So, as we all party at the removal of our very own theocratic government, what has the last month ushered in?
Lots of lovely symbolic gestures, lots of baby steps to restoring Australia’s reputation as a great place to live, a great place to bring up children.
Over a hundred years ago, in 1915, British Army officers were impressed when they saw the Australian troops disembark. They were taller and heavier than their home-grown ‘brothers in arms’, and many were proficient with weapons and even horses. They looked healthy and confident, and many proved themselves in the dark days which followed.
How would our current crop of children look if they were unloaded on a British dock today?
Not that great, I reckon. If last year, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began to affect the price of everything, the United Nations estimated that 16% of Australian children under the age of 15 lived with an adult who was food insecure in 2017. (The Conversation-July 9, 2021).
It is impossible these days to calculate how many more are struggling today. Prices go up daily, rents are ridiculous, MPs collect their indexed pay rises, and middle class families struggle to pay fresh food prices.
One would automatically assume that, no matter the good intentions of that caring adult mentioned above, children were going hungry. That is around one in every six children, going to bed hungry, or not sure if there will be any breakfast.
All such figures are revolting. There is no shortage of them. Governments have been papering the walls with such reports for decades, and stupid, populist politicians continue to pander to those in Australia who still think that poverty is the fault of the poor. How much suffering will assuage the righteous anger of the middle classes towards the unemployed, or even more disturbingly, those unable to work?
There is no way that reports which show children going hungry in Australia is ever, in any universe, or under any government, acceptable. We know how to fix this problem. Give the poor a pay-rise.
No-one in Australia knows how Morrison and Frydenberg stumbled on the solution, but stumble on it they did. In some totally random way those arch monetarists took a leaf out of Keynes’ playbook, and doubled welfare payments.
I strongly suspect they regretted the move, but it served the purpose of stimulating the economy, and if a few hundred thousand were benefitted, so be it. Something like the need to break eggs to make omelettes.
For the first time in years, people on welfare were able to have food on the table, AND to pay their bills. No impossible choices: They could eat, and maintain a shred of dignity.
For health reasons even many of the visible homeless were housed. Who would have guessed that, in the midst of an overwhelming pandemic, Australia would do something for its neediest? We accidentally became Finland, and then we woke up?
Of course the ‘honeymoon’ was destined to end. The neo-liberal gene asserted itself, and these measures were stopped. No transition, no stepping down of benefits. Lots of talk about things not being free forever, and the old “pay your own way” crap.
Disappointing, but not surprising. Frydenberg, who believes in ‘trickle-down economics’, decided to do a little experiment. If he gave billions of dollars to undeserving corporate hacks, would any of it trickle down to the poor and needy?
Well, no. His experiment was a failure. All the big corporates, and the private colleges, the fossil fuel parasites, all continued to rack up profits, and the children went back to going to bed hungry, or wondering if the electricity would be cut off tomorrow. If you happened to be black, and living in your ancestral lands, you might even have the spectre of being jailed, from the age of ten.
So when we have people of the calibre of Peter Dutton talking about protecting women and children from sexual violence, what about protecting them from something as immediate, and as dangerous-hunger and homelessness. The solution is obvious.
This country is drowning in its own callous narcissism and ignorance. It deludes itself, and has the effrontery to decry any criticism directed at it. From a nation which made its own democracy and institutions into something admirable, we have sunk down the ranks in everything worth measuring.
Inequality is everywhere you look. There is no difference in whether a Liberal or a Labor minister looks out upon the land, and spies hunger, homelessness, meaningless ‘gig economy’ jobs, tax rorts for the rich, public schools being robbed to pay the private colleges subsidies. The list is long, and time is of the essence.
I can live with the sceptre of Geelong Grammar getting another computer lab, or another perfectly manicured cricket oval, but I draw the line on starving my fellows, and their children in this, one of the wealthiest countries on earth.
Care of your vulnerable is conservatism as it should be. Preserve what you have, and improve it. Do not create whole classes of land developers and spivs, think tank ‘scholars’ and rentiers, who spend more on reducing their taxes than they actually pay, in taxes.
There is something rotten if both sides of politics don’t get equality, but something especially rank if the Labor Party ducks its core responsibilities. Pick them up, and the celebrations might resume.