Let’s call what’s happening in the current pre-budget process what it actually is. No more weasel words about ‘austerity’ or ‘crisis’ or Hockey’s ridiculous claim that Australia is going to ‘run out of money.’ This is about a bunch of rich, mostly blokes, cutting the heart out of the social safety net.
This is not about evidence or data. This is not about economics or debt. This is about an extreme ideology that will cause real and lasting harm to many Australians.
If this was about budget savings, then the subsidies for the well-off would be on the table, rather than the basic incomes that people use to, you know, eat. Instead, the priorities are making sure people with private health insurance can get a subsidised trip to the gym and massive concessions on their superannuation.
ACOSS laid out, in detail, the key programs that could be changed to meet Hockey’s demands for debt reduction, yet all of these have been ruled out. Why? Because this is not about debt reduction. This is about punishing anyone who is not well-off and changing the universal nature of our public services.
Introducing co-payments for GPs is not about whether people can afford a few extra dollars. It is about changing a universal health care system into one based on income. Ignoring all calls to increase Newstart so people can, you know, eat is not about budget savings, but about believing that anyone can get a job if they just try harder.
Cracking down on the DSP has nothing to do with evidence that says there’s been a drop in the percentage of working age people claiming it, instead it is about targeting people with the least capacity to fight back or put political pressure on the Government.
The social safety net is there because we, as a country, decided that Australia is the kind of place where everyone can eat. The safety net is there because sometimes things go wrong and people need help. The net is there to catch people when they fall down, and keep them going until they can get back on their feet.
In Europe and US, where they had actual recessions, so-called ‘austerity’ measures have been a disaster (PDF). Unemployment is higher, people who are already poor are scrounging for food and big corporates just keep picking up bigger and bigger contracts to implement cuts.
“The socialisation of losses and privatisation of profits is the prime political and economic objective of austerity. Working people and the poor are made to pay for the failure of the banks, financial markets and wealthy elites.” (From here: PDF)
And none of it worked to change debt. These policies just made things worse.
“Austerity has meant deep public spending cuts, mass unemployment, closures, privatisation, wage and benefit cuts, increased poverty and damage to health. Poor and working/middle class families have borne the brunt of the economic and financial burden of austerity – the socialisation of the losses. Income and health inequalities have widened.” (From here: PDF)
Australia did not have a recession during (PDF) the GFC. Our debt is low. There are no economic reasons to implement these failed policies that do so much harm. Unless hurting people is the actual goal.
Poor people don’t have an army of lobbyists stationed in Canberra to protect their interests. Their stories don’t feature on the front page of newspapers, or in prime-time news. People living in cramped, expensive housing, or going without food and medicine are worrying about being homeless or hungry, rather than visiting MPs during a sitting week.
I don’t know about you, but the kind of country I want to live in is one where people have enough to eat and somewhere safe and secure to stay. I want our social safety net to make sure people are taken care of, not punished for bad luck. I want those who’ve had good luck to pay their fair share. I want corporates who make huge profits to pay back the community that supports them and makes their profits possible.
It is bullshit that we can’t afford to make sure people who are sick can get treatment, or that people have enough to eat. It is bullshit that Australia has a budget ‘crisis’ and it is bullshit that ‘austerity’ is anything other than punishing ordinary people who built the social safety net to catch everyone.