“The economic metaphor came to be applied to every aspect of modern life, especially the areas where it simply didn’t belong. In fields such as education, equality of opportunity, health, employees’ rights, the social contract and culture, the first conversation to happen should be about values and principles; then you have the conversation about costs, and what you as a society can afford.”
“Whoops…Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay!” by John Lanchester:
Last month Scott Morrison criticised business for not supporting attempts to balance the budget, which gave Mr Hockey the chance to reminisce about the good old days, when business groups ran ads supporting Liberal policies like WorkChoices telling us:
“Previously, the business community has not only been an advocate for reform, they’ve actually put their hands in their pocket and helped to argue the case, So, I do share Scott Morrison’s position that, you know, there are plenty of armchair critics. But, as Teddy Roosevelt said, ‘it’s not the critic that counts, it’s the person in the field getting the muddied hands’. I would encourage as many people as possible to join us on the paddock of reform.”
Now, I know that I’m telling you the bleedin’ obvious, but it does strike me that there is more to a country than a business. When the Abbott Governmnet talks about “reform”, that’s usually code for trying to make people work longer hours for less money. Reform never refers to improving the quality of life, building more bike paths, encouraging greater participation in the arts or enabling greater happiness. So long as you’ve got more money, you’ll be happier, right? And in order to ensure you can keep your job – and you’ll certainly have more money if you keep your job – we want you to agree to the following “reforms”…
Ok, as Mr Hockey is fond of comparing the country’s economy to a household budget, I thought I’d take his analogy a little further. Let’s create a fictious family and call them the Pine family, which is completely fictious and has even less connection to our Education Minister, Mr Pyne, than he has to education! Why, it’s even spelt differently.
The head of the household Mr. Lou Pine has decided that, as well as never putting anything on the credit card, has decided that his extended family needs some reform and has called the entire family together for his announcements.
“Family members,” he begins, “we need some reforms. For a start, Granny is no longer earning enough from her pension to pay for the rent on her granny flat in the backyard and we’ll be moving her into the main house and putting the flat to a more productive use.”
“But we don’t have a room for her in the main house?” interrupted young Prudence Pine.
“On the contrary, as part of the reform process, I’ve noticed that we have many rooms that are only used during the day. Granny can sleep in the kitchen.”
“Well, if you’re going to have her sleep in a room that’s not being used, why not the family room?” suggested Prudence.
“If you’d stop interrupting the adults and just listen, we’d get our reform measures done a lot faster. Now, the family room can’t be used as a bedroom, because I’ll be running my business there, and as you know my business is always open, so the family room is out of bounds from here on.”
“What about the televison?” asked young Al Pine.
“The television is an expense that we don’t need. Until we get the mortgage paid off, you won’t have time for television, you’ll be working and contributing to the well-being of this house.”
“But I don’t have a job!” complained Al.
“Yes, I’ve noticed that so until you get one, you won’t be receiving any food until you’ve spent at least six months looking.”
“But I’ll starve before then!”
“That’s just the sort of incentive you need to find a job. And speaking of jobs, you may have noticed that your mother has been a bit tired lately. I’m bringing someone in to perform the tasks she used to perform under the skill shortages program.”
“What does mum have to say about that?”
“She’s jealous naturally, but we’re not into the politics of envy in this household. Finally, I understand that some of you were planning to attend university after high school. I have no problem with this, as long as can give me a few thousand dollars to help me replace you in the family.”
“You’re insane. This is no way to run a family,” said Prudence. “Besides, what sort of family would allow a father to dictate to all its members like this?”
“Well, I think Tony Abbott said it best when he stated that a bad boss is a bit like a bad father, he tends to do more good than harm. From this, I naturally assumed that Mr Abbott thinks that – like a boss – a father should be in charge of his family! And I agree with him, so naturally that’s the way things are! “
All right the analogy of the family breaks down and becomes ridiculous. But I guess so does a government who thinks that its most important job is to fix the “economic mess”, then suddenly decides that the deficit doesn’t matter and we can all have cake and ice cream, and that when it promised not change pensions that only meant for the first three years, so any changes coming after the next election don’t count as changes.