Pure Poison IconWe continue to be incredibly impressed by the hard work of the Daily Telegraph‘s Gemma Jones. If there’s a misleading, disingenuous, hateful beatup to be done, we know the Tele will have no difficulty figuring out who to put on the case. She’s like Sydney’s version of the Herald Sun‘s “prisoners fed a smorgasbord of delicacies” outrage-developer Anne Wright. (Or maybe it’s the other way around: we don’t know, and we don’t like thinking about it.)

Gemma’s target in this morning’s horrible effort is refugees being placed in furnished houses whilst being processed in the community, rather than – I suppose – pushed into the gutter and left to starve. (These are people who are not allowed to work until we determine their status, so it’s not like they have any other options.)

Welcome, asylum seekers – Chris Bowen and Julia Gillard’s ship of fortune

Boatloads of goodies …

WASHING machines, microwave ovens, DVDs and plasma TVs are among a 60-item welcome gift pack for asylum seekers offered rent-free homes in the community.

To fulfil a promise to move an influx of families out of detention, the Gillard Government is now fitting out each home with up to $10,000 worth of furnishings and electronics.

They are given food hampers upon arrival at rented homes where they wait for their claims to be processed.

Notice the use of the phrase “up to”? As in, “the maximum but could well be considerably less”? The $9850 is the maximum and it’s only for larger families of MORE THAN NINE PEOPLE. And the furnishings stay where they are when the refugee family leaves.

Part of today’s First Dog On The Moon

But let’s join the Daily Telegraph readers in just ignoring it and pretending to believe that every refugee is getting $10,000, eh? Let’s not compare it with alternative furnishing costs, or consider whether it includes the fixed costs of setting up public housing in the first place (including administration).

It’s much easier to get angry if you imagine refugees are being given $10,000 to go out and buy themselves something nice.

Here’s Gemma’s list of complaints, with retorts that should be obvious but apparently (based on the gullible readers in the comments) aren’t. (The Tele of course publishes nothing but the most generic responses from the Government, leaving readers guessing as to the explanations.)

  • “Food hampers… of bread, butter, milk, eggs, other “essentials” and cleaning products.” – you mean that when they arrive there’s food for the first night since they are starting with nothing and might arrive too late to buy food or might not have received any monetary assistance yet? What else are they supposed to do?
  • “Everything from beds” – is that even considered optional in a dwelling fit for human habitation? I suppose we could make the refugees buy their own beds and then move them in, rather than the beds being fixtures of the accommodation for future tenants as well, but I doubt that would be cheaper.
  • “fridges” – what are they supposed to use? An ice-chest?
  • “mattresses” – I love that this is listed separately from “beds”
  • “and lounges” – THERE ARE PLACES FOR SITTING?!?!
  • “to an alarm clock radio” – Wow.
  • “clothes hangers” – Good thing this one was buried in the middle of the list, eh Gemma?
  • “and containers for biscuits” – if these are the best examples of “luxury” and “waste”, Gemma’s really reaching. It only works as a long list in the hope that the reader will want at least one of the items on it and therefore feel envy at it being GIVEN to someone else.
  • “It includes a television at a minimum size of 53cm.” A big TV is 52 inches. 53 cm is less than 21 inches, and can you even buy them smaller than that? Meanwhile, what homes don’t have a television? Even if you were to go bankrupt, you would be allowed to keep a television set.
  • “Families with a baby can access a $750 pack of basic supplies.” How’s that made up? From Gemma’s efforts so far, I don’t think she’s earned any kind of suspension of disbelief.
  • “Phone and electricity connections are also paid for.” Like at any rental property.
  • “free doctors’ visits” – they’ve got no money, what exactly are you suggesting? That if they get sick they shouldn’t get medical care? And every DT reader is also entitled to free doctors’ visits.
  • “dental care” – as above, except that in this country we still haven’t managed a national dental care scheme, and if DT readers keep voting for the Liberals, it doesn’t look like we ever will. Not “aspirational” enough.
  • “pharmaceuticals” – you mean like anyone else with a healthcare card who needs medicine but has no money?
  • “education” – is Gemma suggesting that we should stop educating poor children?
  • “payments of up to $433.25 a fortnight” – “up to”. So $216 a week, maximum. I’m not sure which Centrelink payment that is, but (a) it’s available to Australians, and (b) it’s less than the already below-subsistence NewStart.

Basically, a list of basic items beaten up to sound luxurious in order to provoke envy and resentment from people who haven’t thought how their own lives could be misrepresented in exactly the same way, if the tabloid wanted to smear them.

You might hope that any reasonably intelligent adult with a modicum of common sense would be able to see through the manipulation.

If you have managed to maintain this hope, this confidence in the good sense of your fellow Australians, I’d suggest not reading the Daily Telegraph comment thread to Gemma’s beatup. Retain your faith a little longer.

UPDATE: They really did publish a comment saying:

I think it’s gone now, but God knows how that got through their “pre-moderation” system. It’s hardly buried in the middle of a long comment, or mixed in with some reasonable remarks. It’s a flat-out call for assassination.

ELSEWHERE: Ben Pobjie helps Gemma out with the version of her story she must’ve meant to write.

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