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Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

This has been such a disturbing experience.

Recently, I wrote an article critical of Centrelink’s debt collection processes based on my personal experiences. That article is here. It was written with the intention of drawing people’s attention to how impenetrable the debt collection process can be and also, to encourage women to consider fighting against ‘sexually transmitted debt’.

Paul Malone, writing for Canberra Times, has since obtained personal information from my Centrelink file (I’m still not sure how privacy legislation allows this) in order to write an article about my story from the government’s perspective. The article is optimistically titled, “Centrelink is an easy target for complaints but there are two sides to every story”.

It seems the story most neglected is not the helpless ‘client’ of Centrelink, so often powerless in the face of an enormous bureaucratic machine, but the Centrelink machine, itself.

I am incredibly reluctant to go further into my personal details but here we are.

Among the problems I have with Malone’s article:

The agency says Ms Fox’s debt is a Family Tax Benefit (FTB) debt for the 2011-12 financial year which arose after she received more FTB than she was entitled to because she under-estimated her family income for that year.

As I outlined in my article, when your ex does not lodge his tax return for a year in which you received the Family Tax Benefit it seems your family income will be classified ‘under-estimated’, and consequently, you, who filed a tax return may be required to pay the tax benefit back. My article drew attention to the ways in which this can penalise women.

The original debt was raised because she and her ex-partner did not lodge a tax return or confirm their income information for 2011-12.

My tax returns were up to date before I learned of a Centrelink debt and said tax returns noted my new status as a single parent.

However, it is true that I filed my own tax return late that particular year, the circumstances behind this were subsequently shared fully with Centrelink. Given the nature of those circumstances, I am under the impression that my late tax return was forgiven. I will not be sharing those details, but I will note that the extreme sensitivity of factors considered by Centrelink for pardoning late returns includes such things as serious domestic violence and so, I would urge journalists to tread very carefully in this space.

Centrelink says that after Ms Fox notified the department that she had separated from her partner, the debt due to her partner’s non-lodgement was cancelled.

This feels somewhat disingenuous to me. The fine was finally cancelled by Centrelink after acknowledging that their previous decision to impose the debt on me had been a mistake. My notes indicate the process I had to go through took more than 12 months. That seems long to me, and arduous (it included insisting upon a review of my case) – it seems worthy of an article, which is why I wrote it.

But Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen says Centrelink made numerous attempts to get in touch with Ms Fox via phone and letter but many of these attempts were left unanswered.

During the process the department and I discovered they had old contact details for me. This has been a common story across many Centrelink debt stories with false debts escalating to debt collectors before people even realise they have a Centrelinke debt.

You would think a combination of my taking a day off work to visit Centrelink and following that, spending hours  on the phone with Centrelink, would be evidence of a desire to both understand the debts and to resolve them. That I remain, to this day, confused about elements of both is a sign not of my disengagement but of a very complicated, demoralising and problem-ridden process.

However, I would also like to acknowledge the efforts of a couple of individual Centrelink staff members. Due to an editorial decision about word length their supportive comments were not included in my article. But I would note that they sounded almost as sad about the frustrations I was experiencing with Centrelink as I was, and in the end I couldn’t help but think we were all trapped in a kind of maddening maze.

Thank you, also, to the lawyers who came forward with suggestions after reading my article. All my love to those who work in this system and who wish for the system to work justly.

Something is going very, very wrong in government policy at the moment. But I am filled with hope because it has also brought out some very, very good people.

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All They Want Is My Money My Pussy My Blood

I am free with the following conditions.

Give it up gimme gimme.

Okay so I’m Black in America right and I walk into a bar.

I drink a lot of wine and kiss a Black man on his beard.

I do whatever I want because I could die any minute.

I don’t mean YOLO I mean they are hunting me.

I know my pussy is real good because they said so.

I say to my friend I am broke as a joke.

I am Starvin’ Like Marvin Gaye.

I’m so hungry I could get it on.

There’s far too many of me dying.

The present is not so different.

Everybody looks like everybody I worked with.

Everybody looks like everybody I’ve kissed.

Men champion men and animals.

Everybody thinks I’m going to die.

At the museum I tell the school group about Black art.

I tell them the word contemporary.

I have a nose ring I forget about.

I have a brother and he is also Black.

I am a little modern to the fault.

I say this painting is contemporary like you and me.

They ask me about slavery. They say Martin Luther King.

At school they learned that Black people happened.

The present is not so different.

I’m looking into their Black faces.

They do not understand that they exist.

I’m Black in America and I walk

into a bar and drink a lot of wine, kiss a white man on his beard.

There is no indictment.

I could die any minute of depression.

I just want to have sex most of the time.

I just want my student loans to disappear.

I just want to understand my savings account.

What is happening to my five dollar one cent.

I am free with the following conditions.

What is happening to my brother.

What if I do something wrong.

My blood is so hot and wet right now.

I know they want it.

I do everything right just incase.

I don’t want to give away my money but here I am.

It’s so stupid I have to say here I am.

They like to be on top.

I am being set up.

I am a tree and some fruits are good and some are bad.

– Morgan Parker

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Blowjob (Vulgar Slang)

I never thought of it as a line of work.
I did not think of myself, with my lunch pail,
going to the job and punching my time clock in and out.
Surely that act was not divided
into management, who were owners,
and staff, who had no share in the profit.
“Job,”
is that what they thought?
That it was boring for us and we couldn’t wait ’til we could break for lunch?
They thought that they were rulers commanding us against our will,
there was a thrill in that?
A payback for having to do what mom says when dad’s at work
blowing his master?
So that the one who was being given suck after hours
already gave at the office?
It’s weird thinking about it from a bosses point of view:
looking down at the working head,
the alienated labor,
looking down the pay scale, too.
If they were both engaged in the same act
it wouldn’t be a job, would it,
but play.
Play in the house of the gods of pleasure.
At least “blow” is not a word from commerce
but the golden rule of music:
know, as you would be known.
Blow, as you would be blown.

– Sharon Olds

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We Alone

We alone can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.
Feathers, shells
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.
This could be our revolution:
to love what is plentiful
as much as
what’s scarce.

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Spend it on mental health, according to this very interesting policy research. In terms of government expenditure, it is both super cheap and leads to super impressive outcomes.

What gives you best future outcomes? Spending money on the mental health of mothers and schooling systems that focus on the emotional health of children (especially in high school).

(And I suspect some of the income inequality effects in this research are crowded out by work intensification lifestyle effects).

 

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Good arguments here from Cristy Clark in Overland as a response to Deveny’s ‘financial abortion’ article.

To start with, this argument completely ignores the rights of the child. According to articles 7–9 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children have the right to know and have a connection to their parents. Exceptions are provided for situations where ‘separation is necessary for the best interests of the child’, but a man’s desire to avoid child support payments doesn’t qualify. Even in cases when separation is warranted, it is rarely permanent in nature, leaving the door open for personal growth and renewed connection.

But the main problem with Deveny’s argument is that it buys into the neoliberal narrative of individual choice by completely ignoring the broader structural issues that fundamentally constrain women’s choices. The reality is that too many pregnant women already face a stark decision to undergo a medical termination or to risk a life of increased poverty and structural discrimination. While some women will opt to have an abortion (which, by the way, is still a criminal offence in much of Australia), termination should not be the only available option for women to avoid systematic disadvantage.

Just as we should fight for the rights of those women who want access to safe, accessible and affordable abortion, we should also be fighting for the rights of women who instead choose to carry their pregnancies to term. If not, we are punishing women for not having an abortion when a man wanted them to, and that reeks of the kind of coercive control that has no place in the feminist movement.

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I feel I can give you everything without giving myself away, I whispered in your basement bed. If one does one’s solitude right, this is the prize.

[Yet] dependence is scorned even in intimate relationships, as though dependence were incompatible with self-reliance rather than the only thing that makes it possible.

I know now that a studied evasiveness has its own limitations, its own ways of inhibiting certain forms of happiness and pleasure. The pleasure of abiding. The pleasure of insistence, of persistence. The pleasure of obligation, the pleasure of dependency. The pleasures of ordinary devotion. The pleasure of recognizing that one may have to undergo the same realizations, write the same notes in the margin, return to the same themes in one’s work, relearn the same emotional truths, write the same book over and over again—not because one is stupid or obstinate or incapable of change, but because such revisitations constitute a life.

Perhaps it’s the word radical that needs rethinking. But what could we angle ourselves toward instead, or in addition? Openness? Is that good enough, strong enough? You’re the only one who knows when you’re using things to protect yourself and keep your ego together and when you’re opening and letting things fall apart, letting the world come as it is—working with it rather than struggling against it. You’re the only one who knows. And the thing is, even you don’t always know.

From Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts.

 

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