Wednesday, 18 June 2014

An open letter to Clive Palmer and Tony Abbott

Get Up! is an Australian grassroots political movement, and one of their current campaigns is regarding a charity auction where the highest bidder wins a dinner with either our P.M, Tony Abbott, or the powerful businessman and politician, Clive Palmer.
Obviously I'm not in a position to pitch in towards the auction, but Get Up! also asked us to write down what we would want to say if we were in the position to talk to either of these powerful men over dinner. This is my letter;

"Dear Clive Palmer and Tony Abbott,

Thanks to the budget my 10 year old daughter and I face the prospect of homelessness next July. We don't have a financial safety net to help cover the $100 dollars a fortnight that we will be losing when you axe Family Tax Benefit B.
We also live in a small coastal community, which means there are more people than jobs. And obviously, if the loss of $100 a fortnight is enough to bring down the prospect of homelessness on our heads, I don't have the sort of money to simply up and move to a larger town where there are more employment opportunities.
In fact, my daughter is home from school today, because I don't have enough money to cover the petrol to get her to school until my pension comes through tomorrow.
Now, I am intelligent and articulate and come from a nice middle class family, but I also spent most of my life living with misdiagnosed bipolar II and, as a result, I turned to very self destructive coping mechanisms- the sorts of things that see people falling through the cracks of so called "normal" society and scrounging to survive in the underbelly.
Fortunately it seemed as if my life had turned the corner a few years ago- I finally got a proper diagnosis and was placed on medication that actually worked. I started helping my Auntie and her husband with their house flipping business and discovered that I was actually really good at house painting, so I decided to get an ABN and start up my own little house painting business- a 40 year old single mum just trying to make it on my own, but trying nonetheless.
And then I had major surgery on my pelvis in 2012 that, unfortunately, failed.
So, instead of painting and building my business, I have spent the last 2 years having additional surgeries, dealing with nerve damage and significant pain issues... and I won't be able to go back to house painting now that my left leg no longer works properly.
So here I am, 42 years old, no partner, mum to a bright and sweet 10 year old and I don't even know how to begin to put things back together.
My mother died last year at 62 from preventable cancer, my daughter's father committed suicide when I was pregnant because of lack of appropriate mental health resources, so he isn't around to help. So I'm having to do most of this alone, and that's pretty scary.
I live in a small town with very little employment opportunities and I have ongoing medical issues, both physical and psychological, that make finding appropriate work nigh on impossible without someone giving me a break, and you are taking away money that is the only thing standing between us and utter destitution.
My rent alone is over 50% of what I live on per year, but there is no affordable housing to be had anywhere. You say "move to where the jobs are", how? I don't even have $5 in my bank account at the moment. Who will help me relocate?
Will you give me the opportunity to earn a decent living? I'm smart, I have talent, I am a good writer and do well with things like online research and promoting businesses (for example, I blog to keep my mind sharp, and I like to help highlight some of the amazing Aussie indie makeup businesses and bring them to the attention of international consumers).
If you cut Family Tax Benefit B you are dooming my child to a life of poverty and lack of opportunities that we might otherwise manage to scrimp and save for.
$100 might not seem like much to you- hell, you probably spend more on a nice bottle of wine or a business lunch- but it really is the difference between life and death for us.
I struggle to remain hopeful, I strive to raise my child to believe that she can be whatever she puts her mind to and that the world is hers for the taking if she so chooses, but you are crushing my spirit with every funding cut, with every assumption that people like me are lazy, good for nothings who are simply trying to rort the system.
If you honestly believe that then please, try raising a good kid on my budget and see how easy it is to "bludge" then.
If you honestly believe that I just need to get off my bum and do something then give me an opportunity to use my skills- give me some work so I can raise my child well, so I can manage my physical and psychological disabilities and still earn enough that we can stop living hand to mouth and start saving instead.
Surely there's some sort of copy-writing work or research that you could have me do? Or is it all about the rhetoric with nothing to back it up?
And finally, why is it that you are asking those of us with the least to give to give up so much? Why not reduce the diesel fuel rebates for mining instead of taking $100 away from families like mine? Families that are incredibly vulnerable and only one payment away from utter ruin?
Please Mr Abbott, you say that you are a Christian, so where is your compassion? Poverty and vulnerability are not moral failings, so please don't punish us as if they were.
And Mr Palmer, you talk about people pulling their weight and of the opportunities that are out there for people willing to make the effort, well here I am- have you any sort of work that I could do? I'm obviously a smart gal, I would be an asset, but I need someone to give me a break.

I really hope someone takes the time to read this- right now I am scared I'm on my way to joining the statistics surrounding poverty and suicide. Give me and my child a chance to have a life that is more than constant fear of the future.

Emma Marks"

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