in fact in the long term future there would be a shortage of workers. This of course would be a disaster for the bosses. Apart from not having enough workers to exploit to increase there profits it would also mean that the advantage in terms of supply and demand would pass to workers.

Workers being in short supply would be able to demand better wages and conditions. The coalitions IR laws are designed to prevent workers being able to organise to best use this set of affairs. However the government has also seen a desperate need to increase the supply of workers. So you have seen the increasingly generous payments paid for new born children and the increasingly generous family tax benefit payments.

The government has also decided however that in the shorter term it has to increase the supply of workers. So it has brought in new laws that will force those with disabilities and those with children to work and apply harsh new penalties to those long term unemployed in order to force them into work.

From the 1/7/06 those with a disability who are able to work 15- 29 hours a week will no longer be eligible for Disability Support Pension (DSP), in most cases they will be eligible instead for Newstart payment which means that they will have to look for part time work or take on some other kind of activity like community work or Work for the Dole.

The Newstart payment itself is paid at a lower rate than the Disability Support Pension so those with disabilities who are assessed as being able to work more than 15 hours a week are going to be doubly disadvantaged.

From the 1/7/06 those who have children and apply for Parenting Payment will only be able to get it until their youngest child turns six (for a married person) and eight (for a single person), after this they will have to apply for Newstart – again at a substantially lower rate of payment. There may be some exemptions to this in extreme circumstances.

From 1/7/06 there are new penalties for people who do not meet obligations for looking for work, this can include an eight week period of non payment if they have failed to meet their obligations three times in a 12 month period eg refusing a suitable job, voluntarily leaving a job without a good reason or being dismissed for misconduct.

All these changes are designed to firstly save money but more importantly to increase the supply of labour and to cow workers into to being more submissive because of the threats to their livelihood if they do not comply.

The question is really why do they need to force people into taking up jobs with such harsh legislation. The answer is that if wages and conditions were any where near decent they would not have to. It is the capitalist system with its systematic reduction in wages and conditions and increases in working hours to increase profits that make life a never ending hell for an increasing number of workers in Australia and around the world.

The only way to genuinely encourage people to get into work is to offer good wages and conditions and shorter working hours so that people do not find it a burden to go to work and can still have the time energy and resources for a decent life outside of work hours. The only way to achieve this in the short term is to get rid of these Welfare to Work laws and the Industrial Relations laws which they support and to get rid of any government or party which supports them.

The only sustainable solution in the longer term is a socialist society with the available work and fruits of labour shared out amongst those who work with conditions of work set down by them and not by some boss.

By Gary Duffy


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