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People ‘cost too much’: the Abbott Government and Neoliberalism

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Where will our Conservative government take this country, if allowed to do so? Dr Strobe Driver turns to America for an insight – and possibly the answer.

What to do, what to do . . .

The current non-acceptance of the 2014 Budget by the Australian population—which in turn has been reinforced by the majority of state government premiers—does not bode well for the future of the Coalition as a unified force in politics. Perhaps what is worse for the Abbott Government is it comes on the back of the debacle by Attorney-General Brandis and the proposed changes to racial vilification laws. The seeding of dissent in a party is usually political death as the Australian population witnessed under the Rudd-Gillard years, and Brandis’s byproxy non-acceptance that Australia in now a multicultural country, (some of whom these ‘other’ cultures live in the seats of Liberal Party members) may be a bitter political truth for many a person wanting the ‘good old days’ of ‘Anglo-only’ Imperialism back. Nevertheless, wanting those days back does not reshape the reality that multiculturalism is here to stay. Moreover, the same blithe attitude that was exhibited to those objecting to the changing of the law, now appears to be exhibited towards those that expect honesty from their politicians with equally dismissive statements. The treatment of dismissing people out of hand in terms of delivering a ‘this is what you get, take it or leave it’ attitude smacks of a ‘born-to-rule’ attitude, one which has as its undertone that ‘we’ (the Conservatives) will not be questioned by those that know less. This is a dangerous though not unexpected path for Abbott’s Conservatives to do down. A broader perspective than the decisions of the 2014 Budget need to be addressed in order to find out how this attitude has become manifest.

Free education and healthcare are the cornerstones of Western liberal-democracies, at least those that follow the Western European style of democracy (a style of democracy that the United States of America willfully abandoned many years ago), and it was essentially borne out of many historical precepts. For the purpose of this article however, two instances to articulate where welfare ‘came from’ are the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent demands from the population—this is where unionism also sprang from—to be cared for so they could work for the industrialists; and the wage-earning individual could pay taxes which equaled mutual prosperity. The aftermath of the horrors of the Second World War also placed demands on Western liberal-democratic governments as those returning home insisted the State—which they had sacrificed so much for—help re-join their shattered lives. From this there was a maturity of populations, as populaces realised that the State in fact had demanded (and continued to demand) so much from them in terms of taxes, labour, loyalty, citizenship and even death in defence of the system (through the wholesale drafting of the population in world wars), is to mention only a few demands the State placed on its citizenry. We can now turn to what has happened to America and the way in which it has gone on to influence the world and in doing so influenced Australian politics, in particular the Liberal Party in Australia. Whilst the US has in general a shocking and despicable system of healthcare, one which can only be held up and praised by the most wealthy and hardened industrial capitalists and/or people whose judgement is deeply affected by lobby groups, as the poor are simply disregarded. A cursory Google search of Wisconsin’s history of medical care toward there citizenry is a shocking read to anyone wanting to be informed about adequate healthcare for the poor, particularly under the current governor. America, however, does have free education for some as it does healthcare: those that have served in the military. The benefits one gets during and after service are life-long and generous and what’s more this has the offshoot of building an ongoing military–never having a shortage of recruits. Starving the general population of generous benefits and giving them to the military will always draw in a stream of new recruits as it is seamlessly coupled to an assumption that a posting to a war zone is unlikely; and if that happens the war is eminently survivable. Of course there are other ways of ensuring a vibrant military and having a well-cared for population (examples being Switzerland and Finland) however, this is not the neo-liberal way.

Back to the point of free education and excellent healthcare, Prime Minister Abbott seems to not understand that after WWII those that fought demanded a high standard of free healthcare, not dissimilar to what he expressed would happen under a Coalition Government prior to the last election. And there is the other issue of those baby-boomers that were the children of those who fought and died for their country, they too were inculcated by their (sometimes widowed) parents about what to expect from the government in terms of benefits and moreover, the State should do the ‘heavy lifting’ on their part. More to the point the baby-boomers have grandchildren now and this is perhaps the point which seems to be fundamentally lost on a Conservative and intellectually stultified Front Bench. Telling a baby-boomer (even if he/she was faithful enough to vote for the Coalition in the first place) that their grandchildren will not be able to see a doctor for free is, and will be, a very dangerous political move. However dangerous it is, it is shaping up to be trumped by Abbott’s commitment to the US-style neo-liberal system. Including but not restricted to the cutting of all welfare; a disdain for those that cannot work; the Howard-style belief that private enterprise is able to deliver and care for the public much more efficiently than a dedicated public service; and the commitment to create a two-tier Australia along the lines of the American model. An assured outcome is that of having a working-poor that underpin the wealth of the elite. How does this work? One need not look far to see the system which the Abbott Government wants in action with regard to how a two-tier Australia will ‘work.’ Whilst this is moving away from healthcare it nevertheless offers evidence. A good example of the two-tier system is that of Walmart employees in the US having to have their wages topped-up (read: a welfare payment from the government to move their wage into the category of a ‘living’ one), and this is due to their minimum wage being so pitifully low that although they work five-plus days a week, their wage remains so abjectly moribund that the government has to contribute to their well-being through a top-up—the two-tier system in action. The advantage, however, for companies who use this model is that they are able to claim that people have a job and therefore ‘dignity’; and a ‘better’ place in society. Regardless of the disdain a company such as Walmart shows to their workers and of the executive being resentful about paying any sort of respectable wage—as has been the case shown in recent times by some mining entrepreneurs and other industrialists in Australia—the true ‘worth’ for companies in having employees is the political leverage they obtain; and the power that it brings. Threats of a future offshore location of a business is enough for governments to be panicked—especially Conservatives—into adopting the ‘too-high minimum wage’ mantra. The truth of having a minimum wage so low, as per the American model, is that it in turn needs to be topped-up by government (read: taxpayer) funds. A further insight this offers is it displays the near-absolute contempt a company such as Walmart has for not just their own employees but all American taxpayers–further highlighting their slavish dedication to the Industrial Capitalist system. One could also go on to question where the morality is in taking money from other taxpayers in order to sustain a billion-dollar company’s network of employees, but that is beyond the remit of this article and has been exposed in the aforementioned. The American model comes into stark relief as the Conservative Abbott Government begins to push harder and harder on welfare recipients and works toward bringing in a neo-liberal agenda. What is also of interest here, however, is what if Australians reject the Liberal Party’s neo-liberal agenda; and in doing so see the American model for what it truly represents? What to do, what to do?

Assuming the Abbott Government keeps taking negative hits from their neo-liberal policy, not unlike those that led to the systemic decline and then decimation at the polls for the Thatcher Government in Britain during the very beginning of the 1990s—the Poll Tax being the ‘bridge too far’ to save the Tories, the Abbott Government too will be faced, if the polls continue on a downward trend, with the dilemma of either replacing or politically resuscitating their leader. Of course, they will not be able to depose Abbott due to the ramifications it would have in the political sphere of their unrelenting criticism of Labor; and the unseating of an elected member of parliament, and leader of the country. Therefore, resuscitation will be their only real answer. The other problem for the government will be the Coalition as a political entity will be faced with what it represents to the public: the domain of aging, elitist, out-of-touch (mostly) white males. A point one could argue that was symbolically driven home by the punitive treatment of under-30s in the election. High profile senators—and a possible leader of the future amongst them—Abetz, Andrews, Hockey, Truss, Dutton, Robb, Pyne, Brandis, will be pushed to do something as Abbott’s credibility declines and this will bring about an inconvenient realisation which will need to be considered: the under-30s are the grandchildren of the baby-boomers. Thus, giving credence to the argument that the Coalition-the Thatcherism-aspects of simply not understand inter-connectivity elements within society. Thatcherism reigns supreme. The Coalition’s belief in the neo-liberal mantra that Thatcher instilled (or at least attempted to) that ‘there is no such thing as society, only individuals’ ultimately means they do not understand, or deliberately ignore that there is an inter-reliance within society and this attitude is rusted-on. Within this paradigm fail the Conservative Abbott government also fails to understand that grandparents’ actually love their grandchildren and are committed to what’s best for them. Neoliberalism has blinded the Abbott government to their Western European-societal roots, in which it is the actual duty of the State to care for its citizens. Once again what to do, what to do? The Coalition has two choices, to ride out the punitive measures of the Budget and hope that the Australian people—come the next election—will forgive them for their dalliance into the Americanisation of Australian society, or they will continue to push hard and eventually tell the Australian people it’s time they gave up on Western European societal norms because they ‘cost too much’. If the ‘costs too much’ scenario is successfully implemented and the shift toward the individualistic Americanisation of Australian society is successful, there will be no turning back.

To be sure, the ethics and morality of how a person and/or people have come to ‘cost too much’ is far beyond the template of this essay, suffice to say that Abbott who is highly-educated in theology should be at the forefront when it comes to care and wellbeing of the Australian people. Notwithstanding, convincing pensioners however, who will be in need of the most care that they should fend for themselves and that hospitals, (of which most are an arm of the State), will be reticent for them to attend their emergency wards because they’ll be too crowded by people using them as substitute for their General Practitioner will be a game-changer for pensioners. Yet again, this offers the premise that the Coalition is addicted to the neoliberal ‘American model’ of society utterly and completely. This said however, one does need to ask how a Front Bench which has such an array of deeply-religious God-fearing people on it could possibly resort to such Dickensian treatment of the poor and underprivileged. It must be that they do believe and it is present in their rhetoric, that they know best and that they have the highest moral/ethical values but in turn have a low application of these principles when delivery of care to their populace is required. Everything about health (and education) is ‘too costly’ even if the Federal government is the eventual beneficiary of an intellectually robust and healthy nation.

Should the American (insurance-industry driven) model is embraced it will mean a two-tier health system which will eventually exclude the poor, low-class and the elderly, and if the new education principles are adopted it will also be a two-tiered system. Eventually being only for the ‘deserving’ (read: wealthy) people, essentially those that have a lesser chance of going to prison. This amounts to both education and health being reserved for privileged, upper-middle class (mostly) white people. There is a distinct correlation to the Abbott Front Bench and inter-connectivity in this scenario too.

This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit and has been reproduced with permission.


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  1. DanDark

    They are extremist, a bunch of men, who inflict their ideologies on the masses
    No different to Osama Bin Laden, and his crew

  2. diannaart

    Dontcha just love it when a pollie adds a new word to his lexicon, such as Hockey using “sustainable” as in; education for all not sustainable; health services for all not sustainable and so on.

    A shame he cannot apply this word to the bigger picture of management of that which sustains us all – yep, the environment.

    Hockey Cigar smoking dickhead one day….. no change the next.

  3. Neil

    Sustainable is a good word… when used as follows. The neo-Liberal budget is politically unsustainable.

  4. Richard Leggatt.

    I agree with the sentiments expressed here, but the use of the word “free” to categorize education, health, or welfare is wrong. It is “publicly funded” and the debate is really about those things that we consider important enough to publically fund, and to what extent we fund them. My view is, that as a rich country we should be funding these things, and funding them well, because, surely, if “trickle down” economics works, these are the things it should pay for. If the Libs really believe in “trickle down” where do they think the money should flow? Their position actually makes no sense!

  5. halsaul

    Good points made by Richard Leggatt – basically my position (so it must be right 🙂 )

  6. H. B.

    well the Abbottites seem to think that the non wealthy of Australia should be treated like the poor in Thailand and SEAsia. May I remind them of the recent military take over in Thailand?

  7. The Doc

    Asking how god-fearing me could let this Dickensian budget go ahead is an interesting question. Dickens highlighted the hypocrisy of the men of God who used the poor and threw them out onto the streets to be buried in unmarked paupers graves – no problems, always another poor brat to take their place. Basic learning was enough for the Victorian era, a tiny payment for servants and services, and a casual lack of knowledge about where the staff lived when they left the place of employment each night after a 12 hour day. This was Victorian England, and Victorian Australia too. Dickens was the socialist – who through his writings – eagerly awaited in the weekly paper he published – he was able to help bring awareness of the plight of the poor in England. The outpourings of grief when his Little Nell died in The Old Curiosity Shop were from middle and upper class society. Forget about watching a movie or serialisation of Dickens on DVD, go back to the books and read just how badly the poor lived and then rethink the phrase how can god fearing men or men of religion let this happen in 2014? They can because they are the ragged tatters of Victorian thinking.

  8. lawrencewinder

    They have the power and they don’t care…Got it? There is only one way to stop them and it’s not by talking to them.

  9. DanDark

    That’s why I love AIMN
    My grandfather who came to Aussie when he was 17 yrs
    Encouraged by his family as England was a country going no where for young people
    He was sponsored to come over by gov, in 1929 under new migration act
    A family tree done a few years back now, revealed, a fore father was a policeman
    Who was also a body guard to Dickens, when he was out in public, book signing etc
    As the streets were very dangerous places to be for everyone, not much has changed in UK either

    But reading this link,
    The way they have treated asylum seekers really adds up
    They are trying to recreate Aussies history
    My grandfather is rolling in his grave at the extent of these draconian LNP policies
    He was a through and through labor voter, hard working builder/who helped build this country

    He lived through the nazi years, and it’s something folk never forgot
    We are a multicultural country, the gov had strings on all immigration, since federation
    not the immigrants, they choose to persecute,
    when it suits their political/ ideologies agenda

    During the 1920s, there were new immigration agreements between state and Commonwealth governments within Australia, between the British and Australian governments, and between government and non-government organisations. The Commonwealth took over the role of recruitment of immigrants receiving requisitions from state governments, private employers and community organisations. It also took responsibility for the medical examination of immigrants, a change initiated in 1912 and continued after the war. The Joint Commonwealth and States Scheme of 1921 and the Empire Settlement Act 1922 were landmarks in the history of Australian immigration. The £34 million agreement of 1925, and the setting up of the Development and Migration Commission the following year, were also particularly significant. Approximately 221 000 new settlers received passage assistance to Australia between 1921 and 1929, the majority going to New South Wales and Victoria, and a considerable number to Western Australia. Another 100 000 arrived under their own auspices.

  10. RobFitz

    This all makes sense of operation sovereign borders, it’s not about our geographic place in the world, it’s about the idealogical state of neo-liberalism. It shuts the poor out and by greed makes people aspire to belong. It divides people and Australians now know how the asylum seekers feel. It’s odd though how the boats have stopped coming since the Hockey/Abbott budget ……who would want to come here? And I am not sure that I like being here that much anymore. And may I add that it must be time for Tony Abbott to rethink climate change as being being a man made feature. He single handedly managed to change our national climate from one of the fanciful fair go to a climate of fear and loathing.

  11. strobedriver

    Great comments, excellent to read and have taken your opinions/thoughts into my politically-fuelled head, and am mulling them over as we (electronically) speak. Thankyou again.

  12. crj4

    My father was seriously wounded in WW2 after being conscripted. He was traumatised but would never talk about it. He would have been horrified at this budget. I worry for my grand children.

  13. Florence nee Fedup

    They know the cost of all, the value of none.

    Cannot distinguished between debt and investment.,

    Cannot comprehend that all actions have a reaction. That one can have unforseen consequences.

    They have no humility, or no respect of humanity.

    They are doomed for failure

  14. Florence nee Fedup

    See Abbott is talking abut tough love once again.

  15. Florence nee Fedup

    Hockey using Tea party tactics when it come to who pays tax. During the Obama campaign, they claimed only a small number paid taxes. Inferred that those so called taxpayers had to support the rest. Only problem was, they were talking about Federal taxes. All paid state tax, which are not insubstantial.

    Hockey was only talking about income tax last night. We all know aver the last couple of decades, there has been a move away from income tax, to other taxes such as GST. All paid that. NOt really a honest argument on Hockey’s part.

    Also I am a little sick of hearing that the taxes paid by income and business all goes to support welfare recipients.

    One would think, that these taxpayers, high income and business received nothing back for their taxes. That it all went to the lazy slobs on the bottom of the pile.

    Can anyone recall what Abbott called Obama when he first became President. I can, and it was not complimentary. Now Abbott is saying he wants him as a bested friend that he is a amazing President.

    Also be aware of the schools Abbott is in love with. They are run by industry, to provide labour for their industry. Not schools in the true sense. MacDonald’s could set one up.

    Not even in the same mould of the technical high schools of the past, where children of low income earners whee streamed off into trade courses, denying them the chance of entering university., Their fate was set, when they left primary. For girls, it was domestic or secretarial courses.

  16. Florence nee Fedup

    This trip of Abbott’s seems to be arranged at the last moment. The surf board makers where given seven days for the surf board. I noticed that Abbott managed to get himself into the surf yesterday.

  17. Florence nee Fedup

    The big number of the taxpayers that Hockey is so concerned about, were educated by the state, Receive health care over their lives, The majority will go on to be pensioners themselves.. Some might even find themselves out of work, or disabled, Can happen to all.

  18. Florence nee Fedup

    I believe Shorten is giving a similar speech this morning

  19. Florence nee Fedup

    What Hockey cannot deny, is the fact that there has been a transfer of the pie from Labour to capital. Yes, the boss gets a larger share of the pie. Also, under Howard, and otters,, tax cuts have always benefitted the upper income earner. It was only under Rudd and Gillard, that full pensioners and other low income earners got some relief.

    Hockey is reverting back to the path Howard was going down.

    Yes, the user pay concept, that cost those on low incomes more. Tax breaks that benefited those on higher incomes.

    Wage growth has been sluggish for years.

  20. John921Fraser


    Hockey has been sweating bricks since he threw his Budget at the Australian population.

    And Labor is letting him off the hook ….. he made for himself.

  21. Florence nee Fedup

    One needs to keep in mind, Abbott’s latest claim that raising the petrol levy will held cut carbon emissions., Would love to know how., Punishing the motorists and little people once again, letting the big polluters off he hook.

    We no longer have an automobile industry that they government could put pressure on, to produce cleaner cars, even be leaders in none fossil fuel cars.

    People will still have to buy petrol and drive their cars.

    They have released no modelling for DA, only that some 2.5 billion will be spent.;

    No idea what on, except planting soma trees. A Green Army that is more like working for the dole, than cleaning up carbon emissions. In the mean time, they have cut back, or dismantled most scientific endeavours and community based schemes, that arte now doing the same job. Schemes that have proven their worth over time.

    Do we really want to see the CEF suite of bills repealed,. Yes, a price is put on the largest polluters, mostly power generators. Now, they have a choice, if they do not want to pay that price on an ongoing basic, Yes, they can clean their act up, or move to renewals, in place of fossil fuel., The science is there and is proven.

    The money raised from the price of carbon goes towards industry moving away from reliance on electricity, generated by fossil fuels, to state of the art trichology, that does not rely on the coal generated power. Some have cut this reliance to zero, What’s more, they will be saving well into the foreseeable future, and maybe beyond.

    Yes, the transfer to renewals can be expensive. The ongoing costs are minimal

    Please have a look at these six or more pieces of legislation Abbott wants to repeal. Only one is about raising money, The other distribute that money to allow and assist industry and the community to move on to less carbon emissions. .

    It is not the toxic tax that Abbott claims. Never has been.

  22. Steven Paschetto

    Thanks, a brilliant article. Reminds me of the same impact that Marney Hollborrow’s paper had on me. (Neoliberalism and its impact on managerialism in Higher Education contexts.) Published a few years back now.

  23. strobedriver

    great comments especially about the Tea Party comparison THankyou all

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