Gov't disability crackdown shows brutal austerity

January 30, 2015
Under a new policy more than half of the 300,000 disability support applicants were rejected.

People with a disability, especially young people, are facing another wave of attacks and victimisations by the federal government in a new crackdown on those receiving the Disability Support Pension (DSP).

In mid-December, the then-minister for social services, Kevin Andrews, announced that his department would begin investigating people on the DSP. This will be carried out by the Coalition’s leading attack-dog, Scott Morrison, who inherited the ministry after a cabinet reshuffle removed him from the position of immigration minister.

Instead of persecuting and dehumanising refugees, Morrison is now the scourge of Australia’s welfare claimants.

The policy requires all DSP claimants who are not immediately able to be assessed as eligible to be inspected by a government doctor. If they are deemed able to work, even if it would require a lot of support, they will be pushed off the DSP and onto the unemployment benefit, which is $160 a week less than the DSP.

In its initial phases, this new policy will be applied only to people under 35 living in capital cities. This is not without precedent. Young people, people with disability and ethnic minorities have often been used to experiment with new forms of neoliberal policy before a policy is taken to the wider community. An example is the use of income management and the Basics Card, which initially targeted Aboriginal communities but is now lined up for use across the nation.

The policy of using government testing to judge people “fit to work” has been used with devastating impact in Britain. In 2012, the Daily Mirror reported that thousands of people had died because they had been deemed “fit to work” and taken off welfare entirely.

Under this vicious policy, more than half of the 300,000 applicants were rejected. Thousands of people also perished while they waited, on lower rates of welfare payments, to be assessed by the government.

The policy Australia now seeks to implement has led to the deaths of thousands of people with disability or illness in Britain and is likely to do the same here.

This shows the brutal logic of austerity. To face down a global crisis of accumulation, government is seeking to off-load social services and social reproduction onto ordinary people, with no regard for the cost.

The human results are all too obvious. What is also obvious is that this inhumane policy and policies like it, which target the young and the disabled, are the logical conclusion of a society that puts profits before people.

[Angus McAllen is a member of Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance in Brisbane.]

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