Scott Morrison et al keep telling us that we need a strong economy to make our lives better but this fixation on growth and profit at all costs is doing a great deal of harm to the vast majority who do not occupy the airy heights of the 1 per centers.
Last year 3128 people killed themselves in this country. Three quarters of them were men.
Much as we talk about the need for greater investment in mental health, and rightly so, around 80 per cent of male suicides are not linked to any mental health diagnosis.
Glen Poole, Development Officer at the Australian Men’s Health Forum and founder of the Stop Male Suicide project, said “Most men who end up taking their lives are dealing with life crises, not necessarily dealing with mental health issues that require a conversation about their feelings.”
“Relationship breakdown, work issues — whether that’s stress at work or the stress of not having work — financial stress, for older men physical health issues, and other things such as bereavement, alcohol abuse, trouble with the law.”
Tim Costello, as spokesman for the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said that gambling stress pushes more than 400 Australians to suicide each year, a figure that has been given credence by Australia’s Productivity Commission.
Australia has a staggering 20% of the world’s poker machines. According to figures released by the Queensland government in December last year, punters frittered away almost $24bn in a year. More than half was lost on poker machines at pubs and clubs.
Australians spend on average about A$1,300 per capita a year on gambling making us by far the world’s most profligate gamblers. The next highest is around A$600 in Singapore.
Yet one of the Coalition’s first acts on gaining power in 2013 was to repeal the meagre gains the Gillard government had made on gambling reform in response to pressure from Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenephon.
“The Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 proposes that a raft of provisions from the Act be repealed. These include all provisions relating to precommitment systems, including abolishing requirements on manufacturers and venues to ensure EGMs are precommitment enabled; repealing provisions limiting ATM withdrawals; repealing provisions requiring dynamic warning messages to players be displayed; abolishing the proposed gambling Regulator, and the levies which were to support its functions; and removing references to a proposed trial of precommitment in the ACT and its proposed evaluation and related amendments.”
In March last year, the Senate Select Committee on Red Tape produced an interim report on the effect of red tape on the sale, supply and taxation of alcohol.
“that the Australian Government and COAG support the sale and supply of alcohol through consideration and implementation of evidence-based policies that aim to reduce red tape and promote job creation, and business growth and investment, including:
- streamlining and simplification of liquor licencing systems to reduce the number and types of licences/permits to a minimum viable level;
- allowing packaged alcohol to be sold in convenience stores, petrol stations and supermarkets;
- abolishing restrictions on trading hours for liquor stores;
- shifting resources toward targeted enforcement of existing regulation, rather than a blanket approach of increased regulation for all licensees;
- developing liquor licensing fees based on empirical assessments of risk, rather than social perceptions of risk.”
We are continually told that increasing profits for business will make the economy stronger and we will all benefit from that. The reality is starkly different.
Despite steady economic growth in Australia, homelessness increased by 14% between the 2011 and 2016 censuses, with 116,427 people now thought to have no permanent home. More than 43,500 homeless people are under 25. People aged between 65 and 74 experiencing homelessness increased to 27 people per 10,000 people in 2016, up from 25 per 10,000 people in 2011. While 2.8% of Australians are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the latest data shows they comprise 20% of the homeless.
Guy Johnson, a professor of urban housing and homelessness at RMIT University, said rising housing costs combined with a decline in public and community housing were exacerbating homelessness among the chronically disadvantaged.
But we mustn’t do anything to upset the property developers and investors.
Despite the government’s laser-like focus on reducing power bills, we insist on increasing our gas exports to such a degree that we have a domestic shortage. We happily subsidise fossil fuels to the tune of billions each year and pretend that our coal exports are helping the starving masses rather than the coal barons. The exploitation of our resources has made a few people wealthy beyond measure as the planet continues to warm.
While some farmers desperately try to manage climate change through adaptation, others are clearing land, stealing water, and using environmentally damaging fertilisers and pesticides to try to remain viable.
Meanwhile, the Great Barrier Reef is dying.
To pander to employer lobby groups, we have reduced penalty rates and moved many people into the insecure employment of casual and contract work, winding back hard-won workplace entitlements. We have increased university fees so our young people start life with a large debt. Welfare payments have not seen a real increase in decades despite our continued growth. Aged care is in crisis. Fees for it and child care are prohibitive.
It’s great the economy is strong. But society is suffering from a cancer fed by those who put profit before people and the environment.