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Fri, Feb. 15th, 2008, 11:02 am
Welfare

Yeeeeeeeeaaaarrrrggggghhh.

I have just been informed that my application for Austudy may not be successful, because I am enrolled only for a semester. Speaking to a friend (B) about it, he tells me that when he applied for Austudy, they made him sign a declaration saying that last year would be his final year studying. This friend really kind of sums it all up:

"I can't live on Austudy, I don't want to live at home, and I don't want to mooch off [my partner], but I want to be able to study, full time, properly, and not feel like I have no time to breathe in between classes, independent study/research and shitty work..."

The Australian welfare system is designed to keep people in uncomfortable situations as an incentive to make them drop out of whatever education they're pursuing as soon as possible, get a meaningless job (well, the meaninglessness of the job isn't a requirement, it's just the common kind of job), and mooch off their parents and partners wherever possible. The previous Liberal government's ministers said as much (though not in those words) on more than one occasion.

The purpose of welfare, from their perspective, is to get people off welfare. The thrust is to assume that anyone on welfare is trying to "rort" the system. Uni students are just trying to stay out of work for as long as possible. (And, of course, all of this is helped along by fake news programs like "A Current Affair", "Sixty Minutes" and "Today Tonight".)

The thrust should be to support people - nothing more or less - to enable them to do things that they would be unable to do under anarchy. (That sums up the entirety of a government's mandate to exist and exert laws over people, when you really think about it.)

Austudy (and "Youth Allowance" - even the word "Allowance" is an insult to the people being supported by these payments) should exist to support a student during study at university. That should be their entire reason for being. "Are you studying?" "Yes." "Are you a millionaire?" "No." "Oh, well, then - end of story. We'll pay you while you study."

Instead,
*You don't get support if you're studying part-time,
*If you then apply for unemployment assistance, you are forced to sign a document saying that you will quit any part-time study you're doing if a job comes up,
*You don't get support if you're under an abritrary age and have not lived away from home for more than a year (thus making it impossible for you to consider "living away from home"),
*You don't get support if your partner makes too much money - forget the idea that people should be independant from each other, or that the nature of personal relationships shouldn't be dictated by the government, or that we're supposed to be frowning on the whole "Sugar Daddy" phenomenon,
*You get scrutinised if you live with a member of the opposite sex, having to provide "evidence" of the nature of your relationship with that person,
*You get paid far below what anybody would need to live - thus preventing welfare from acting as an incentive for businesses to actually provide remotely attractive conditions of work and payment, as it ought to do.
*If you've studied in the past, you're apparently forced to sign a document saying that you won't continue to pursue study for too far in the future.

I mean, seriously, businesses should be competing with welfare - that would be an incredibly effective way to guarantee that workers have some measure of power - it might even be more effective than unionism!

But what we have is a system that promotes a sexist and old-fashioned view of society - that males and females must be in relationships if they live together. It promotes dependance on partners or parents - preventing people from being financially independant, able to live life on their own terms. It prevents people from pursing further study, and treats both study and research as a "means to get a job" rather than as an end in itself.

It's a legacy of a political philosophy ("neo-liberalism") that believes in a free market form of anarchy, where all value is monetary, research and study exists to further "the economy" - which, in turn, exists to promote the power of the wealthy, people are either cash generators or slaves, and government is just a tool of financially consolidated power rather than an institution providing services to the people.

Oh, and the best part about it?

It's a system set up by people who get paid far more than the average person (seriously, why does a government minister need more than $50-60,000 a year?), and who are eligible for all sorts of specially-targeted welfare even though they occupy incredibly high-paying jobs. Just last year, Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal Party Minister, was caught receiving a form of special government rent assistance (that is much higher than the paltry "rent assistance" offered to students and the unemployed) for helping his uber-rich self to pay rent for a house owned by his uber-rich wife. (And if you think I'm being hypocritical by referencing his wife, well I honestly wouldn't mind if he wasn't already rich, and didn't get any government salary, and received a rent assistance that anyone else would be eligible for - nobody should be expected to be another person's "financially kept sex partner").

And he wasn't "sprung" in the sense that Centrelink then made him into a wage-slave below the poverty line (thats the punishment for anybody else who rorts the system). He was "sprung" in the sense that it was published in the newspapers. There was no legal action against him.

It just says it all.

And nobody in the public eye will speak up in favour of giving more "handouts" to students and the unemployed.

Because "Oh, why should I have to work to pay your way?" - as if individual people are being forced to sponsor students, rather than collective wealth being used to sponsor everybody - i mean, why not ask why I should have to pay for your road, buddy?.

Because "Oh, they're just bludgers trying to get a free ride" - No, they're people who want to be able to eat and have a roof over their heads without mooching off their friends/family. Unless you're a doctor or a farmer or one of the other very rare necessary professions, why the hell should I tolerate your role in the economy to a greater degree than you tolerate "non-productive" citizens? How are you any more productive, in real terms, except in the sense that you only want food, shelter, and savings in exchange for performing meaningless crap?

It's pretty rare to have somebody with a mouthpeice say things like this.

It's like there's a cringe factor, like we're all so used to the cry of "dole bludger" that we think we deserve to be treated like shit in the media, like we ought to be grateful for every penny, like we ought to feel sorry about taking "Taxpayer's Money".

I'm sorry, but students deserve to be supported by the government for studying because they're human beings, subject to that whole American (although Anmerica's record is even worse than Australia's) "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" thing. The unemployed deserve to be supported by the government for as long as they bloody well need to be, for the same reason. And they deserve to have the full benefit of the doubt! And no adult should ever be expected to be dependant upon their sex partner, their opposite-sexed roommate, or their parents.

"Taxpayer's Money" ought to be used to promote people's lives. We should bail out people, never businesses that are at risk of going under. We should fund individual lives to promote a spirit of freedom in our own society and the way we treat each other, not fund weapons and men trained to take lives in order to promote a false dogma of neo-liberal market-freedom in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Welfare works. It has never crippled an economy. It has never heralded the end of a civilisation. You know what does end civilisations? The dismantling of state infrastructure, and the creation of poverty and discontent. Never welfare.

Sat, Feb. 16th, 2008 04:45 am (UTC)
dissembly

Are there provisions for post-grads? I'm not sure if i'm technically post-grad. I expect to lose any chance at an income if i start a PhD.

Are you getting any post-grad payments?

Sat, Feb. 16th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)
dissembly

I'll be applying for them. I don't really know how scholarships work. I assume it will depend on what marks i end up with in six months time. My impression is that they're usually something like 10,000 for a year's study, which is not enough to live on in any independant sense (though that's about the same as the dole, so, there you go...).

And, of course, those marks will be much harder to acheive if i'm looking for work or doing a part time job.

bah!
(Deleted comment)

Sat, Feb. 16th, 2008 05:42 am (UTC)
dissembly

Awesome.

Oh, i want i want it i want it!

Sat, Feb. 16th, 2008 05:49 am (UTC)
dissembly

I also want it for the sloppy Precambrian fossils, too.

Just to be clear.

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 08:07 am (UTC)
(Anonymous)

I back up what that person said about Monash scholarships, it seems to be the same at most of the other universities I have investigated in Australia. Also, the scholarships are usually tax-free (making a full time one probably a little bit more than the average part time salary...ie comfortably above the poverty line but not rolling in it, as opposed to woefully below the poverty line on Centrelink).

There's a document on Centrelink's website (which is currently down so I can't link to it) that has a list of all the payments available to students. It includes mention of some kind of "thesis payment" which is somewhere in the same vicinity of the $20,000 per year average PhD scholarship...no word on whether this actually is what it sounds like it is, or whether it even exists anymore, as the .doc file that I found doesn't exactly give off the impression of 'authoritative info' considering it is very cluttered and, well...looks like it was whipped up by a 6 year old.

By the way your original post here was SUCH a satisfying (and depressing) read.

-B

Sun, Mar. 23rd, 2008 08:08 am (UTC)
(Anonymous)

"mistersteve" sorry, not "that person"

-B