On the verge of tears, an impassioned Jacqui Lambie, independent senator for Tasmania, recently spoke out against the Turnbull government's planned welfare cuts. Lambie knows how hard it is to get by on welfare, because like many Australians she's had to rely on it herself.
As the recent case of a terminally ill man having his welfare payments cut because he wasn't looking for a job illustrates, rather than helping people, our social safety net is increasingly drowning them in bureaucracy. It's a lot to go through for payments that don't cover the cost of living, often leaving even those who aren't terminally ill struggling to survive.
And yet the Turnbull government is pursuing the former Abbott government's 2014 budget cuts to welfare for Australian students, pensioners, job seekers, and single-parent families who are already struggling to make ends meet. To this Lambie said: "You have no idea how bloody tough it is... What you are doing is shameful. And if you really realised the damage that you are continually doing to that part of society you would stop doing it."
Lambie's assertion that ignorance is what belies the Turnbull government's planned welfare cuts is wrong.
Lambie's words were the opposite of what we have come to expect from politicians. They were honest, heartfelt, compassionate, and mostly true. But Lambie's assertion that ignorance is what belies the Turnbull government's planned welfare cuts is wrong. The Turnbull government knows exactly how much damage it's doing to disadvantaged Australians. It just doesn't care.
It's not just that the Turnbull government is pursuing the former Abbott government's budget cuts to welfare; or that its new welfare debt recovery system has led to the harassment of vulnerable Australians for non-existent debts; or that it supports penalty rate cuts for already low-paid workers in the hospitality, retail, and fast-food industries; or that it is cutting taxes for large corporations with equally large profits at the same time it is doing all these things that hurt everyday people who need a tax cut more. It's all of these things taken together that prove the Turnbull government doesn't give a damn about Australians who are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table.
Australians love to talk about how egalitarian our country is. But look around you. It isn't. Not only do we have a gender pay gap and a gay pay gap, we have a federal government waging class warfare on its citizens and doing everything it can to help its mates in private enterprise squeeze every last dollar and shred of dignity they can out of Australian workers.
Companies are increasingly treating full-time staff like freelancers, automating jobs unchecked, and using slave labour, euphemistically referred to as 'unpaid internships'. All this is done to cut costs, keep shareholders happy, and justify executive salaries many times greater than even the egos and swimming pools of the executives themselves.
Why swimming pools? Because I was in a lift a few weeks ago with three white, middle-aged men in suits competing to see who had the most expensive swimming pool. The real winner was, of course, the contractor who had the sense to charge one of these blokes $160,000 so he'd be able to brag about the size of his bank account and feel less insecure about the size of other things.
Speaking of size, one thing that doesn't come up often enough when we're talking about Australians who, whether on welfare or working and still doing it tough, is the size of the economy. But talk about it we must, because social security is not just a social problem, it is also an economic one.
The Turnbull government is completely out of touch with everyday people doing it tough -- unless you count the contact made by the boot it is kicking them with while they're down.
When wage growth doesn't keep up with inflation, when corporate greed leads to unpaid, low paid, and underemployed workers with a lack of job security becoming the norm, and when governments and unions fail to stand up for exploited workers, it leads to a shrinking middle class and a rise in the unemployed and working poor. The result is that people earn less taxable income, and save and invest less for retirement. They also spend less because they have less disposable income, which subsequently leads to less demand and consumption, less production, and less investment. In turn, governments and companies often cut spending to cover revenue shortfalls, and as a result the economy shrinks; like it shrunk by 0.5 percent in the September quarter last year. Social security helps to maintain consumption, so it isn't just an investment in our people, but also an investment in our economy.
When Turnbull replaced Abbott in a coup he promised us economic leadership, yet he is still pushing the same cuts to social security that Abbott was; cuts that will damage our economy and the most vulnerable Australians.
The Turnbull government is completely out of touch with everyday people doing it tough -- unless you count the contact made by the boot it is kicking them with while they're down. And a boot is what voters will return in kind at the next election.
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