Contributed by Joe Montero
Australia is in serious trouble. Wages have not only stagnated. They provide for less than they used to. Most find that it is getting harder to make ends meet, and many can only maintain their standard of living, by getting into ever growing debt.
Pensioners of all kinds, and especially the unemployed are finding survival even tougher. Indigenous Australians are the worst off.
Despite this harsh reality, there are still grounds for optimism. Concern about poverty and the economy have now become a priority for the Australian community. There is a stirring among those who do not want to accept it, and who, as individuals or members of groups, work to make a difference. It brings great potential to draw others into building a powerful movement for change.
Activity founded on compassion and fighting for the right of everyone to have a decent life is having an impact. The truth is being uncovered. More people are speaking out. There is a higher level of anger, coupled with a growing realisation that the political system is failing and not providing answer to problems crying out for attention. Politicians are no longer trusted by most people, and this must inevitably lead to a search for alternative answers.
This ferment has been enough to pressure the media, to as least some recognition to the problems. Telling us that things are getting better, that there is light at the end of the tunnel, or we just have to wait for the trickle down effect doesn’t wash. No one believes these things anymore.
On 3 July, an episode of Insight on SBS television exposed, just how tough life is for a considerable number of Australian, and that one out of five kids go without meals because of poverty. Mission Australia, the salvation Army and other welfare organisations have reported, that a rising number of older people are ending up homeless. Further reports show that young Australians are doing it hard and that women are particularly vulnerable.
Then there is the list of ongoing sagas involving Centrelink, the rolling out of the “Indue” welfare card, and the terrible treatment of Indigenous Australians.
The Australian Unemployed Workers Union (AUWU) is battling against the odds, campaigning for a major increase to Newstart, and even more importantly, building a network and campaign to put an end to poverty. Fair Go For Pensioners is campaigning on several fronts. Many other organisations are similarly active. Although under direct attack from the government, GetUp and other online activist groups are being heard.
Battles are being waged for improvement of conditions for women, migrants, those with disabilities, the hoeless and others. Indigenous Australians are pushing forward their battle for Treaty and self-determination.
All of this is making the truth visible and lifting the level of awareness across the nation. It may not have reached the level of an outright revolt, but there is enough there to start moving the community sector. For a long time, more than a few of the organisations within it have been compromised, by their tendency not to rock the boat to ensure ongoing government funding. Now they are feeling the pressure to step up and act. The reality of the leaky and emptying government funding bucket is adding to the effect.
The role of the community sector is important. It often deals with the most vulnerable and marginalised, and when doing what it should, it works to empower those who it serves. In doing this, the sector contributes to enabling the vulnerable and marginalised to stand up for themselves.
The unions’ Change the Rules campaign has been important. Although its focus is on the industrial relations system, wages and conditions at work, it is giving greater confidence to the community at large, and a sense that it is possible to bring about change through collective strength. Here there is an opportunity to build a stronger union/community alliance, based on involving as many people as possible in activity on the ground.
Adverse times really do throw up opportunities.
The key to our action as an impoverished and continuing to be come a more impoverished nation is mass action. This requires a combined effort from the unions, various small treades, and especially the community at large. Iy is union Community led action that will stop the rot.
As long as we allow ourselves t be governed by neoliberals things will only change for the worse. hat passes for a neoliberal political philosophy is brutally simplistic; it involves destroying trusted social institutions then sitting back to se what reaction will arise from society. Given that there is hardly any social reaction to even the most overt attacks on the poor, the sick, the vulnerable and the aged, two things result. First, trust in the institutions under attack diminish; second, the neoliberal propaganda machine the Murdoch media – swings into action with it echo-chamber of hysteria blaming the disadvantaged and the poor for their own situation, and propounding the mantra of further austerity for those on the lower rungs of society.
People will remain poor and come poorer because the ideological basis of neoliberalism – highlighted so brutally by former Treasurer Hockey in 2014 – divides society into ‘lifters’ (the move and shakers in the corporate world) and ‘leaners’ (everyone else). The lifters are to be rewarded while the rest are simply punished. This leaves the poor and the disadvantaged to struggle on their own and to wallow in their misery without relief.
Unless Austrian society is prepared to actually stand up and fight back, future will be worse than ever.
Stealing from the poor to put money in the corrupt pockets of rich thieves mostly bankers and miners who fund both major parties stinks.When I grew up in the 50s and 60s Australia had a more or less crime free , greed free society. Now it is the reverse.I was denied an old age pension for 5 years because Centrelink said my company was owed $300,000 dollars. The company was myself and my wife and the people who owed us money were myself and my wife.Disgusting filth are today’s politicians, except greens.
Hugh, my business went under and I was declared bankrupt in July 2012. My partner and I received a part pension for five years. According to Centrelink my Business that had no realisable assets and no funds was worth $200,000. Not true! But still had to wait five years to receive a full pension! Yes like a lot of people I blame Neo Liberalism and the so called ‘trickle down’ effect; more like trickle up. Like you i believe things were a lot fairer in the 50’s and 60’s and even until the mid 70’s. Neither one of the major political parties support an increase in ‘newstart’. Counter intuitevly Sweden where the ‘dole’ is double what it is here in OZ, has a lower rate of employment. Finally I believe homelesness is a National disgrace in a Country as wealthy as this. Tax cuts would be better spent on infrastructure etc. I am talking about both personal and Compant tax rates.
VOTE THEM OUT WITH A BLUE INK PEN ,DONT VOTE ONLINE AND DONT DO POSTAL VOTES AND TAKE A PEN WITH YOU AND LEAVE IT THERE
ETU Queensland & NT
July 9 at 4:20 PM
A Vote For Hanson is a Vote For Turnbull and a Vote for The LNP is a Vote for One Nation. Plain and simple. Put the grubs last.
Hi I’m a mother of 7 with 4 teenagers still at home. How can the gov not step in I live in a small town in qld. Before I moved here my power bill was never over $450 a quarter. I moved in 2013 the same company that supplied my power before I moved is the same company now. My first bill I received when I moved was only 2months worth and it was around $600 rang Ergon was told it’s right they even sent some1 out to read the meter again it was right they said. Since that bills my bill is over $1200 each quarter I even ask the meter man 1 time when he was here to read the meter where he live and what his power bill was like he lives 3 hours from me on the coast And has a pool and lots more i don’t and it’s only him n his wife that live there. Same power company and same tariffs and he is only get a bill of around $. 480. How can this be right. Please look into it please.