Tag Archives: Scott-Morrison

Women and superannuation

**As a woman with no superannuation at all, this is going to be a rant, so be warned.**


There was no such thing as superannuation when I was working in the corporate sector during the 80’s, and after I married I moved to my then husband’s small business. I stress the word ‘small’ because we could not afford to pay ourselves a salary per se, that luxury was reserved for our employees. We only took out what we absolutely needed to survive.

The family business had its ups and downs, but it did pay the bills, and once our daughter arrived, it gave me the opportunity to work from home. Effectively, I became a full-time Mum, and a part-time, unpaid employee. I viewed my employment status as a bonus because I had never received a ‘wage’ anyway.

Unfortunately, the business did not survive the ’90’s and nor did the marriage. I’m not complaining, that is just how life is sometimes. I’m sure there are millions of women in the same boat. My rant, if you like, is about an economy that totally ignores the plight of women such as myself.

Let me explain. Superannuation was initially brought in as a means of ‘forced saving’ so the Baby Boomer generation would not be completely reliant on the government pension to survive in retirement. It’s probably not a bad idea, for those who work in corporation jobs, but what of people who own and run small businesses?

If you think my description of working in a family business is unusual, think again. There are a lot of people in my generation who never bothered about superannuation, or the lack thereof, because we naively assumed that we would strike it rich and be rolling in cash for our old age. Of course we never truly believe in the old age part, but that’s a rant for another day.

So there you have a whole lot of people with little to no super. At this point, my rant is unisex as it applies to men as well as women. But do you remember the part where I talked about working from home while raising my daughter? That is the part where the lot of women takes a nose-dive. By trying to have it all, we end up with no career path and no continuity.

Of the two, career related benefits, the lack of continuity is perhaps the most insidious. Back in the ’70s I was registered as a secondary school teacher, but once I became enamoured of computers, I stopped teaching and eventually, my registration lapsed. That should not have been a huge problem, except that about the same time, most government institutions transitioned from paper to digital records. And they made you jump through hoops to update your paper records.

Now when I say hoops, I mean great big world spanning vicious circles. Firstly, I was born in Hungary and came to Australia as a refugee [along with my parents, obviously]. I became an Australian citizen when I was 17 or 18, and I was given a rather lovely, paper certificate as proof.

Unfortunately that certificate, along with all my other documentation, including Hungarian birth certificate, was in my maiden name, but by the time I wanted to re-register as a teacher, all my current ID was in my married name.

Long story short, re-registering as a secondary school teacher was just too hard, so I let it slide. And by the time I had to look at getting a paid job again all my qualifications were years out of date. Caring for elderly parents pushed the continuity of my skills even further. I had kept up with my skills on the computer, but how did I go about proving that I still had skills?

Those of you who have followed some of my more personal posts will know about my efforts to regain recognized qualifications, and my attempts to use those qualifications in the paid workforce. I haven’t given up, but my track record to-date has not been very successful.

So… I’m 62 with some hard earned qualifications, but no job to speak of, and of course, no superannuation. What I do have, however, is the family home. It is my one and only asset, unless you count a 1988 Toyota Corolla. It is what I will have to sell one day to pay for my dotage. Yet now certain politicians are talking about including the family home in the asset test for the pension.

On February 17, 2015, Scott Morrison ruled out including the family home in asset testing, and yet, despite that, speculation is still buzzing around in the media.

Not to be cynical, but given Scott Morrison’s pragmatic, and callous treatment of refugees, and the many back flips coming from this government, I have a bad feeling about this. Pensioners are sitting ducks when it comes to governments wanting to balance the budget.

So I ask myself this question, if I don’t have any superannuation, and may not be eligible for the pension at age 65, just exactly what am I supposed to do to survive the golden years of my retirement?

I should probably have kept this post as a draft but I accidentally hit publish instead of preview. Ah well. I’d still like to know your thoughts.



When is a prison not a prison?

Aung San suu kyi picThis is  Aung_San_Suu_Kyi. If anyone knows what it feels like to be imprisoned in a prison that is not like Long Bay, then it’s her.

We all know that if you can’t get out, you are imprisoned.  How can we deny that detention is prison?

That question was in the back of my mind while I was re-reading Arthur Miller’s The Crucible last night. Perhaps that’s why this passage leapt off the page at me :

‘Political opposition, thereby, is given an inhumane overlay which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized intercourse.’

Miller was talking about the ‘justice’ meted out to the Witches of Salem, as well as the so-called Communists of the McCarthy era. In both cases, the victims were painted as demons, making it okay to punish them in ways society would not normally accept.

That was when it hit me – wasn’t that exactly what successive Australian governments had done with refugees arriving here by boat?

First we were told the ‘boat people’ were queue jumpers because they pushed in ahead of ‘good’ refugees who remained in the camps of Indonesia, patiently waiting for some country to take them.

I admit, at the time, this argument did make me stop and think; my parents and I had been refugees too. We had had to wait in a camp until a country took us. How would we have felt if other refugees had pushed in ahead of us, just because they could?

But then I learned that the number of people jumping the queue by plane far outnumbers those arriving by boat! What the?

Apparently these well-heeled queue jumpers come in by plane, with a temporary visa of some sort, and then pretty much disappear. No one seems to care too much so long as they don’t try to get onto welfare.

And this brings me to the next label – economic refugees. Apparently refugees who arrive by leaky boats from Indonesia are not real refugees because they can afford to pay the people smugglers for the privilege of drowning at sea.

Now this label resonated with me as well until I learned exactly how these ‘economic’ refugees get the money to pay the people smugglers. Think large family groups. Now think of those family groups saving every cent they can collectively lay their hands on. Once they have enough, they select one of their group to make the dangerous trip by boat.

The thinking behind this strategy is that once this person has citizenship in Australia, they can get a job, save money and bring the rest of the family group out to join them. Sacrifice for all, to pay for hope.

Now think about how much these refugees would have to do without in order to save up the thousands of dollars [6? 8?] necessary to put this desperate plan into practice.

I can’t imagine living so tough. I can’t imagine being that desperate. And that, I think is one of the biggest problems; we are all so comfortable we cannot imagine what it must feel like to be dispossessed, unwanted, with no future and no hope.

And so, instead of feeling a normal, human sympathy for these desperate people, we dismiss them as queue jumpers and economic refugees and the kind of horrible people who deliberately throw their children overboard to get what they want.

The refugees earned that last, corrosive label after the Tampa incident. It became known as the ‘Children Overboard’ affair, and was happily fostered by the then Howard government. In time, we learned that the refugees had not thrown their children overboard for gain. But of course, by then the damage was done, and the mud stuck.

So to keep these dreadful people out of Australia, we, as a nation, have spent HUGE sums of taxpayer money on building and maintaining detention centres, paying other countries to detain our problems and buying all sorts of weird orange equipment to send refugees back where they came from.

What no one is talking about is how much we would have saved had we just let these refugees in while their claims were processed.

If the Abbott/Hockey Budget is to be believed, that kind of wasted money is okay, but spending on NewStart, Disability pensions and Age pensions is not. And we accept the spin. But why?

Part of the answer lies in the dehumanizing of the refugees, but underlying that reason is another, unspoken thing – the race card. As the Daughter said, would we and the government react with such ferocity if the boat people were white South Africans?

Australia had a ‘White Australia’ policy for a very long time. It was based on fear. We were the only European country in South East Asia, and we feared that the yellow, brown and black hordes would overwhelm us if we gave them an inch.

Things have changed. Australia has become a multi-cultural country, although still largely European, and we now boast quite large pockets of Vietnamese and even Sudanese populations. But deep down inside, there are still a lot of Australians who fear these new arrivals.

That unspoken fear of the ‘other’ is exacerbated by the fear of terrorism sweeping the globe. And guess what? Heaps of those nasty boat people are both brown and Muslim! They’re probably all terrorists trying to sneak into Australia to set up home grown terrorist cells.

-face palm-

Puleeze! Do we really think any self-respecting terrorist would be that stupid? And inefficient?

Terrorists are far more likely to come in by plane. It’s far safer and cheaper than a leaky boat. Think about that.

Unfortunately most of us don’t think things through. I know I didn’t. For a very long time, one part of me was horrified by what we were doing to the asylum seekers, yet at the same time, another part of me wondered if perhaps it might not be justified.

And then, of course, we and our duly elected government have one nice, conscience-salving justification that is hard to deny – people on leaky boats die a lot.

Scott Morrison uses that high, moral card a lot, but crocodile tears aside, the truth is that we would not have this problem if 99% of the refugees did die on those leaky boats. The government’s problem is that so many of them survive.

So a few more facts:

1. Detention centres in Australia may not be like high security prisons, but they are prisons nonetheless. Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned in her own home for years. She may have lived in comfort, but she was still in prison.

2. No prison in Australia keeps children under 10 locked up. Detention centres do.

3. Detention centres outside Australia appear to be many times worse, in terms of comfort, than any high security prison here in Australia.

4. Children are being kept in prison as punishment for the so-called crimes of their parents.

There is no way around this, and Scott Morrison doesn’t even try. He believes that anything is justified so long as it works to achieve his aim of stopping the boats. He believes he is being cruel to be kind. He believes he is punishing children to save the lives of other children who might attempt to reach our shores by boat.

Excuse me?

If we are going to do this evil thing then at least let’s call the spade an effin’ shovel. Or have we dehumanized the refugees to such an extent that we truly believe it’s okay to do awful things to them under the pretext of saving their lives?

Apparently the answer is yes. But I no longer believe.


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