Stop the LIES about people with disabilities
Thursday June 23rd 2005, 10:41 am


image: Bill Leak for 


I’m disabled as a result of being plowed off my motorcycle by a drink driver some years ago. Some people seem to think that having a disability is a sort of privilege.  I’m MORE than happy to swap lives (and legs) with any of those fools who are willing to volunteer for the exchange!

Somewhere along the line, a ridiculous rumour was started in Australia indicating that recipients of disability support pensions (DSPs) are afflicted with imaginary ‘bad backs’ and thus fraudulently and easily obtain a well-paid ‘free ride on the taxpayers’ backs.’

This sort of ‘downward envy’ is based in mis- or disinformation. Most Aussies don’t really know how much disability pensioners are actually paid, nor what sort of disablity is actually required to qualify for a payment.

Further, a similar baseless belief is common in all nations which provide supports for people with disabilities. I clearly recall the furphy of the ‘welfare Cadillac’ from when I was a kid in the USA in the 1970s. It’s not just an Australian thing.

The HoWARd government has been trying to reduce the numbers of DSP recipients for years. With the Lieberals’ newfound majority in the Senate effective 1 July 2005, HoWARd’s Lieberal Party is poised to jerk the rug out from people with disabilities and attempt to get them back to work.

Let’s hope there’s a miracle worker or two in the HoWARd camp, because telling a disabled person to just ‘get up and go back to work’ will require nothing short of a few miracles!

Okay, let’s start from the start:

  • How much are Australian disability pensioners actually paid?

The maximum disability pension payment a person over age 18 with no children may receive is $476.30 per fortnight. DSP recipients may also receive rent assistance. The maximum rent assistance is $98.00 per fortnight. The sum is $574.30 per fortnight or $287.15 per week. Add up what you pay in rent or mortgage payments- and then tell me how well you would be living on $287 per week. I’ll clue ya, you don’t live ‘high on the hog.’ You mind every cent.

  • What sort of disability must one have to qualify for a DSP?

It requires an awful lot more than just a ‘sore back’ to obtain a DSP. If you only have a problem with your back, you would have to be unable to sit comfortably in a chair long enough to perform most common office workplace tasks. Most DSP recipients (like me) have multiple disabilities which contribute to their inability to work.

  • How many hours per week must one be able to work to qualify for a DSP?

Under current Centrelink DSP regulations, a person with disabilities who cannot work more than 30 hours per week and whose disabilities will persist for more than two years will qualify for the payment. The HoWARd government wants to change that qualification to 15 hours per week. This means that if you can work 16 hours per week, you will no longer qualify for a payment under HoWARd’s proposals. Doubters can get out their calculators again- divide your per-annum pay rate by 1800 (37.5 hours per week x 48 weeks = 1800 hours in a standard Australian working year). You now have your gross hourly wage. Multiply by 16. There’s the PRE-TAX amount you will earn if working only 16 hours per week at your current pay rate.

Let’s work out the figures using the average wage for NSW residents in the financial year 2000-2001, which is $37,191 per annum.  Your pre-tax earnings will be around $330 per week. After tax, you should have around $215 per week. Can you live on $215 per week?

Further, just going to work is expensive. If you have a physical disability, you can forget about using public transport, even if it is available in your area. If you live in Sydney, have a car and drive to and from work daily, you’ll spend at least $50 per week on fuel. You can then add the actual cost of a car including repairs and normal maintenance, insurance and the price of the car. Even driving the least expensive old shitbox you can find will cost you a minimum of around $3500-5000 per year. 

What I’m getting at is that Australian DSP recipients are definitely NOT getting fat and sassy on a DSP payment. We do not drive new cars (Cadillacs or otherwise), we don’t go out to restaurants often, we can’t go to movies every week (or every month!) and we definitely can’t splash out big on alcohol at the pub every Friday.  

Put simply, if you believe that being disabled is a privilege, you have not done the maths! 

And by the way, if I ever find your car parked in a disabled access parking space without a valid permit (and I check every car in in such spaces!), be prepared to confront a $130-220 parking ticket. I’m particularly militant about disabled access parking… I will park you in and I will search up a Parking Ranger and see to it you are cited!

Disabled access parking spaces are NOT ‘5 minute parking’ for able bodied people who can’t find a legal parking space, are dropping off kids or returning videos at the video shop. Just because a disabled access space isn’t occupied now doesn’t mean that the space won’t be needed by a disabled person in the next 5 minutes. If you are able bodied, you CAN manage to walk a half a block to drop off your video. I can not!

Being LATE is not a disability! Being LAZY is not a disability!

Get your head wrapped around the idea that disabled people are afforded certain advantages because they could not otherwise live in our communities. That’s the whole nature of having a disability- needing a little help to be able to live in community with others. If you can’t accept that there really are disabled people in your community- you should go bush- and not come back.


19 Comments so far
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I think alot of people have viewed DSP recipients in the same category as dole bludgers. This just shows their level of ignorance.

I confronted a guy once who had just parked in a disabled parking space. I asked him what his disability was… he said “Lame Brain”. He didn’t know how right he was!

Comment by poke 06.23.05 @ 11:36 am

Too right poke.

The perception of a person or people with a disability (PWD, thanks) is not something that lies idly by for people to think of when they see a disabled person as if looking at grass and thinking ‘green.’

This preconception of PWD starts SOMEWHERE and is perpetuated by whispers- or outright published defamations. No child is born a racist and no one naturally thinks disabled people are dole bludgers.

If anything, kids (and older folk who are short in the experience with PWD area) are naturally curious about PWD and always want to know ‘why’ one is in a wheelchair, walks with a cane, etc.

The notion that social supports are unjustified comes mainly from the conservative camp, who in the extreme, hold a rather social Darwinist and seemingly anarchistic philosophy. This dictates that it’s more or less every man for himself, paying low or no tax and advocating abolition of social welfare programs.

You will unsurprisingly find that these same people are adamant about the ability to keep firearms. When you abolish social supports all for those who truly need them, a particular subsegment of the needy will turn to crime… necessitating that the wealthy (and PWD) be armed. Fortunately, PWD usually can’t get far on foot…

The simple truth of PWD is that the vast majority of them would prefer to work than not. I’m here to tell you, I had much more fun while earning $75K p.a. than I do now. :/

Believe it or not, there are some mental disabilities which will qualify you (or your carer/driver so as to transport you) for a Mobility Parking Scheme permit… but ‘lame brain’ indeed ain’t one of them. It is, however, a common excuse.

The MOST common excuse is “I’m only parking here for 5 minutes.”

Consequently, my most common excuse after having parked in one of these assclowns is “I was only parked here for 5 minutes.” I try to park them in for no less than about 20 minutes… which is the average amount of time interlopers have occupied a parking space by the time they return to their car to claim they have only been parked there for 5 minutes. :/


Comment by weezil 06.23.05 @ 12:04 pm

Weez, I’ve remained anonymous to readers of these comments but you will know who I am.

I have been unable to work because of illness since November 2004, and I applied to Centrelink for a DSP just after I came out of hospital.

On submitting my application form in person I was told – without the person at the front desk even looking at my application – that I would only be paid Newstart Allowance.

Is that a standard procedure? Does one have to be on Newstart for a standard time before being re-classified as eligible for DSP?

I don’t want to be on any form of Centrelink benefit for much longer if I can help it, I have been going through rehabilitation and to be quite frank I’m bored as hell being at home.

As you said yourself, you watch every cent and you don’t live “high on the hog”. It’s impossible to do that on $175 a week, be paying off a personal loan and sharing living expenses.

Comment by a friend 06.24.05 @ 3:18 pm

Hi a friend,

For you to be eligible for DSP, your disability would have to be forecast to keep you out of work for at least 2 years. If your disability keeps you from working, but for less than two years, you will be put on Newstart. However, if you cannot work full time, you should be exempted from looking for work (as normally required by Newstart rules) by means of a medical certificate from your doctor.

You can always pick up some part-time paid or volunteer work, within your physical capacities.

Failing all else, get an appointment with a social worker at Centrelink. They will help you manage Centrelink a little better and have broad authority to make changes to your structure of entitlements.

good luck,


Comment by weezil 06.24.05 @ 4:20 pm

Thanks Weez… I really didn’t know how long my illness would keep me out of action, but it has taken seven months to get to where I am now, even though I still have some residual problems. I really can’t see it holding me back much longer now though, I’ve been cleared to return to driving and I’m looking for work so fingers crossed! Look out world 😛

Comment by a friend 06.24.05 @ 8:48 pm

Go gittem, tigger. 🙂

If I had a pair of stainless steel knees and a couple of disc fusions, I’d be back in the hunt myself.



Comment by weezil 06.25.05 @ 3:29 pm

Right there with ya on that Weez. It’s kind of akin to the attitude people have about single mums. Being one myself and knowing many fine ones, I am privy to similar attitudes, unfortunately we Aussies love to label people blugers cause we can. There is a huge myth out there that centerlink benifits are huge and anyone getting one lives in the lap of luxury…. I wish

Comment by Natters 06.26.05 @ 4:11 pm

Natters, if you’d care to talk to someone who has some expertise in the single mum dept. and no love lost on the furphies that often drive Centrelink policy, stop in on Suki sometime.



Comment by weezil 06.26.05 @ 5:00 pm

Watch for new book out 1st July – an insiders expose of Centrelink malpractice.

Comment by Browniie 06.28.05 @ 7:55 pm

The only weekly anarchist publication in Australia has been following and arguing against this underhanded approach of the Liberals for some time now. Discrimination against the disabled has nothing to do with any anarchism I know of.

Comment by dj 07.15.05 @ 2:50 pm

I said ‘seemingly anarchistic.’ Metaphor.


Comment by weezil 07.15.05 @ 3:54 pm

Hmmm, I think you’d be on a better horse if you’d just stuck with Social Darwinist! 😛

This DSP stuff is up there with the eugenics movement crap of the early 20th century and is being used for similar reasons.

Comment by dj 07.15.05 @ 5:00 pm

Dunno, ‘every man for himself’ sounds kinda anarchist, even if that’s not specifically what campus anarchists advocate at present. In the end, I suspect the conservatives’ ideal world would be small fiefdoms and oligarchy. A snapshot of sweet home Alabama in 1855 would make many of them happy.

The truly wacky thing is that IF there is even one undeserving DSP recipient, SOMEONE in government approved the payment.

Why aren’t these collusive or incompetent Centrelink employees and policy writers sacked at once for wasting taxpayers’ money? 😀

Comment by weezil 07.15.05 @ 5:17 pm

Weezil, I’m pretty sure that the AAW group are far removed from University campuses, unless they are studying as mature agers. In any case, their viewpoint is undoubtedly influenced by the thought and actions of anarchists far older, like Petr Kropotkin, whose book Mutual Aid was at least partly a response to Social Darwinism.

I can understand that you might think that ‘everyone for themself’ was a general anarchist tenet, after all it is a caricature many are familiar with and it has been useful for people from all over the political spectrum to maintain it. It must be said that there are unfortunately people who do their best to live this stereotype, who see any restraint upon their actions as akin to sending people to the gas chambers or the Gulags. However, it isn’t necessarily accurate though as computer collectives, unions and other groups show. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the majority of people calling themselves anarchists would be collectivists of some kind.

Like a lot of political thought, within anarchism there is a struggle between liberty and solidarity – which should take precedence, how best to organise to maximise both. It is sometimes said that anarchism is the bastard child of liberalism and socialism. So while you will find plenty of kids at punk shows who think anarchism means ‘no rules’, you will find anarcho-syndicalist unions with a constitution that has strict rules about how votes are carried out, how communication should be processed, when dues should be collected, etc.

Comment by dj 07.15.05 @ 5:49 pm

[…] Thanks to a drink driver who ran a red light in front of me and dashed me off a motorcycle some years ago, my legs don’t work too well. I will never be able to move around well enough to work the number of hours necessary to keep a roof overhead. Thus, I collect a Disability Support Pension. Despite what some particularly thoughtless people may have told you in the past, nobody gets rich on $244.45 per week. It takes a fair old bit of MacGyverism to make every cent of that benefit stretch to fill the gaps. […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 09.14.05 @ 11:30 am

[…] If you can walk the extra 20 paces it would take to use a legal parking space instead of illegally using a disabled access space… you’re blessed! People with disabilities need these spaces- they are not some grand perk afforded to any slob who merely claims they have a bad back. […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 02.08.06 @ 11:55 pm

[…] Being a disabled pensioner, I am completely sick and tired of downward envy. I became disabled as a result of complications from being plowed off a motorcycle by a drink driver. How fair is it for government to again victimise people who are already victims of circumstance? One thing for sure, no one is getting fat and sassy on $499.70 per fortnight. Demonising the disabled is so tabloid. Can’t the trash media find someone else a bit more deserving of abuse? People with disabilities and single mums have had enough, thanks. The Australian public are not being told the real reasons why we need a “smart” ID card. An ID card can not possibly increase public safety nor reduce fraud- so what is it really for? We don’t know- and the Howard government doesn’t want to tell us. […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 06.01.06 @ 10:43 am

The “Smart card” you mention was originally going to be used for medical and identification purposes to replace medicare cards (should Medicare drop out altogether. the above mentioned would have your photo id, fingerprint to produce at clinics, pharmacies, medicare etc. they are I think in practice in USA but Australian gvt opted out of this plan.

Comment by leni 06.07.06 @ 10:58 pm

[…] Mind you, none of this is the fault of Centrelink. It is all fueled by the misguided myths of widespread welfare fraud, spread by people who have never had to collect a benefit. This downward envy is all about the Howard Government and the Liberal Party levering a myth for political advantage, on the backs of those least able to fight back. […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 10.16.06 @ 11:41 am

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