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No ‘love’ in the Abbott Government’s ‘tough’

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey have taken to describing their budgetary cruelty as an act of “tough love” for which we may well rail against them in the present, but will respect them for in the years ahead, presumably when we can see how their tough love has achieved the goal of all tough love, that is to bring the poor amongst us to their senses and force them to live non-vulnerable, standing-on-their-own-two-feet lives, or die.

Tough love is a phrase usually associated with advice given to parents of drug-addicted offspring: refuse support in order to achieve a drug-free outcome. It demands that one have sufficient strength to withdraw all assistance that might enable the addict to continue on their self-destructive path. It requires the stamina to watch another spiral into an abject desolation and marginalisation that is allegedly entirely his or her own doing, and in which, the theory would have it, the addict will hit their own personal bottom line and in so doing begin the long trip back to sobriety and a decent life. I have no idea if it works or not.

There is no love in the tough Abbott and Hockey are dealing out to the vulnerable who will bear the brunt of their withdrawal of government support. Indeed, it is very telling that Abbott and Hockey appear to equate (with no evidence whatsoever to support their bigoted assumptions) economic vulnerability with anti social addictions, and have set about “curing” the vulnerability by withdrawing already meagre support in the deranged belief that if you make people starve, they will stop being vulnerable. Vulnerability is, in the Abbott and Hockey ideology, a choice, and people must be forced to stop making it by using the harshest possible methods until they hit their bottom line, and wake up one morning enlightened, repentant, and ready to get a job.

This government has no interest in equality. The admirable ethos of the “fair go”, so inimical to what we fondly think of as our national character, has been mangled beyond recognition in the first few months of the Abbott incumbency. Instead, we have Hockey thundering why should you pay for someone else’s education, completely overlooking the fact that someone else paid for his. We contribute to the costs of educating others because it benefits all of us. Educating people gives us the professionals who are absolutely essential to our daily lives and well-being.

Abbott and his government are in the business of installing a new regime of truth, one that is foreign to us, a regime that casts fairness and concern for others in a negative light, a move that is made even more inexplicable by the Christian affiliations of the PM and his Treasurer. The marriage of religion and neo liberalism apparently spawns an extreme of wilful ignorance, and the inevitably cruelty that accompanies the trait.

In his excellent piece in The King’s Tribune, Tim Dunlop argues that progressives need to change the current conversation, that there is little to be gained in agitating for a change in LNP leadership, or castigating Abbott, pining for Turnbull or bringing back the ALP in its current configuration. The Australian ALP appears to be in its own downward spiral, following the lead of the UK Labour Party, described by George Monbiot in this Guardian piece as selfishly committed to inequality in its acts of omission, and its commitment to supporting aspects of the obscene Tory attacks on that county’s vulnerable.

What progressives must do, Dunlop argues, is work from the premise that we do want a country in which it is possible to offer everyone a fair crack at a decent life, a premise that will lead us in a very different direction from that offered by the LNP. The way in which we might achieve this revolution is by vocalising our resistance to the government’s imposition of inequality as a way of life in our country, using protest and withdrawal of labour. Where there is power there is always resistance, as Foucault noted, and the most powerful form of resistance available to citizens in situations such as ours is taking to the streets, as often as we have to, and letting the government know we are not a people who desire the increased suffering of the already vulnerable, rather we are a people who will fight for the fair go.

There is no love in the Abbott government’s tough. Much as Abbott and Hockey seek to portray themselves as men of character who are willing to risk short-term popularity for long-term gain, the reality is these men have gone for the jugular of the most vulnerable human beings in our country. There will be no long-term gain for the vulnerable. There will be increasing hardship, despair and disintegration. Abbott and Hockey will deliver us a new underclass, generations of citizens who have never been given a fair go.

Vulnerable people have never experienced entitlement, that is the province of the wealthy and comfortable. The age of entitlement is not over, it thrives. The age of the fair go has come to a sticky end, and we will all be the poorer for its death.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. Florence nee Fedup

    One needs to be careful with tough love. Many a parent has found, that their tough love has led to losing the child altogether.

    One needs to be sure, one has the diagnosis right, then the right treatment.

    This d government fails on all grounds.

  2. SunLight

    It is an F for Failure all round when it comes to this lot of rancid rabble
    Claiming to be politicians, pffffft they only no M is for MONEY that’s it

  3. SunLight

    Typo, was know, not no
    But then again Tones is the Knight of the NO’s

  4. Pingback: No love in the Abbott Government’s tough | OzHouse

  5. John921Fraser


  6. ryan

    this goverment even fails on the economicly rational frount it hasnt goten much press but they have axed all the lifestyle illness prevention programs, goten rid of the body that oversees the nations health status and warns were we need to look for future problems, bought a bunch of planes that the australian defence analysts that have been at testing have said would make us obsolete for 40-50 yrs , built a bunch of new debt proping up coal mining industry while puting china ofside via backing japan in teritorial disputes 1000 miles away kneecaped our education economy put a bunch of money into a paid parental leave scheem that will only benifit the best off while leaving young unimployed mothers potentialy homeless along with no money for contraception or alternate entertainment to avoid pregnacy, which in tern will lead to many more infant critical care wards needed to deal with the burgoning underweight premis that need care not to mention the beds for the mothers to stay with there child and the beds for the steadly increasing number of lifestyle caused diseases that we have decided we dont need to prevent, they pay 1000$ a day to keep refugess in offshore detention that would happily work for 1 10th or less of that in regional areas, they have destroyed NBN even though it is esencial for cost saving in almost every sector, the list is to long to cover in entirety, i chalenge anyone to find 1 change in this budget that i cant show to be a bad long term choice and yes it has little good heartedness in it but it has very little good sence either

  7. Matters Not

    that there is little to be gained in agitating for a change in LNP leadership, or castigating Abbott, pining for Turnbull or bringing back the ALP in its current configuration.

    Can only agree. Abbott’s not the problem and Hockey isn’t the ‘problem’ as well. As I argued elsewhere, what is being ‘redefined’ are the most basic concepts, including the ‘view of man’, the ‘concept of society’, the ‘role of government’ and the relationship between the above.

    While the redefinition of first two concepts are not apparent at this stage to the unaware observer, the ‘role of government’ certainly is subject to a new ‘common sense’. Hockey argues:

    The truth is governments have never been able to achieve equality of outcome


    As a result, Government can only hope to provide equality of opportunity. Even then, as each day passes, forces such as personal empowerment and personal choice, reduce our capacity to equalise opportunity.

    It doesn’t take much imagination to reveal the thought behind that argument. Take ‘education/teachers’ and what they do as an example. The logic is that teachers should teach the same lesson to all students – give each and everyone the same ‘opportunity’ to ‘learn’ or ‘understand’. The fact that some students don’t grasp the basic understandings, for whatever reason, should not prevent the teacher ‘moving on’.

    Put simply, any teacher who behaved that way would be rightly condemned.

    Perhaps we might have a thread on the ‘ROLE of GOVERNMENT’ – not only what it currently is but more importantly on what IT OUGHT TO BE.

    Dunlop is on the money when he says we have to get back to the ‘basics’.

  8. Matters Not

    Re the Role of Government.

    Should ‘democratic’ government mainly be about reflecting the ‘will of the people’? Even if that ‘will’ conflicts with other ‘principles’?

    Should government mainly be about upholding certain ‘principles’ such as ‘property rights’ and the like? Even if those ‘principles’ disadvantage a significant number?

    What are the limits of ‘democratic’ government? And who should decide those limits?


  9. Bacchus

    Perhaps we might have a thread on the ‘ROLE of GOVERNMENT’ – not only what it currently is but more importantly on what IT OUGHT TO BE.

    That sounds to me like someone volunteering to write a new thread 😉

  10. John921Fraser


    @Matters Not

    If a government was to reflect the "will of the people" then it would have to be populated by people with high ideals.
    That ship sailed about 20 years ago.
    It appears as though the more a politician wants the P.M ship the worse they are.
    Although Gillard (in my opinion) tried hard to steer away from "doing bad".

  11. Hotspringer

    @ John921
    Agree except I put the line at 40 years ago.

  12. Stephen Tardrew

    An example of US tough love and our complicity in it. Just buy more weapons fr failure.

    Don’t Walk Away From War

  13. Kaye Lee

    I wrote an article about the role of government last year. From where I sit, this government is abrogating all its responsibilities.

  14. Kaye Lee

    ““The government of a democracy is accountable to the people. It must fulfil its end of the social contract. And, in a practical sense, government must be accountable because of the severe consequences that may result from its failure. As the outcomes of fighting unjust wars and inadequately responding to critical threats such as global warming illustrate, great power implies great responsibility.”

  15. Kaye Lee

    ““The central purpose of government in a democracy is to be the role model for, and protector of, equality and freedom and our associated human rights. For the first, government leaders are social servants, since through completing their specific responsibilities they serve society and the people. But above and beyond this they must set an ethical standard, for the people to emulate. For the second, the legal system and associated regulation are the basic means to such protection, along with the institutions of the military, for defense against foreign threats, and the police.”

    “Government economic responsibility is also linked to protection from the negative consequences of free markets. The government must defend us against unscrupulous merchants and employers, and the extreme class structure that results from their exploitation.

    Governments argue that people need to be assisted with the economic competition that now dominates the world. But the real intent of this position is to justify helping corporate interests . . . siding against local workers, consumers and the environment.”

  16. Kaye Lee

    “Another general role, related to the need for efficiency, is the organization of large-scale projects. It is for this benefit that we accept government involvement in the construction of society’s infrastructure, including roads, posts and telecommunications, and water, sewage and energy utilities. Further, giving government charge over these utilities guarantees that they remain in public hands, and solely dedicated to the common good. If such services are privatized, the owners have a selfish motivation, which could negatively affect the quality of the services.

    That such assets should have public ownership is expressed in the idea of the “commons.” They should be owned by and shared between the members of the current population, and preserved for future generations.”

    “Indeed, while we of course still need a means of defense, including against both external and internal (criminal) aggressors, it seems clear that our greatest need for protection is from other institutions and from the abuses of government itself, particularly its collusion with these other institutions. (Many of the needs that we now have for government are actually to solve the problems that it creates.)”

  17. Anomander

    Each time I go into the centre of the city and look at the massive investment in the underground rail network made in the late 19th century I’m blown away by the vision of our forefathers. In today’s terms, that railway would have been a multi-billion dollar investment based on a decision to provide services and amenities that future generations could use and enjoy.

    Or whenever I drive along a distant country road, out in the middle of nowhere, I thank the generations of visionary people who came before me for the willingness to invest in building millions of kilometres of serviceable roads that criss-cross our country and allow us to get places quickly, safely and conveniently.

    The millions of kilometres of train lines that enabled quick transport of people and goods – before petrol because too cheap and road transport killed off the rail. The telegraph the phones, the water and sewerage, electricity – truly massive pieces of infrastructure that cost those generations dearly, but never once did they baulk or shirk their commitment to the future and to future generations.

    All these projects built at a time when people didn’t constantly run cost-benefit analyses of every project, when people just dug-deep and built things because they were needed. We had the money, or we borrowed to do it and paid back the interest, never once questioning the cost – we needed the infrastructure, we created the employment and developed the skills, and we simply did it.

    No longer. Everything nowadays comes with layers and layers of analyses, cost benefits, and mostly with a toll attached. We must force the users to pay because we can’t impose the cost onto people who will never use it, or we need to be able to derive a profit from the infrastructure – or better still (in some addled minds), a private company can profit from it.

    At these times, I often wonder how different our nation would now be if we didn’t have those generations of selfless people, but instead had ruthless scumbags like the Abbott and Hockey who want only a profit driven economy – a user-pays society, devoid of public good and amenity.

    This is the path Hockey and his neoliberal mates want for us – a future where our collective good and social contract is foregone. A selfish future where everyone only thinks in terms of; “Why should I have to pay for anyone else”.

    Disturbing and something we need to fight against with all our might.

  18. Winifred Jeavons

    I have started a current affairs discussion group in our little country town, with other concerned retirees. We considered the paradigms that influence our attitudes next month plan to consider “role of governments” as the current one has more badly lost its way than we’ve seen in a long time. The urge to war looks like being on the agenda now.

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