I Would Never.

I would never.

When I was little I did something naughty which I’ve long forgotten and my mother smacked me. I remember saying to her, “When I’m a mum I will never smack my kids.”

I have smacked my kids. Not often and not anymore but yes, I have smacked them. Now days this is a bit taboo. But when I was a kid, it was part of growing up. Maybe we know better now, but most of us survived unscathed so I guess it’s a bit of a wash what happened 30 years ago. I’m not going to debate the merits of smacking or not smacking: that’s a different post. What I want to talk about is ‘I will never’. I want to talk about the line in the sand we draw all the time on different topics and different days. I want to talk about the times you draw the line and at some point your find yourself standing at it and thinking…”I gotta move this.”

Generally I think we draw the line when we see the world in black and white. When you explore the issue further you realise there is a whole spectrum of grey you never knew existed and when you’re standing in the middle of that grey area it’s hard to see your line anymore.

There is a lot of places this comes into effect – abortion, welfare, asylum seekers, homelessness, the death penalty, even murder.

One area that this is a current issue in Australia is the cashless welfare card. The brainchild of someone who has never been on welfare and I doubt runs in circles that has a lot of welfare recipients, the cashless welfare card is basically a debit card that allows the purchase of life’s necessities but doesn’t allow purchases of certain items (gambling, alcohol, cigarettes). In theory that looks okay, I suppose. You can withdraw a very limited sum in cash out of it, so almost every purchase would be tracked to a degree. The flaws in it mean that you cannot buy from markets, home businesses that don’t offer Visa, online shops in many instances, gumtree, buy/swap/sell pages, some people have even reported issues paying their phone bill. And a lot of supporters are like, “Tough shit. Get a job. I pay taxes and so should you.”

Oh. But where is your line in the sand?

I work in the disability sector. My clients are often bed bound with complications from their conditions. As a support worker I frequently have to go to the store for them for bread, milk, medication. Under the contract I have with my workplace I am not allowed to take a debit card to the store. I may take cash only. I return with change and a receipt. If my clients receive a cashless welfare card I can no longer do this shopping for them leaving both my client and myself with some tough choices. If I arrive on shift and my client has run out of a staple item do I breach contract and take the card? Or do they hope they have a friend or family member ready to drop everything and come collect the items they require? They can’t go themselves.

Is that the line? Bed bound disability recipients?

What if my client CAN physically get to their chair but is in pain that day? What if it’s raining? What if they have $20 to last 6 days and they CAN go themselves but the taxi they would have to take would mean that when they got to the shops they no longer had the money to buy the item they needed?

What about my client who needed new wheels for his chair and ordered online? He can’t do that anymore.

Okay, should we draw the line at disability pension? Did we move it already?

What about the long term unemployed? Should we just throw them on the cashless welfare card? I have a friend who has a chronic illness. She is in extreme pain most days but can’t actually get on a disability pension because her lifelong chronic illness was put in the temporary category. Actually, it’s been two years now since her assessment so I should really check if she is cured yet as Centrelink said she would be. I’ve read of people with terminal cancer that have been unable to receive a disability pension.

What about the person that is unemployed and shares a house (because there is no way you could afford to solo rent on Newstart) – how are they paying board? Private rental? Fuggetaboutit. What about those unemployed because of mental illness? That’s not their fault.

Okay. Line in the sand.

Should we target those with known issues? Drug addicts? Alcoholics?

Let’s forget about the root of the issue for a second. Let’s forget that often those issues stem from the aforementioned mental illness issue. Let’s not fund programs for rehabilitation. If we give them the cashless welfare card won’t they just straighten out their act?

Maybe. Or maybe they’ll turn to crime to fund it. Maybe they’ll buy something they CAN buy, like nappies and sell them on a buy/swap/sell page and say they got the wrong size. Maybe they have a myriad of ways around not having to use the card.

Where is your line? Is it still black and white on all welfare recipients? Can you see the greys?

Life is like this a lot.

I would never.

I would never.

I would never have an abortion. Until I was told my 16 week pregnancy was incompatible with life. Until I was told he would not survive. Until I couldn’t be reassured he wasn’t in pain having his brain completely exposed in utero.

“Oh, we didn’t mean you. That’s different.”

So I am afforded compassion in that instance but if I already had a bunch of kids and my contraceptive failed and I’m already working two jobs and I need to keep them because look at how welfare recipients are treated and I get so damn sick when pregnant that my eldest daughter has to bring me my toothbrush and a cup to spit into in my bed – no compassion?

“I guess if you were really sick I understand. It’s just those people that use it as contraception, I can’t stand.”

I would never. I would never.

“I didn’t mean you. I meant career dole bludgers.”

“I didn’t mean you. I meant those people that come to Australia and don’t want to conform to our laws.”

“I didn’t mean you.”

“I didn’t mean you.”

“I didn’t mean you. I meant those other people that I have never met. Not you. Not your story.”

Lines in the sand.

I would never.

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2 thoughts on “I Would Never.

  1. Never mind the loss of dignity for anyone on welfare, who are a recipient for any reason at all, not being trusted to use their welfare to primarily fund the regular cost of living, as opposed to smokes, beer and drugs. Whether they drink, smoke, or partake at all.

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    • Exactly. Even once you move past all the practical reasons that cashless welfare card is flawed beyond measure it creates a stigma that people – good people, honest people, people who have done nothing wrong – should not have to put up with just because SOME people MAY take advantage of the welfare system. Although why someone would choose to live on $450 odd a fortnight is beyond belief. It is already an unsustainable amount in today’s society. I also saw an article by a man who I believe was from the UK but it’s still relevant where he said even if people on welfare only spent their money on cigarettes and alcohol – the most highly taxed items – they would still be contributing to the economy. People on welfare are not funnelling money into offshore accounts, their money isn’t even sitting in Australian bank accounts accruing interest because they do not have enough to save. Their money flows directly from their bank account BACK into the economy because they spend it. They spend it on rent and bills and food and clothing.

      And then of course you have the drugs argument which seems to totally discount the fact that many employed people also take drugs. Drug use is not welfare related.

      They need to stop pretending this card is for any other reason than to further demonise the poor in the eyes of society.

      I have read people who argue for them and bitch about people on welfare who seem to forget their spouses are also recipients of FTB. But they don’t count for some reason. “Oh, I didn’t mean you. Or me. Just them.”

      Yeah. Okay.

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