When Belinda Marsh wrote a piece for TBS on Friday about the five things that pissed her off about Centrelink I was reminded of some people I grew up with who spent years as healthy young people receiving financial aid while ‘deciding’ what to do next with themselves. In short, I was irked. And I have little doubt that many people personally know those who have openly worked for years without paying taxes while subsidising their cash-in-hand jobs with Centrelink payments.
While I am not suggesting a majority of Centrelink beneficiaries do this, I am categorically suggesting that there needs to be a tighter framework around who receives assistance and for how long. It is unsustainable as a country to not put stronger measures in place. It bothers me that a healthy 25-year-old can collect Centrelink benefits for years just because he or she doesn’t want to work, yet someone struggling with huge medical bills and genuine unemployment is unable to receive anything because they may not know how to “milk the system”. Frankly, I do believe in free-entreprise and simultaneously a government that supports our industry and economy – but I also believe in hard work and a sense of autonomy. I don’t believe Gina or Centrelink understand either of these things.
A government backed welfare system for those who are UNABLE to work is something I support, as is a system to protect those UNABLE to care for themselves and who NEED the financial support to actually have a “new start”.
Gina Rinehart commenting on this in a combative way does not help. It just further exacerbates the “Us vs Them” mentality, and ultimately, fosters resentment. It is also hard for me to admire women like Gina who inherited a large fortune as well as the structures of a “well-oiled” business. I was disappointed seeing the taunts likening her to Jabba the Hutt – not because it was mean-spirited, I can handle mean-spirited if it’s at least clever, but because it doesn’t add credibility to the argument that she may be wrong.
The point is, neither Gina nor Centrelink “get it”.
Gina giving tips to those trying to carve their path in Australia – a path at times checkered with misfortune – is akin to me obnoxiously giving unwanted parenting tips to the couple next to me at a sushi bar – what the hell do I know?