A young man,
lets call him Andrew, is sitting on the footpath, cigarette
hanging from his mouth staring at nothing. He’s just been
breached for a “technical” oversight.
to despair began four weeks ago when a mate of his dad’s asked
if would like to do some work cleaning up his front yard and
knocking down a fence. At 25, still living at home and with a
rocky employment record, Andrew jumped at the chance to earn a
He took the
job and over the next two weeks not only cleaned up the yard and
knocked down the fence, he helped the builder put up a new
fence, cleaned out the gutters, mowed the lawn and even got the
washing in when it rained. The two weeks were great fun but in
the process he forgot his “job ready obligations.”
While he was
doing the work he was also required to look for six jobs per
week using at least three different methods. He could ring, cold
call, use the Centrelink computer touch screens or fax potential
employers. He had to keep a diary of all contacts with times,
dates, contact names, contact numbers and any other information
first week he failed get the six contacts done. He simply ran
out of time each day and by the time he had finished the work he
was doing, it was after business hours. He thought of making up
some fake contacts but remembered his case worker telling him
that Centerlink randomly check out the contacts in people’s
diaries and if he got caught it would not be good for him.
In the second
week of his job he made sure he rang, cold called and used the
computer to fulfil his quota. The trouble didn’t start till he
went to one of his regular case management sessions last week.
sure whether to tell his case manager of his oversight but as he
thought the bloke was OK he decided to fess up and find out what
he could do to make it up. He went to the meeting and told his
case manager what had happened. This was duly noted and entered
into the computer. He was told that the government was cracking
down on people who breached their obligations.
letter arrived. Because he had failed to uphold the “agreement”
he had made, he would, forthwith, have his unemployment benefit
withheld for eight weeks. He could retain his Health Care Card.
This was just before I found him. Without any visible means of
support or any hope for a reprieve. When I asked if he would
appeal it he told me that it could take three months for the
result to come back so what was the point!
So here we
have the outcome of the government’s attack on the poor, the
unskilled, the unemployed and the underemployed, the disabled,
the sick and the single parent. While they have continually told
us that there is such a thing as “mutual obligation” it would
seem they have no sense of responsibility or care for others.
However, when it comes to one of their own, they are more than
willing to bend, no break, the rules.
Senator, Santo Santoro deceived the Australian people and the
parliament and broke John Howard’s Code of Ministerial Conduct
when he failed to declare shares he held.
fact was known, Howard and his mob rallied around Santoro and
said that his breach was only a “technical breach” and as such
he should suffer no penalty. Why, we were told, he even gave all
the profits he made when he unloaded the shares to charity. This
lie also went largely unchallenged.
organisation Santoro gave the money to is not a charity but a
non-profit, right wing, anti-family, misogynistic, conservative
grouping of religious organisations calling itself the “Family
Council of Queensland”. This group has no tax deductible status
and as such cannot “technically” be called a charity. This is
not the first time Santoro has used his position to bolster the
private sector or conservative groups. Last year he was accused
of helping a mate win contracts for aged care beds. This mate
later bragged that he had hit the jackpot with Santoro’s help.
When it comes
to one rule for one and another rule for the rest, the Howard
government is the clear winner. While the most needy must beg
and scrape they allow dishonesty in their ranks to remain.
Santoro’s remorse for not telling the truth only went as far as
“its regrettable the oversight occurred.” In fact, so dishonest
is this man he didn’t bother to disclose the shares until he
found out he had made a motza from them when the company sent
him an update on their profitability.
dishonesty and Howard’s defence of this dishonesty points out
once more how the lust for power has infected and destroyed any
moral integrity the Howard government and its members could
once, perhaps, claim.
Labor has no
better track record in these matters and we should not be
looking towards them for help. Both parties are intent on
insuring that people like Andrew are left at the bottom of the
pile while shoving their snouts even further into the trough.
morning Santoro, Howard and all those in parliament will wake up
in nice beds, in nice houses or hotel rooms. They will take tax
payer funded trips to their offices or elsewhere and be wined
and dined at no personal cost to themselves. With no sense of
regret or obligation they will go about their business as if we,
the people, are the problem and not their employers.
morning Andrew will wake up in his bed and lie there wondering
how he can tell his parents he cant pay his board and lodging
this week, or the next or until well after Easter. He will
probably go around to his girlfriend’s place and chill out until
she gets home from work. However, a sense of pride,
responsibility and obligation will prevent him from asking her
to help him out, even though he knows she will.
It’s a real
pity that more people like Andrew, people with personal
integrity, honesty and a willingness to muck in and have a go
don’t occupy the halls of our parliaments. The crooks, cheats,
liars and thieves who do occupy the places of government
certainly don’t “technically” measure up to the ideals we have
for “good leaders”. At least Andrew was doing an honest day’s
work before his “technical” oversight came to light and at least
he didn’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming to admit his
failure. I wish him well and hope that next time I see him he
his holding his head higher than last time I saw him.