Monday, June 30, 2014

Disabling rorters: Planned Disability Pension Scheme overhaul could force thousands of Australians into workforce

AUSTRALIA’S disability support pension will be abolished for anyone not suffering a permanent disability and replaced with a working age welfare payment under radical reforms the Abbott Government will now consider.

If adopted, the scheme would involve migrating hundreds of thousands of people off the DSP to a new, temporary, working age welfare entitlement.

Warning the nation’s welfare system is a complex mess of payments, supplements and confusing income tests, welfare expert Patrick McClure will on Sunday outline sweeping changes in a report commissioned by the Federal Government.

It will include calls for tax reform for all Australians, warning the interaction of personal income tax and means-tested welfare payments can reduce rewards for working and diminish incentive to work.

For the disabled, he suggests a new working age payment for people who have some capacity to work and bridge the gap between the DSP that pays people more than the dole.

The report calls for the DSP to be quarantined as “only for people with a permanent impairment ”.

“People with disability who have current or future capacity to work could be assisted through the tiered working age payment to better reflect different work capacities,’’ the report states.

“Within the working age payment, different tiers of payment could take account of individual circumstances, such as partial capacity to work, parental responsibilities or limitations on availability for work because of caring.”

Crucially, the report also suggests adjustments to family payments can be justified on the grounds of extra assistance being provided under the new paid parental leave scheme and in the case of the DSP, the new National Disability Insurance Scheme.

“Reform also needs to take account of recent developments such as the system of lifelong care and support for people with disability being introduced through the National Disability Insurance Scheme, the expansion of paid parental leave and the opportunities offered by new technology,’’ the report states.

Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews will on Sunday call for debate on the options, warning he is deeply concerned that the DSP had become a “set and forget” payment but that changes would be made in consultation with the community.

“I have asked Mr McClure to look at what can be done to simplify the welfare system and get those with a capacity to work back into the jobs market,” he said.


Happy Ramadan signs at 239 Woolworths stores creates a stir with some customers threatening to boycott stores

WOOLWORTHS is wishing some customers a “Happy Ramadan” — but not everybody is celebrating.

The supermarket giant has Ramadan promotions in 239 stores in areas with big Muslim populations.

At Sunshine’s Marketplace Woolworths, posters and a display of nuts and dried fruit greet customers.

The month-long Islamic religious festival involves fasting in daylight hours.

But some customers have complained the promotion is offensive and un-Australian.  On the supermarket’s Facebook page, one person accused the chain of “pandering to a minority”.  Another said: “I find this kind of advertising OFFENSIVE, as an Australian & as a female!!!”.

And another said the signs were offensive to her beliefs and she would boycott stores where they were displayed.

Woolworths spokesman Russell Mahoney said the promotion was running in 239 stores around Australia.  “We celebrate as many international festivities as possible to support the diverse population of Australia,” he said.  That included Diwali, Lunar New Year and Passover.

Islamic Council of Victoria secretary Ghaith Krayem welcomed Woolworths’ promotion and said people who opposed such initiatives did so out of ignorance and unsubstantiated fears.  “Ramadan is a time of reflection and renewal and maybe it is also a time for all of us to be inclusive rather than push each other away.”


Labor says Tony Abbott’s federation reforms may be path to GST expansion

THERE has been mixed reaction from premiers to the Abbott government’s drive for federation reform, and the Labor opposition has claimed the far-reaching initiative could be used to make further budget cuts and blackmail the states into supporting a GST increase.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott outlined the terms of reference for his long-awaited federation white paper, revealed in The Weekend Australian, at today’s Liberal Federal Council meeting in Melbourne.

“Now is the time to make each level of government sovereign in its own sphere,” he announced.

The commonwealth would continue to take a leadership role on issues of genuine national and strategic importance, Mr Abbott said.

But there should be less federal intervention in areas where states had primary responsibility such as health and education.

The policy white paper was promised during the 2013 election campaign as a way to end waste, duplication and buck-passing between Canberra and the states.

Since then, however, tension between the two tiers of government has bubbled over across the political divide after plans were revealed in the May budget for the states to receive $80 billion less in funding to spend on hospitals and schools.

Speaking at today’s meeting, Queensland Liberal Premier Campbell Newman said he was open to reforming traditional federation arrangements but argued for a greater federal revenue commitment.

However, South Australia’s Labor Premier Jay Weatherill was scathing of the proposal, telling ABC TV it would lead to the “Americanisation” of the health system.

Federal Labor’s shadow treasurer Chris Bowen said he feared the white paper would be a blueprint for further budget cuts on top of the government’s $80 billion “curtain raiser”.

“We are concerned that Tony Abbott will use this … (to) blackmail state governments into accepting an increase in the GST,” he said in a statement.

Senior officials from the Prime Minister’s department will work on the paper in consultation with the states and territories and representatives of local government.

It is due to be released at the end of next year.

Mr Abbott also made a pitch today to the Senate’s new crossbench which will decide the fate of some of the government’s agenda from July 7.

“I say to the new senators, we won’t hector you and we won’t lecture you,” Mr Abbott said, adding that he respected the election of the microparty senators and asked them to respect his mandate.

The federal government faces an uphill battle to get some controversial elements of its budget, such as welfare changes and a GP co-payment, passed by the upper house.

Treasurer Joe Hockey told the party faithful to “stay the course” in the face of budget criticism.

“When the critics grow fierce and when the words appear intimidating, strengthen your resolve,” he said.

The Federal Council narrowly passed a motion urging the government to refrain from introducing the GST on overseas online shopping purchases under the current $1000 threshold.

It’s at odds with the NSW Coalition government’s stance and the work state treasurers have been doing for the past couple of years in trying to reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, the Greens have accused outgoing Liberal federal president Alan Stockdale of letting “the cat out of the bag” on how the party will continue to seek corporate funding to get around restrictions on political donations.

Mr Stockdale flagged that the party should consider introducing corporate membership.

New president Richard Alston said he had not given the idea much thought but was open to sensible suggestions.


Truly dangerous ideas don't condemn girls to death

In a forthcoming article in Quadrant magazine, I argue that Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act should be repealed so that controversial issues of national importance such as Aboriginal identity and multiculturalism can be freely debated.

Having staked out this position in favour of free speech, criticising the Festival of Dangerous Ideas (FODI) for inviting a member of the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir to explain why 'Honour killings are morally justified' appears to leave one open to the charge of hypocrisy.

Following a public outcry, FODI's management quickly announced the invitation had been withdrawn and the session cancelled. This is not a form of censorship, and questioning the appropriateness of discussing the proposed topic in the proposed forum was never a matter of curbing free speech.

What has finally been corrected is a terrible lapse in judgment (as well as taste) by the organisers.

The first lapse in judgment involved the inappropriate use of a public institution - the Sydney Opera House.

Using this venue to provide a platform for a zealot and ideologue who seeks to justify and excuse murder is not just inappropriate - it's an intolerable violation of the basic principles of a free and democratic society.

No citizen should have to endure the state's resources being deployed against their fundamental rights and vital interests in such a manner. That is to say that taxpayers' money should not be used to help promote ideas that are 'dangerous' (i.e. fatal) for Muslim females who simply wish to enjoy the personal freedoms that others take for granted.

If a private venue or organisation thought it worthwhile to host a public discussion justifying honour killing, this would be another matter. They would bear both the cost and the responsibility, and would run the reputational risk of being associated with the speaker and their repugnant views.

But I suspect that most private venues or organisations would exercise good judgment. They would not want to be seen as responsible for bringing into the public domain the idea that hacking girls to death for having sex before marriage or for not agreeing to a forced marriage is somehow (as the FODI session blurb suggested) a legitimate cultural and/or religious practice that should be respected in a multicultural society.

This identifies the second lapse in intellectual judgment by FODI's organisers. In their misguided attempt to 'push the boundaries' and stimulate discussion of a so-called controversial issue, they do not appear to have understood what a truly dangerous idea, as opposed to a vile and noxious idea, actually is.

The fact is that not all questions are worth asking and not all answers are worth listening too.

A dangerous idea worth discussing is one that challenges a prevailing orthodoxy and which, if implemented, would generate public and/or private benefits, without generating public or private harms to others.

It should go without saying, but honour killings comprehensively fail this test.

It is disturbing that the Sydney Opera House and the St James Ethics Centre - organisations that claim to provide cultural and thought leadership - failed to understand why it was not worth talking about justifying the murder of women just because they happen to be born as Muslims.


1 comment:

Paul said...

What the hell is "Diwali"?