Tag Archives: politics

More musings on food banks

A tray of brawnies on the stove and a hand in front holding  packet mix of greens vegemite brownies

The $1 Vegemite brownies I got from the church foodbanks were… odd. And they haven’t been finished off which usually happens to anything sweet in this house. I see why they were written off at the supermarket as not selling.

So, I was scrolling through Twitter and in amongst the horrors occurring in Palestine, I saw a few friends commenting on a post made by a chap named Kos Samaras , talking about how poor people are more concerned about the cost of living than deaths in Palestine. He made another one similar about the failed referendum. I’d link or share a screenshot, but I’m blocked. Kos is a Labor chap and lobbiest. So I guess he doesn’t like poor people speaking up for themselves. Kinda like how Van Badham blocked me not long after I replied to a post she (and Jane Caro and someone else echoed) asking about our experiences on welfare and I shared my story of being rejected for DSP. I mean t wasn’t in response to that post I was blocked, but it was the same week, she was just on a run of blocking people in the antipoverty space,

Anyways. In this thread, Greg Jericho (of Grog’s Gamut fame, ‘member when he was one of the first Aussie bloggers sacked over blogging?) posted a link to a recent Australia Institute report on Food Waste In Australia, with the overview talking about how food retailers actually profit from food waste, to the tune of $1.2 billion. How they do that is just another story of the rules allow you to make more money when you already have money – can’t sell something? Write it off as a loss and sell it cheap or donate it to Foodbank or Ozharvest and look like a hero while it doesn’t actually cost you anything. Meanwhile you can mark up your regular stock because things apparently are expensive, and you need to cover the cost of surveillance cameras, auto closing gates, racial profiling, and having guards follow Blak kids around the store (you’ve seen it happen), or just having your regular staff grabbing 4 year olds and accusing them of stealing.

It concerns me then that supermarkets and charities like Foodbank push for more financial incentives for Supermarkets to donate less desirable goods – whether they’re past their bet before days, a bit ugly or just not moving off the shelves – rather than advocating to raise income support or regulate how much profit Coles can make off a grocery shop so that we can buy the products we want when we want them and not have to rely on the “kindness” of others who make more money than us to get us these offcuts.

I still struggle with Woolies asking me (or anyone) for a 50 cent donation for foodbank at the checkout when the charities I buy my pantry goods from are charged for their orders of donated goods. Maybe I’m missing something? I’ve not gone into the nitty gritty of their annual reports  of the not for profits, but I still know I’m paying for that can of chickpeas from the church pantry.

I noticed the other day that my local woolies accepts direct donated goods from customers for two local community centres via OzHarvest. And I checked, those then are free for the person off the street in need. So, please, do check where your donation is going, because it all feels like there’s a lot of money being passed around and written in spreadsheets only for the welfare class to be told to be happy they’re getting anything at all.


Speak BECAUSE your voice shakes – and because you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t

So it looks like the major parties are still running their little dirt files on people they don’t like. Of course, in direct contradiction to the recommendations of the Robodebt Royal Comission, they’re still happily digging what they see as dirt to discredit the welfare class.

Last night it was Kristen’s turn. Kristen is part of the Antipoverty Centre, and guess what, they’re not affiliated with any political party. And yeah, Kristen may have once been active in the Greens, but she left them before they even had good welfare policies.

The Antipoverty Centre is a new organisation established in May 2021 to counter problems with academics, think tanks, charities, bureaucrats and others in the political class making harmful decisions on behalf of people they purport to represent.

We are a collective of activists, advocates and researchers with direct, contemporary experience of poverty and unemployment. We have deep expertise in poverty because we live it. We defend and fight for the rights of people like ourselves who experience violence at the hands of an economic system designed to oppress us. It is our mission to shift how people speak about and respond to poverty and unemployment in this colony.

We work closely with peer support groups, activists and grassroots civil society organisations to complement their work. Our goal is to help ensure the voices and rights of people on the lowest incomes are at the centre of social policy development and discourse. We believe there should be no decision made about us without us.

The Antipoverty Centre is not aligned with any political party and does not accept funding that places political constraints on our work.

So, as part of Kristen’s work, so often has media appearances. Kristen is eloquent in her criticism of all political parties and draws on her experiences as a disabled woman – she’s on the DSP and has NDIS supports that have been hard-fought for – to present at parliamentary committees and talk on the radio. Yes, her voice shakes, and I’ve seen her cry, but that’s the thing about lived experience experts – we’re here because things have been and continue to be painful and we want better for ourselves and others. We don’t necessarily care if we personally get the extra money in our Centrelink payments, we want to see everyone rise up with us. And if that means putting ourselves out there for criticism, so be it, but it needs to be be FAIR criticism.

Yes, Kristen has volunteers for the Greens at a high level, yes, Ricci formerly worked for ACOSS. But those things don’t lessen their current experiences of this torturous welfare system or the fact that it’s broken and Labor and the Liberals want to keep it that way.

Forgive me for being a member of the Greens. I’ve been on the local council ballot too and I may well again if day to day life isn’t too much of a struggle next cycle, so if you want to discredit me use that. Oh and I’ve had well paying jobs in the past, before my mental health and alcohol caught up with me. So it’s my fault I’m in this position being on DSP and wanting better for myself and my loved ones. yes, we get defensive, but my friends are just defending their right to exist, to survive on the meagre offerings of this system, without having to put up and shut up. We want better things to be possible for ourselves and for everyone else. Even you, if you fall on hard times, because remember you’re only not disabled until you are.

Media watch should practice what it preaches. tell us who gave the “tip off” about Kristen’s Green past… was it Labor? or was it your own little dirt diggers? Tell the dirt diggers that the ABC offered to pay for my accommodation to get me down for round two on QANDA with Jim Chalmers, but they offered at 2pm and I didn’t have the spoons to get to Sydney that night, expenses paid or not. You’re happy to use us when it suits you, so let us speak about what we live and breathe every day.

You have a new message in your MyGov inbox – Robdodebt and the culture of fear that governs welfare recipients in Australia.

I didn’t get a Robodebt. I’ve had Centrelink debts before – the main one was when my stepdaughter went back their mother after attempting to live with us for a year – $500 or so of Family Tax benefit that they’d paid to me after Phoebe had moved back out. Most of it was paid out of my meagre tax return that year. I’d just lost my job and was on JobSeeker with the Covid supplement (bless that), so that $500 was a lot to me. I’ve had advances from Centrelink too, where you get $x in advance and pay it back over a number of payments. It’s a tough decision to make to take that loan, the $20 less a fortnight while you’re repaying it stretches you a LOT.

So I can’t imagine having a message to check my inbox and there being a debt notice for thousands of dollars. For payments possibly from years ago. Money you were sure you’d reported correctly at the time, double and triple checking before you submit your reporting each fortnight so they can pay you the right amount less on JobSeeker or Youth Allowance because you earned something, not much, in your casual job that gives you minimum wages to be on call between school, caring and fulfilling mutual obligations.

I’ve had that SMS many times over the last few years, since losing my job, being unwell, applying for and being rejected for DSP and getting approved on appeal. Having my partner telling my I “won” Centrelink by getting DSP and him encouraging me to limit my interactions with JSPs and so on. He’s also a little wary of my time spent on Twitter and in political circles – concerned I’ll be targeted for auditing or a reassessment of my capacity to work. Don’t wanna be that guy being stalked by ACA being accused of faking your back injury. Or the Daily Mail with the cheers of Per Capita, as it is these days for Australian unemployed Workers Union members and office bearers.

So, I got DSP – Partner rate because I have a common law hubby with a low income job, who is expected to look after his neurodivergent missus when she’s not going so well. I get a grand total of $950 a fortnight form that, which include rent assistance. I regularly get people replying to my fortnightly pension day tweet surprised at how little it is.

Current DSP breakdown totalling $950 a fortnight

It’s little, so I live a little life. Bruce covers his expenses, I cover mine. My parents help with rent, and we help out his adult kids how we can. I take advantage of owning a car and shop around at Aldi and the local foodbanks, fulfilling my needs as a old school food blogger with whatever’s on offer there each week. I get extra bread for the kids and load them up on muesli bars and noodles every few weeks – nutrition for my soon to be grandbaby, We get by, but there’s nothing left at the end of the fortnight and there’s plenty we’d love to or used to do when there was more money around, but I limit myself to buying sims expansions with my recycling money and loving any gifts from the internet people. The inter people I’m so scared of losing with the downfall of Twitter.

Twitter was where I learned about Robodebt, its victims, like Phoebe, and the advocates working to bring it to light, like Asher and the NotMyDebt crew, and the few politicians who cared, Rachel Siewart we miss you! It’s where people came to share their debt notices and people rallied around to support them to attempt to get a resolution, so very often unsuccessfully in those days, but still now, when people are still posting recent debt letters that are in dispute, having to prove their innocence or agree to pay back from money they don’t have – JobSeeker is half the poverty line and Youth allowance is worse, and $20 a week in September will NOT make an impact on people’s lives.

Twitter was where we followed along the actual Royal Commission – it’s where I gained a visceral reaction to the phrase “I didn’t turn my mind to it” so much so, that an article talking about the use of that so obviously coached phrase had me flushed and ready to smack something.

'Didn't turn my mind to it' When questioned over their knowledge of Robodebt's lawfulness, one particular turn of phrase was heavily leaned on by politicians and public servants alike: "I did not turn my mind to the legality of the program." - Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull "I didn't turn my mind to it." - Former DHS and DSS secretary Kathryn Campbell "I'm not sure my mind turned to that." - Top government lawyer Paul Menzies-McVey "It had not crossed my mind until I read about it in the newspaper, I think, following the Federal Court case." - Former Human Services Minister Alan Tudge

Not the fear of the message in my MyGov Inbox though. That one deserves a special place in hell, as do the architects of Robodebt, from Tanya touting the data matching scheme in 2011, to Roberts and Campbell and Morrison, to whoever’s not advocating for the debt collection system to be CHANGED NOW, for welfare recipients to not have their meagre accidental payments garnished until they having more money coming in each week than the poverty line, for errors caused by the Service Australia systems to be forgiven, for the poorest not to be held financially responsible to such a broken system. For the poorest to given a fucking break every now and then.

Critics and Labor Stans were criticising the Greens and welfare advocates for responding to the finding being handed down with calls for welfare above the poverty line (as recommended by the commissioner). Because we’ve seen already this year Labor ignore the recommendations of their own Economic inclusion committee stacked with Laborites and people who live off the poverty machine. They recommended substatial increases to all welfare payments, and we saw how that went.

Ah, this Royal Commission is the result of a Labor government getting elected and following through with its commitment. The report has only been handed down a few hours ago. Why the rush to score political points? BTW the crimes committed by the Liberals under Robodebt are in no way related to the level of social security payments. Raising centrelink payments should certainly be on the agenda. Some patience to support a supposed political ally in this matter would be productive. Attacking Labor aggressively can only assist the Liberals in inching toward eventual regaining of government. What chance of getting a Green agenda if this happens? Reply1 dEdited Fiona Moore The level of welfare payments was a factor in how vulnerable people were to a threat of having their payments docked for supposed debt, and raising it for all was recommended alongside direct compensation in the report. Raising the rate was also recommended by Labor's committee set up after a deal by David Pocock to get something passed, but they ignored that recommendation. And Labor's done plenty of point scoring yesterday while still issuing unfounded debt notices to the vulnerable.

So, forgive us for being skeptical that much will happen for the reality, day-to-day, for welfare recipients. That we’ll still live in fear that we’ll have a message in our MyGov inbox that will ruin our lives, whether justified or not. That an app will be down and we won’t be able to report our income and won’t get paid, through no fault of our own. That we’ll be too sick to attend a mutual obligation – say work for the dole or a DES appointment, and can’t afford the doctor’s appointment to get an official medical certificate and end up getting breached and not be able to pay the rent.

Robodebt was one (horrific) chapter in Australian Welfare history, and it cost lives and caused a lot of pain, but the Centrelink system as it stands is continuing to cause pain and suffering, drive people to suicide and to attack Services Australia staff, and ruin people’s lives at the click of a button.

The welfare state isn’t fit for purpose. Please make the changes needed Labor, and prove me wrong.


a picture of carebears

Hashtag #Blessed

a picture of carebears

Scott’s right. He and Jen are blessed to not have to negotiate the life of a disabled Australian, adult or child, parent or carer. He’s blessed instead with the opportunity to make that system better for all involved.

Such as for

  • the parents of a child with some delays looking to engage with early intervention services, not knowing where to start.
  • Kids entering the education system and still facing the assumption that segregated settings are a beneficial option
  • Young adults trying to move into the workforce and having to fight for specialised support to find and keep open employment, or fumbled into sheltered workshops where $2.50 an hour is legal and seen as benevolent
  • Older adults struggling to survive on the criminally low JobSeeker payment despite having reduced capacity in the eyes of the government. But not being allowed onto the more suitable disability pension as the assessments needed to prove your disability are financially and or geographically inaccessible

But Scott has wasted his chances to make life easier for disabled people across the age span. His government has cut and cut and cut funding available to public schools who educate the majority of disabled kids, overseen the slashing of NDIS plans, defunding of advocacy services, and the continued exclusion of disabled people from leadership and board roles. Scott’s been blessed with the results of various enquiries and royal commissions that recommend centring those with lived experience of whatever it is that needs fixing, from disability care and support, to aged care, to the experience of women employed in the same building as him.

They like to say Autistic people lack empathy, but aside from that not being true and us merely needing to figure out how the neurotypical world would like us to demonstrate it, at least we’ve learned from our supports, unlike Scott from his empathy consultants.