The Dole Bludger Myth and Government Policy: ‘Support the System that Supports You’

*Guest post by Paul “Gummo Trotsky” Bamford (I’ve invited Paul to join the Troppo stable/pony club, and am pleased to advise that he’s accepted. So expect more from Paul very soon).

2006-10-24-dole-bludgers-must-keep-diary-226The mythical – or legendary if you so prefer – figure of the dole bludger has haunted our political folklore since the Whitlam years of the 1970s. In, I think, 1973 the Whitlam government outraged the editors of the major Australian newspapers by doubling the dole and not long afterwards, the public opinion informed by those papers was equally outraged.

The Melbourne Herald did some especially sterling work to raise public awareness of the insidious problem of dole bludging. For a while it ran a regular feature of inside stories about dole-bludgers thwarted from a source within the CES.

One choice example featured a bloke who went to CES to claim the dole saying he was a lion tamer. As there was a circus in town, the CES worker rang them up and asked if they would be prepared to take him on. Suddenly the would-be dole-bludger discovered a revived interest in factory work. With the benefit of hindsight I’d say that the so-called CES insider was no further from the Herald’s newsroom than the sub-editors desk.

Thanks to a lot of newspaper op-edding and talk-back radio shock-jocking the idea that much of Australia’s unemployment – definitely too much, and probably most of it – was voluntary became conventional wisdom in the community at large. Everyone knew of someone who was living the easy life at the taxpayer’s expense. If you were unemployed it wasn’t because of a lack of jobs – for many it was a lifestyle choice.

For many, unemployment remained a lifestyle choice even after Reserve Bank and Federal governments accepted an official unemployment rate of 5% of the Australian workforce rate as ‘full employment’. At least so says the myth.

In reality policy makers have accepted the 5% rate as the natural unemployment rate and stopped worrying about how much of it was frictional – people temporarily out of work while they were changing jobs – and how much was structural that is, caused by economic conditions and the government’s economic management.

When you’re stuck with an official unemployment rate of 5% and op-edders and shock-jocks are telling the public that it’s mostly dole-bludging, why bother to correct them? In pragmatic political terms, they’re on your side. Ratings hungry TV current affairs producers might even prove a source of electorally attractive policy proposals such as ‘Work for the Dole’.

‘Work for the Dole’ is usually described as a Howard government initiative but my memory still insists that it was a Sixty Minutes initiative – that the Liberals included the proposal in their 1996 election platform after Sixty Minutes broadcast a report on ‘workfare’ in the USA. After the show’s mailbag segment showed a lot of viewer support for the idea it went into the Liberals’ policy platform and the rest, as they say is history. Getting tough on the unemployed was the new true blue.

If my memory is correct – something I shall have to check one day – ‘Work for the Dole’ is a good example of the media tail wagging the political dog. But that’s a subject for another day; what I’ll be looking at in this post is the Howard Government’s later efforts to promote the dole bludger myth from 2002 to its demise in 2007.

In April 2002, 4 months after winning the November 2001 election the Howard government launched the ‘Support the System that Supports You’ (SSSY) campaign. A media release from the office of Amanda Vanstone, then Minister for Family and Community Services described the campaign as an ‘educational campaign’ to ensure that Centrelink’s clients were complying with their obligation to keep Centrelink informed on changes in their personal circumstances that might affect their benefit. The campaign was ‘backed’ by a national multi-media advertising campaign.

As the campaign was expected to result in more Centrelink clients reporting changed circumstances and more calls from decent working Aussie battlers ringing to dob-in their dole bludging neighbours Centrelink received more funding to cope with the extra workload in processing these ‘tip-offs’. (Australian National Audit Office, Audit Report No 7, 2008-09 Centrelink’s Tip-off System (ANAO)):

The campaign was expected to result in an increased number of tip offs and contacts from customers advising of changed circumstances. Consequently, Centrelink received funding for the expected increased workload, while policy departments were funded to undertake the campaign.

‘Educating’ Centrelink clients wasn’t the only purpose of the advertising campaign – there was another explicit message for the rest of the community:

Unfortunately, there is also a small number of people who deliberately cheat the system. The message to them is crystal clear – you will get caught, you will have to pay the money back and you may get prosecuted. The hotline number in the advertisements will give the public the chance to dob-in people who are ripping off the system. (Vanstone media release [emphasis added])

Implicitly, through the situations portrayed in the advertisements, the campaign depicted Newstart recipients and other Centrelink clients – particularly the young – as fraudsters ripping off the system.

Implicitly, through the situations portrayed in the advertisements, the campaign depicted Newstart recipients and other Centrelink clients – particularly the young – as fraudsters ripping off the system. In 2005 the campaign became the ‘Keeping the System Fair’ campaign but both the overt and implied messages remained unchanged.
If, like me, you’d like to know where the idea for this campaign originated and why the Howard government went ahead with it you’ll have to wait another 19 years to find out. Under the 30 year rule the relevant cabinet papers won’t be available until 2032.

In the meantime we might as well assume that the impulse that moved the Coalition to run the SSSY campaign was as mysterious and complex as that which moves a dog to lick its own genitals. Otherwise we might be drawn to the conspiracy theoretical view that it was a cynical exercise in manipulating public attitudes to the unemployed for long-term political advantage. Time – 19 years of it – will tell.

The SSSY campaign was discontinued in June 2008 due to its declining effectiveness. There is a bit of irony in the campaign’s demise. To keep parliament’s support for the campaign, Centrelink had to provide data that showed it to be effective. I suspect that after the change of government in 2007 when members of the ALP Federal Cabinet looked over the data through a new set of ideological blinkers they saw a different picture than the one the Coalition saw through theirs.

Most importantly, they would have seen – because they were told so by the ANAO – that neither Centrelink nor the major policy department (DEEWR) involved in running the campaign had any idea whether the campaign was effective or not:

1.26 The actual number of tip offs and savings realised as a result of the campaign cannot be clearly established due to a discrepancy between results calculated by Centrelink and results calculated by DEEWR.
2.30 During the ANAO’s call centre visits some operators were observed not asking the informant… [whether the tip off was due to the SSSY campaign] …For activities such as the SSSY campaign, which rely on recording responses, it is important that responses are recordedconsistently to enable the effectiveness of the campaign to be accurately measured and assessed. (ANAO)

Nonetheless from 2004 to 2009 Centrelink spruiked the effectiveness of its tip-off system to government with a boilerplate section which included this interesting claim:

Investigations of tip-off information continue to build community confidence in the integrity of the … system.

It’s a claim which is demonstrably, and laughably, specious. Centrelink’s own figures (in its annual reports) show that investigating tip-offs from the public makes only a minor contribution to Centrelink’s savings from compliance reviews and fraud investigation (see the table below). In addition of the relatively few members of the public provide tip-offs to Centrelink it’s unlikely that those who do have of confidence in the system – quite the reverse. Unless they’re acting in the confident belief that anonymously dobbing someone in to Centrelink is a good way to cause them a bit of vexation with no comeback.

Tip off Investigations and Results by Financial Year
Year TotalCompliance Reviews (TCR)
Tip-offs Investigated (TOI)* Rate Reductions from
Tip-offs
No % TCR No % TOI*
2004 4 121 196 72 473 1.8% 17 570 24%
2005 3 808 302 55 331 1.5% 10 022 18%
2006 4 010 773 59 781 1.5% 11 492 19%
2007 4 276 281 52 597 1.2% 11 063 21%
2008 4 431 309 60 257 1.4% 17 311 29%

* According to the ANAO’s 2008 audit of Centrelink’s tip-off system, Centrelink received a total of 101 595 tip-offs in 2007-08; of those only 60257 (59%) were actually investigated – either through compliance review or fraud investigation. If the total number of tip-offs received had been reported as well as the number investigated it’s likely that the percentages would look even more underwhelming.

Compliance reviews are administrative checks by Centrelink that its clients are providing up-to-date information about their personal circumstances and adjusting payments – up or down but usually down – to reflect any changes. They are not fraud investigations; Centrelink assumes that in most cases non-compliance is the result of an oversight rather than a deliberate attempt to rip off the system.
As an indication of the financial value of compliance reviews and pursuing tip-offs, in 2003-04, 709,923 Centrelink clients had their payments reduced after compliance reviews. The resulting saving to Centrelink was $104m. Payment reductions from tip-offs account for a mere 2% of that amount. Over the whole year, investigating tip-offs saved Centrelink roughly the same amount as other compliance review measures saved in each single fortnight.
Centrelink’s annual reports show just how few people deliberately cheat the system and how little they cost the taxpayer as a proportion of Centrelink’s total spending:

Year Total Centrelink Payments (TCP) Investigations (Inv) Prosecutions Debts/Savings Notes
No % Inv Amount % TCP
2004 $60.1bn – 3 055 $36.6m 0.06%
2005 $63.1bn – 3 511 $41.2m 0.07%
2006 $64.7bn – 2 885 $34.3m 0.05%
2007 $66.2bn 42 000 3 400 8.1% $127m 0.19% (1)
2008 $69.9bn 35 885 2 658 7.4% $140.2m 0.20%
2009 $143.7bn 26 084 3 388 13% $113.4m 0.08% (2)
2010 $83.8bn 22 693 3 461 15.3% $103.3m 0.12%
Table Notes
(1) From 2007 onward Centrelink changed from reporting only customer debts resulting to reporting consolidated debts and claimed savings.
(2) Total Payments for the 2008-2009 includes the one-off payment of $1500 to all pensioners as part of Labor’s GFC stimulus package.

Centrelink’s reported figures on compliance reviews don’t support any inferences on the rate of dole-bludging. All they show is that Centrelink’s ‘non-compliant’ clients are in the minority. The figures on fraud investigations and prosecutions are much more revealing.

First, they suggest very strongly that the number of people who deliberately cheat the welfare system is not merely a small proportion of Centrelink clients it’s a positively a miniscule percentage of the total number of Centrelink clients. They also suggests that there aren’t too many more of them out there who could be caught and prosecuted if Centrelink did more investigations; at most you can expect Centrelink’s fraud investigations to produce between ~2700 and ~3500 prosecutions each year. This will save somewhere between $100m and $150m off welfare spending – consistently less than 1% of the total welfare budget.

That’s a lot of – uncosted – bureaucratic effort for very little result. As noted above the ANAO found that it’s impossible to say whether the ‘Support the System that Supports You’ campaign delivered value for money by saving more off the welfare budget than it cost to run the advertising and provide the administrative support.

Maybe the real rorters of the welfare system back then were the government and officials who spent public money on a divisive ‘educational campaign’ which produced no demonstrable savings.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
8 years ago
Reply to  Ken Parish

Ken
Only question I have is how much time/energy/money does CenterLink itself actually spend on looking for fraud?
In the old days it was mostly letters (often vexatious) from the public that triggered fraud investigations .

Richard Tsukamasa Green
Richard Tsukamasa Green(@richard-green)
8 years ago

I have no quibbles with the broad analysis here (I got testy with a couple of 100K + salaried workers who happily accepted an employer’s assertion that people were comfortably and willingly being idle on the 16 odd k Newstart gives you).

But I do want to take exception with the notion that the belief that a 5% natural rate is assumed by the RBA and acts as a guide to policy. This is a common belief, and often uncritically restated, but there is support in neither the bank’s words nor action.

The natural rate hypothesis is rarely mentioned by the RBA (really, search for it) in its forecasts or policy statements. When Stevens mentions it, it’s because he’s asked and he always demures with the statement that he has no good idea what the rate is and dismissed it as a construct. I remember (though a cursory google search does not return it) once in Senate Estimates he declared that he thought the concept not very useful.
In short, their statements indicate that even if they think the hypothesis is true, the moving nature of the NAIRU makes it useless for rate setting purposes.

This is reflected in their behaviour. The old assumed natural rates were 6-7-8 etc. Yet, of course, we saw unemployment below them with inflationary pressures. Yet if the RBA had been using the natural rate hypothesis they’d never have let unemployment get that far to find that out. In fact, it’s hard to find any real sign they do much except act reactively to inflation and a few monetary variables such as credit growth, with exceptions including when a a crisis was unfolding offshore, and where discretion is justified.

Which is how it should be. They seem well aware of their own ignorance. Yet the meme of sacrifice at the altar of the NAIRU has a life quite apart from anything they do or say.

conrad
conrad
8 years ago

On a related note, I’m surprised we haven’t seen as much targeting of people on the disability pension. I think once (if) people start getting taxed for this as a special item, they’ll start questioning whether there really are 2 million Australians with a disability. It will be interesting to see how people, politicians and the media react.

Peter Whiteford
Peter Whiteford
8 years ago
Reply to  conrad

Conrad

According to the ABS there are 4 million Australians with a disability, but 2 million are of working age, but the number on DSP is around 800,000. We are actually a bit below the OECD average.

nottrampis
8 years ago

Gummo makes i with his first article.

I will say immodestly this is the best roundup of the week and you can also get the best music as well!!

nottrampis
8 years ago

make that it!!!!

Fyodor
8 years ago

Tug Boat Potemkin sails again!

You missed an opportunity there, Homerkles. This post had “tug jobs” all over it.

More seriously: welcome back, GT. Great addition to the team.

Senexx
8 years ago

Nice to put a name to Gummo Trotsky, a name I’ve seen since my first foray into blogging back in 2003.

I don’t have a quibble with anything you wrote.

On the NAIRU in general I refer to this image: http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Fig11A_12_hysteresis.jpg located here: http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=23168

And the RBA has more or less been directed to ignore their full employment mandate and focus on inflation.

And anyone that has paid any attention to ACOSS & HILDA knows the sums from Centrelink payments are well below the poverty line thus making the dole bludger issue moot.

To be clear on the matter, if you have $3K in the bank for a single or $5k for couples and no home ownership you have to spend it to keep receipt of payments or lose it making it impossible to save and improve your living standards so you can seek work. I’m not sure about the difference between singles and couples here but if you own your home you’re allowed to have up to $187500 in the bank.

nottrampis
8 years ago

I should have added great article and also agree with Mr Green.

We have to hope Trosky is not caught stalin material!

He is well red though

derrida derider
derrida derider
8 years ago

Welcome aboard, Gummo – its terrific you’re here.

It was, contrary to legend, the McMahon government that doubled the dole. This is important to know because of the rationale it gave – for the first time since the war we had a recession so severe that unemployment had reached the horrifying heights of 2 per cent, and so for the first time since the war there would be some people who had to live on it. Of course no government could survive such a high rate of unemployment so Whitlam was elected.

This fact is imprinted on my mind because the dim memory of it was what first made me, as a young labour economist, question all those studies coming from the OECD and the like that claimed generous unemployment benefits caused high unemployment – no, it was high unemployment that created political pressure for generous benefits. There were other problems with those studies, too, but that was the biggest.

Gummo Trotsky
Gummo Trotsky
8 years ago

Thanks for the correction DD. Now I know that it was the McMahon Government that upped the dole I know where to look for those Herald articles next time I’m down at the State Library. Which will probably be quite soon, the way my to do list is filling up.

D Mick Weir (@dmickweir)
D Mick Weir (@dmickweir)
8 years ago

Gummo illustrates so well that ‘grumpy old lefties’ get so tied up in fighting the old battles that the changes that happen around them pass them by.

If, like me, you’d like to know where the idea for this campaign originated and why the Howard government went ahead with it you’ll have to wait another 19 years to find out. Under the 30 year rule the relevant cabinet papers won’t be available until 2032.

Faulkner changed the rules in 2010 to the twenty year rule So Gummow should you not be to far into your dotage you will only have to wait until Jan 1, 2024 to get your hands on the appropriate papers.

Personally, this grumpy old lefty can’t wait until 2019 to get my hands on the 1996 papers so I can give Amanda Vanstone another serve for throwing the baby out with the bathwater by canning the very successful Working Nation programme that got long term unemployed back into the workforce.

Senexx
8 years ago

I am actually chasing information on the Jobs Compact arrangements and costs – and generalised set up that is part of Working Nation. So if you can be of any assistance, please email me. My email is on my website.

Tel
Tel
8 years ago

I look forward to seeing the same author decrying attempts by the Australian Tax Office to crack down on the fraud of tax evasion.

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
8 years ago
Reply to  Tel

Its about 20 years since I worked in the area, as I remember it the more serious frauds involved things like phoney job placement services claiming bonus payments for job placements they had nothing to do with and people creating multiple recipient IDs. The biggest one of the fake ID frauds that I remember involved a person who was high enough in the structure to get away with it for years, the funny thing was that the department eventual recovered virtually all of the money – the guy had not spent any of it.

rog
rog
8 years ago

Nice post GT.

The Howard mythology machine also spawned much memorable media such as the magnificent Mike Munro hunting down those feckless financial fraudsters, Shane and Bindi Paxton.

Gummo Trotsky
Gummo Trotsky
8 years ago

Disputes with men, pertinaciously obstinate in their principles, are, of all others, the most irksome; except perhaps, those with persons, entirely disingenuous, who do not really believe the opinions they defend, but engage in the controversy, from affectation, from a spirit of opposition or from a desire of showing wit and ingenuity superior to the rest of mankind. The same blind adherence to their own arguments is to be expected in both; the same contempt of their antagonists; and the same passionate vehemence, in inforcing sophistry and falsehood. And, as reasoning is not the source, whence either disputant derives his tenets; it is in vain to expect, that any logic, which speaks not to the affections, will ever engage him to embrace sounder principles. (David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, Section I).

Tel
Tel
8 years ago
Reply to  Gummo Trotsky

… men, pertinaciously obstinate in their principles, are, …

Dislike of hypocrisy you mean? Darn right I’m pernicious about it and proud.

One of the few principles that never fails to turn up a stinker.

derrida derider
derrida derider
8 years ago
Reply to  Tel

Are you equally proud of being ignorant of the difference between “pertinacious” and “pernicious”?

Pedro
Pedro
8 years ago

Ok, so you admit in the post that the dole bludger is not a myth, there’s just not very many of them. I think you can argue fairly on either side whether chasing dole bludgers and things like work for the dole are worth the money. Which means you can’t label Howard unless you can find evidence that he actually was motivated by a desire for cynical manipulation of a stupid public.

I’d have thought a few relevant propositions are unarguable:
1 welfare payments do have incentive effects;
2 some people are less likely to act fraudulently if they think they might get caught;
3 a lot of people do care to ensure that the state charity for the unemployed is not being rorted, even if only a little bit.

But don’t just take my word for it.
http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21573583-ten-years-how-does-germanys-agenda-2010-package-rate-wunderreform

Gummo Trotsky
Gummo Trotsky
8 years ago
Reply to  Pedro

Unarguable

Adjective

1. Not open to disagreement; indisputable: “unarguable proof of conspiracy”.
2. Not able to be discussed or asserted.

I’m going to take your use of ‘unarguable’ in the second sense since you haven’t bothered to argue a case for any of your three assertions.

conrad
conrad
8 years ago
Reply to  Pedro

“welfare payments do have incentive effects;”

I’m willing to bet that there are pretty decent bounds where they don’t change incentives much. For example, if you subtracted or added, say, $40 a week from the current dole payments, I don’t think it would change much at all in terms of unemployed people wanting and trying to get a job.

Pedro
Pedro
8 years ago
Reply to  Pedro

Paul, you should take it in the first sense. I don’t think further justification is required for the bleedin obvious. Do you think that you have evidence against the three propositions?

Conrad, it might be true that small changes have small effects, but that is to quibble the details and miss the broader point.

The fact that the rate of fraud is small could just as equally be evidence that the program was very effective. The value of law enforcement is better measured by the crimes that are not committed at all.

conrad
conrad
8 years ago
Reply to  Pedro

Pedro, I think the shape of the function is really important and isn’t a quibble at all, since under any reasonable constraints it basically deletes the “incentives idea” which is pushed so much by some groups. It also defines what a bludger is. If incentives are not especially important within reasonable bounds, then the main group left that can afford not to work and don’t want to work are those that already have enough money, and so the idea of our stereotyped young person living a life of leisure is basically false. It also coincides with your idea of rorting, since presumably we shouldn’t be paying people money that already have enough themselves, so the problem here lies with government rules and enforcement, not the individual who shouldn’t have been given money when they didn’t need it.

desipis
8 years ago
Reply to  Pedro

Pedro,

a lot of people do care to ensure that the state charity for the unemployed is not being rorted, even if only a little bit.

Are you arguing the point that ‘a lot of people’ would care enough to spend more money on enforcement than it would save on not paying the dole to the people caught by the enforcement? Because if not, then the quantity of the rorting is significant to what action is justified.

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
8 years ago

Generally speaking discussion of fraud needs to start with a incontrovertible fact : no system or individual manager likes to publicly admit that while they were dozing( or checking out http://www.karmasutra) that a black hated guy on a camel repeatedly went in and out the gate with jingling bags; fraud has to be one of the most under-reported of crimes.

nottrampis
8 years ago

Pedro, if there are not many of them then ipsofacto (just for you) dolebludging is a myth.

Just like you mythed the point of the article

Pedro
Pedro
8 years ago

Homer, if you see one dragon are they still a myth? I’m happy to agree that the number of dole bludgers might be exaggerated in the popular imagination. It’s possible that your constant search for plays on words is leading you to be even more silly than before.

Conrad, it would be a pretty extraordinary thing if the fact of dole payments does not have an incentive effect. True, the smaller the dole the smaller the incentive, but I’d be surprised if you think that the dole levels that have existed since McMahon doubled it have had essentially zero impact on the number of the unemployed.

My point was pretty simple, Paul claims that JH was a bad-head because of dole crackdown programs, and that is because Paul can’t believe any reasonable person would think it worthwhile (unless of course he’s searching for an argument to support a preconceved notion of Howard’s general wickedness). I believe that a fair minded person can accept that there are arguments for that sort of program so Paul’s thesis is not supported.

conrad
conrad
8 years ago

Pedro, I didn’t essentially zero. I said it was likely to be a rather non-linear function. Obviously we don’t have data here, but just imagine you are getting $280 a week. Are you going to want to get a job? Yes. Now imagine you are getting $300. Are you going to want to get a job? Yes. And so on. Surely there must be some level below which almost everyone wants to get a job simply for monetary reasons (I’ve personally never met any unemployed person that didn’t), and I think we can safely conclude that we are below that level now.

Pedro
Pedro
8 years ago
Reply to  conrad

So we are talking past each other a bit. I’m only saying that if there is a dole there is an incentive to be a dole bludger. At current rates (whatever they are) that incentive could be quite small. I don’t know any dole bludgers either, but I new a few when I was a young surfie living on the gold coast. It would be surprising if someone like me knew a dole bludger, my neighbourhood is a bit too expensive for them.

When looking at the current payment levels you might want to remember that some people will live in share housing and some will live with parents and could well be bludging.

Bazza
Bazza
8 years ago
Reply to  Pedro

How long ago was that Pedro?

Fact is that the dole has been dropping in real terms against cost of living for over 20 years now. Worse housing and rental prices have gone up even beyond the general cost of living.

At this point a dole bludger would be going to all that effort to earn about two thirds of what is considered the poverty line in Australia.

As for living in shared accomodation or with parents… um… yeah, there is no other option whilst on the dole.

Fact is that by far the biggest incentive for claiming the dole is not having any other real options because anyone with other options would take them.

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
8 years ago

The current payments are so low that only a vegetarian hut dwelling monk could bludge at leisure on them.

If you were to look for biggish fraud in the system it is unlikely to be found in ‘real’ clients of the system. But their is a strong incentive to not look for that sort of fraud.

derrida derider
derrida derider
8 years ago

There’s a huge difference between “fraud” and “bludging” and discussions should not confuse the two.

Fraud was never widespread with the benefits system and given the intrusive compliance tools available these days is probably now fairly rare. Bludging was always fairly rare and now, with the truly miserable rates of payment relative to the return from work, essentially non-existent. That is about all they have in common.

john r walker
john r walker(@annesanders)
8 years ago

The only way you could bludge for any length of time ,these days, would be if you can get some sort of cash in hand, undeclared supplement- hence the term “fraud” … on the whole I think it pretty unlikely.
As to frauds using fake IDs it used to be not so hard to do , dont know about nowadays.

BurningChrome
BurningChrome
8 years ago

I spent many years on the dole myself. My own experience and visits to ‘Social’ revealed enough people who could make a life of it. It’s not a life of unparalleled richness and I was a self imposed prisoner to boredom. My life included much late night tv (Pre-WWW) featuring ABC and vintage dreary British movies (hello Gainsborough) and wondering why British male actors were a pathetic looking lot. A particular moment of release from drab tv was the appearance of the Victoria Principal makeover ad to send a ripple of relaxation (soothed my anxieties)… later came the ‘nets’. sorry sidetracked myself. Back on track.

The fortnightly obligation to turn in my lies (and occasional interview) forced me to attend to a repeated nightmare of standing in queue (fuck getting up early) with alcoholics, itinerants, ferals (proto-Greens) and their aversion to soap and deodorant – in other words, it was mostly the unwashed and mentally bereft of hope. I still held to good standards of grooming being young, handsome and hopeful so I probably stuck out as an interloper and it probably helped me with my schtick to CES and later ‘Social’ CSO’s. That should tell you that my dole years were plentiful.

Yes, there were also legitimate folks who had to subject themselves to the will of the people and bureaucracy to attend what must have been humiliating (the older folks back then had this thing called pride) but a far too high proportion of people were riding the system. I was one of them (though in my weak defence – I do have psychological problems and phobias but whatevs). It was possible for me because I could bludge off my family (love you Mum!). Most of my mates in the early years of my dole experience also lived at home, smoked cones morning, mid moaning, afternoon, a mid afternooner… you get it. We were products of blue collar families made good /merging into middle class lane. My mates woke up to themselves far earlier than I and got jobs. I didn’t yet have the energy to change.

Those dudes smoking cones, hung out with other unemployed cats that smoked cones – predominately on the dole but making extra dollars through sales of bags of weed; don’t let fuckwits tell you that shit is harmless and not addictive – a couple mates have gone to the psych wards and one of them nearly didn’t come back from his psychosis. I myself had depression from it. Hydro weed is helluva drug. Don’t bother defending it to me. I had my self delusions, you have yours.

Ok, that was rather longwinded to make a point. It is possible to live on the dole, if you have family ready to offset living costs, you are prepared to live in hovels, you engage in criminality (not just weed selling) and other pathetic dodginess. A commentator mentioned the Paxtons… I lived a cognitive dissonance. I saw them as ignorant, poor white trash bogans – whose deepest thoughts were on whether dinner was HJ’s or Maccas – but the sad reality was, I was no better than them. Living a life of entitlement and an undeserved free ride. I milked you taxpayers and didn’t feel an ounce of guilt – and when I did, it was only because I felt I was a poor reflection on the honest hard working folks and sibling are.

Dole bludging not a myth. We existed and there are others who continue to exist on it – far too many that aren’t explained away by being mentally troubled or socially inept. Like attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion (ah the old Blade Runner) there were ferals galore, stinking itinerants aplenty (There’s a scene in Seinfeld with Julia louie Drefuss screaming in her mind when trapped in a Subway that comes to mind – oh the stench), and far too many young Paxton lookalikes in the same queue as me – the absurdity of it all and stereotypes can be true. I’m pretty sure those numbers have been bolstered by our new succubus/i migrants (economic opportunists) who like me, saw the system as ripe for the fucking. Ok. that last bit is for dramatic effect.

The good news is that I did make my way out of the rabbit hole. Despite my own personal malaise, self destructive tendencies, laziness, ennui, cognitive dissonance, self pity and a bunch of other excuses. 8 years sober (working), attending Uni part-time (a bitch) and have become another mass consumer, conforming whore (sorry beautiful mother Earth) like the rest of you. Indoctrination as a productive citizen complete. Conformity sequence complete at 100%. Fuck you all!

As far as the Govt and media hysteria goes – it’s a good thing to keep the pressure on – whatever the motives. Those that are legitimate, have nothing to fear so long as they’re looking for work. I found that most Social Security CSO’s were professional (at least to me). It’s a good thing for all citizens that we are reminded of our mutual obligations to one another; far too many on the dole (and I exclude the legitimate unemployed) will take and take. I live in a burb where these people shit out their diseased thinking to their offspring. You can see the dying of the light of the eyes of once intelligent, hopeful, kids here once they get to a certain age. Then it’s cynicism, entitlement, random acts of violence and inability to have a an honest moment of self reflection (the Paxtons). The dole ought not be considered a life right. It’s damaging to one’s self-esteem. Life without purpose or work is meaningless – cliches. Yes. Truth. correct.

/ramble off.

Bazza
Bazza
8 years ago
Reply to  BurningChrome

So basically what you’re saying is… that you were (are) a complete asshole so now everyone else should be punished for it?

nottrampis
8 years ago

DD,

I used to think you were pedantic but now I think you are semantic

Daniel
Daniel
8 years ago

Historical rates of Unemployment Benefits (1969-2013) are listed at http://guidesacts.fahcsia.gov.au/guides_acts/ssg/ssguide-5/ssguide-5.2/ssguide-5.2.1/ssguide-5.2.1.10.html

Shows there were three large increases in the 70s: an increase from $10 – $17 in Feb 1972; from $26 – $31 in July 1974 and from $31 – $36 In May 1975

Mike
Mike
8 years ago

In most of Australia and New Zealand whether or not someone can work is primarily determined by whether they have a car and a valid driving licence. If you are desperate to work and have a car, there is always seasonal work, which is also the only work you can get these days without current referees.

In the good old days, you could get an ok job simply by providing a couple of old written references that you could have written yourself.

I live in a rural area of New Zealand, and the majority of people who lack regular employment, either don’t have a car or have lost their licence due to drink driving.
Those who don’t want to work at all are usually on sickness benefits.