In­vest in the vul­ner­a­ble

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION - CATHY O’TOOLE, La­bor Can­di­date for Herbert.

I AM out­raged to dis­cover that the Speaker, Bron­wyn Bishop, who earns $ 341,000 per year, was able to charge the taxpayers $ 811,857 for ex­penses last year.

Mean­while the Ab­bott gov­ern­ment makes changes to the Dis­abil­ity Sup­port Pen­sion ( DSP) that is shift­ing peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity to New­start. I am find­ing it hard to see how this does not reek of a dou­ble stan­dard; I thought that the “age of en­ti­tle­ment” was over. Clearly this gov­ern­ment is only fo­cused on pun­ish­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble in our com­mu­nity.

I re­cently read an ar­ti­cle from the Gold Coast Bul­letin where Cen­tre­link has cut the DSP of a Gold Coast res­i­dent who has been left in a wheel­chair af­ter a car ac­ci­dent.

He has been told to get a job de­spite his doc­tor ad­vis­ing that he is “un­em­ploy­able”.

Stephen Ter­rasi, 36, suf­fered se­vere in­juries to his legs and face in the ac­ci­dent a few years ago but is try­ing to get his life back on track. He is work­ing hard to over­come his daily seizures and is now study­ing dig­i­tal in­ter­ac­tive media so he can get a job that doesn’t re­quire him to drive or walk.

To be el­i­gi­ble for the DSP, Stephen has to be deemed ca­pa­ble of be­ing able to work only eight hours per week, a de­crease from the cur­rent 15 hours per week.

The tragic as­sump­tion and myth be­ing ped­dled by the Ab­bott gov­ern­ment is that all peo­ple on the DSP are lazy, don’t want to work and must be pun­ished.

There are a cou­ple of fac­tors in this story that cause me great con­cern. Firstly, if this young man is not el­i­gi­ble for the DSP and his con­di­tion will not get bet­ter in time, will he be el­i­gi­ble for the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Scheme ( NDIS), now that he has been shifted from the DSP to New­start? What does his long term fu­ture look like in terms of sup­port to live a good life?

Se­condly, where are all of the jobs for peo­ple like Stephen? By his doc­tor’s ad­mis­sion he is not fit for work, in fact he has stated that he is “un­em­ploy­able”. Added to his phys­i­cal is­sues, it would seem that he is now suf­fer­ing se­vere emo­tional dis­tress as a re­sult of this de­ci­sion, how ex­actly is that help­ing him to get a job?

Let me be very clear, I am not writ­ing a bleed­ing hearts let­ter, I am a firm be­liever that wher­ever pos­si­ble peo­ple should have the right to a job, but there are some in­stances when work­ing is not pos­si­ble. Surely as a so­ci­ety we can see our way clear to re­spect a per­son’s hu­man right to be treated with dig­nity and that in­cludes a wel­fare sys­tem to sup­port the vul­ner­a­ble in our com­mu­nity.

The other in­ter­est­ing point that is never raised or dis­cussed is the fact that low in­come fam­i­lies and peo­ple on the pen­sion spend ev­ery cent that they have on a weekly ba­sis in or­der to sur­vive and in a com­mu­nity the size of Townsville that adds up to a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to our econ­omy.

When will the Ab­bott gov­ern­ment un­der­stand that pun­ish­ing the vul­ner­a­ble is not the an­swer to cre­at­ing a strong econ­omy, but in­vest­ing in job cre­ation and look­ing af­ter the vul­ner­a­ble is?

Pic­ture: KIT WISE

TRAGIC: Stephen Ter­rasi is be­ing badly treated.

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