The LNP have declared class war. They haven’t had the guts to come out and say it to our face yet, but with the Courier Mail calling people protesting the budget “whingers” and the Telegraph implying that there is a plague of fake disability claimants, it’s only a matter of time.
The values at the heart of the budget are cold and brutal. If you were not lucky enough to be born independently wealthy, screw you. And I mean you, dear reader. The odds that you are one of the lucky are pretty small, even in my world of relative privilege. If you rely on a wage or salary to live, you are only worth anything to them while that pay cheque keeps coming in. If anything goes wrong, too bad.
The LNP will divide Australia into the haves and the have-nots.
Children born under the Abbott vision for Australia will have mothers who enjoyed paid, full-time maternity leave up to the value of $50,000. Unless their mother was unemployed, of course. And after birth, it’s all down to luck.
If they were unlucky enough to be born to parents under 30 and without a job, they will be born into a house where their parents have no income for 6 months, then are forced to work for 25 hours per week in a work-for-the-dole scheme. There will be some child benefit but that has been slashed too.
How do you raise a child in that sort of insecurity? How do you live on that? How do you create stability, nurture, develop, if you can’t put a roof over your head and food in your stomach? Youth Unemployment in Australia is already nearly at 16% (approx double the general population), and it’s rising. Being born into one of those families will be a trap of poverty from which neither parent nor child will easily escape.
When children born under Abbott get to school, there will be a two-tier education system. The cuts to investment in state education will mean that schools are overcrowded and run down and teachers will be stressed and stretched, without adequate resources. However, the taxpayer will still subsidise the education of those with parents rich enough to pay thousands of dollars in fees every year.
More people will be unemployed. The closures in the car industry will take effect, along with the cuts to the public service. That’s tens of thousands of people, out of work all at once. Unable to spend money at the local shops or go out to restaurants or go on holiday. Small businesses will close, especially low margin ones that employ young people, so youth unemployment will soar. So will homelessness.
All those people without jobs will stop going to the GP unless they really have to. They’ll wait until its an emergency and go to hospital, which will cost the government more and put strain on services that are already buckling due to the cuts to the public sector. There will be a rise in chronic conditions like diabetes that get worse when neglected. More cost, more pressure.
People will commit suicide simply because they cannot figure out how to live with no money.
I don’t need a crystal ball to see all this, and I am not exaggerating for effect. Look to the UK. The emerging LNP strategy, the one they wouldn’t talk about before the election, is almost an exact copy of the Tory-LibDem strategy since their election in 2010. And it has been disastrous for Britain.
What I described mirrors what’s happening there, including the suicides by people who lost their benefits – not because they weren’t doing their best to get by, but because the government decided they were not worthy of investing in.
That’s what it comes down to. The LNP think there are deserving people and undeserving people. What some people have yet to realise is that the LNP think anyone and everyone who is unfortunate to find themselves in need of support, for whatever reason, is undeserving.
It’s a nasty paradox: so long as you have no need of government support, the government is happy to support you (hello Gina!). The minute you need it, you are undeserving of it.
Austerity politics is about using the state to increase corporate profits and it does so by shifting money away from welfare and into corporate outsourcing, and restricting wage growth. This requires punitive, divisive policies that target the least economically powerful in the community.
There will be winners. Betting shops and discount stores and payday lenders will thrive, if allowed (they will be, no doubt). Luxury brands will be fine. Mining magnates will be in clover. Executives working for Serco, G4S, Virgin and other global outsourcing companies will get fat bonuses funded from taxpayer contracts that they will deliver poorly. Those companies will also win by not paying tax in Australia and not being pursued by the tax office (because its budget was slashed). Housing prices will continue to climb, but property will be increasingly owned by Russian/Chinese/Indian/Other businessman. Just like our assets will be owned by global mega-corporations for whom Australia is merely a minor contribution to the balance sheet. Corporate profits will soar and so will executive pay.
Why would they do that? To feather their own nests.
I believe in the Australia of the ‘fair go’ and from where I stand, this government wants to destroy that. They got elected by saying “you can trust our promises” and promising to support the things that Australia care about: health, education, pensions. Now they’re trying to sell us the idea that a brutal budget that undermines all those things is necessary. What’s more they want us to believe it’s because Australia is being brought down by “slacker” disability pensioners, and “entitled” pensioners and students.
I’m heartened by the swift and strong protest but I am still afraid that their nasty, divisive tactics can work again. That people will be spooked into the belief that somehow this nastiness is necessary and vote against their own best interests. I’m afraid that the ALP are still too enchanted with neoliberalism to stand strong against them, and that the Murdoch press will have its fearful readership whipped up into a frenzy of hate against the most vulnerable. I hope my fears are unfounded.