Nov 092010

As is the penchant for editors of Murdoch rags, The Australian in particular, social research outcomes and commentary are only ever published from the Centre for Independent Studies, which we all know is an ardent nest of conservatism.

Chris Mitchell’s ideological foibles aside, I take issue with this article which purports to portray recipients of disability support pensions as little more than dole bludgers with a pseudo excuse for being on welfare.

Recipients of disability support pensions are more diverse than those suffering from physical ailments restricting their working capacity. Jessica brown makes no reference to those persons suffering from mental disabilities – depression, anxiety, social phobias and the like – which are becoming more prevalent in the workforce the more technological we seem to become. My own wife, as an example, suffers from anxiety and agoraphobia, virtually restricting her to a home life or outings where she feels comfortable in the company of a very small and select group of people. She was, not so many years ago, an IT systems administrator for a private health fund but found the pressures growing heavier & heavier to the point where the euphemistically termed ‘nervous breakdown’ over took her. Now she has trouble thinking straight let alone ever resuming a place in her favourer occupational niche. Her anxiety complaint has escalated to the extent where our marriage has dissolved in all but the legal reference of the term, she not wanting to divorce in order to validate herself as an individual in accordance with bureaucratic demands.

We’re ‘married’ but live our own separate lives under the same roof. The house is in her name and I effectively pay rent by maintaining my share of the mortgage repayments. We are company for each other and for us, that’s sufficient but in the eyes of the bureaucracy if we were to formalise the rental arrangement, not only could she not afford to refinance the entire mortgage into her name, my paying her rent would be deemed as income and negate what little disability pension she receives.

So, to Jessica Brown and her fully employed and oh-so authoritative researcher colleagues, I simply offer this. Generalisations do not a valid argument make. Not all welfare recipients are bludgers, in fact, I dare say less than 1% of recipients are doubtful with an even lesser number actually perverting the system for individual benefit. Disabilities are not constrained to the physical. The mental disability can be far more destructive of a person’s self-worth and much less obvious than the too often portrayed malinger with the bad back. We tax-payers are entitled to fair and egalitarian use of our taxes. If that use aids in maintaining the self-worth of a person, who for their entire working life made no calls on the public welfare system, and needs now, that help to sustain their sense of self, then I for one say "so be it".

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