Meandering into #AusPol: Election 2013
It’s been a long time between posts. I’m afraid I have been swept up in election fever! Considering what is being televised onto my screen direct from Egypt at the moment, I’m talking from the luxury of safety, so it will seem banal in comparison. Just quickly before I start on my Australian Politics rant… Love to you Egypt. May you find compromise and peace. You are in the world’s thoughts and we are hoping for all of your safety.
You may have heard Australia is having an election in just 3 short weeks. The most likely reason for this is the slew of inappropriate comments from our, embarrassingly, so far leading prime ministerial candidate, Tony Abbott. He has gained international coverage for his ” suppository of wisdom”, told indigenous groups they had to make their spiritual lands economic as well as stating he felt we saw aboriginal culture and history as an “adornment”, described a female candidate’s key traits as young, feisty and possessing “sex appeal”, described the legislation of equal marriage rights as “radical change” insinuating same sex relationships were a “fashion” statement, and expressed colonial type views of women in aboriginal communities “hiding in homes and huts” apparently from violence, insulting many women and men in one swoop. Yesterday he released an Asylum Seeker Policy that is not only irresponsible, but an abuse of human rights. I’m not sure having heard the details that it isn’t legislating slave labour from people on Temporary Protection VISA’s. And yet he charges ahead in the opinion polls making me question my place in the country I was born in and usually love, as I see a complete absence of Ethical conduct winning our nations biggest popularity contest. It is not a good time to be Australia when you realise the majority of you population is endorsing that kind of behaviour and you are reviled by it.
I guess when the world sees you as part of this nation and you are so fundamentally opposed to what is being described as a “race to the bottom”, on ethically barren policy, and it appears to be appealing to economic right wing social conservatives, you feel the need to explain what your personal views are. Who knew we had so many? I though people were generally less uptight than 65 years ago, which is the policy play book at the moment.
So one night as I felt ashamed of the political race to the bottom, the urge to share my views with my friends arose (a very small handful of which wonder why I don’t see Mr Abbott as some shining knight rescuing us from certain financial disaster, when we have one of the world’s strongest economies). Some of which cite the Rudd/Gillard leadership challenges as unforgivable, when the Liberal/National Party Coalition (and just to confuse you in Australia Liberals are conservative) have slipped under the radar in opposition, having themselves had 4 heads of party since they last governed in 2007, as internal friction has them playing musical chairs. I can’t help but think Rupert Murdoch’s strong hold on the circulation of media in Australia has something to do with it as many of Abbott’s gaffs have been lovingly reported as if good features. His colonial style condescension, to aboriginal people has been relatively skipped over, although he was reported a little to show how much he cares about remote communities, even though he practically threated mining exploration on sacred ground. However, just for stating that I could well turn up in the national papers tomorrow slandered as a conspiracy theorist. Certainly Rupert Murdoch doesn’t hold back with vitriol against those who don’t fancy Tony Abbott, as his famous “KICK THIS MOB OUT” attention grabbing headline proved. He has been running a scare campaign against Labor for the last 3yrs and those brave enough have reported a belief it is his desire to squash the National Broadband Network, which would jeopardise his entertainment market domination through Foxtel, that is likely the reason.
It is quite a long explanation as I have tried to cover as many topics as have been debated thus far. I wont be offended if no one can manage to get through it as it was necessary as a purge of sorts for me. It lists fairly clearly the reasons I can’t pallet the current opposition who seem set to win, If we can trust Rupert Murdoch’s Polls for any degree of efficacy what-so-ever.
There are children born into poverty everyday and that is not their fault or choice. They have poorer access to education, hygiene, health, nutrition and sometimes (but not always) even love. The effects are devastating on their entire lives and they trace all the way back to this childhood.
Historically the Coalition has made cuts to Education further spreading this gap. Help that gets these children out of poverty and breaking cycles, ensuring them and future generations a better life, is removed. Historically the Coalition has allowed work places to pay their employees below minimum wage and allowed conditions of zero job security for people on low wages and in non full-time work, meaning they are virtually slaves to their employers, and can’t be there for their children or they risk not having any work to put food on the table at all. Historically the Coalition has then blamed these children who have been brought up in these conditions for not having the confidence, opportunities or tools to make great swathes of money.
So why don’t I like the Coalition? It’s not because I don’t think it’s great that life rewards hard workers. It’s because when I hear people whinge that they shouldn’t have to give their money to dole bludgers, I feel they are not only unaware that fate is fickle and that it could easily happen to them, but they don’t seem to realise that these taxes are also going into ensuring that the children of these so called bludgers aren’t being forced into an entire life of poverty, and then continuing this cycle for their own children. It seems near criminal to let this inequity continue because some are so sure that they have their money because they are a better, harder working person/parent. Some kids have no one to get them up in the morning, no one to give them breakfast, no one to tuck them in, no one to help with home work, no one to protect them from predators, no one to remember their birthday and no one to help them through when things are tough at school; And not only are they being looked down on by other kids for all of the above; but other parents, who know how fragile and precious children are, are saying they don’t want to pay as many taxes - not even seeming to realise that them not paying taxes actually hurts entire future generations and ingrains social inequity leaving these kids destitute. It makes me more than just a little angry inside.
Notoriously and historically cutting company tax does not help these kids at all, and it doesn’t mean employers automatically improve existing conditions for workers or take on more staff. What frequently happens is that these businesses relish not having to pay staff so much, and love not giving them job security. They take the extra profits to put their own kids through private school and go on that European holiday to hide from winter. Employees aren’t employed more often, they are just exploited more often. Homelessness increases. There are more employees than employers out there so why people fight for this kind of ‘conditions poverty’ that the LNP promises, honestly bewilders me. If you are a business I get it. If you are an employee, I don’t.
I remember during the Howard years Ansett collapsing and $72billion of Government assets (Telstra, DASFLEET, etc), that created jobs, being handed over to private companies to make the Government look like they were in the black. But workers were then signed into either lesser conditions or fired. I remember it by the thousands and all over the press, but people seem to have a rosy glow about the Howard years that quite frankly surprises me. Nurses had even more staffing shortages than they do now. There were very high children per teacher rates. Medicare was cut down so low people would go broke trying to pay for life saving medications and simply…. well you can join the dots on that. And lets not forget the pensioners so impoverished they were literally found to be eating cat food to survive. None of these things do I wish to go back to so the Coalition can pretend Australians are better off because of a surplus. I don’t believe the country can actually rebuild itself making everything private. To me that will just broaden the gap until we have shanty towns and children never being able to go to school because they are all private, and parents can’t afford it. People never being able to receive medical attention, because it’s private. The news never being unadulterated by Murdoch, because he has all the circulation. I don’t want to see that, but that is what happens in right wing capitalist societies. I’d rather take my cues from the Swedes and have massive taxes for all, but a society where everyone is born with a shot at success and a system that looks after them if perhaps life doesn’t. They have a far better standard of living than most. I don’t like homelessness for impoverished kids/families. I don’t believe it has to be that way. I don’t believe in societies being entirely capitalist, although I do think a private sector is a good and necessary thing, and that it is important to ensure diversity and to ensure the standards in the public sector don’t drop as they have competition. It just makes sense. The idea of selling off assets doesn’t make this country rich. If all you own is what’s in your wallet and you have no other way of making money than taxing things, it’s pretty obvious what is going to happen. Taxes will go up, not down. Taxes can only go down if money making businesses are owned by Government to fill a revenue gap, selling off assets to the private sector is in direct opposition to that. Generally due to inflation we can at best hope for tax to remain stable with government industries picking up the slack. Capitalism by it’s nature means for governments to survive, if their only income stream is through taxes as they have privatised everything, our taxes forever spiral up. If the Coalition plans to reduce taxes on companies and not build revenue raising infrastructure, you can take a guess where their other sources of revenue may lay.
Government industries/infrastructure creates jobs in its building and provides employment thereafter. This increases the Governments tax revenue base through these new jobs, which in turn pays for the created assets being built; and hopefully the assets also have profit enough to pay for their own maintenance and improvement over time. These jobs then continue into the future through operation and sale of services. I believe only a government has the resources and income to do this successfully, matched with the ethics to leave no one behind and make sure every Australian is a valuable member of the team. Big Business has a different Ethos… Make lots of money. They don’t care about their employees as much as their bottom line. They can’t or they collapse… but having said that being in huge amounts of debt to get the ball rolling was exactly Donald Trump made his billions. The banks wouldn’t put him into receivership as he owed too much, and they were terrified if they didn’t give him the chance to pay them back they would collapse - so they kept lending until his ventures paid off. Entire countries and their governments (unless hostilely overtaken) are not going anywhere. A country does not disappear because it has debt. The ethos of profit above people is something I believe the Coalition shares and this whole debt argument isn’t particularly strong when you realise to make money sometimes you have to borrow some first. Their lack of genuine concern for people remaining in employment is evident to me through their fixation on surpluses above all else. A Government surplus does not provide Australians with a better standard of living. Opportunity, feeling a valued member of society, being part of something bigger and having something to do, increase happiness. That’s what gives people a good quality of life. Not extremely poor working conditions and increased homeless rates so the Government can flaunt a surplus. Austerity does not grow the pie it distributes it to the wealthy.
As for education, well the Coalition has already reneged on their promise to match Gonski/Better Schools. I doubt anyone is surprised. Easier to keep an exploited workforce about if you don’t have equal education.
So do I think it is harsh the single parent’s benefits have been changed to a child of 8 and parents are then on Newstart? Yes that is harsh. It is known that Newstart is a below the poverty line measure, and it is also known primary school kids can’t look after themselves. I don’t understand the complexities of it, I hope they are entitled to greater rent assistance. The Coalition has however said they intend to match this and keep the changes, so no joy there for sole parents, the Coalition has said they are not giving them a better deal. The Greens want to. What does hearten me however is that currently there are plans for those funds that once went into the parents’ purse to still go to the children. They are to be put into afterschool care programs so those kids have somewhere to go after school that is safe and fun. They are going into making sure kids are fed. It is far cheaper to buy food in bulk and so the same funds will go further than the parents can possibly hope for and nutritional experts will be ensuring the food is what growing bodies need. I still think Labor should probably allow sole parents payments until a child is in high school, but if the education system is made stronger and is able to look after and provide for children better than they currently do, it may work. The huge mistake as I see it was cutting the payments to parents of children above 8 before the extra measures to compensate for these losses to them had been rolled out. That was really unfair in my humble opinion. I don’t think the Coalition saying they will keep it however shows them to be a better choice, and their watered down version of Gonski/Better Schools shows to me that our kids are going to be worse off. Take note that I don’t have children of my own, but I see in my own family and friends’ kids there are haves, and have nots, and the parents all work hard to give what they can to their children. Those kids’ futures are being determined not only by their parents’ hard work, but also by a hell of a lot of luck in finding good work, and for those not self employed, luck as to how work treats them. I want to live in a society that realises how important it is to make sure all kids have a little bit of luck in their lives and some infrastructure in place to give them a better future. I think Labor’s scheme will do that and I don’t think the Coalitions will, considering it stops funding before most of the benefits of Labor’s planned reforms would kick in.
Don’t even get me started on how business and industry should be integrated into a greener outlook. It absolutely can be done with economic viability. This is an area where I don’t believe any of the parties have it right, and I write to MP’s all the time trying to be heard. It would be so easy and I just don’t think any of the parties are willing to have the give and take between industry and environmentalists, required to make this a reality. They all anger me and if any of them ever start adopting the ideas I whinge to them, my ears will prick up and I’ll advocate for that. We are quickly running out of time and repealing carbon taxes wont change that. An ETS can work but it has to be far more directed at the companies actually changing practice not just paying for carbon credits. It’s about transforming the market not taxing it. Get it together guys before we have to start adopt a polar bear and adopt a penguin schemes just to try and ensure they are not extinct.
On Marriage equality. I hope it gets through the conscience vote. I don’t think churches have to marry anyone they don’t want to now, and that will continue I’d imagine, so they needn’t be scared. As far as I’m concerned church should not be controlling state matters and you don’t need a church for a legal marriage. This means better equality for people whose relationships are not legally recognised, as currently they don’t have immediate next of kin rights, which makes life extremely tough and a constant battle for people wanting relationship recognition. They are as committed to each other as any other couple, I believe we need to stop discriminating on legally recognising this commitment. It should not be a battle and stack of paperwork to see your life partner if they are in hospital and have family restrictions placed on visitation. It shouldn’t mean 4 extra forms and associated legal expenses just to act as any other loving couple does. It’s simply not fair and does not have to have anything to do with any religion. We don’t need religious ceremonies in Australia for people to be married now. It’s about time for marriage equality (Big win to the Greens here who have fought for it for so long).
None of the parties (Including the Greens, sorry, I think your ethics are by far the best on this though) have come up with a solution to making access to Australia for asylum seekers safe, and cutting out the people smuggling trade that exploits their desperation. I don’t pretend to know how exactly you can stop people smugglers falsely promising freedom in Australia, but I do know that calling asylum seekers illegal is wrong. I do know that trying to find them somewhere to go is more noble than turning them around when it is well known that just makes them destroy the boat, and thousands of them drown at sea because of boat turning. I do think the UN should have a large processing centre in our region and that ALL of the region (hopefully they are willing) should be working with them to give them a safe environment to stay while they are being processed. Clearly the current ones need major transformation as people are still heading to sea. It’s pretty clear there isn’t really anywhere for these people to go as they don’t want war/violence/persecution and so are fleeing from it, yet are accused of being a threat when they arrive. I do think there must be something fundamentally broken in a system that can take 3+ years to process a person. I do think it would be less stressful on the government if people could be quickly identified as ’not a threat’ and were allowed to seek employment/training asap rather than waiting around. The Coalition just seems to call these people illegal even though it is not illegal to seek asylum, even by boat. We signed to that, we agreed to it. Find another way… that works. Not works at keeping centres empty, but actually works at providing necessary help for people in need of asylum. Work with UN under the UN not on our own; as ethically, Australian Politics is severely lacking here.
If you don’t realise why the NBN Labor is building is necessary and the Coalitions substitute isn’t already there is no point discussing it. Why it is important has been covered from every angle and all I can think is, I feel sorry for Malcolm Turnbull for having to push something he knows isn’t good enough. If he felt is was he wouldn’t have investments in France’s Fibre to the Premises (FttP) style network which is akin to Labor’s NBN not his own. It must be hard to be forced to push a barrow without a wheel.
I’m not going to argue about who will win. If the Coalition wins I still wont think they are right. I am not swayed in my opinion by what majorities think. Life isn’t about numbers in budgets or numbers in detention centres at the expense of ethics. I may never be decadently wealthy, but my conscience will always be clear that I don’t deliberately keep others in poverty who need help, to feather my own nest. To me, that is priceless.