Archive for August, 2013

August 30, 2013

“If Tony Abbott wins, it will kill me”

Post written by -99- for Turnleft2013

When Tony Abbott talks about saving money by axing community support programmes, health care, reducing aged pensions to pay for North Shore CEO babies, removing school kids bonuses for those already living in poverty, health budgets, red tape, green tape, Tony Abbott is playing with the life and death of real people, these are not just a means to balance the budget, it’s not just about numbers in an economic report, these are real people.

I work in the care industry – aged care, disability care, youth at risk, child care, home care for temporarily disabled, violent young offenders. It’s a tough job, and no where near paid enough for the work we do. I found one of my colleagues sobbing this morning, when she calmed down enough to speak, she said “If Tony Abbott wins, it will kill me”. This is her story, posted with permission.

My colleague, Donna* (not real name) is the primary care giver for her disabled sister. People hear ‘disabled sister’ and think cute 10 year-olds still in strollers or wheelchairs. This sister is an obese, violent adult, and Donna became her full time carer when their aged parents could no longer cope.

Donna, like many of us in this industry are on contracts, which means, we work when our agencies ring us up and ask if we’d like a shift. It’s irregular, not-stable, and if you knock back a shift, you may not get called again, as a contractor, there is no sick leave, no superannuation, no benefits. (One time I was violently assaulted by a client and had my shoulder broken, very close to my neck. I had to clock off work in order to go to the hospital.)

Donna’s sister has destroyed most of her possessions, is obsessed with fire and even though there are no matches or lighters kept in her home, the sister still finds a way to light fires. The sister takes great delight in playing radios all night and all day, and randomly turning lights on a night if Donna is trying to sleep. Donna’s social life is zero, she can’t leave her sister alone, and friends have stopped visiting.

Donna’s sister eats all the food in the house, and if she won’t eat what Donna cooks, she will take Donna’s food, and if the sister doesn’t like it, will throw it out. Donna was a healthy size 8-10 a few months ago, she says she has lost nearly 15 kilos, leaving her nothing but skin and bones. Donna tells me she is living on apples at work and hot water with sugar at home, if she keeps anything else in the house the sister will eat it. The food bill is astronomical. The sister says if she doesn’t get sausages, pizza, chips, meat pies, cola, she will call the police and say she is being abused.

“I’ll call the police” is a common threat, you can’t work in the care industry with a criminal record. If the police are called, Donna will be unemployed, and unemployable.

Donna has begun knocking back shifts due to needing to care for her sister, and is getting deeply in debt.

The sister has recently begun hitting her arms while driving and squealing with delight “you’re a bad driver, give me a turn” if she in anyway doesn’t drive in a straight line. She won’t sit still, and randomly removes her seat belt, Donna is a risk of losing her licence because the sister thinks it would be funny.

Donna told me that she needs NDIS to come in, she is not coping, she is broke, in debt, sleeps maybe 3 hours a night, can’t work regular hours, eats nothing, and the stress levels would kill most people. She says she has fantasies of burning down the house with her sister in it, or driving her car off a cliff, or putting blood thinning medications in her food. I don’t blame her, if it was me, I would have walked away a long time ago.

Donna says the only thing that keeps her hanging on is the hope of NDIS. She says if Tony Abbott forms government and doesn’t honour NDIS, her only escape will be killing herself, and let the government deal with her sister.

August 8, 2013

While I have rice, I will share it with those who need it the most: Why inequality matters

This election is crucial to determine the future of our country… But don’t we say that at every election? Or do we just say that when the predicted outcome looks like it might be close?

Tony Abbott will deliver one of the most devastating attacks on workers, communities, and the environment that any government in Australia has ever attempted. Queensland’s Newman and Victoria’s Napthine are just the warm up act, testing the boundaries.

Those PM Gillard and PM Rudd policies that Abbott wants to repeal are those that are concerned with looking after the most vulnerable in our society – children, the disabled and their carers, the lowest paid workers, women, the sick, the elderly, public servants who look after the vulnerable.

When Tony Abbott promises to bring industrial relations back to the middle, by implementing “Work Choices Mk II”, it makes me question what he would consider extreme? Tony Abbott wants to slash red tape and green tape – leaving us a nation whose only protection from those who would profit from us risking our lives so they can save a few dollars, will be whether we can afford a law-firm to fight for our rights.

The red-tape that Tony has said he will slash, it is not a burden on business, it’s the rebar that helps keep factories standing, it’s the fire alarms in nursing homes that helps stop our grandparents dying in their beds from smoke inhalation, it’s the safety harness that helps keep the apprentice teenager from falling off the roof, it’s the net that stops walls of buildings from falling on people walking along the footpaths, it’s what help us know our drinking water won’t burst into flames as it leaves our taps as the CSG fracking moves into our neighbourhoods.

Under Tony Abbott you will only be allowed to exercise those rights you can afford to defend. Everything else will go, in the name of profits, for a select few. We will become a nation of 1%ers dining on caviar and lobster with 99% deciding on whether this week their $2 a day wage will be spend on heating or eating.

Andrew Leigh, ALP, Federal Member for Fraser, has written an article well worth reading titled ‘Why Inequality Matters, and What We Should Do About It‘. In this piece, Leigh includes a quote from Gavan Daws who studied the prisoners of the Japanese during World War II

‘I began imagining that if human beings were worked and starved and beaten to the point of death, they would be reduced to barely functioning skeletons, scraps of biology, with… all national culture and character tramped out of them. Not so. … all the way down to starvation rations, 1000 calories a day and less, to 100 pound of bodyweight and less .. the prisoners of the Japanese remained inextinguishably American, Australian, British, Dutch.

‘The Americans were the great individualists of the camps, the capitalists, the cowboys, the gangsters. The British hung on to their class structure like bulldogs, for grim death. The Australians kept trying to construct little male-bonded welfare states. [Unlike Americans] Australians could not imagine doing men to death by charging interest on something as basic to life as rice. That was blood-sucking; it was murder. Within little tribes of Australian enlisted men, rice went back and forth all the time, but this was not trading in commodities futures, it was sharing, it was Australian tribalism.’

I am not prepared to sit back and watch as Tony Abbott and his Liberal team get elected without fighting all the way til the polls close in Western Australia on 7 September.

I am not going down without fight against an Abbott-induced austerity.

I refuse to do nothing while Tony Abbott dreams of turning Australia into a nation whose national characteristics are greed, smallness, dead-hearted, narrow-mindedness, hate, pettiness, bitterness, jealousy (a nation in Tony Abbott’s own image).

I will not accept that our future is that of an American gangster, who will profit from the deaths of others, so they can hoard all the rice.

While I have rice, I will share it with those who need it the most.