Pre-Traumatic Stress

Laws that are planned to be passed within the next four weeks are very far reaching in their consequences. They are also very detailed, but the Senate is being denied the chance to adequately scrutinise them (as well as other important, but less monumental matters).

There are three very big issues – massive workplace relations changes, major welfare changes and significant terror-related amendments to the Crimes Act and other laws. All three are being examined by Committees over a period covering this and next week, which makes it virtually impossible for the evidence to be properly examined, the necessary questions asked, answers considered and proper conclusions reached and compiled into a genuinely considered report.

Even people who support the purported goals of these laws should be keen to ensure that the detail is correct and provides the best chance of meeting those goals – indeed if anything they should be even more keen to make sure the Parliament gets the content right before passing it. It is not really about allowing more time for ‘debate’ on the Bills, important as that is, it is about allowing more time to scrutinise the content and assess the human impact (which also has the added benefit of enabling the consequent debate to be a more informed one).

The more I hear and read of the ‘debate’ in the Parliament and the mainstream media regarding these issues, the harder I am finding it to contain my anger. Huge legislative changes that are going to impact directly on the lives of millions of Australians are being reduced to little more than glib assertions and misrepresentations, yet the opportunity to actually properly examine the details is being cast aside with seemingly minimal comment. I acknowledge that people from both sides of these rather polarised issues are guilty of some misrepresentation, but I also think the onus should be on government to honestly explain the reason why such extreme changes are needed, and to honestly acknowledge the full consequences, rather than just the bits they like.

The matter that is irritating me most at the moment – although that is a moveable feast depending on the stimulus – is the lack of acknowledgement of a core facet of the welfare changes. Somehow, just chanting a mantra about the need to get people off welfare and into work – a goal which everyone agrees with – seems to be sufficient to allow a total ignoring of the undeniable fact that there will be people who will still be on welfare, and many thousands of those people will be on significantly lower incomes.

The two weeks of Senate Committee hearings will be followed by two weeks of Senate sittings, replete with late night sittings on most days, which will undoubtedly see the government using its control of the Senate to guillotine all three of these new laws through without full scrutiny and exposure of the consequences. (Although it is possible that the Terror law will not need to be guillotined, as Labor has already said they will support this in the end).

I think my growing irritation and anger is a form of ‘pre-traumatic’ stress. I know, even from sitting through part of the first day’s hearings today into the Terror legislation, that it is going to be highly distressing watching the inevitable unfolding of these ridiculously truncated processes with little real acknowledgement of the likely, or even possible consequences. This will be followed by sitting in the Senate and having to witness the passage of legislation which I believe will seriously harm the lives of many thousands of Australians and have a negative effect on the ways our society operates in the future.

I’ve had to sit and watch what I believed to be very bad laws pass before. It’s never much fun, but it goes with the job. There’s been someparticularly bad ones that do stick in my memory though – the big package of draconian changes to the Migration Act that were forced through in the post-Tampa climate before the 2001 election is probably the worst single event. The human suffering and harm caused by those laws is now terribly obvious. The weakening of the Native Title Act was another upsetting process to witness. Watching the passing of the GST was tragic for a range of reasons, and the ALP’s support for the far more unfair changes to Capital Gains Tax a year or so later was also no fun to witness. However, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like the ‘triple-whammy’ that’s about to be crunched through the Senate in a few weeks time.

Still, anger is an energy, as someone sang somewhere once upon a time, so I will try to channel it in a way which might produce some good over the next few weeks, even while so much bad is being perpetrated.

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  1. THere is a genuine feeling of hopelessness and disgust for politicians in the community now.

    I knew people on minimal wages who voted for Howard at the last election – they simply didn’t understand.

    Unfortunately they will understand shortly what their votes have done.

    I’ve watched CEOs vote labor and the poor vote liberal. How much more topsy turvy can things get?

  2. Mmm. I don’t see the benefit in forcing people off welfare and into jobs that pay less.

    I also think the onus should be on government to honestly explain the reason why such extreme changes are neede

    I agree – “It’s good for the economy” isn’t that good an argument. It may be good for the economy, but the cynic in me can’t help thinking it’s a case of “bugger the social cost, because they’re all either lefty bastards who won’t vote for us anyway, or people who’ll follow us if we give them a pissant tax break of $5 a week.”

    anger is an energy, as someone sang somewhere once upon a time

    That was John Lydon, in PiL’s “Rise”, if I’m not mistaken.

  3. If I may quote Bill Clinton – “it’s the economy, stupid”

    Now if I may quote someone closer to home – Peter Andren – “more and more people are saying it should be society, stupid”

  4. Do we exist to serve the economy or does the economy exist to serve us?

    Talking up “family values” while legislating away job security, with its consequent impact on working hours, is like telling everyone they should be drinking freshly squeezed orange juice while working to ensure they only can only afford Fanta.

    Like the look and feel of the new site by the way, Senator Andy. Was looking at it today at work with a bloke who just’d joined us after recently arriving in Aus from working for a US Senator and he was pretty damned impressed, even after we explained the Australian Democrats were somewhat different to the US Democrat Party.

  5. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha ‘The Bartlett Diaries’. Oh man, you are sooooo funny for such a serious old bugger. Love it. You are now my favourite Senator.

    *goes to make ‘I Love Barts’ badges*

    *sends one to Bob*

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  7. Andrew, can identify with the “pre-traumatic stress” as you describe it. I and many I speak to are feeling utter despair at the prospect of this triple whammy being rammed through parliament and the irrevocable havoc it is going to wreak on our Australian way of life. The only bright spot at the moment is that we still have people in the Senate like the Democrats, The greens and maybe Barnaby who we know will go down fighting to the bitter end. Hang in there and do what you can.

  8. The politicisation of our government (not just government-of-the-day, government overall), which surely has the role of governing, is quite disgusting.

  9. Regarding welfare:
    Why is it that genuinely disabled people are given pittance to support themselves. Is this some of sort of disincentive for them? I can understand unemployment benefits being so low using that logic, but to punish those that cannot and never will be able to work is a bit cruel.

    I reckon the disabled should be given award wages at least.

  10. You heavily criticise a system that involves forcing people on welfare into jobs that will pay less.

    Whether that is the case or not I don’t really know but what your assertion represents is a view that the welfare system in this country pays recipients at such a level that working for a living will leave them worse off.

    That to my mind indicates that the welfare system is seriously broken.

    The question you should be asking is why has the welfare system so degenerated that there are now no real incentives to actually go and get a job.

    The welfare system has now become a giant poverty trap. Its supporters like Anthony Dalton of the St Vincent de Paul Society are making statements that moving single parents into the workforce is a criminal offence because it places the children in danger.

    So what does he think of the thousands of people who are single parents who already work? Are they commiting criminal offences because they don’t have the required time with their children? Or 2 parent families where both parents work? Are they commiting criminal offences?

    This debate is getting beyond the pale.

    The numbers of working age people on welfare has skyrocketed in the last 35 years. People have a moral obligation to look after themselves if they are able bodied. The provision of massive government welfare destroys that moral basis and we end up with the welfare crisis that we have today.

    The evidence before the inquiry refers to modelling done to predict the numbers of people affected by these changes.

    Where was the modelling done before these welfare benefits were introduced in the first place? The budget estimates in 1973 showed that there would be about 12500 beneficiaries on single parents benefit.
    In the first year it turned out to be 20000. Its now upwards of 400000. It’s a social disaster.

    All you can do is criticise a government that is trying to get people off dependency and into a job where they will have some semblence of independence.
    Look at the bureaucratic hoops that people are subjected to when they become dependent on welfare. The evidence before the enquiry is replete with it.
    If you had the good of welfare recipients at heart you would be pushing for reforms that phased out the mess that has developed rather than perpetuate it.

  11. After watching some of the senate hearings into IR and the Welfare bills, 151 academics, numerous charities, Church, Pru and the majority of the public, say these are not in the best interest of our country. Then why is the Govt. ministers not listening. I can only put it down to arrogance, patting the Australian community on the head and saying, we know best, and not treating us like the Adults we are. Anger in the community is starting to build and I don’t think this one will go away, oh how did Howard put it “still able to have the family BBQ’s”. Arrogant

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