Harsh times at the Ministry of Fear? Australia's diminished citizenship of the working poor
Dee, Michael J. (2003) Harsh times at the Ministry of Fear? Australia's diminished citizenship of the working poor. In Bradley, Rebecca, Lyddon, Jeff, & Buys, Laurie (Eds.) Social Change in the 21st Century : 2003 Conference Proceedings, Queensland University of Technology, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane.
Australia's social security system requires recipients of Family Tax Benefit (FTB) to estimate their income at the beginning of the tax year for the coming period of 12 months. For the working poor, who are frequently located in employment of a casualised and insecure nature, estimating personal income with any accuracy is an experience fraught with obvious difficulties. There are considerable consequences for not getting this set of complex calculations right in the form of the repayment of so-called 'overpayments' of FTB. Recipients of this benefit are constantly exhorted by the minister responsible for the Department of Family and Community Services to be both flexible in their choice of work and also unflinching in their efforts to secure employment.
This flexibility tends not to be reciprocated however, and with the increasing 'responsibilisation' of the claimant, the ‘risk’ of overpayment is to be avoided at all costs and placed on the individual. This paper will argue that in such a context of the working poor, those who as Townsend (1979) argues 'earn their poverty' through the acceptance of low paid work and the endurance of high marginal tax rates and tightly drawn benefit tapers, also 'enjoy' a diminished social citizenship marked by stigma.
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