WATCH: The Govt Copped A Skewering On Welfare Cuts On Q&A Last Night

The Government is doing its best right now to justify its latest big piece of policy: a large-scale, data-driven crackdown on welfare dependency led by Social Services Minister Christian Porter

It’s pitched as a way to break people out of welfare dependency cycles by leading them into work, but the mechanism by which it functions is pretty similar to basically all other examples of welfare reform across the globe – that is, making welfare harder to access. Porter faced up to Q&A last night, and was forced to answer questions from those who might slip through the cracks under his proposed system.
The panel took a question from Rose Cox, 16, who cares for her wheelchair-bound mother on a meagre carer’s stipend of $8 a day. She asked Porter how a blanket reform policy might impact someone like her.

She said:
I’m 16, I’ve started Year 12. At 44 my mum was wheelchair-dependent after a year in hospital with a rare neurological illness. My dad became unwell then, resulting in my becoming at the age of 8 a young carer for my younger sister and family. After 26 years of marriage our family unit broke down four years ago, leaving my sister, now 11, and I alone with our mum. We provide some sort of care every day, every day and night for 24/7; care includes things like blocked catheters, which are a medical emergency and accidents at night, hydrotherapy and household tasks. I didn’t ask for this role, I landed in it at a very young age. My young care allowance is $8 a day […] How will changes to payments and a blanket policy understand the very unique and often stressful experiences of young carers like myself and my sister?

Porter’s response was the standard policy line: there are a range of different stories within the welfare system and they’ll all be addressed by the firm hand of Big Data, etc etc. Tony Jones asked him specifically: will the reforms mean someone like Cox will have more money, or less money?

He didn’t quite have an answer. Fellow panellist Eva Cox dismissed the notion that a support program for someone like Rose would ever survive long before being cut by a future government looking for savings.
Porter eventually replied. “We have information available to us that has never been before government in the way that it is now,” he said. “And what it allows us to do is to track programs along. One thing, Rose, is we can’t leave things as they are.”

So that’s the line on welfare: the data will save us. If the computer deigns you unworthy, the data is there to prove that was always the case.
Porter also copped a question from a 60-year-old pensioner who wondered about the fairness of being denied a disability pension and asked to retrain for work when there are younger, able-bodied people on welfare who could do the work instead. Another questioner asked about the wait-for-the-dole scheme, and wondered whether people might slip through the cracks.

Overall, it’s looking like a real tough sell, hey?
Source: Q&A.
Photo: Q&A.