Given I know relatively little about Tony Abbott, my thinking about him has been shaped largely by his less than temperate right wing rhetoric, as featured gleefully as a sort of insider joke about ‘palaeo’ conservatives in the nation’s news media from time to time.
Imagine my surprise when he made some eminently sensible comments on the futility of punishing welfare recipients who also work a few hours (a speech Abbott gave to the Young Liberals Annual Conference on 11 January in Adelaide).
He points out that tax and reduced welfare payments for people who work only a few hours produce effective tax rates of almost 70 per cent. He acknowledges that this situation encourages people to conclude that they would be better off not working at all. This is a simple truism that appears to have escaped welfare policy-makers for some time.
Moreover, the welfare system has been fashioned into a monstrous bureaucracy that appears to be concerned with dehumanising its clientele, rather than helping them to find work. This is an issue on which Tony Abbott is remarkably silent. It may be that a deliberate policy has been implemented to make dealing with welfare agencies so unpleasant that its clients will seek any means to avoid such contact. If that is the case, it does not appear to be working, and may actually be counterproductive in that it further strips away self-respect, confidence and motivation.