Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Discriminatory, unjustified, sadistic

Yesterday the government released its latest beneficiary-bashing plans, aimed at forcing solo parents to ignore their kids and dumping the long-term unemployed from the welfare rolls. Today, the Attorney-General declared them inconsistent with the Bill of Rights Act [PDF]. Work-testing widowed men but not widowed women discriminates on the basis of sex, while work-testing those who are divorced but not those who have always been single discriminates on the basis of family status. Both are unjustifiable in a free and democratic society.

But its not just discriminatory - the bill's Regulatory Impact Statement [PDF] - carefully hidden away in accordance with the government's policy of suppression - admits on its first page that the reforms are unjustifiable:

There is no research currently available which accurately quantifies the size of the behavioural response from these changes in policies. This prevents estimates, with the degree of accuracy required, from being made of the number of people who will move from benefit to work over a year, as a result of the proposed changes. The inability to determine firm numbers of people shifting from benefit to work as a result of these changes is due to the difficulty of separating out the effect of the policy changes from the effect of changes in other influences such as economic and labour market settings (e.g. employment growth, minimum wage increases).
(Emphasis added)

So, they have no idea what it will do, or whether it will do anything at all - but they're doing it anyway. its an ideologically-driven change, not an evidence-driven one. And that's putting it kindly. In fact, there is evidence on what work-testing DPB recipients will do [PDF] - and the answer is that it makes those people and their kids actively worse off. The single mother The Press interviewed this morning is the norm, not the exception.

The RIS also says

The key assumption underpinning this analysis is that work will become available for people as the economy recovers and that the implementation of the work-test can be matched to the employment capacity in local labour markets.
But then goes on to say
There is traditionally a lag between when the economy recovers and when the number of jobs increases.
The economy hasn't really recovered yet, and unemployment is not expected to drop significantly until 2012, you'd expect a long lag-time, right? Wrong. They're planning to impose work-testing by October 1 this year, before there are jobs available. As I noted yesterday, this is pure sadism, simply punishing people for being poor. But its so very, very National, isn't it?