Yep, most people still really hate dole bludgers
“GET a job!” It was the response to a protester from Prime Minister Paul Keating during his ill-fated 1996 election campaign that epitomised the “dole bludger” tag.
The nation’s unemployment rate had spiked during his previous term and many school leavers were seen as aimless, finding it easier to rely on government welfare than to look for paid work.
More than a decade on, the jobless figures have done an about-turn. In some areas there are more jobs than willing workers. But it seems the legendary dole bludger is alive and well.
You only needed to listen to the cacophony of complaints last week about “lazy unemployed bums” and the broad support Opposition Leader Tony Abbott received after he suggested a range of “tough-love” welfare restrictions to get people back into the workforce.
Abbott’s plan is to suspend unemployment benefits for people aged under 30 living in areas where there is demand for unskilled jobs.
He also called for work-for-the dole for under 50s and long-term jobless to have half their welfare withheld to pay for life’s basics such as food, housing and clothing.
In the same breath, he advocated a push to get disability pensioners who have the capacity to work back into the labour force.
Although welfare groups accused the Opposition Leader of being “mean-spirited” and of demonising the jobless, his ideas struck a chord with the vast majority of contributors to online news forums.
Keith of Brisbane, posting on The Australian’s site, echoed many of the comments about those on the dole. “About time the bludger has to work for his supper, not just get given a handout. We hope it will be done properly - which I am sure will happen - and maybe our tax might reduce as people would rather get a better-paying job. Less welfare, less tax. Sounds good to me.”
Even some of those who admitted they usually disagreed with Abbott backed him on this issue. Benny of Wollongong commented on news.com.au: “For once I agree with Tony on something. If you don’t try to get a job you shouldn’t get my tax dollars when they could go to someone/something that deserves them.”
But Jack, writing on ABC Online, saw the Opposition Leader’s plan as opportunistic and divisive: “Abbott will say anything for a vote. He will get the right-leaning vote and some swingers, but at the end of the day, in a country as prosperous as ours, we have a responsibility to look after the unfortunate. The long-term unemployed represent a very small fraction of the total working population. This country will experience an ‘us and them’ status which will not be healthy for the long-term future of the country.”
Genuine Aussie of QBN, on Adelaide Now, was worried about all disability pensioners being stigmatised as living too comfortably on welfare and not wanting to look for work. “I have been on a disability pension for over 10 years now and I can assure you it’s not something I like being on. I would give anything to be ‘normal’ and be able to work. Not all people on the disability pension are rorting the system, though some do have genuine health problems.”
Interestingly, Abbott’s welfare reform proposals received only a relatively mild rebuke from the Gillard Government, mainly over the costing details. It may be an indication that a similar “tough-love” approach on welfare is being considered by the Gillard Government in the upcoming Budget.
Keith Mac Nider, commenting on Adelaide Now, was suspicious of both parties: “Where’s the vision in either the Liberals or Labor which will inspire? What we have here is draconian social engineering or control on the part of Tony Abbott and the usual limp murmurs from Labor about costing. We’ve seen from the global financial crisis that the ordinary people suffer and the elites generally don’t. This is more of the same from both major parties.”
Any opportunity to tap the voters’ pet hates seems to be the modus operandi of politicking in 2011. But then, considering the “Get a job” gibe, perhaps nothing has changed.
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