Get cracking

I spent the last hour of Tuesday and the first hour yesterday organizing rent relief. I had to do most of this because the real estate agent had no idea. I wonder how her other tenants, looking for this, will go.

First, we had to agree to reduce rent, which took about 10 days because – confusion. I had to spell it out what I was after and how it worked, despite initially explaining myself clearly and even sharing a link. So anyway, we agreed on that and got a document signed by all parties.

Well and good, except it had to be submitted to Consumer Affairs Victoria to sign-off and register it. I think that’s the agent’s responsibility, but they gave up on it as too hard, so I went and did it myself. I then had to apply for rent relief separately to a different department. Did that to. I believe it got sent to the agent to validate, and, as far as I know, we now just have to wait and see.

I expect I’ll get the requested support, though it may be a week or two. The jobkeeper subsidy is a different story. I know my employer has applied for and qualified for it. What difference that makes for me I don’t know yet. It’s a good concept, but very flawed, unfortunately.

When announced, it appeared very generous, but it became evident shortly after that there were a lot of holes in it. The government being a government were very prescriptive on who was entitled to it and how it works. Eligibility to start with was tied to revenue, and fair enough. If it was impacted by this much, then you’re were eligible to apply as an employer. It goes to the employer, but every employee, or worker, is entitled to it, which is the problem.

The most significant exclusion relates to casual workers with tenure of fewer than 12 months. It also excludes the gig economy in general, sub-contractors, etc. Workers on temporary work visas miss out as well, even though they live and work in the community. The government claimed that they had to draw the line somewhere, but it appears arbitrary when you consider the realities of modern working culture. Half of my workplace are contractors, and not all of them meet this criterion. For much of my working life, I’d have never qualified either because – though I was fully employed – I worked with different clients/employers in the qualifying period. It also counts out shitloads lt of people working in retail and service industries.

A very big loser out of this is the arts industry which, almost by definition, is made up of casual and freelance workers. There was a great noise drawing the government’s attention to this when the policy was announced, but the feds chose to ignore it. I think it’s fair to say that the LNP are not lovers of the arts, once more, almost by definition. The arts are an elitist pastime in the eyes of conservative governments, and its practitioners almost to a man, progressive.

The government has turned a blind eye to science in the past because of the inconvenient facts scientists publish. In the same way, artists hold inconvenient opinions for the government, and have both the platform and the skills to share them. It suits a government without any belief or passion in the arts industry to silence them, but Australia is much the poorer for that.

These exclusions penalise the employer as well as the employee, as well as culture and society. The whole idea is to maintain the business through the lockdown – if half your employees miss out then your business suffers. Just quietly, it’s also inhumane and discriminatory.

Speaking of discrimination, there are sections of society excluded from receiving any formal support or benefit. For example, we now have an underclass of foreign (and local) students who can’t go to school and have been forced out of work by the pandemic, but don’t qualify for assistance. Morrison, very unwisely given the scale of the industry, bluntly told international students to go home. Not diplomatic, a bit nasty, and foolish as these students are a big part of our economy, and belong to our major trade partners. It seems sensible to stay on good terms, but anyway.

It feels a bit cheap and counter-intuitive to be excluding them when you’re spending so many dollars generally. We need people to have money to spend to keep the economy running – that includes students and casual workers. We also need these groups, and their employers, to be able to pick-up and transition into work life once the restrictions ease and we get back to some kind of pseudo-normality. As an economy, we can’t afford to stumble at that point, which means that we have to get that work done now.

To compound these arbitrary conditions, the jobkeeper rate is set at $1500 fortnightly, without variation – even for those who earned more than that previously. There are people making money out of this. If that rate was more flexible to match actual earnings then the government could afford to offer it to more people.

For all of that, the jobkeeper uptake has reportedly been less than anticipated, and it seems the main reason for that is that it’s too complicated. But the bigger problem is that the jobkeeper payments have been slow in coming for those approved. People need the dosh now, if not next week, just to survive, and to keep a job open – and the economy needs the activity of dollars circulating.

It’s all been a rush job and there are always going to be issues that pop up and delays along the way. You have to expect that. It’s a bit untidy, but now’s the time it has to start cracking.

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