Thursday, June 5, 2014

Part 1. Discussion of the 2014 Coalition budget - a Christian perspective.

I've just read an outstanding article; it's long and well worth reading in its entirety. It appeared in Ethos and was written by an intelligent, articulate, well educated Christian man, Dr Brett Parris, who is concerned by the 2014 federal Coalition budget. He discusses a number of significant factors in detail.

Unfortunately mainstream public perception of Christian groups is deeply tarnished, and this hasn’t been helped by the government requiring schools to employ Christian chaplains in order to receive a particular funding package. In my opinion, Mr Pyne has also aggravated the situation with his comments to Christian School Leaders that "the Abbott government had a 'particular responsibility' to private education, that they 'don't have for state schooling'. This sets up an unpleasant 'if you're with us you'll get funding, if not you won't'.

For non-Christians the original article provides positive insight we rarely hear about in the main stream media, where if it isn’t a catchy slogan, a smirking comment about a Christian acting foolishly, or a priest behaving badly, it isn’t reported. And that’s a real shame because this article is worth reporting and discussing.

Dr Parris discusses five factors which make the budget a low point in Australia’s modern history and which he believes should “continue to spur Christian leaders into outspoken and courageous resistance.” 

The first factor  is the one many people including me have commented on - lying. “Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s and Treasurer Joe Hockey’s wholesale trashing of so many pre-election promises is breathtakingly cynical, surprising even a jaded electorate” 

When public trust in our elected representatives is eroded so badly and people feel betrayed, shocked at the blatant disregard for common courtesy and decency, and feel that they’re being treated with contempt, it’s going to be very hard to have an informed discussion about anything. Trust lost is hard to regain, although, sadly, having a trusting, well informed electorate doesn’t appear to be either valued, or high on the agenda of the Coalition.

The second factor is related to neoliberal economics. Dr Parris describes neoliberalism clearly and without fuss. Do you remember the story of the goose that laid golden eggs? Neoliberalism is to do with the fantasy that trickle down economics will provide golden eggs for everyone - it's a win/win situation!!! …but really, money only flows to the owner of the goose who doesn't want anyone else to benefit from his wealth.
"Neoliberalism is obsessed with small government as a matter of principle without understanding the important role that public investment and good governance plays in sustainable prosperity." My italics
He then reminds us that a healthy, well functioning society is supported by a variety of public investments. The myth of the self made man conveniently ignores the important underlying role which public infrastructure plays. He couldn't have "made it" without access to the infrastructure which government borrowing and our collective taxes paid for. 

In my goose analogy, the golden goose is tended by a variety of skilled workers including vets, researchers into diseases such as bird flu and the people who designed and built its pond. The incubators for the golden eggs are heated by energy from a grid built by public utilities, and the eggs are nurtured in other ways, for instance by people using our public transport infrastructure to get to work at the golden goose egg farm. In other words, the golden goose owner relies on public investments even though they aren’t acknowledged or directly paid for by him.

This unacknowledged infrastructure is called INVESTment for a reason – they’re positive for the whole country, this is where governments borrow in a very different way to families. These are long term investments from which we all benefit, not just the privileged and powerful.

In addition he writes, “Australia has one of the lowest levels of public debt of any country in the OECD." That’s impressive! It’s also a bit of a furphy to also say that Australians are highly taxed, we aren’t.

The third factor where Dr Parris is quite scathing is “seeking a return to surplus on the backs of the poor, the sick and the marginalised.” Basically, "people cost too much" More here.

He discusses the massive cuts to foreign aid, our local social safety net being eroded, seesawing income support the unemployed under 30s, and cutting benefits for poor families which is surely a recipe for increased depression and other mental health problems, family violence, alcohol abuse, suicide and crime”.

Allied health workers are expressing concern that they’re already seeing an increase in depression and anxiety. They expect this to only get worse as the hidden costs of the budget are implemented, and the flow-on from state and local government takes effect.

It’s also important to note here that the vilification of groups by the use of divisive or derogatory words isn’t going to make jobs magically appear. Imagine being a rural job seeker on unemployment benefits or a uni graduate with a strong work/study history, continually hearing yourself referred to as a dole-bludger who isn't trying to get work.

After tailoring your resume to specific jobs, attending interviews and not being employed through no fault of your own, you’re trying to remain positive in the face of derogatory, uninformed, cruel comments that don’t acknowledge or reflect the reality that there simply aren't enough jobs for the number of people actively job hunting.

According to the ABS March data there were

These figures don't account for the many thousands of under-employed well qualified people, or those who have become so disillusioned, beaten and demoralised that they've given up hope. The hidden unemployed. 

How do we want our youth (and other job seekers) to see themselves BEFORE they attend stressful interviews? As failures? bludgers? As the guilty party who have somehow manipulated the country so there aren't enough jobs to go around? Do we want our graduates to see themselves as not worthy of a career after a long, challenging and expensive education? How do we want employers to view candidates who may have been unemployed for some time? As losers and bludgers? This kind of vilification is hardly a recipe for success. 

We know the negative, undermining effect of name calling, and how it erodes confidence and self esteem, yet not only the media, but government ministers are encouraging this sadistic, divisive pastime. In addition the government is doing nothing to address the complex underlying causes of unemployment, (here) and are persistently negative about supporting jobs growth in areas such as renewable energy.

It’s lazy to vilify people and call them names. It takes maturity to openly discuss and address the complex local, national and international causes of un and under-employment. It's shameful that with this Coalition government we see the former, complete with unfair blame, not the latter.

4: The abolition of the mining tax
5. Higher education will be less affordable
Continued here ...

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