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Tag Archives: ideology

Abbott uses society’s vulnerable as means to an ideological end

Can anybody make any sense out of what this government doing? asks Jennifer Wilson.

It seems to me that it’s a core conservative tradition to use the most vulnerable people in society as a means to an ideological end. There are endless current examples of this: threats to pensions, restricted access to Newstart for unemployed youth, destruction of universal healthcare, proposed reduction of the minimum wage and a cap on that wage for the next ten years, all part of the Commission of Audit’s recommendations to the Abbott government prior to its first budget in a couple of weeks.

None of these measures will affect anyone as disastrously as they will affect the poor, and while middle class journalists on a good wage, some of whom are Abbott’s most vocal supporters, scream like stuck pigs about the flagged “debt levy” on incomes over $80,000, nobody much is pointing out the ideologically-based, systematic crippling of the lives of those who struggle hardest to keep poverty from their doors.

Conservatives seem to hold the ideological position that poverty is a moral failing, for which the individual is solely accountable, and if that individual has been incapable of taking care of her or himself and his or her family, they’ve no one to blame but themselves. If they do sink into a morass of underprivileged misery then they ought to be able to find ways to redeem themselves. If they don’t manage this feat, they obviously only deserve what little they get, and the conservative will do his or her best to take even that away.

This unexamined belief that the less financially fortunate are immoral and a drain on the prudent is, it seems, impossible to eradicate from the consciousness of the privileged and entitled, who lack any ability to comprehend context, and the myriad forces at work in society that affect the course of a life. This, coupled with the conservatives’ traditional love of a good clichéd stereotype, works to reinforce their sense of entitlement, and their contempt for anyone less blessed than are they.

The conservative disregard, some may even allege contempt, for those other than (lesser than) themselves, allows them to use rational agents as a means to an end, contradicting the Kantian position that to use others as a means, and not an end in themselves, is to flout the fundamental principle of morality. Perhaps this is nowhere as starkly obvious as in the current and previous governments’ treatment of asylum seekers. Both major political parties have, for many years now, used boat arrivals as a means to achieve political success, and not as rational agents deserving of consideration as ends in themselves. In this sense, the ALP finds itself on the same side as conservative politicians, something that should chill the heart of any ALP supporter.

There is no point in decrying the lack of humanity and compassion in conservative ideology. Both qualities are regarded as belonging to the bleeding hearts of the left, hindrances to freedom, obstacles to profit. So we find ourselves in the bizarre position of having a Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, Tim Wilson, who recently claimed that McDonalds has “human rights to own property” and that “spending” is an expression of free speech.

It’s a dangerous situation when a Commissioner for Human Rights equates the ability to spend with the right to freedom of any kind, including speech.

It makes no sense to take any measures that prevent or discourage people from taking care of their health, such as co-payments for doctor visits for example. This will increase the pressure on accident and emergency departments, already stretched beyond their means, and result in people becoming chronically ill, at much greater expense to the taxpayer.

It makes no sense to continue to spend billions of dollars incarcerating a few thousand asylum seekers, for example, when there are many less expensive options such as allowing refugees to live in, work, and contribute to the community.

It makes no sense to waste billions on a paid parental leave system when the money could be much better invested in increased child care for parents who want to work, but find it difficult to access adequate care for their offspring. Good child care is also an investment in our future: children can benefit enormously from early education and socialisation, a child care centre doesn’t simply “mind” them, it educates them.

However, none of the above is of any consequence to a political party driven by ideology. Humans are, to such a party, a means to an ideological end, not an end in themselves. Obviously, it is much easier to treat the less financially blessed as a means to an end, and if you already believe poverty and disadvantage to be indicators of lack of morality and worth, why would you care anyway?

You may not agree with Kant’s categorical imperative, but there is something very dark about the Abbott government’s willingness to impose harsh circumstances on those already doing without in this wealthy country. It is easy, Mr Abbott, to make life more difficult for those without the power to protest. It is more of a challenge to work towards an equitable society based not on ideology, but common sense, and respect for everyone’s humanity.

Note: It’s with my tongue firmly in my cheek that I use this conservative image of Jesus.

This article was first posted on Jennifer’s blog “No Place For Sheep” and reproduced with permission.

Image courtesy of politifake.org

Image courtesy of politifake.org

Winning the war

winning

Congratulations to Kevin Rudd and federal Labor. In all likelihood, they’ll be going into opposition after this weekend’s election, but it’s not for want of trying.

Despite a campaign that has seemingly lost its way on more than one occasion, despite overwhelming odds of conservative think-tanks and Murdoch press and mining and tobacco dollars, they’ve fought a valiant fight with momentary flashes of brilliance.

Alas, in vain: the brand is too tarnished with unwarranted claims of profligacy and waste, of mismanagement and administrative chaos; and with slightly warranted claims of internal ructions and destabilisation, of an overbearing influence of union heavyweights, and of bad-to-the-bone NSW Labor corruption. It looks as if Labor is bound to lose this battle, the battle for election 2013. Kevin ’13 will shortly be going quietly into that long night.

But amidst all of this comes the good news for the progressives, the thinkers and the nation-builders of Australia. Whilst losing the battle, it may be that Labor has won the war.

The Coalition has finally, less than 36 hours before the polls officially open (and well after tens of thousands of Australians have already voted via postal voting) provided its full costings for the term.

And, as Michael Pascoe puts it, “It’s not unreasonable to claim that the Coalition isn’t making any savings worth mentioning”. The document proves that Tony Abbott and the Coalition have been well and truly wedged by their own history and by Labor’s attack tactics. It’s a set of costings that show that, despite Labor’s rhetoric, they won’t be making huge cuts in health and in education.

Don’t misunderestimate the gravity of the situation. We will lose things of value to an incoming Coalition government. We will lose a belatedly world-competitive broadband infrastructure in the NBN – at least temporarily.

It will still be built, at greater expense and further down the track, but we will lose its benefits for half of a critical generation of youth. We will lose any pretense at respecting climate change and participating in global carbon markets until the world changes for good and not for the better.

We will also lose any claim to have a voice in global affairs – in climate change where we will have squandered what little respect we had, in refugee policy and international aid where we already languish and will fall further behind, and in international politics, when the Coalition ignore our growing voice on the world stage and in the UN and the Security Council.

But this will be an incoming Coalition government unlike any other, a government that knows without a doubt that its core beliefs and ideology are anathemas to the bulk of the Australian people. A government with little to offer to a growing youth demographic, and a great deal of appeal to a demographic that is growing older and dying.

This will be a government driven by the conflict between the hardline Liberals who want to see a return to Workchoices-by-any-other-name, who sincerely believe that this is a medicine ultimately good for Australia’s productivity and the whole community, even if not for individuals within it; and the pragmatists who understand that it is not policy that lost the election in 2007, it is not three-word-slogans and a lack of a convenient crisis, but the core beliefs of the party.

Without moderation, without a counter-influence, this ideology lost the Coalition an election before, and the 2013 election will be won only on the continued and strident claims that we will not go there again.

So the next term of government, should the Coalition prove successful, will see one of two possible outcomes. Down one road, the hardliners prevail, and Australia becomes a harder, darker, less welcoming place. Freedom of speech, workplace rights, multiculturalism and a fair go for all are eroded.

For a time, Australia will languish in a two-speed economy, where the industries of mining and resource-harvesting are booming and continue to ship most of their proceeds out of Australia and out of the lives of Australians.

And then there will be another election, and we will remember. Our voices must not be silent, down this road, as we remind the Australian people how they were misled, how they were lulled into a false sense of comfort at the new, cuddly Coalition; how they were lied to.

I may be falling to optimism here, but I would like to think that this would be a blow the Coalition would not quickly recover from. I hope and pray that Tony Abbott is a once-in-a-generation politician. Please, God.

Down the other road, the Coalition holds true to its new moderate path. It doesn’t cut profligately, it doesn’t open itself to criticisms of elitism or cronyism. Perhaps it is even approaching a good government, if not a great one; a stable hand on the tiller, if not a team of nation-builders. Down this road, the next election cannot be fought on such partisan grounds.

The budget that Labor recently set in place is alike to the budget soft-Hockey is now presenting. If the actual differences between Labor and the Coalition come down to actual policy – NBN vs NBN-lite, carbon tax vs Direct Action, gold-plated PPL vs base-level PPL with extra bonuses for those who need them – these are discussions worth having.

These are the kinds of discussions we needed to be having in 2013 and were not given by the mainstream media. These are the kinds of differences that lead to improvements in national policy, and genuinely progressive political parties on both sides of the fence. This is the road that leads to an actual contest of equals and an election based on merits, rather than on slogans and mistruths.

So in winning this election, I feel that the Coalition may find theirs to be a Pyrrhic victory.

I hope for a Labor victory; I pray for a Senate overflowing with Greens and independents. But whilst I hope for the best, I plan for the worst.

The feeling and the polls indicate that the battle for election 2013 is over. Not perhaps as resoundingly as it might have been; we may even find there are some surprises and Tony Abbott’s new government may not find everything smooth sailing in the next term.

But even if 2013 is a wipe-out for the progressive left in Australia, there is always the next war to be considered.

The next war commences on Sunday 8 September as we fight to hold an incoming Coalition government to its promises, highlight every breach of trust, and constantly remind the Australian people of the society they could have had for an extra six billion dollars and a little bit of faith. Bring on election 2016.