Saturday, 26 August 2017

Only in Australia.

Separated at birth? Tony Abbott [A] Boris Yeltsin [B].

From the creative genius behind "Centrelink Fake Debts", comes the new farce comedy "Centrelink Random Drug Tests": as part of a trial, from next January the unemployed recipients of Newstart Allowance in the Canterbury/Bankstown area of Sydney will be forced to pass random drug tests as a requisite to get the dole (AU$ 267.80 a week, single/no dependents rate). To have an idea of how much that fortune buys, check the availability of boarding-house rooms for rent in Bankstown, courtesy of Domain.
"Social Services Minister Christian Porter has defended the new approach, saying it was 'entirely focused on helping job seekers overcome drug problems' and not about 'penalising or stigmatising' them.
" 'We want to help people in this situation,' Mr Porter said.
" 'Failure to do so simply leaves people at risk of a cycle of welfare dependency'."
According to Dr Nadine Ezard, clinical director for alcohol and drug services at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital, drug testing
"It's very expensive. The Government hasn't released how much it will cost but when we look to other experiences, for example in New Zealand back in 2015, they spent around a million dollars on testing just over 8,000 people and only 22 people tested positive."

In the meantime, the ABC's Annabel Crabb stepped "into the intoxicating world" of the Australian Parliament "to hear a startling confession from former PM Tony Abbott": in 2009, the day Parliament voted the Kevin Rudd fiscal stimulus package, Tony, at the time opposition leader, didn't vote because he was drunk, sleeping inside his parliamentary office. His colleagues tried to wake him up, but were unable. Astonishingly, they didn't call the paramedics. Luckily for them, that oversight didn't have tragic consequences: Abbott didn't go into alcoholic coma. Nor did he puke and drown in his own vomit. Miracles do happen.

Abbott's current annual salary as backbencher amounts to $199,040, according to this website,

PM Malcolm Turnbull was disappointed (about Abbott's drunkenness, not about his surviving it). He "can't remember anyone else missing a vote because they were too drunk to get into the chamber."

Presumably, Turnbull was sober when he said that and his recollection is accurate. That, however, tells us nothing about another possibility: drunken parliamentarians going into the chamber to vote.


This is not about penalising or stigmatising parliamentarians. It's all about helping them overcome binge drinking: to pass random breath tests should be mandatory before parliamentarians get paid. We want to help people in that situation.

Whoever said that under capitalism there isn't solidarity towards people in need?

Image Credits:
[A] Tony Abbott in 2010. Author: MystifyMe Concert Photography (Troy).  Source: Wikimedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. My usage of the file in no way suggests its author's endorsement.
[B] Boris Yeltsin in 1999. Author: Presidential Press and Information Office. Source: Wikimedia. File licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. My usage of the file in no way suggests its author's endorsement.


  1. An Aussie who can't handle his liquor? Impossible!

    Alcohol and drug dependency amongst the wealthy and successful? Impossible!

    So the Aussie way is to hound people off the dole? The American way is to abolish the dole.

  2. So the Aussie way is to hound people off the dole? The American way is to abolish the dole.

    Pff. The Yanks are rank amateurs.

    They have no idea how much fun they are missing: the chance to harass, humiliate, and make those people jump up and down for a handful of dollars. Priceless, as the credit card TV advert used to say.

    Additionally, here politicians can pretend they actually give a damn about the unemployed, unlike those bloody heartless Yanks.

    Besides, after a while Centrelink can make up a debt and force its "customers" to repay money they don't owe.

    Now, that is real genius.:-)

  3. US has a food stamp program run by the Department of Agriculture. That is one way of humiliating the poor.

    1. I know about the food stamps thing.

      Tell me how social security and the dole works in Canada.

    2. Social assistance (welfare) in Canada is a provincial responsibility. The rules vary in each province. To qualify, your assets must be less than a set amount. There is a rate for people considered employable, and a higher rate for people who are considered disabled.

      General overview:

      Detailed reports:

      Social security in Canada is known as OAS

    3. Social assistance (welfare) in Canada is a provincial responsibility. The rules vary in each province.

      I'm no expert by any means, but to me that sounds like an odd arrangement, doesn't it? I mean, in most places social assistance seems to be a responsibility of the federal/national government.

      Let me make a wild guess: the most backward provinces in Canada like to lower their taxes (so as to attract business) and, to keep the budget balanced, they put additional restrictions on social assistance, all of which then creates incentives for the richer provinces to follow suit and lower their own taxes and cut their own social assistance.

    4. Maybe it is an odd arrangement compared to Australia. Provinces are responsible for most of the services that are important to Canadians: health, education and social services.

      The federal government plays a key role in helping 'have not' provinces:

      A 'have not' province will receive extra money from the feds, which helps defray the cost of social programs.

      Nova Scotia's social assistance rates are some of the lowest, but the cost of living is also lower. You'd have to look at several factors to determine which province is the 'best' and 'worst' in terms of welfare.

      The system is designed to keep people alive, but living in poverty. If welfare recipients are comfortable, their incentive to look for work will be reduced. This is the theory being applied in Canada by the provinces. They don't use the humiliation tactics you describe in Australia, nor do they hire private companies to deliver these services.