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R E S P E C T is for everyone

May 16, 2014

Dear Treasurer,

I have a suggestion. You like saving money, so I think you might like it.

On budget night you said something very true. You spoke about the importance of having a job to people’s sense of self, and well-being. Thus having a job is extra important, you implied. Yes, yes, big ticks, I agree Mr Hockey!

Given your apparent understanding it has been disappointing that you’ve proceeded to act as if being unemployed is basically a lazy person’s lifestyle choice. Unemployed under thirties may only get welfare payments for 6 months in every 12. How are they meant to survive? This is scary! And doesn’t this make it a little too easy for employers to exploit their young staff, knowing how hard it would be for any young employee to walk away from a job in this scenario?

But it seems I am just worrying without cause. Apparently there are jobs for everyone. Hallelujah! This must be the case, you, the Treasurer, implied it. Asked how an unemployed person, kicked off welfare, would find the $7 surcharge to visit a GP you responded: “I would expect you would be in a job”.

Well I wish that it were true. But I live in reality, Mr Hockey, and unemployment not only exists it is often in no way the fault of the people without jobs. And without jobs people are marginalized, not only financially, but also in the sense of missing out on a feeling of contributing to society, which you very rightly pointed out most people want. So be careful how you treat the unemployed, and be careful what you say about them, because they are vulnerable. Many, probably most, unemployed people want a job. They want to be valued, to contribute, to be independent, but there simply aren’t enough jobs. So, why, are you acting as though the unemployed are lazy and need to be punished into finding work? Why do you insinuate that there could never be a situation in which a young person keen to find work might not quickly find it? Unemployment is a part of Australia’s reality, and it doesn’t look as though this is likely to change any time soon.

You are our treasurer – this is not something you can choose to ignore. You must fund an adequate welfare payment system that will protect not only our young unemployed people, while also protecting our young workers from exploitation. And from now on please only speak of the unemployed with respect. That won’t cost you anything.

Concerned regards,

A former unemployed person



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