Budget leaves baked beans for Struggle Street


Baked beansThe Budget confirms one thing that both sides of politics agree on. And that's their belief in the existence of an undeserving poor. Their message is that if you're poor it's because you're just not trying hard enough.

So the unemployed are left below the poverty line. Newstart has not received its much-needed boost of $50 a week. And a $700 million chunk of the surplus has been skimmed from the pockets of sole parents and their children.

You don't build people up by putting them down. You don't help them get work by forcing them into poverty. And you don't build a surplus on the backs of those who are already doing it tough.

There's nothing wrong with bringing home the bacon for middle Australia. But the people living at the rough end of Struggle Street are trying to get by on baked beans alone.

The young unemployed bloke scraping by on $35 a day (and we wonder why we he doesn't get a haircut before going for a job interview), or the single mum who has just been forced down to $38 a day on Newstart; they remain unheard.

The middle-aged mum or dad on low wages or no wages as they battle to re-enter a workforce from which they have been dumped like so much human garbage; they remain unheard.

A good Budget should at least be a step in the direction of putting a charity like St Vincent de Paul's out of business.

That is not the case with this Budget. The forgotten and excluded have not been heard. They've been answered, not with hope, but with a bucket-full of austerity.

We at Vinnies will always be there to give our fellow Australians a bit of a hand-up. But people don't want charity. They want dignity, whether they are in the low end of the labour market or outside the door, trying to get in.

At a time when they increasingly have to turn to charity, it is not charity they long for. It is justice.

John FalzonDr John Falzon is an advocate with a deep interest in philosophy, society, politics and poetry. He is the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council Chief Executive and a member of the Australian Social Inclusion Board. 

Topic tags: John Falzon, Federal Budget, Newstart



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If they weren't so wedded to jailing refugees they would kept the parent payments and cancelled Serco.

Marilyn | 09 May 2012  

Crikey! A Catholic social justice agency criticising a Labour government. Where's the justice gone! Also, I quite like baked beans.

john frawley | 10 May 2012  

So many people on low incomes or welfare cannot afford to live on the money that trickles down to them in the form of Newstart, old age pension and disability support. The cost of living has gone up so much for these people that they cannot pay their utilities bills, rent or mortgage and put food on their table. They don't live-they exist. Some can't pay for much needed prescriptions, clothing,petrol. They are paying back their electricity, telephone, rates, car registrations, house insurance (if they were lucky enough to buy a home before they were ill or made redundant) each fortnight and just finish paying back the bill when a new bill arrives and again they must try and repay these bills. Tasmania has a monopoly on electricity and the average bill for the lowest paid comes in at a whopping $1,000 each quarter and water bills of $900 to $1,000. The peopkle on middle incomes are feeling the pinch badly as well. The terrible anxiety of not having enough to even exist is another great burden on low income families and singles. In rural areas there is no full time work and very few casual jobs. Centrelink and the Steps program treat people like dirt and many of the Steps programs act like petty dictators demanding meetings even when a person may be workin a part time casual and they threaten stopping of all payments if you don't jump when they say "Jump!" None of the charities are able to help many with St.Vincent de Paul only able to offer $100 to those very few that need lots of help. Their phones are busy all the time and the vast majority cannot grt help from the various charity. These people need to be given enough money to allow them to live and not just exist in anxiety. The amount governments spends in various programs should be directed to those who need help the most. Getting rid of privately owned profit taking programs like those of Steps and returning everything to Centrelink would save millions and millions of dollars that could be directly to those in dire need. The need to help those in poverty should be addressed by the government as a priority program to affect a higher standard of living to those who need helpnow!

Trent | 10 May 2012  

Entering workforce is good as long as there are enough jobs suitable for different job seekers.

AZURE | 10 May 2012  

Dr Falzon makes a very good point about the move we see back to the idea of the 'undeserving poor' versus some ideal of poor people who are apparently 'deserving' against our current mores (What are these criteria? How do you meet them?). This view is a cyclical one that seems to recur over time, witness the Church's struggle against this idea and its embedding in poor laws in the nineteenth century. I thought we had finally moved on long ago. And shame on you J. Frawley for such a flippant response. Whether you like baked beans or not is not the issue, it's whether you get a choice. That it is what it means to be poor - you have no choices. Or you have a choice, but it is between something your child needs for school and food on the table. Or worse.

Lee | 11 May 2012  

Trent, it's a pity you don't express the same desire for compassion and flexibility towards people from diverse backgrounds in your comments on church matters.Just as government policies can be unjust, so can church policy.

AURELIUS | 19 May 2012  

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