Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sanna Andrew: Children should not grow up in poverty, single parents need a living wage

Sanna Andrew - Socialist Alliance candidate
for Fremantle
One measure of how a nation should be judged is by how it treats its most vulnerable members.

Children are among the most vulnerable members of our society as they have absolutely no say, politically in how their lives are shaped and how their futures will be determined at a government level.

The lives of our children of our communities are shaped by the start they have in life, by the resources that their families have or are able to access. Research continues to clearly demonstrate that a childhood marred by poverty is more likely to lead to long term and entrenched poverty and disadvantage throughout life.

Children in single parent families are even more disadvantaged in terms of readily available resources, particularly as 87% of single parent families are headed by women. Women in general, are also vulnerable to poverty, purely by the structure of capitalist society that arbitrarily attributes more value to specific types of work that see women earning less than men purely because of the lack of value given to the work that women traditionally undertake.

This is further impacted on by the fact that women’s working careers are far more likely to be interrupted by child-rearing, hindering longer term and overall wage earning capacity, superannuation and upward career and social mobility.

On a day to day basis, this again is further impacted on by multiple interrelated factors ranging from and a lack of “family friendly” industrial relations, worker’s rights and protection legislation and flexible workplace practices; availability of suitable and flexible work, training and education options; suitable quality childcare options and the availability, affordability and ability to access extra curricula children’s activities.

Paradoxically, this is on top of the mainstream media and social pressure placed on parents, mostly women, to be at home for and spend quality time with our children.

The ALP policy to shift single parents on to Newstart is a policy that punishes vulnerable community members. This demonstrates that the ALP has become completely out of touch and divorced from its purported role as a working people's party.

Single parents - typically mothers - shouldn’t be punished for the crucial and important work they are doing raising children in our community.

It should also be noted that the majority of single parents do go back to work as soon as they can and engage in self-directed further education and training to improve their future prospects for their children (!) and they should not be punished for this. The new Gillard ‘Parenting Payment to Newstart’ effectively does this.

The Gillard regime is punishing parents and forcing an already under-resourced and struggling sector of the community into grinding poverty, a condition that will become lifelong and entrenched for the many children subject to this policy. This policy will also potentially see children remaining in violent situations as the financial burden to adequately care for and provide for children as a single parent will potentially become greater than living with violence, for women secure only in the knowledge that you can forgo your own safety to ensure your children are provided for.

Julia Gillard having once touted Gough Whitlam - who introduced the single parents pension - as her mentor. Now, seemingly, she has made Tony Abbot her mentor in implementing the kinds of policies he supports. Even Abbott quipped that Gillard is more right wing than he!

We must take action to resist the actions of our governments when they don't act in our interests! We must not allow them to get away with the things they are doing by accepting and voting for the lesser of two evils.

We the people have to say enough is enough and we the people no longer accept a two party system purely built to serve a rich minority of business and mining operators. We the people have to stand up and be counted, it’s time to stop trying “to make the bastards honest”, because that will never happen, and we the people have to now take the bold move and create a government of our own.

I stand against these changes to the single parent pension, not because they personally affect me now, but because I do know this experience and because the devastating effects this policy will have on other people. I can’t stand by and see other people suffer just because I got through the system before it got really bad.

I was subject to this system and whilst it was grinding and extremely difficult and my children have and continue to miss out, it was certainly a lot better than what is now available.

I abhor the Labor Government’s attempt to single out single parents or other vulnerable groups. This is nothing but a mean spirited publicity stunt to save a mere few dollars and a comparative drop in the ocean, particularly compared to the ‘welfare’ they provide to big business and mining industries.

My own personal experiences and my experiences in working with vulnerable and marginalised community members has made me become actively political because I know we have the resources as a nation to provide for everyone and to move to a more sustainable way of production and living that will not only give our children a future but ensure a future for the world. The current model of business and industry is effectively destroying our environment, climate and economic stability. It is not the single parents trying to eek out a living and improve their future prospects for their children that are doing this.

So “our” Governments nasty evil mean spirited attempts to save a few dollars at the expense of a future generation and to divert our attention from the real problems and issues no longer works on me. I am politically active and I am standing to send this message to other people, sick of not only being the butt of Government mismanagement and anti-people policies but also to say we do have hope, we can save our future, but we have to get active to make a change.

Vote for Socialist Alliance candidates if you share this vision.

[By Sanna Andrew, Socialist Alliance candidate for Fremantle.]

Photos from single parents protest, Perth, 5 February 2012