Monday, November 30, 2015

Why the childless should pay for other people's children

I don't  agree with all the reasoning below. To me the only issue is how the childless will be supported in their old age.  As it is now, other people's children support them -- children whom other people have made large financial sacrifices to raise.  That being so, it seems fair that the childless should chip in to help raise those children.  And roughly that happens now.  Is there a fairer system?  Maybe taxing childless people more heavily.  They should certainly not get a free ride -- JR

By Louise Roberts

Last time I checked, we Australians live in a society rather than a jungle and we help each other without expecting something lucrative in return.

A fair and reasonable society which nurtures its new generations yet offers government financial assistance to mums, dads or indeed both if they’re legitimately in need.

Families, you know, being the anchor of life.

Then there’s the society Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm claims us sponging, selfish breeders should live in. One where we should bow down and thank the child-free folk who cough up tonnes of tax dollars all their lives to help raise our “bundles of dribble and spittum”.

Leyonhjelm — himself not a father — this week was speaking in favour of a cause I do in fact support.

This is the new No Jab No Pay bill which from January 2016 blocks childcare payments and other benefits for the deluded parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

But in a logic which is truly skewed, the MP segued into an offensive, headline-grabbing rant against mums and dads, myself included, by claiming those without kids are forced to fund our five-star lifestyle.

“For some people, childlessness is not a choice; it is a great sadness. Forcing them to hand over money to more fortunate people is like charity in reverse,” he thundered in the Senate.

“It’s like making people in wheelchairs pay for other people’s running shoes.”

Here’s the thing — childless people should be subsidising families because it is the babies, the mums and the dads, who keep this country going.

They might be “other people’s kids” but they are the future, these irritating brats of today who will, with proper guidance and community infrastructure, be the productive taxpayers of tomorrow.

Yes, that means working as the barista, teacher, cop, dentist or palliative care nurse that even a childless person in 2015 might have to rely on in 40 years to come.

And therefore people who don’t have or don’t want kids but are working deserve to have a large chunk of their taxes go towards parents who need help to raise these sons and daughters.

As parents we are doing so much more than “leeching off” the child-free, we are breeding future tax payers. But in Leyonhjelm’s argument, the government “is not your parent or your spouse — get over it,” he said.

“You (the childless) work for more years and become more productive than the rest of Australia. You pay thousands and thousands of dollars more tax than other Australians. You get next to no welfare and your use of public health services is minimal.

“But you pay when other people get pregnant, you pay when they give birth, you pay when they stay at home to look after their offspring, you pay for the child’s food, clothing and shelter, you pay when the child goes to child care and you pay when the child goes to primary and secondary school. And then you pay when it goes to university.”

And it continued, a stream of anti-family and over-generalised garbage.

It’s obvious but we need new generations. The economy needs more babies. Maybe the gun-loving senator and his ilk need a reminder that low fertility rates are linked to diminished economic growth. That’s a text book basic.

We are all dependent on each other in a civilised society. I don’t have the qualifications to care for a terminally-ill patient but I am sincerely grateful that my tax dollars go towards educational opportunities for a stranger’s child who will one day work in the health industry.

In effect, someone else’s baby will work in a hospital and probably nurse me in my twilight years.

Then there’s the suggestion that children are “parasites” on the system — what about a heavy smoker who places a burden on the public health purse? A smoker choses to light up. A child has no say in being born.

It is shameful that when we decide to have children — those of us lucky enough to do so — we are lumped in with dole bludgers.

And if he is truly worried about tax, what about multinationals who make a huge profit in our markets and pay disproportionate penalties?

There may be few policies which benefit the childless and single, as Leyonhjelm argues, but protecting families is the point of government policy.

So when politicians cry “Won’t someone please think of the childless?”, I say we should be thinking of the child.

Look to China’s failed One Child policy if you want to see the alternative — less younger people to work, pay taxes and help look after the older generations.

Surely the idea would be to thank all taxpayers.

Fuelling a self-righteous Us and Them mentality just destroys our compassion.


Childcare tantrum over hourly fees

That wailing sound you heard coming from childcare centres this week was not from upset children. It was the caterwauling from the childcare industry as it howled with indignation over the ruinous, heretic suggestion by federal Minister for Education Simon Birmingham that parents should only be paying for the childcare they actually use.

Under the current system, a parent with the morning shift in a job-share might only use care for the first half of the day, but they’re still obliged to pay the full day flat rate – often 10 or 12 hours.

It’s not difficult to spot the childcare industry’s grievance – good, old-fashioned self-interested rent-seeking. After all, parents pay the full-day fees and the taxpayer helps parents by subsidising it with Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate. Childcare providers are obviously the beneficiaries of this.

It’s very cheeky of the industry to whip out the Helen Lovejoy defence (“won’t somebody think of the children?”) in saying that part-day childcare isn’t good enough for early learning. There is a reason why the duration and length of the preschool day generally matches that of the school day – it’s because that’s the type of arrangement that works best for children’s learning. And the part-day, part-time model is also what the evidence says has the least amount of negative impact on kids’ emotional wellbeing and behaviour.

With older kids at school for six hours a day and adults generally at work for eight (with some dispute as to how much of that is productive), who could mount an honest intellectual argument that 10 to 12 hours is not only beneficial, but crucial for children’s learning?

The Minister has attempted to stress that this is only a suggestion, and won’t be compulsory for centres at that. Some version of this proposal is undoubtedly doable. At the very least, part-time blocks that fit neatly into the full-time day can better suit different parents’ work needs, and assist children who may not be able to access a formal preschool program.

Parents and taxpayers have much to gain from this proposal. The only interests being served by the status quo are those of the childcare industry, who enjoy the ensuing windfalls.


Judge this book by its cover

Jeremy Sammut

There was some controversy over the use of the famed Hogarth ‘Gin Lane’ etching for the cover of my book on child protection policy in Australia.

However, the image was chosen after due consideration of the potential controversies.

One of the landmarks of 18th century British art, this iconic image of parental dysfunction and child maltreatment was an important piece of social commentary pivotal to the formation of the modern social conscience.

It helped spur the development of the great movements for social improvement that took shape in Britain in the 19th century, including the anti-child cruelty or child rescue movement.

This movement, and the child welfare legislation it spawned, developed under the influence of the writings of no less a figure than JS Mill.

Mill was the first thinker to identify that children had independent rights as future citizens. In On Liberty, Mill argued that if parents failed to fulfil their fundamental obligations to the welfare and development of children, the state and its agents should step in to see that those obligations were fulfilled.

I believe that contemporary child protection practices in Australia – which over-emphasise family preservation and upholding the rights of abusive and neglectful parents at almost all costs – are perversion of the true origins of the field in Mill’s sense of child rescue and children’s rights.

Critics are sure to point to the cover and take offence at the apparent suggestion that what is done today in the name of child protection amounts to a return to Hogarthian times of society permitting and tolerating child abuse and neglect.

I am comfortable with that suggestion. Because that’s precisely what the book is saying.

If the claim that family preservation amounts to presiding over child maltreatment instead of eradicating it makes the critics uncomfortable, then good. Because the weight of facts, logic and evidence compiled in the book supports this claim.

Those who are shocked by the cover should also consider the alternatives. The cover could have featured the photos of the utter chaos and filth of the dysfunctional household in which Chloe Valentine was left to live and die by Families SA, which were tendered into evidence at the coronial inquest into her death.

These photos where simply too shocking, too disgusting, too disturbing to put on the cover. Those who find Hogarth too shocking ought to take their social consciences for a walk through the underclass homes in which too many children suffer.


A new Aussie icon? Alongside Vegemite?

AS A columnist and memoir writer, I am used to sharing dark secrets with my readers. I have admitted to motherhood failures, to the breakdown of my marriage, to having anxiety, and to a thousand embarrassments and humiliations. But no revelation has ever evoked such an uproar, such unrest, as my recent confession.

And so, bracing myself for the flak, I will repeat it here.
I do not like the Golden Gaytime.

Yes, it’s true. That iconic ice cream, that symbol of Australian summer, that epitome of bronzed beach culture, is not at all to my taste. I don’t like it. In fact, I find it a little bit repulsive.

Now, I love toffee ice cream as a concept, but the rendition in the Gaytime is both bland and sickly sweet. It’s not ice cream; it’s confectionary, and unsatisfying at that. The chocolate coating is too thin, and the biscuit crumbs are hideously unrefreshing. The whole combination is wrong. Give me a Magnum or a chocolate Paddlepop any day of the week.

But why is this even relevant? When I mentioned on my Facebook page that I was not a fan of the famous snack on a stick, I was pilloried. And although most of the criticism was pretty damn funny, the message came through loud and clear.

To dislike the Gaytime is to be unAustralian. And I, the disliker, am a national disgrace. The comments came in thick and fast.

“You don’t like the Gaytime? I’m shocked and appalled!” wrote Michelle.

“Unfollowed,” wrote Mel. “Gaytimes are f**king awesome.”

“Kerri. Delete this sick filth,” demanded Shannon.

And from Robin: “You’re clearly in a negative emotional space to even think of calling Gaytimes crap. Gaytimes are the ultimate in ice cream experiences. I hope you take some time to meditate on this issue and see the error of your ways.”

Even my old friend G texted me to complain. “You don’t like Golden Gaytimes? And you only reveal this now??? Et tu, Brute!”

I was stunned. How can not liking a popular food cause so much outrage? What was wrong with people?

Is ice cream simply fat and sugar-laden junk food or is there some nutritional goodness?

But then I turned on the radio, and heard a celebrity announcer discuss the fact that she prefers Promite or Marmite to Vegemite.

What kind of a monster is this woman? I thought. What kind of demented tastebuds does she have that prefer Promite or Marmite to the One and Only Yeast Extract Spread? She needs to be banished from the airways, I decided. No, she needs to be banished from this country! She isn’t an Australian! She’s a traitor and a disgrace!!!

And then I realised. Perhaps I had been too dismissive of the Gaytime. For the sake of our nation, I might give it another try.


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