Divert Youth Allowance Funds to the Disabled and Elderly

If you rail against the government for not adequately supporting asylum seekers and the poor and don’t have a part-time job, or at least support yourself financially, you’re a hypocrite.

ANU has too many let’s-cure-poverty sanctimonious types. I’m not against this kind of person wholesale, only the ones who are rarely, if ever employed and still have the gall to tell me that they’re committed to helping the needy. Yet, at least four-tenths of them see Youth Allowance as some incontrovertible right in lieu of a part-time job. If they believed in alleviating hunger and suffering, especially in Australia, they’d be sending out a minimum of 25 job applications a week, managing their time better and taking at least ten hours of work, week in, week out, barring exam times.

They would be helping themselves and the economy, freeing up more money for the underprivileged and giving their arguments some practise-what-you-preach weight. But that would be translating theory and rhetoric into practice, which most bombastic student poverty prophets are simply unable to do.

Students, particularly ones from the prestigious Group of Eight (G8) which includes ANU, constantly reference the injustices of a capitalist world where the needy are thrown the crumbs left over from the magnates, patricians and upper-middle classes. Yet this stance is largely hypocritical: incessant demands for the continuation and expansion of and the relaxing of standards for Youth Allowance payments blatantly disregards the walking wounded (and even those physically unable to walk) all around us. The disabled and elderly deserve most of the money pumped into Youth Allowance.

My philosophy is that student welfare should only be used sparingly, such as during exam times when one does not work, for the odd semester when a working break may be needed to prevent burnout, and to top up income when a person is already employed part-time or casually. I also believe in Youth Allowance for the truly working-class students, yet a huge number of students at ANU do not fall into this category and still take full advantage of the system, even if legally.

In an ideal world, we would all get Youth Allowance. Yet such a utopia does not exist and we live far better lives than many who deserve welfare money more. Our grandparents worked most of their lives without compulsory superannuation. Even if they own their own houses, many live very meagre existences on pensions or partial ones, the product of them living in times far less prosperous than the Australia of today.

Additionally, our grandparents’ health is largely a relic of the past and compared to them we can look forward to much better medical outcomes (and longevity) in the future. They deserve that this money be spent on their generation morally (and pragmatically, considering they cannot physically work as they used to) more than we do.

And where do I start with people with disabilities? However groundbreaking the National Disability Insurance Scheme’s passing is, it obscures the reality that even when it comes into effect (only in a couple of years) the disabled will still be routinely economically marginalised and poverty-stricken. If you think textbook costs are exorbitant, try medication costs and other expenditures for someone with multiple sclerosis, quadriplegia or motor neurone disease. The biggest charity most students can give society is getting a job, which is not nearly as hard as many people complain about.

A friend of mine, fresh-eyed and industrious, arrived in Australia from Europe last month. With her student visa she quickly secured two food industry jobs, each for only a handful of hours per week. If someone who uses English as their second language can do this, why do so many ANU students make excuses for not getting jobs and depend on the public purse? “They won’t hire me for just ten hours a week!” they exclaim. “I study full-time, it’s too hard!” comes the moan.

Well, so does my Swiss friend. She studies full-time in a foreign country and has two part-time jobs, so what’s your excuse, non-employed ANU student? And why in your quest for Youth Allowance do you forget that the disabled and elderly get a pittance and many of them can never work, even if they wanted to?

Juxtapose this with the story of an ex-friend of one of my old school friends. Hailing from Western Sydney, she arrived at ANU and within three or four semesters found herself $10,000+ in debt to her residential college and others, and asking my school friend for his opinion on her resorting to prostitution. “No normal business will hire me!” By all accounts, she still fritters portions of her Centrelink money on Zara clothes and didn’t bother paying him back the successive sets of $20 she asked to help for ’emergencies’. In the meantime, my school friend had five jobs during this girl’s two to three year period of employment procrastination, moving from one to the other if new opportunities paid better or gave better conditions.

If the prerequisite for a graduate position was that we all had to have 1,000 hours of paid employment of any sort throughout a four year degree (less than five hours weekly over 208+ weeks), including outside semesters, we would all do it. Likewise, why shouldn’t Youth Allowance require a minimum of 100 job applications sent out to prospective employers every year?