Could Jenny Macklin live on the dole?

She says “I could”, but you watch the video, Jenny Macklin’s answer here is very odd. She ducks the question once, has it put again, and is asked “Could you live on the dole”. She says “I could”, without any elaboration then goes straight back to spin. Her office then tries to delete it from the transcript.

It’s such a spectacular screwup, I think she must have imagined she was saying something different. But, whether or not that’s right, she, and the government, deserve all the pain they get for this piece of nastiness.

97 thoughts on “Could Jenny Macklin live on the dole?

  1. No, stupid would be trying to frame “food insecurity” as “starving”, when the data linked to provided a very clear definition of what is meant by it.

    Alex – I don’t think you followed the discussion very carefully. However for the record I agree it would be stupid to try and frame “food insecurity” as “starving”. I don’t know why Chris attempted to do so.

  2. @J-D

    The point is that Labor’s and Macklin’s (as she is the Minister) policy towards the unemployed is cruel and unconscionable as well as being unwise and counter-productive.

    It now costs in todays dollars about $400,000 to $1 million to bring up and educate a child to age 18 (former number) and to keep them at home (studying etc.) till 24 (latter number).

    On pure economic grounds, consider this. A young adult human (viewed mechanistically) is an expensive piece of complex, self-actuationg machinery constructed (physically, cognitively and socially) with 18 to 24 years of expensive and time consuming inputs not all of which are costed economically. If you had a piece of machinary that valuable and potentially useful would you throw it away on a scrap heap or would you utilise it for a relatively small additional input and get the enormous outputs possible? If you want to look at the country as a business, why would create these expensive, intelligent, adroit and almost infinitely flexibly tasked “machines” and then throw them away? It’s the height of stupidity (and inhumanity) to do so.

  3. @TerjeP
    A footnote to the study published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies states that information on food security levels in Australia is limited, which would make it difficult to estimate with confidence how many people in Australia are ‘starving’ (whatever metric is used to define ‘starving’). The report is based on available information: that’s better than nothing. It cites sources (calling them ‘conservative estimates’) for a claim that ‘upwards of’ 5% of Australians experience food insecurity, 40% of those (which means ‘upwards of’ 2% of Australians) at a severe level.

    It’s true that doesn’t enable us to say how many people in Australia are ‘starving’ unless we define ‘starving’ to equate with the definition of ‘experiencing food insecurity at a severe level’. But how would you feel (hypothetically, if you like) about 2% of Australians experiencing food insecurity at a severe level even if that’s not the same as starving? It seems like a significant problem to me.

  4. @J-D

    I have no good answer because I am nothing but a tool of a system designed to support and protect the interests of the boss class

    Not bad … though perhaps a little functionalist in its description of the provenance of the system. I’m more with Ralph Miliband on the class character of the state.

    For too long I have struggled to hide the truth. I confess my sins and repent. I will abandon my place in the system immediately and join Fran Barlow and her comrades in their struggle to encourage the working class to press its claims for justice.

    Hmmm … sounds a little Catholic now, and I gave up on that sort of thing at about 14. Passing over sin and penitence she’d have to leave the ALP and the ministry — Hartley got punted for a lot less than that, and he wasn’t even an MP. For the record, if she did repudiate the ALP and its paradigm in favour of inclusive governance I would change my mind about her. I regard that as entirely improbable.

    it seems that what she did say is unlikely to serve even her own interests well and–again I suppose this may be just the way my mind works–I can’t help wondering what response on her part would have worked better specifically from her own point of view.

    This is a difficult one, because to answer it in your terms entails some quite arbitrary assumptions about what ‘her own interests’ truly are. I’d say the fundamental interests of all humans are in authentic community with its promise of insight and purpose — and both scarcity and inequity are corrosive of that. By logical inference, all humans who fail to make that struggle a key part of their engagement with politics are subverting their own interests. Of course — that is merely my assertion. It’s an expression of my politics rather than something I can prove. I accept that people decide for themselves what their interests are and how to weigh the banal withe the sublime, the immediate with the relatively temporally remote and so forth. That entails a paradox because if I believe they have misapprehended their interests “pursuing their interests” can mean mutually exclusive things.

    If one construes “her own interests” much more narrowly — what would best serve her desire to preserve and/or augment her existing privileges? — then I’m not sure there is a good answer. She is constrained by the paradigm of rule established by the regime that granted her these privileges. She is obliged to act against welfare recipients, and to defend such policies. Dissembling and outright lying or is indicated on the grounds of relative feasibility. It’s an overhead of “doing business” in the broad sense. She could try saying … “oh gosh, it would be tough living on NewStart but we are doing al we can to make that period as short as possible and thankfully, charities and the community will probably step in to fill the gap and minimise the suffering”. That would still cop blowback, and is dissembling, but it’s the lowest cost strategy, IMO.

  5. @Ikonoclast
    You have posted this as if it is in some way a response to what I posted.

    It is not in any way a response to what I posted, and if you think it is then I must have failed to communicate my meaning clearly.

    A question was posed about how Jenny Macklin might have answered the question that was put to her. Fran Barlow suggested something that (she said) Jenny Macklin might have said, and I was discussing Fran Barlow’s comment. The subject of that discussion was, therefore, not what policy Jenny Macklin (or the government, or any government) should implement, but rather what Jenny Macklin (or somebody in her position) should or might say.

    Is the distinction between ‘what could Jenny Macklin say?’ and ‘what could Jenny Macklin do?’ insufficiently clear?

    I understand the significance of your comment as a contribution to the discussion generally, but I don’t understand what made you tag it as a response to my comment.

  6. @Katz
    Not sure what your lolling about, Katz.
    If you’re inferring that unemployment was not (say) 2%…

    I wasn’t.

  7. Once again, let’s not forget that the issue here is not just the dole and its inadequacies but the denial of parenting payment and associated benefits to single parents who are being forced onto the dole. As some of Macklin’s pig-ignorant comments have made clear, this policy seems to be based on a hackneyed sexist view of single mothers, what they are doing with their lives and what they should be doing with their lives, and the view that they need paternalistic micromanagement by government even when this is to the detriment of their own existing initiatives to engage with education and employment.

    Here is some more essential reading.

    http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/I-raised-there-men-on-that-scrapped-parenting-payment/

  8. Actually living on the dole or its equivalent depends on how much you pay for the roof over your head as someone else has stated here. And Australian property prices which largely determine rents are pretty damn high so the property owning class are doing ok, but anyone who isn’t in that game is stuck on the treadmill. But with real estate prices being a substantial component of economic GDP and a basis for local taxes in the form of rates and stamp duty, governments are in bed with the forces that want prices to increase. In fact they are actively supporting the property ownership class with substantial tax breaks as Judith Yates notes for the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Is it hardly surprising that the dole also includes a rent assistance component, since government policy seems to favour a redistribution in wealth back to the property owners despite any human hardship. Still life wasn’t meant to be easy.

  9. @Fran Barlow
    Good answer.

    But I notice that you say that you regard as entirely improbable the idea of Jenny Macklin repudiating the ALP and its paradigm. I agree. It is entirely improbable.

    However, the idea of Jenny Macklin giving the kind of answer you suggested earlier is also entirely improbable. So when you suggested that kind of answer (in response to the question that was posed about what else she could have said), you were obviously disregarding any constraints of probability. And yet, even while disregarding any constraints of probability, something else was evidently holding you back from offering a maximally idealistic answer. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help wondering what that was.

  10. @J-D

    when you suggested that kind of answer (in response to the question that was posed about what else she could have said), you were obviously disregarding any constraints of probability.

    I probably should have said “could in theory”. My tongue was in my cheek of course.

    something else was evidently holding you back from offering a maximally idealistic answer.

    The desire for brevity, and the wish to avoid getting too “meta” for the question at hand.

  11. @J-D

    I suppose as well that my self-imposed constraint preserves about as much of Macklin-as-she-is as one can without opening a portal to an alternate universe, though to be fair, efven my whimsy does at least suggest a shadowy Narnia-like wardrobe with an indistinct back, perhaps leading to such a place. 😉

  12. taxpayer :
    Why should Australian people get up early of a morning and work hard to pay for bludgers who want to lay about or go to the beach. The dole should be stopped. There is plenty of work for those who want it.

    One day in 1915, the portly Prime Minister Billy Hughes was boarding a train when he was heckled by a bystander:

    “So Billy, what’s it going to be? A boy or a girl?”

    Said Billy, without a moment’s hesitation:

    “If it is a boy, I will name him George, after the king. If it is a girl, I will name her Victoria, after the queen. But if it is, as I strongly suspect, nothing but piss and wind, I will name it after you Sir.”

  13. @Will

    That remark is usually attributed to NSW Premier and Fourth PM George Reid, because the heckler was seeking to sledge Mr Reid for his ample paunch. Billy Hughes was a fairly thin man so the challenge would have made no sense.

  14. @Ikonoclast
    Re your comment #22 above;
    I’d forgotten about the unbelievably stupid privatisation of the CSIRO and CSL. There is no vandal like the official vandal.

    Another social phenomenon that has disappeared is the religious divide: Catholics vs the rest. I had strict instructions from my mother not to bring home a Catholic girl

    The dumbing down of our complete education system over the last 25 years or so, from primary through to tertiary, does not bode well for our future.

    The children of the wealthy (or of Catholic parents) were well educated and, until the Commonwealth Scholarship scheme, filled all the University places. In Brisbane in 1950 there were 10 private high schools for boys and 7 private high schools for girls; while the State provided 2 co-educational high schools and one all boys and one all girls.

    Three public examinations at two year intervals ensured a level playing field when assessing each student’s ability. The abolition of these examinations, in my opinion, has had an extremely detrimental effect on education. They should be reintroduced, perhaps on a voluntary basis.

    Now I’m starting to sound like one of the four Yorkshire men.

  15. It’s true that doesn’t enable us to say how many people in Australia are ‘starving’ unless we define ‘starving’ to equate with the definition of ‘experiencing food insecurity at a severe level’.

    So you agree it was reasonable for me to call into claim the suggestion that people are starving.

    But how would you feel (hypothetically, if you like) about 2% of Australians experiencing food insecurity at a severe level even if that’s not the same as starving? It seems like a significant problem to me.

    I would feel like it is a terrible situation. How else could anybody feel about it?

  16. Ikonoclast :
    @J-D

    It now costs in todays dollars about $400,000 to $1 million to bring up and educate a child to age 18 (former number) and to keep them at home (studying etc.) till 24 (latter number).

    This is silly. There is no way a child ‘costs’ $20,000 per year to raise. Not even half that.

  17. @Katz
    Whilst I disagreed with many of Lusher’s views I would not describe him as a dolt. It was the group house that my girlfriend lived in that he took residence in to make his case. We (the residents, their friends and Ray Martin) spent quite a lot of time with him while he was there. He was genuinely surprised at the price of food. it turned out that his lifestyle and his family business did not expose him to these costs. He quickly realised that the people who advised him and shaped his opinions had misled him. He did learn from the experience and, aside from trying to change his party’s views, engaged in a number of activities to try to help the unemployed — including restructuring his business activities to provide more jobs. He came across as a reasonably intelligent and caring person who was misguided. Much like the majority of the electorate.

  18. @Peter

    That figure includes income foregone as a consequence of parental duty. It is clear for example, that women (and sometimes men) who take leave to raise children rarely recover in income terms the position that those who don’t take such leave.

    I’m always a bit leary of counterfactual analysis, but in this case, there seems to be reasonably strong evidence for the correlation and a plausible case for putting this into the “costs of raising children” box.

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