I was raised by a single mother. So it has not been a great few weeks for me as I have watched my own party treat single parents like they are sinners or bludgers or both.
In the first few weeks of 2013 we have seen the Gillard Government punish single parents to the tune of $100 per week by forcing 84,000 of them on to the Newstart Allowance, hence reducing their benefit.
At the same time, it was announced that new anti-discrimination legislation would exempt religious organisations from certain categories of sinners they wanted to discriminate against.
One such category is “unwed mothers” or “single mothers” in secular speak.
In 1973 Gough Whitlam introduced the single parent pension. In conjunction with no-fault divorce and putting the pill on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the Labor Party has a pretty spectacular history of helping women.
And then we go and kick them in the guts.
$100 per week doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but it is to a single parent. Raising a kid by yourself, paying rent (especially in Sydney) and bills, and earning a low income because you left the workforce to have kids is hard.
Now try that with $100 less a week.
What makes me angry about this kind of policy, is its mean-ness of spirit. It is not about re-training women who have left the workforce and want back in.
It is not about going after bludgers, as audits and compliance does that.
It is about punishing women. Women who for a variety of reasons are not in a steady relationship.
Did you know that around 95% of the people who come to Australia on leaky boats are Refugees?
I don’t mean ‘boat people’, ‘illegals’ or ‘queue jumpers’, I mean 95% of them are judged by the United Nations as people with a legitimate cause to leave their country and seek refuge elsewhere. Including Australia.
Why bring this up you ask? Well, as with refugee policy, we are now legislating for the 5%. Think about that for a moment.
How many single mothers are actually bludgers? I have no idea, but I bet it’s not 95%, probably closer to the 5% don’t you think?
I am all for saving money from the budget, but how about we go after dead-beat-dads or tax cheats or we raise the capital gains tax threshold. Lots of ways to save/make money.
Maybe this isn’t about money, maybe this is about ‘values’?
Discriminating Against Sinners
The federal anti-discrimination laws are getting a refresh, about time really. But the Christians, more specifically the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) were not so keen to be included.
You see they feel that some people should be able to be discriminated against, sinners specifically. Gays get a mention, as do adulterers (how quaint), but so too do unwed mothers.
There are two issues here, the first is whether being gay or an unwed mother is actually a sin.
Since more Catholics in Australia are for equal marriage than the rest of the population, let’s assume it’s not a sin, but the Pope says different, so who’s to argue?
The second issue is that when we say ‘Christians’ we think churches. That is not the case my friend. Religious organisations represent one of the largest private employers in Australia.
Schools, hospitals and many many other workplaces around Australia are actually ‘religious organisations’.
And who gives these schools and hospitals lots and lots of money? Tax-payers via the federal government.
So, as with blood-diamonds and brutal regimes, you are actually funding discrimination. Nice one.
Churches are going to get the ability to fire single parents from their workplaces for that reason alone.
And on the single parent pension they go! Wait, not if their child is 8 years-old or over. That’s New Start for you sinner.
Election Year Politics
Aside from the odd timing that the federal government is punishing single parents and letting churches do the same, what is going on here?
Gillard is an atheist right? Seems a bit odd that a person who doesn’t believe in sin would be keen to punish sinners who have kids.
It is an election year. What does that really mean anyway?
Well election years are about marginal electorates, not the proud history of a great party that believes in a secular society that has a safety net.
So, there are a lot of marginal electorates in Western Sydney (and else where), there also happens to be a large number of Christians out in Western Sydney.
The Australian Christian Lobby represents the organisations that represent those Christians (as above, not necessarily representing what actual Christians believe, just the leaders/organisations).
And so a little discrimination here and a little punishment there and maybe the ACL won’t come out after the ALP in Western Sydney late in 2013.
One slight problem with this cynical logic, the ‘Mad Monk’ didn’t get his name because he’s an obsessive compulsive detective.
The ACL knows full well who has the purest political soul. And it ain’t Gillard and Labor.
Punishing single parents and letting faith based employers do the same is not what Labor stands for. It is not what Australia stands for.
And thankfully there are a lot of us in the ALP and the broader community who think so.