This week most of us heard through the fourth estate that Prime Minister Gillard intends in this budget:–
- “Toughen rules on teenage Mums” – The Australian
- “Welfare reform to feature in budget” – NineMSN
- “Free childcare for teen mums to be trialled under moves to get young mothers off benefits” – The Australian
- “Gillard budget crackdown on teenage mums” – ABC Radio “AM”
- “Some tough love for teen mums under Julia Gillard’s Budget” – Herald Sun
- “Some tough love for young mums” – Editorial, Herald Sun
- “Teen mums could loose welfare payments” – Sky News
- “Julia announces support for teenage mums to finish school” – Macarthur Chronicle
- “Budget crackdown targets teenage parents” – The West Australian
- “Teenage parents face welfare cuts” – The Sydney Morning Herald
As an exercise, take a look at some of the articles behind those links, then go look at what the PM said at her Ambervale press conference, their primary source. Can you see any disparities in meaning and intent? My conclusions follow, and I’m interested to hear how yours differ from mine; please comment if they do.
The Prime Minister referred to those affected by the changes as “teenage parents” throughout her speech, but used the group of “young mums” visiting the cafe at which she spoke as a specific example. It’s interesting that a lot of the press covered this as a change targeted at women.
A lot of the what the PM said seems great. She quotes a statistic (which I haven’t checked) that 80% of teenage parents haven’t completed Year 12. She talks about problems with the current welfare system leaving parents to support for themselves with little education and at least six years out of the workforce. She talks about giving young parents access to childcare so that they can participate in education.
To me, that all seems wonderful. Education definitively leads to opportunity, and the state reaching out to provide that opportunity to people that are otherwise being denied it through circumstance is a great thing.
Unfortunately, there’s a stick involved. Teen parents will be “required to engage with Centrelink”. There wasn’t any mention of consequence until the PM answered a question from the press, at which point she stated parents not participating “will ultimately face a suspension of benefits.”
This is where the wheels come off the wagon for Prime Minister Gillard and for the Labor Party. They’re doing a great thing helping people in a tricky circumstance access education. Yet Gillard chooses to speak in the rhetoric of the right, with requirements and threats. Is it any wonder that the right wing media jumped on this and started talking of “tough love”?
Music to the ears of those who spout nonsense about teenagers becoming pregnant in order to gain ‘benefits’. Suddenly Labor’s policy justifies the opinions of abominable people who think in terms of blame. Shake and mix with the specific talk about mums and you have a rhapsody for horrors who want to label young mothers with kids ‘sluts’.
A question to you – did you have sex as a teenager or young person? If yes, you ran the risk of becoming a young parent. There are things any person can do to minimise that risk, but it is almost always still there. If that had happened, how would you feel if the media labelled you a slut? Remember that you’re going to have to stop your education, or rely heavily on close friends and family for support. Your potential to support your family and educate yourself are going to be greatly affected.
Perhaps you might need a hand. I doubt the person reaching out to you would need to brandish a stick for you to take it.