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Our children still going hungry in Australia

So, as we all party at the removal of our very own theocratic government, what has the last month ushered in?

Lots of lovely symbolic gestures, lots of baby steps to restoring Australia’s reputation as a great place to live, a great place to bring up children.

Over a hundred years ago, in 1915, British Army officers were impressed when they saw the Australian troops disembark. They were taller and heavier than their home-grown ‘brothers in arms’, and many were proficient with weapons and even horses. They looked healthy and confident, and many proved themselves in the dark days which followed.

How would our current crop of children look if they were unloaded on a British dock today?

Not that great, I reckon. If last year, before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began to affect the price of everything, the United Nations estimated that 16% of Australian children under the age of 15 lived with an adult who was food insecure in 2017. (The Conversation, July 9, 2021).

One would automatically assume that, no matter the good intentions of that caring adult mentioned above, children were going hungry. That is around one in every six children, going to bed hungry, or not sure if there will be any breakfast.

All such figures are revolting. There is no shortage of them. Governments have been papering the walls with such reports for decades, and stupid, populist politicians continue to pander to those in Australia who still think that poverty is the fault of the poor. How much suffering will assuage the righteous anger of the middle classes towards the unemployed, or even more disturbingly, those unable to work?

It is impossible these days to calculate how many more are struggling today. Prices go up daily, rents are ridiculous, MPs collect their indexed pay rises, and middle class families struggle to pay fresh food prices.

There is no way that reports which show children going hungry in Australia is ever, in any universe, or under any government, acceptable. We know how to fix this problem. Give the poor a pay-rise.

No-one in Australia knows how Morrison and Frydenberg stumbled on the solution, but stumble on it they did. In some totally random way those arch monetarists took a leaf out of Keynes’ playbook, and doubled welfare payments.

I strongly suspect they regretted the move, but it served the purpose of stimulating the economy, and if a few hundred thousand were benefitted, so be it. Something like the need to break eggs to make omelettes.

For the first time in years, people on welfare were able to have food on the table, and to pay their bills. No impossible choices: They could eat, and maintain a shred of dignity.

For health reasons even many of the visible homeless were housed. Who would have guessed that, in the midst of an overwhelming pandemic, Australia would do something for its neediest? We accidentally became Finland, and then we woke up?

Of course the ‘honeymoon’ was destined to end. The neo-liberal gene asserted itself, and these measures were stopped. No transition, no stepping down of benefits. Lots of talk about things not being free forever, and the old “pay your own way” crap.

Disappointing, but not surprising. Frydenberg, who believes in ‘trickle-down economics’, decided to do a little experiment. If he gave billions of dollars to undeserving corporate hacks, would any of it trickle down to the poor and needy?

Well, no. His experiment was a failure. All the big corporates, and the private colleges, the fossil fuel parasites, all continued to rack up profits, and the children went back to going to bed hungry, or wondering if the electricity would be cut off tomorrow. If you happened to be black, and living in your ancestral lands, you might even have the spectre of being jailed, from the age of ten.

So when we have people of the calibre of Peter Dutton talking about protecting women and children from sexual violence, what about protecting them from something as immediate, and as dangerous-hunger and homelessness. The solution is obvious.

This country is drowning in its own callous narcissism and ignorance. It deludes itself, and has the effrontery to decry any criticism directed at it. From a nation which made its own democracy and institutions into something admirable, we have sunk down the ranks in everything worth measuring.

Inequality is everywhere you look. There is no difference in whether a Liberal or a Labor minister looks out upon the land, and spies hunger, homelessness, meaningless ‘gig economy’ jobs, tax rorts for the rich, public schools being robbed to pay the private colleges subsidies. The list is long, and time is of the essence.

I can live with the sceptre of Geelong Grammar getting another computer lab, or another perfectly manicured cricket oval, but I draw the line on starving my fellows, and their children in this, one of the wealthiest countries on earth.

Care of your vulnerable is conservatism as it should be. Preserve what you have, and improve it. Do not create whole classes of land developers and spivs, think tank ‘scholars’ and rentiers, who spend more on reducing their taxes than they actually pay, in taxes.

There is something rotten if both sides of politics don’t get equality, but something especially rank if the Labor Party ducks its core responsibilities. Pick them up, and the celebrations might resume.

 

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9 comments

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  1. mark Buckley

    The new government is acting on the international stage admirably. It seems it is doing an ‘apology tour’ of the world, re-assuring all the leaders that ‘good Australia’ is back. The problem remains that the people, who have borne the excesses of a kleptocratic gang for close to ten years are exhausted, and hurting.
    It is past time to forget the racists who seem to dominate policy on matters like immigration and refugees, and the “I’m alright, Jack” crew who are doing very nicely thank you, and do something for the people who have supported Labor forever, and often through no fault of their own, are now in need of urgent help. Lismore residents, the bushfire survivors still living in tents, those thrown out of work to accommodate the labour hire donors to the LNP; the list is long, and the fuse gets shorter. You need to act now. When you change the government you should change the country – this year!

  2. Terence Mills

    There is a significant possibility that the Albanese government will scrap the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), sack all the Liberal party lodgers and start again from scratch.

    For too long the Liberals used the AAT as a sinecure for their mates, staffers and failed candidates who no sooner were they voted out of office than they popped up on the AAT – Sophie Mirabella is a case in point on a salary in the $387,000 to $470,000 bracket.

    Go for it Albo, the system is broken !

  3. Mark Buckley

    I couldn’t agree more. But I think feeding the poor is paramount. I don’t know where you live, Terence, but I live in a country town where some of my neighbours are going to the foodbank. We just gifted a guy a doona, because he is living in a tent, and he is freezing, every night. The cities are doing it tough, but the bush is doing it like the Great Depression. I am amazed the streets are not awash with blood. Anyway, the last weeks have really tightened the screws on those on welfare. And if you don’t own a house, you are in a double bind. We all need to lend a hand.

  4. Terence Mills

    Mark

    I too live in a regional area and have recently, for the first time ever, encountered people in the local area living in their cars as rents here have spiralled beyond the reach of many.

    AirBnB have a lot to answer for as they together with investors benefiting from low interest rates, negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions have pushed housing prices and home ownership beyond the reach of the average working people.

    And we are told that it is those on minimum wages who are fuelling inflation – gets me so mad !

  5. GL

    Jughead Porkalaro has stepped down from the job for the boy that he set up for Jughead Porkalaro months ago.

  6. B Sullivan

    “There is something rotten if both sides of politics don’t get equality,”

    Both sides of politics???

    Politics extend beyond the narrow party interests of Labor and the Coalition. The frequently used and much favoured media phrase “both sides of politics” may be uttered without any conscious intent, but it is still Orwellean Newspeak that serves to confine and stifle political expression and dissent to limits acceptable to the ruling class.

    Both sides is understood to mean there are just two sides and that is all. No one ever says both except when referring to just two things and no more. So, if both sides of politics are on the same side, then no consideration of an alternative is required. Both sides are in agreement. There is no other side to disagree. Both is all, so move along, there is nothing more to think about here.

    Do all sides of politics not get ‘equality’?

    There is something rotten about both Labor’s and the Coalition’s politics because neither get ‘equality’. There is also something rotten in the notion that there is no alternative to the politics of Labor or the Coalition. That notion is conveyed every time the phrase “both sides of politics” is used in Australia to describe the two-party state duopoly that determines how we should live our lives.

  7. Mark Buckley

    Both sides of politics???
    If politics is the art of the possible, then “both sides of politics” is a broad brush term which suggests left (progressive) or right (conservative); if you are neither you have effectively dealt yourself out of the game. The other option is to be hopelessly local (irrelevant).
    Someone has to be on the government benches, and if you want to influence Australian politics, at this moment, you need to be aligned with one or the other. Otherwise you are (again) irrelevant.
    For our current purposes, I think “both sides” pretty well covers all the available options. Should we continue to elect ‘unaligned’ independents, and in meaningful numbers, we might reach the position of having a broad range of possible coalitions available, and willing, to deal with the big parties, and to form governments.
    It is still an imprecise description, but I think it captures the tribal aspects of our democracy.

  8. Arnd

    Care of your vulnerable is conservatism as it should be.

    “What should be”, and “What is”, are two different things. Have been for a long time.

    Besides, those who are routinely passed off as “conservatives” are more often than not out-and-out reactionaries.

    Not sure about the “Teals” passing themselves off as “socially (and environmentally) progressive, but economically conservative”. How’s that supposed to work? Privatise the profits of renewable energy, and socialise the costs? That’s how economics and commerce generally have been arranged since the rise of neo-liberalism over four decades ago. And despite vigorous assertions to the contrary, that sort of thing tends to lift the big boats, and sink the little ones.

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