If you’re getting married, Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to give you a wedding present. Because he’s just that sweet.
He and Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews have this morning announced a $20 million plan to give “relationship vouchers” to newlyweds. Starting in July, 100,000 couples in Australia will be given a $200 rebate for marriage counselling and in 12 months, the government will decide whether to extend the trial. Abbott and Andrews have sold the scheme as a way to promote stable, healthy families.
“Australian research consistently finds that marriage and relationship education assists committed, married, engaged or cohabiting couples to move through the phases of their relationship with improved relationship skills, strengthening relationships for up to five years,” Andrews said. “[We want to] help couples achieve a greater degree of happiness and stability and thereby a better environment for their children”.
So, it’s all about the children. It’s about warm, cosy family values. It’s about happiness.
How could we possibly object to that?
Well, strap yourselves in, because I object. The whole scheme makes me deeply uncomfortable, confused, and moderately enraged. I think it’s morally lazy and fiscally irresponsible.
Why would Prime Minister Abbott throw money at the happiness of couples (which, by the way, you cannot buy for $200) when he has so many more urgent things to fund? I smell duplicity here, and I don’t like it. It’s disingenuous and manipulative on the government’s part, not to mention spectacularly ineffective.
For starters, $200 will only pay for one session with a counsellor – which is barely enough time for a couple to agree on their “how we met” story, let alone address any problems in their relationship. So truly, this “we’ll shout you couples out there an hour of talking” initiative is nothing but an empty gesture. $200 per couple is a tiny, useless handout, but add it all up and $20 million is a whopping bill for something that won’t work.