Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

Rudd's random acts of political kindness

Rudd extends lead in latest Newspoll, from ABC NewsAs Prime Minister Kevin Rudd ends 2008 and his first year on a high, it seems he's every bit the trickster his predecessor John Howard was. We're heading into one of the worst recessions in living memory, yet the government leapt to a six month high in last week's Newspoll. Rudd's rating as preferred prime minister has also risen three points to 66 per cent.

It's no coincidence that the polls were taken as many Australians received $1000 cash bonuses in their bank accounts from the Federal Government's $8 billion economic stimulus package. This is part of a succession of quick fix solutions to problems of great magnitude, attempted by both the Howard and Rudd governments.

The $8 billion was designed to protect jobs and businesses, by stimulating spending. It was also intended to make up for the inadequacy of entitlements and pensions paid to the needy. It's more likely an expensive exercise in wishful thinking that won't make up for the lack of social welfare policy foresight.

Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) Executive Director Frank Quinlan said last week that the current system is 'full of anomalies born of random payments and bonuses that arise out of political whim and historic accidents rather than good social policy'.

He was launching a CSSA position paper that calls for the establishment of an independent Entitlements Commission that would set and review pensions and other income support payments on an annual basis.

The paper shows that Indigenous Australians, unemployed people, sole parents, people with disabilities, and older Australians who rent privately, are regularly unable to pay for items like utility bills and prescription medicines.

Random lump sum payments will do little to help those without an adequate regular income to meet recurring living expenses such as rent, food and utilities. The government would correctly say that they were not meant for this purpose. However the allocation of such funds should be overseen by a body that is not subject to sudden or short-term political machinations.

The CSSA paper says that even though governments have acknowledged that income support payments should be sufficient to support an adequate standard of living, there is no defined standard of adequacy.

If the payments regime is not structured to address such a standard, it will be subject to short-term and other more easily perceived and measured needs, and political opportunism.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.



Topic tags: economic stimulus package, global financial crisis, rudd, quinlan, catholic social services australia



submit a comment

Existing comments

Michael, yours is a voice of sanity, one crying in the Australian political wilderness. Driven by lust for power, Rudd's short-term economic fixes will fail us. Now is the time to aim for long-term sustainable and just goals, enabling all Australians to live in dignity.

Neil Tolliday | 15 December 2008  

In all fairness it should be recognised that soon after the election the Rudd government initiated a long overdue thorough investigation into the current taxation and pension arrangements. The recommendations of this inquiry are awaited. In the meantime, drastic action needed to be taken in an attempt to stimulate the economy.It is all too easy for outsiders to indulge in carping criticism of a government that is genuinely trying to resolve a most serious and unprecedented problem.

David P.D. | 15 December 2008  

Well said David. It will be time enough to criticise the government's long term policy when we see it emerge after the inquiry.

In my view, Michael's editorial would be at home in a Murdoch tabloid. Consider for example the paragraph that begins "It's no COINCIDENCE [my emphasis] that the polls were taken as many Australians received $1000 cash bonuses in their bank accounts..." Really? Does he suggest that the polls were deliberately timed to measure the effect of the hand outs, or worse that the government timed the hand outs to precede the imminent polls? Does he have evidence of that?

Warwick | 15 December 2008  

Similar Articles

Seasons greetings to our readers

  • Michael Mullins
  • 23 December 2008

Our decision to make Eureka Street content free of charge has been a resounding success. Traffic to our website has more than doubled. We have received only a few expressions of misgiving from readers who would prefer to pay for the content.


Police shootings have many victims

  • Michael Mullins
  • 22 December 2008

Just ten days after the killing of Melbourne 15-year-old Tyler Cassidy, a Sydney woman was wounded at the weekend, in yet another police shooting. It's time to question the extent to which we should be proud of the anti-authoritarianism in our culture.