Below is a speech given by Nijole Naujokas at the recent Adelaide March in July rally. Nijole gave very powerful arguments for why the planned budget attacks on ordinary Australians must be defeated. This resonated strongly with the crowd.
My name is Nijole Naujokas, and I am a member of the South Australian Feminist Collective, the Anti-poverty network SA, and SIMPLA. I am speaking to you today on the horrific proposed changes to our Australian welfare system, and why we should fight them with every ounce of energy we have.
It is incredibly difficult to remain calm in the face of such violent, discriminatory attacks on Centrelink clients. Tony Abbot, Joe Hockey, and Kevin Andrews want you to believe the lie that the poorest people in this country are the reason we are in debt. They talk about ‘lifters not leaners’ and how everybody needs to ‘pull their weight.’
They want you to believe that this ‘policy’ (which I struggle to call it that at all) is based on a current budget crisis. Well this toxic ideology has been on the cards for Tony Abbott for years. From an article in April, 2010, Tony Abbott mentioned to mining industry leaders that he wanted to ban the dole for people under 30. But a spokeswoman of his at the time said, “Mr Abbott’s comments did not mean the approach was Coalition policy.” Well his dream of taking away social security for under 30’s is trying to be realised through this budget.
Tony Abbott thinks every Australian thinks the same as him on these issues. Well guess what. He does not speak for the average Australian. The average Australian believes in human rights-the right to feed, clothe and house oneself, and this blatant disregard for human life is indicative of his hatred for the poor.
What is a dole bludger? It is a myth, as anyone who has dealt with Centrelink can attest that you never get ‘money for nothing.’ The endless bureaucracy of going to appointments, going to job network meetings, waiting for hours in Centrelink offices or on the phone is soul destroying and can send a person mad. This government wants the general public to hate anyone who is not in full time work. They want to convince you that the disabled, the young unemployed, the single parents and the carers are all not deserving of their income. What do they do to enforce this stigma of the unemployed? They create useless programs that humiliate them, like income management. Based on geography and age, the government take half your payment and tell you how to spend it, regardless of whether you manage your bills perfectly well.
They re-enact work for the dole, saying it gives the unemployed ‘dignity’. Well dignity from work comes from being adequately compensated. It is not from degradation of young people, who are forced into a programme which distract them from finding an actual job. These programs are like screen windows on a submarine. They might look good but in reality they do nothing to improve the system (or cause more problems than they solve).
This government wants people who are receiving a Centrelink payment to be ashamed, to feel so worthless they will not fight against these changes.
Well I say shame on them! Shame on them for the pathological callousness of policies which will see young people have no income for six months of the year or more. Shame on them for their demonization of the disabled, and their trivialisation of mental illness. Shame on them for demonising single parents, and taking more money away from people raising our next generation. Shame on them for trying to create an underclass in Australian society, for the inevitable rise in crime and suicide that will happen. When you get hungry you get desperate, and the meagre pittance of saving in this budget from these policies will be eaten up by court costs, prison cells and suicide attempts.
The ‘earn or learn’ mantra means nothing in reality. One woman I know is 28 years old. She has been studying for 5 years and looking for work for two. What will her reward be for ‘learning? ‘No money for six months, and after that she can look forward to slave labour in a work for the dole program. I’m sure the mantra ‘earn or learn’ will be a comfort to her as she starves and becomes homeless. The fact that Joe Hockey has earmarked $230 million dollars for emergency relief payments for under 30’s shows they know this policy will create a tsunami of poverty and desperation.
Instead of questioning whether people deserve welfare, question the welfare that corporations receive, like the $4.5 billion dollars in subsidies and tax concessions for the mining industry. Where is their ‘heavy lifting’? Why is the government spending 12 billion dollars on fighter jets? Why, if we are in a budget crisis, am I receiving glossy brochures in the mail spouting Liberal party policy? How much taxpayer money was used to send me advertising?
Tony Abbott said in question time to the opposition “Stop scaring the pensioners of this country” about the budget. Well they should be scared. Every person who has ever relied on the government, including the employed, should be terrified of this proposed welfare decimation. It is not about ‘getting the budget back’ into black. It is a toxic ideology that claims some people are deserving of food and shelter, and some are not. So speak up. Tell Abbott, Hockey, and Andrews that you don’t think like they do. Keep protesting. Email your senators and bombard them with this message: War on the poor-no way.