Cheap on the things that matter

Sometimes it is hard to believe the “careful money-manager” spin on Australian Federal spending. Of course it masks what looks like negligence toward other Australians, or a really nasty attitude toward those citizens who lack the political muscle, or the platform, to question some very poor policies. These decisions can really carry life-changing consequences.

When the Treasurer of Australia cut JobSeeker back to an effective “starve or freeze” rate, (meaning, if you are lucky enough to have a roof over your head, do you eat or do you run the heater) he certainly struck a blow for budgetary discipline. The main problem was that not only did he consign many of his fellow citizens to making that choice, but by necessity, their children and grandchildren.

You can take the boy out of Kooyong, but can you get the Kooyong out of the boy? Does Josh Frydenberg know anyone from outside his gilded circle? If not, does that make him unsuitable for public office, or at least an office which regulates the level of welfare that he allocates, to keep together the bodies and souls of our most disadvantaged?

Compare his life with yours: – School at Bialik, and Mt Scopus, a gap year playing tennis, and then his double degrees (Economics and Law) at Monash University. I was surprised that he ever left the inner suburbs to travel to Clayton, but maybe the pain was bearable. Perhaps he could afford to pay for parking.

Where did Josh go next? Decisions, decisions. Oxford, or Yale? Oxford, on a scholarship. Clearly not means-tested. But he rounded out his education, post-Oxford, at Harvard.

When he actually started working, aged 28, he did so firstly as an advisor to Daryl Williams, Attorney General of Australia, and then to Alexander Downer, Foreign Affairs Minister. His next gig was with John Howard, the Prime Minister. Such high ranking jobs, for someone who was just out of school. Obviously he learnt a lot, because his next position was as Director of Global Banking with Deutsche Bank.

As they say, the rest is history. This young man is an admirer of Margaret Thatcher and also of Ronald Reagan. For their economic policies, no less. Did such privilege leave him any options? Does he even know what it is to struggle, even with a relatively good job? Did he labour late into the night thinking of the outcomes he was mandating, for hundreds of thousands of Australians?

Does he believe that repeating “Jobs over welfare” means anything to someone who struggles with literacy, or someone who has no practical skills, or the other bogey of the Australian right, the addict who cannot find treatment, or maybe doesn’t seek it? Does such an Australian deserve a life of misery because many see it as a lifestyle choice?

This is where the rubber hits the road. We are all Australians, and surely we believe that no Australian should be left to starve, or to wither on the social vine. Most of us want to pay taxes so that our fellow citizens can eat. For a certain class of Australian the poor deserve nothing, however.

At the same time that Josh Frydenberg dropped the JobSeeker rate, he also dropped JobKeeper. Many large and profitable companies actually profited from the programme, which was designed to keep staff on during the pandemic.

When asked about this apparent profiteering, Frydenberg’s close friend, and leader, stated, “”I’m not into the politics of envy.” Mr Morrison dismissed concerns about companies accepting millions of dollars from taxpayers under the JobKeeper scheme, and using some of it to pay executive bonuses and dividends.

“If there are some companies that feel that they want to hand that [money] back, great. Good for them. But let’s not lose sight, in some sort of envy narrative, that that program did not change the course of the nation.” This from the man who presided over the Robodebt scandal, where the Government pursued welfare recipients for debts which were at best doubtful, and subsequently ruled illusory, due to a lack of process.

The first place to look for relief, or some ‘common-wealth’ type thinking, ought to be the press gallery. But, with very few notable exceptions, it is really just another collection of educated, mid to upper-middle class careerists, all seemingly hell-bent on a professorship somewhere. So the notion of hard-nosed professionals, calling out inhumane policies, institutionalised theft and misappropriation of funds, not to mention naked cronyism, is the stuff of fairy tales.

Perhaps we could use the Opposition as a brake on the opportunism and the dishonesty; sadly that appears to be a dead-end street. It has become a principle-free environment, as the party of reform seeks to take back the tiller of our corrupt little boat. Past history shows similar day to day malfeasance, although with leaders in the past who seemingly did believe in some form of ‘common good’ purpose. This meant, in practical terms, less obvious contempt for governmental norms.

Who to turn to? The people, sadly, have taken on some of the beliefs of the ruling party. If you are poor, or disabled, or simply disadvantaged, you deserve to be poor. If you are obscenely rich, God loves you, and you are getting what you deserve.

My solution would be to start with a National Integrity Commission. Make it hard, and dangerous, for these people to mess with the national wealth. Secondly, perhaps a week spent in one of our provincial towns. A visit to the local food-bank, the supermarket the day before dole day, and lastly, have a look at the local Salvos store. And stop paying yourselves to go to work. $290 a night to go to work is a disgrace, and it’s not even taxable. No wonder we don’t trust them. And Josh maybe should move seats in Parliament – watching him smirk when Morrison cavorts about does neither of them a favour.

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