The Unemployed vs Per Capita

I’ve been off Twitter for the last week but hanging out on Discord and Mastodon. Through that (mainly Discord) I’ve seen, yet again, this regular cast of characters (Per Capita members) attack unemployed/underemployed people who dare criticise Labor’s actions (or lack of them). This also leads to the Per Capita people to start claiming harassment when those unemployed people start calling them on their stuff. I feel like sharing my thoughts.

Everything on this post is my view of it all. Nothing on here is set in stone. I don’t know anyone personally (although I have met Phoebe once).

Cast of Characters

In this corner….

Emma Dawson – Executive Director of Per Capita

Emma has been one of the biggest culprits, if not the biggest, when it comes to attacking people and then claiming abuse. People with more knowledge than me point out this is part of DARVO. Whatever the case, she, in the past, has said some horrible, horrible things to people. “Letting the mask slip”. To her credit, she generally recants the next day and apologises for going too far, but to me it always looks like “look what you made me do to you” type of apology. Not a good sign.

Nareen Young – Per Capita Director

Nareen has come up lately when it comes to fighting the unemployed on twitter. To me, she’s Emma’s attack dog, spoiling for a fight but not quite smart enough to pull it off effectively. She was showing up late to arguments trying to restart battles, but lately she’s been starting her own fights. She works for her outrage but seems to work too hard for it. I see her more with pity than anger.

Dee Madigan – Per Capita Director

She hasn’t gotten into these fights lately, but recently I’ve seen her mixing it up with people, trying to defend her friends. It’s hard to take a tact of “people deserve poverty, just not too much poverty” though.

Various Twitter People

There are a few people who back this group (although it seems to be diminishing each time they start one of these spats). They are there cheering on the abuse, even adding their own. “Leftwing Bastard” (who is more centre/centre-right than anything), and “Why Don’t You Dole Bludging Bullies Get A Job” are two big ones. A great list of supporters.

Per Capita

Per Capita is a think-tank that claims independence but by all appearances has heavy Labor ties, including the executive director putting feelers out to run for state government as Labor last election (it raised a large uproar from the same people she attacks on twitter, and she pulled back those feelers a few weeks later). You can look at the Per Capita member profiles and see the Labor ties throughout. While Per Capita claims to be reducing poverty/helping people/etc, to me they seem to exist purely to help the ALP rationalise half-arse positions. As an example, Per Capita advocates for raising JobSeeker to $70/day, the same as ACOSS.

The issue is this leaves people in poverty, by all measures except one that they use to justify their weak stance. They then claim that the poverty line needs a new investigation and research done, effectively kicking the can down the road.

Meanwhile people are starving as they make a choice between eating and medication or eating and having a place to live. Poverty is increasing, and it only gets worse as the economy goes further into recession. The solution, to this group, seems to be “we should discuss this, so Labor is ready to add it to their [next year] budget”. This has been the same for years, with Labor (when LNP in government) claiming if they got elected, they would put a committee together. No raises in the Oct 2022 budget, no help, a committee. With the 2023 budget coming up, we’ll see how much all Per Capita’s work pays off. I’m not a pundit, but based off the way Labor half-arses stuff, I would guess people are going to get a raise to $60-something a day and told to like being in less poverty. Meanwhile the cost of living is increasing exponentially.


And in the other corner….

Australia Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) and some key members from it (Dan Levy, Phoebe Autumn, Avery Howard, Jeremy Poxon, Thomas Studans, others)

AUWU (Aus Unemployment) has been around in some form or another for years. It helps people with day-to-day issues, as well as fighting for bigger changes. It is a grassroots organisation and a literal lifesaver for many people.

I chose the listed people because they are direct targets of the PC people, often being pointed out, named, and threatened for being who they are.

Antipoverty Centre (Kristin O’Connell, Jay Coonan)

Antipoverty Centre folks don’t as often get involved in the deep shitfights that happen but are still a target of ire based on their past actions (more on that later). They are a grassroots group that fights more at a policy level, pushing more for a complete change to the system, than the day-to-day stuff that AUWU helps with.

AUWU and AC work together sometimes, and other times not. People can be members of both, and often their work overlaps for demonstrations or actions. So, while they are different entities with different end goals, the Venn diagram of the two has a large center.

Various Twitter People

God, too many to list. AUWU used to say all unemployed people were their members, but have recently worked to get their house in order so there’s official membership/etc. Besides that, there’s lots of non-AUWU/AC members that are part of left twitter and fight for the unemployed. That’s what leftism/solidarity is about, so it leads to many people from different areas coming together. You generally only see it in this corner.

Who am I?

I am one of the left twitter that supports the unemployed. I am employed fulltime, and not an AUWU member. I strongly agree with some of the people in the AUWU, and strongly disagree with some others. It’s great to see AUWU start to get things sorted (grassroots orgs always have growing pains, it happens!), and I’m cheering for them overall, but it’s from the sidelines.

I am also not a member of AC, but I do support them monthly with a donation.

I am a cis straight white guy from the US. I am aware I have a lot of privilege and am sure there’s stuff I have I don’t even realise. I don’t feel ashamed of any of it, but I try to use it to help others. Hopefully successfully.

How it started

Who knows… it’s been going for years though. I think it was 2020 when Avery started debating some of the things Emma was saying about poverty/the unemployed, and she lost it, saying all kinds of horrible things (she apologised sometime the week after). The fight was going from before then, but that’s a big blow-up I remember that seems to have broken something in the entire discourse, with attacks turning more personal.


Where are we now

Here’s a typical ‘cycle’ has gone. Keep in mind this is all from my eyes:

One of the Per Capita (PC) people say something that is seen as untrue or insulting/etc. The other side responds, and PC people claim abuse and start getting obscenely offensive in response, since they think they now have a license for it. This raises the ire of the left in general, who then come back and “pile on” the ad hominem attacks from PC. This leads to PC people either escalating until they lock, saying something that is reportable (and their account gets locked), or PC people spend days following and attacking people (and the other side responds).

This cycle has happened repeatedly, with weeks or months in-between flareups.

Lately PC people are flogging the dead horse which is the “#poveratti” hashtag. It’s a lame attempt to say all unemployed people that attack them are secret rich people who are faking their activism (“cosplaying” was used by Emma one time to describe Avery).

They’ve been claiming this for ages, but they recently found out Dan Levy went to a private school, so it’s turned into a thing again. I believe Jeremy also went to private school. Somehow this is a magic bullet to prove that these people on six-figure salaries knows better/are better than someone on JobSeeker. The classism is extremely strong here. Why is this even a “point” worth winning? Who knows.



The PC side heavily engages in identity politics. When you’re attacking them, it’s because they’re women, or Blak, or whatever thing they can exploit (disabled family, etc). This sexist, racist BS is used like a cudgel to silence people who disagree with them. Their claims are clearly spurious, since there’s plenty of PC members who match the identities given and aren’t in blood feuds with the unemployed. Likewise, there’s people involved in the fight (Pascal, Leftwing Bastard, etc) who are fought with just as much as the PC members and are white guys. It’s what you say, not who you are.

Of course, since they live and breath idpol, they are quick to weaponise peoples’ identities against them. Going to a private school, or being trans, is suddenly a bad thing that proves they’re better than the person they’re talking about. It’s completely illogical, but logic has no place when talking to PC. They argue in circles and when they don’t have a response they’ll block or lock or go back to insulting someone’s characteristics. Lately PC has been saying some quasi-transphobic stuff and claiming innocence, but we’ve seen this happen before with others. Always turns out they are or become transphobic.

It's important to note while these identities are at a disadvantage in the world, and it IS a problem, that is not why these people are being “attacked”.

Funny times

Most of these are all Emma because it’s only recently Nareen and Dee have waded into this discourse.


Both sides, from what I can tell, have threatened/started lawsuits. I fucking hate this move. Doing it to the left, it’s threatening already destitute people with a huge bill, because you are rich enough to fight it. Doing it to the right (PC people), I think it also sucks. They might be able to afford it, and god knows they deserve some of their own medicine, but I don’t like the idea of wasting time and money on lawsuits.

I know Dan (at least) is involved in some other lawsuits/threats, or was, and I think those suck too.

Money and Truth

Money is at the core of this: what JobSeeker/DSP/etc rate should be, what people’s parents earned (???), what people earn now. The only thing that really matters is that first one. The last one does for establishing how “authentic” someone’s talk is, but the rate is the important one. The fact that someone has rich parents that sent them to a private school doesn’t matter. The fact that someone worked for a big company in the past doesn’t matter. What matters is how people are living now and what actions you see them take. If people are living on JobSeeker or Work For The Dole or anything like that, then you can be pretty sure what they’re talking about is a real, lived, experience. If they’re earning 6-figures or more a year, then maybe, just maybe, money has gotten in-between them and reality, and what they say shouldn’t be given as much credit as someone living it now. ESPECIALLY if it’s about what that person is going through at the time.

Likewise, the fact that someone’s parents (or grandparents, etc) were impoverished at the time but that person is now living comfortably, or more comfortable than some, should be taken into consideration. Claiming the past as your identity doesn’t count as much as people talking about the here and now. I’m not sure if people have noticed, but things have changed in the last 10, 20, 50 years. Labor in general is horrible for this, still riding of the coattails of stuff they did 50 years ago when they were actually on the left.

Instead, for truth, look at peoples’ actions.  I see AUWU/AC/individuals supporting others, either with advice, or money, or actions. They hold/attend rallies. They are speaking to politicians when they can (politicians tend to avoid them). They are going to parliament to give their experiences. Per Capita largely seems to be writing white papers and sitting on boards.  Maybe the occasional behind the scenes, meeting with politicians.

Final Thoughts

Politicians and celebrities have said Twitter is toxic, because they get direct access to their fans and haters with no filter. I get why, and I think that’s what at the centre of why this has turned into such a thing over the years. There’s the “managerial” class, and entire political system, set up to let very well off (some might say “rich”) people control those who are below them. They have their own filters. Besides the odd crazy guy insulting/punching the politician trying to do a photo op, they just talk within their own circles and ignore the reality of what’s out there (I mean god, look at the horrible Midwinter Ball). The same applies to think-tank people, who were likely a lot happier before they joined twitter and started facing the reality of what they’re “fighting” for.

To me, Per Capita exists purely to help Labor rationalise its decisions. They might advocate for something, but it’s firmly within the boundaries of what Labor has decided is acceptable. They would never cross Labor policy, because they’re scared to death of the LNP, and they’re scared they may help the LNP. This is a common argument in auspol circles. Labor can’t be criticised, only praised, because otherwise you’re unwittingly helping the LNP. This leads to the LNP continually drifting to the right and Labor following right along, try to stay in the Overton window the LNP creates. With Labor in power now, and the Greens embarrassingly supporting a lot of their half-arse measures, you’d think they’d have some confidence to really strike out, but no… because there’s always a future election, and they don’t want to hurt their chances in the future. The (not so) slow descent into fascism this causes hasn’t hurt those people so scared of LNP, so they see no harm in going for whatever right-ward positions Labor takes. They say they’re doing it because if LNP gets in, things will get worse, and that’s possibly true. Honestly though, LNP has done more to raise the rate than Labor has the last what... 20 years? LNP is outflanking Labor on helping people in poverty. Anyway, they’re charlatans and the “First they came…” poem from WW2 applies here.

 First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—    Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—    Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—    Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

It’s not the exact same, obviously, but its comfortable people accepting the status quo, or arguing for extremely minor improvements, because it doesn’t affect them. In fact, because you’re extremely right (in both ways), it’s acceptable to use any sort of punching down insults/attacks that you can to hurt the person. That isn’t solidarity. This is a problem among the ‘drips’, as they’re called on twitter. The Labor “rusted-ons”. The die-hards that are proud of their mediocrity, who place being offended top of the list of bad things. They think that if people can’t debate with class (no pun), then they deserve abuse. Civility politics is a cancer made to keep the comfortable comfortable and the uncomfortable quiet.

I wrote this not doing deep research on Per Capita or AUWU/AC or the people, purely working on what I experienced.  So, there are likely parts of this that could be pointed at as inaccurate or incorrect. As this is all my view, I think it’s fine if you have a different interpretation.  If someone starts calling out my inaccuracies, feel free to look at the parts they aren’t arguing with.

Finally, while these battles have turned into their own thing, and go back to raising the rate of JobSeeker/dsp/pension/other welfare to be above the poverty line, the battles overtake the message. There are arguments made about the poverty line Per Capita and ACOSS work from, and how the other lines (which are higher than it) are inaccurate, but I really question why this is even a thing. Shouldn’t we by default want to go for the highest line, just to avoid the chance we’re leaving people in poverty? Why do the unemployed or disabled have to be raised to exactly the poverty line? What is wrong with making them comfortable enough to be able to function in society. Not because we need them to work (although for the people that fetishise jobs, I imagine a lot of extra people would be more healthy and able to work if they had enough money for nutrition and medicine and a place to sleep), but because we are a society and a community and we should want everyone to be able to function in it if they want to. Instead, we’re currently leaving our most vulnerable out for the wolves. It is cruel and ridiculous.