Merry F#$king Xmas

XmasIt’s Xmas time. We are all in frantic mode. Last minute Xmas shopping needs to be done. Holidays need to be finalised. Of course there is the frenzy to get the house ready and the food ready for the hoards that are about to descend on our houses on Xmas day. Somehow this year we have no less than 18 people to cater for in our household. It just happens you know. It’s a week before Xmas and the wife pipes up – “By the way there are 18 of us for Xmas Day. Is that alright?” Of course it is alright, it’s the silly season, we all do silly things. ( For the record, I jest, I went into it with my eyes open – my wife told me 9 days before not one week – and yes I still jest :-D)

But it is hard to get jolly this Xmas. Usually I have something nice to write about. I usually write an inspiring story and we go into Xmas with a goofy little grin. Good news stories warm the cockles of our hearts. The warmth energises us and helps us to get ready for the challenges of the New Year. I say onwards and upwards fellow men and women.[1] But this year it is a bit hard to get inspired. In fact it is down right depressing. And Tony Abbott and his band of merry scrooges are largely to blame.

The Australian icon, Holden is to close. Holden has been struggling for some time. The Australian dollar has been high and exports have taken a hit. Wage costs are relatively high while production, by world standards, relatively low. In short Holden was finding it extremely difficult to compete. They sought assistance from the Government to weather the storm and the Government said no … Basically the Abbott Government said get competitive or get out. Conveniently the Government ignored what Holden described as “The perfect storm of economic conditions.”

General Motors, the American owners of Holden, realising that the Government had so little value for it, decided to pull the plug. With no assistance to weather the economic times or restructure its business they decided to pull out in 2017. In pulling out a total of 4200 jobs will be lost in Adelaide and Victoria. This does not include people employed by car part component manufacturers who will also be heavily impacted.

Rather than empathise and apologise for the circumstances Prime Minister Abbott came out with this extraordinary statement – “Some of them will find it difficult, but many of them will probably be liberated to pursue new opportunities and to get on with their lives,” Well thanks heaps PM, Xmas for the Holden Workers will be bleak indeed. Not to mention that the Northern Suburbs of Adelaide, already among the poorest in Australia, just had its heart and soul removed. I am sure all these people find it liberating. Merry F#$king Xmas!

And then there was Joe Hockey. He’s a jolly chap isn’t he? You see the National Disability Scheme is expensive. It’s proving to be more expensive than first thought. Says Hockey, We are determined to deliver the NDIS but it has to be affordable,” (Note that he has used the term’determined’ which in this authors view is short of an absolute committment ) Suddenly the NDIS, which was officially launched in Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and Adelaide in July  this year has become not a launch but a trial. The focus on cost and the shift in describing the NDIS as a trial rather than a launch fooled no one.

The disability sector has a right to be worried about this non to subtle shift in its approach to the NDIS from the Government. The Government can wax lyrical about the NDIS being expensive and needing to be affordable but at the end of the day what they are doing is positioning themselves for a watered down version of the NDIS. What is really galling is that support to people with a disability is already done on the cheap. Care workers, for example, are paid a pittance. Indeed early price lists for purchasing equipment and services set out by the former Government were horrendously unrealistic and underpriced. Hockey is right on one thing; the former Government got it wrong. It was always going to be more expensive than they thought.

But providing full support to people with a disability is always going to cost what it will cost. For the NDIS to work and for people with a disability to be able to fully participate and have their needs met the simple answer is you have to pay what you have to pay. You cannot water it down and cut corners. The alternative is that people with a disability remain stuck at home – unable to work, unable to play and unable to be full members of our society. They same applies for their carers.  Are carers expected to never work and in many cases still be caring for their children who have disabilities well into their twilight years?

Mr. Hockey and his band of scrooges have to know the NDIS is not a COST. It is an investment.  It is an investment that will, in the long run, reap enormous benefits for people with a disability and the whole of Australia. Indeed Deakin University Academic Elizabeth Manning, whose 16 year old daughter has cerebral palsy, had this to say, “The NDIS makes cold, hard dollar sense. Thinking about it as some sort of welfare to be cut in bad times allows old-fashioned prejudice against people with disabilities to trump efficiency and money-saving investment.”  Manning goes on to perceptively point out – “There is nothing efficient about leaving people with disability and their families to spiral into crisis, when informal family carers continue to save taxpayers significant costs. People providing informal care are the most vulnerable group in the country, with the lowest levels of well-being and the most prone to poverty, marriage breakup and depression”

Understand this Mr. Hockey – Not rolling out the NDIS properly and focusing on costs and not social and economic benefits of the NDIS is the wrong way to go.  There is a reason Australian’s with a disability have some of the highest rates of poverty in the world and it is because this country does not provide for them properly. Focusing on cost rather than need is going to cost this country more in the long run. It’s just going to put more pressure and more cost on the welfare system. Worse, potentially it will cause great human suffering that need not occur.  Mr. Hockey is so in the Xmas spirit that he has chosen to raise all of this at Xmas, thus causing great duress and concern among those who live the disability experience. It must be nice to know that you are a burden to the country, especially at Xmas. Merry f#$king Xmas Mr. Hockey!

Moving away from the Government, mega rich BHP has sacked a deaf worker. The deaf worker in question has met every requirement of the job. He has passed all the tests including the Occupational Health and Safety test. Reports suggest he is an excellent and capable worker. BUT – BHP sacked him because of perceived communication problems. This is mega rich BHP, who I am pretty sure has the dosh to implement a system that will overcome any perceived communication difficulties. But no! Being deaf is a problem, even if you are an outstanding and capable worker. So off you go and play tiddly-winks or some other none to pressing or arduous occupation.  BHP are now subject to a human rights complaint for their troubles. ( May they lose and lose badly)  And so to you, the non to clever people at BHP, I say – Merry F#$king Xmas.

Over in South Australia the Deaf community had what is very likely the last function at their spiritual and cultural home that is affectionately known as 262. Regular readers of The Rebuttal will know the mega rich Townsend House, who are responsible for Deaf Can Do, have decided that to retain services for the Deaf community that they have to sell 262. This is despite members of the Deaf community making it clear that they would rather keep their building. They have let it be known, almost as one, that the services of Deaf Can Do have no value to them.

But it’s fashionable to ignore the very people that you are funded to serve. So 262 will be sold and un-needed and largely unwanted services will be subsidised from the sale. BUT the jolly souls at Townsend House have said they will buy the Deaf community a new home that the Deaf community will have full control over. BUT it seems that buying the said home is to have conditions with it. Conditions like having the money to look after the new home, which of course the Deaf community do not have. Money that they are now going to have to work their butts off to find.

Money that they do not have because Townsend House will sell the Deaf communities only asset. Of course you would think they would give some of the proceeds of the sale of 262 to the Deaf community to invest so that they can use it to maintain their new home. This may actually occur but until we know for sure it seems that the Deaf community are to be forever at the mercy of these unwanted masters at Townsend House. Always fearing another episode of mismanagement from the masters will put the foundations of the Deaf community at risk. To the masters at Townsend House I say – Merry F#$king Xmas. (Please note that the views I have expressed here are my own and should not be taken to be the views of the South Australian Deaf community or used to victimise the South Australian Deaf community in anyway.)

But do not despair! The Xmas spirit still exists. Of course it takes a child to remind us of this as we adults do our best to make a hash of the world. Just watch Claire Koch, who is just 5 years old, sign her schools Xmas carols for her Deaf parents – Completely unprompted! Watch her eyes and facial expressions – They are a joy!

And that is truly what Xmas is about. Merry Xmas everyone!


[1] I actually wrote “onwards and upwards chaps” – but thought this a little un-pc … I mean women are hardly chaps are they?

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