CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 16: Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott announces his ministery at Parliament House on September 16, 2013 in Canberra, Australia. Tony Abbot will be sworn in this week as the 28th Prime Minister of Australia. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

An Open Letter to @TonyAbbottMHR #AusPol

Mr. Abbott,

I’m writing to you today in an open response to the inflammatory remarks that you made recently pertaining to job seekers and those currently on the Disability Support Pension.

Allow me to preface this response with that I find your comments utterly abhorrent, and I feel such an opinion could only come from someone who has no knowledge or experience in the subject.

You’ve effectively cast a blanket of shame on those receiving financial support for either being disabled, or unable to work through circumstances that they’re unable to control. While I do reserve there are some who are abusing the system, the majority of disability welfare recipients genuinely need that support, and it’s absolutely disgusting that you’ve dismissed these people as individuals with “a bit of back pain and depression.”

Allow me to provide you with some information, examples, and history of someone who matters a great deal to me.

My fiancé, whom I’ve been in a relationship with for eleven years, suffers from a number of chronic health conditions that make it almost impossible to find work that understands her conditions.

Here’s but a few of the conditions that my fiancé suffers from:

  • Chronic Depression and Anxiety, which goes beyond “I’m feeling sad.” It’s a constant feeling of low self worth, low self esteem, and the feeling that people are judging you. This is a serious problem, that is debilitating for most, because you’re expected to put on the happy face and carry yourself through life as though nothing is wrong. This expectation pushes people to kill themselves, because what’s expected of them, they simply can’t do. Their body doesn’t permit it, and their potential employers surely wouldn’t tolerate it.
  • Chronic Pain, caused from corrective spinal surgery that she had when she was 15. She’s now 29. This limits her ability to do things without needing assistance, which is a significant hamper on her mental health in more ways that just “a bit of depression”.
  • Fibromyalgia, another condition that’s a result of the aforementioned surgery, which is a constant feeling that nerves are on fire, with reduced pain tolerance.

These are but a few of the conditions that she suffers, on a never-ending, daily basis. Take these examples, and apply it to everyone you’ve shamed.

Despite what you may think, back pain and depression are permanent conditions. Some are able to overcome these challenges that life has thrown at them while the rest suffer ongoing, but there’s no cure for depression and there’s always a reason behind the back pain. The number of medical appointments required to treat the handful of conditions I’ve listed makes up most of the schedule she has for when she is able to leave the house. In the interim, she’s often bedridden attempting to recoup her energy spent trying to get through daily tasks.

When you go to work, you’re expected to be able to do the job you’re employed to do, and that’s alright for most people. But for those like my Fiancé, who have a number of debilitating illnesses, it’s hard enough getting out of bed every morning and getting through the day. So, Mr. Abbott, explain to me exactly how both financial stability through employment and being able to maintain stable employment is achievable when you’re one of the many Australians like my fiance?

These are the people you’ve utterly dismissed in your narrow minded comments. I don’t care what your intent was. The effect is what I’m angry about.

As far as your solution goes, the “simply take any job that comes” approach makes this matter all the worse. Couple the fact that it’s hard enough to live a life with the constant challenges outlined above, which takes a toll on you and those around you, employers themselves don’t have a shred of tolerance for it which makes people unemployable. So take any job that comes is great for the short term, but when you’re not able to perform the tasks assigned to you and ultimately dismissed, it becomes a vicious circle which has a snowball effect..

It’s not as black and white as you’ve put it, Mr. Abbott. The matter is vastly more complex than I suspect you’re able to comprehend.

As an Australian voter, taxpayer, citizen, and human being, I expect you as an elected representative of the people to do your job: Represent the people, in their entirety, inclusive of the many individuals that suffer as my fiance does. Regardless of your personal opinion on the matter, your job is to represent the people in our Government.

Do your job.

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