Families face losing their welfare for three months if their children continually skip school, under legislation to be introduced to Federal Parliament this week.
Under the Federal Government's proposed scheme, regular school attendance will become a condition for receiving all welfare except the Family Tax Benefit.
If the legislation is passed a pilot scheme at eight schools will begin next year.
"Hardline?" I call it punitive. It won't prevent truancy in families who are rich enough not to need welfare - it's easier to skip school when both parents are at work. It won't help those unemployed who are dedicated to giving a better life for their kids. What it will do is penalise those families who are dysfunctional enough to be affected by the scheme. They may not be that many, but they exist. And if the parent(s) are that fucked up, then they probably don't get the crude cause and effect reasoning ("truancy implies no welfare") behind the plan. Given that, their kids probably need all the money they receive from the dole. Even if much of it is lost at the bottleshop or goes up mom and/or dad's arm, some of it may spill out into food and textbooks and uniforms. Cut off the cash, and you're going to have a lot more kids hungry in class. Unfortunately, empty stomachs are a poor way to motivate children to concentrate on their studies. From this, a small problem (truancy) is aggravated, as kids feel even worse at school. Their studies decline. They get picked on by richer kids for torn and worn uniforms (with mum and dad less able to afford to fix the things). Given the conditions, do you blame them for escaping school?
The only bright note in the plan is that it is a trial. Howard would haven't even bothered to experiment - he'd implement the scheme everywhere and le the chips fall where they may. But governments have a bad habit of ignoring bad experiences. I expect Rudd to pronounce it a success even if children are literally starving as a result.
Howard may be gone, but his authoritarian heavy-handedness lives on. Let Jarvis explain: