Former Labor minister Gary Johns appeared last night on A Current Affair to rehash arguments from his controversial opinion piece entitled ‘No Contraception, No Dole‘ first published in The Australian in 2014.
Once again he was peddling the line that only people who use contraception should be entitled to welfare payments.
Of course, Johns wasn’t encouraging reversible vasectomies for men who wish to spread their seed far and wide or for bowls of condoms to be available at Centrelink counters across the country.
No, he wanted women to use contraception inserted under their skin in order to receive their welfare benefits.
It’s all part of the new author’s grand plan to end the cycle of intergenerational welfare, as though all children born to welfare recipients are destined for the same future.
The thing that makes Johns’ opinion so dangerous is not just that he is advocating the control of women’s fertility choices, but that he looks past far more obvious solutions to the issue.
Rather than dictate to women when and how they can get pregnant, why not invest in sex education and look more closely at the reasons these women are on welfare. Let’s not make them choose between putting food in their mouths or having a family. After all, if you go by Johns’ word, women and children are being used as “cash cows” to receive welfare payments.
The former Keating minister claimed in 2014 that his proposal wasn’t an affront to struggling parents but he simply did’t believe that anyone should be allowed to become a parent while living on benefits.
“Such a measure will undoubtedly affect strugglers, it undoubtedly will affect Aboriginal and Islander people in great proportions, but the idea that someone can have the taxpayer, as of right, fund the choice to have a child is repugnant,” he wrote at the time.
Johns – who has now authored a book also titled No Contraception, No Dole – appeared on A Current Affair last night to discuss the topic in greater detail.
“If someone is on an unemployment benefit, they should be looking for work not starting a family. If someone’s on a parenting payment, perhaps because they are a single mum, they should be looking after existing children not having more children. And if someone’s on Youth Allowance, they’re a very young woman, they should be studying not starting a family,” Johns told A Current Affair’s Steve Marshall.
Watch part of last night’s ACA segment here. Post continues below.
Its disheartening to see that four days into the new year, old, male politicians still think it’s their place to comment on a woman’s reproductive system. Johns went so far as to describe children born to welfare recipients as “bad decisions”.
“When your life is perhaps lived in poverty and in perhaps disarray, any money helps,” Johns said last night.
“And I don’t think we, the taxpayer, should be helping bad decisions.”
Johns told the program that 60,000 children – 20 percent of all births in Australia – are born to welfare dependent families each year, describing the figure as “extraordinary”. And it certainly is a large number.
But less than 30 percent of the Australian population are on welfare and that number has decreased significantly since 2002 according to Department of Social Services figures.
The availability of effective means of contraception has changed the lives of millions of women across the world for the better and the introduction of the oral contraceptive pill in 1960 gave women the freedom to control their reproductive health. The UN has also highlighted the importance of access to contraception in strengthening women’s access to healthcare.
But studies show while women from low-income household are not having sex in greater numbers than women with higher incomes, they are less likely to use contraception.
— A Current Affair (@ACurrentAffair9) January 4, 2016
The crux? That women be given the choice; that they are educated on the options and conceivably given free access to the contraceptives that will allow them to make those choices.
As someone who has been on the oral contraceptive pill for the better part of a decade with the sole purpose of Not Getting Pregnant, I’m incredibly grateful to be able to access it and to be able to afford it.
But here’s the thing. I’m also grateful to be able to choose to go off it if and when it stops working for me. And I don’t believe even if I was receiving a form of welfare the Government should ever be able to make that decision for me.
There’s a big difference between incentivising a health care initiative (by, say, making it free and readily available) and making it compulsory.
Implanon – which Johns is proposing welfare recipients use – involves a minor surgical procedure. It’s a rod inserted into your arm to prevent pregnancy for up to three years and common side effects include weight gain, acne, depression and vaginal inflammation.
Rather than some science fiction scenario where women are forced to have something inserted into their bodies under control of the state, why not just offer them free, easily available access to the pill or contraceptive measures of their choice?
This week, Oregon became the first American state to allow the oral contraceptive pill to be available over the counter and California is set to follow with similar legislation rolled out in March.
Over in the United Kingdom, most types of contraception are free as part of the NHS while our friends across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand have been subsidising Implanon for welfare recipients since 2012.
Let’s support women. Let’s educate them about their reproductive health instead of taking away their choices and promoting the idea that children born on welfare will not amount to anything other than welfare recipients themselves.
And let’s not forget what British author and columnist Caitlin Moran — herself a beneficiary of the welfare state as a child — has said on how we see men and women on welfare.
“People on benefits are just people – on benefits. Some of them are dodgy, most of them are doing their best, and a few need more help than we could ever imagine.”
What do you think of the ‘no contraception, no dole’ idea?