Thursday, June 5, 2014

Part 2: Discussion of the 2014 Coalition budget. A Christian perspective.

This is a continuation of my discussion of the article by Dr Brett Parris which appeared in Ethos.

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.”

Discussion of factors 1- 3 here.
Factor 1: Lies
Factor 2: The failure of neoliberal economics
Factor 3: Seeking a return to surplus on the backs of the poor, the sick and the marginalised
The fourth factor:
’… the abolition of the mining tax and particularly the price on carbon pollution is a triumph of ideology and climate change denial over both economics and science. For a government that would rather cut benefits to the poor than to raise revenue from mining companies, and with no science minister, these moves were not a surprise – indeed they were election promises.
I’ve commented before that I doubt many people who voted for the Coalition fully understood the implications of the manipulative, finely crafted 3 word slogan: AXE THE TAX. We’re now experiencing the logical, expected outcome.

When ‘reporters’, who we naively expect to do a bit of rudimentary research and actual reporting, encourage us to accept anorexic sound bites, instead of explaining what happens if mining companies are protected from taking responsibility for their emissions, this is the outcome. We pay. 

The governments ineffective and discredited direct action plan "will cost tax-payers $2.55 billion to pay big polluters to reduce their emissions if they want to" (my emphasis) 

At no point in Coalition policy is the social cost of carbon addressed. In my analogy of the golden goose, it’s the equivalent of the goose flapping grubbily around the neighbourhood entering your home uninvited, and pooping everywhere - but not laying any golden eggs. You come home every evening and have to clean up after the messy goose, disinfect your home and go to the doctor to be treated for avian flu virus – all at your own expense. The lazy owner of the golden goose, who has allowed his dirty goose to wander at will, simply shrugs his shoulders, shakes his head and says “tough luck, not my problem”.
“our current coal exports are causing between A$12 billion and A$110 billion of damage globally each year (in 2014 dollars). None of which is included in the coal export price.”
We, the Australian taxpayer are consistently and expensively paying for the costs of cleaning up the carbon from hugely profitable, multi-national companies. How does that make sound economic sense?

Factor five:
Lastly, making higher education far less affordable by deregulating student fees is a catastrophically stupid policy. It will increase poverty levels for students, increase class-based social stratification, decrease overall skill levels in the workforce, and make public debates of complex policy issues even more difficult over time as fewer people can afford a broad education that is not narrowly tailored to a particular job. Graduates will emerge with large debts which will harm their well-being and pressure them to seek high paying jobs at the expense of more community-minded jobs such as teaching, nursing, child care, social work and public service 
As for the persistent, and in my opinion scandalous treatment of reputable scientists, and science in general by the Coalition ministers, we’re seeing the shameful outcome of their dark ages attitude. Australia has enjoyed world acclaim for the inventions of our outstanding scientists, engineers and researchers. We have had good cause to be proud of some incredible inventions

We enjoy the benefits of science every day, yet this government chooses to cut funding, dismantle whole departments and trample on the hopes and dreams of children, teenagers and university students with their persistent attacks on science and allied fields.
The inevitable outcome [of funding cuts] is big reductions in the CSIRO’s research output. ... Research fields slated to go include neuroscience, colorectal research, urban water research and marine biodiversity. Research will be scaled back in radio astronomy, astrophysics, renewable energy, metallurgy, Nano science, and social and economic sciences. Labs and facilities that will close include the Mopra telescope, the Aspendale laboratories, the Highett laboratory, the Ardig field station and the Griffith laboratory in the Riverina.

People will be lost to science. Australia loses. Young people who have dreamed of work in a wide variety of scientific and allied areas will have to rethink their options. Those in the middle of, or who have recently completed challenging degrees, have had the rug pulled out from under them and are being callously told "earn or learn" when they've already accumulated many thousands of dollars of debt and now have little chance of getting relevant employment in Australia. 

We will all suffer in some way as a direct result of this frightened, frightening attitude that science is something to be scared of so it's being stamped out.  Scientific research and the positive outcomes we have come to appreciate from our extended world class scientific community take a bit longer to come to fruition than the proverbial golden egg. The long term implications are all negative.

Labor’s Kim Carr told Guardian Australia that "this is a government that has no science minister, no science policy, no technology policy, and no jobs policy.” There's a sustained attack on the environment, renewable energy and research. No matter how much they bleat otherwise, we see valuable jobs in a wide variety of areas being lost. We can see their anti science agenda. We see a marked lack of job creation schemes.

Kim Carr noted that the government is "not interested in developing our capacity to attract new investment, so it's not just the thousand scientists that will lose their jobs, it is the knock-­on effects that taking out that type of capacity has on the broad economy and particularly industry”. ( here ) In the topsy-turvy world of the Coalition, this is being presented as positive. 

Back to Dr Parris:
some of the most strongly ‘Christian’ electorates voted for these cruel and regressive policies. ... This surely points to a colossal failure of leadership among the Christian churches over many years. ... If one good can come of our current malaise, perhaps it will be the re-ignition of a Christian sacred activism grounded in Jesus’ teachings, fuelled by deep prayer and with the courage to speak truth to power no matter what the cost. (my bold)
Challenging closing words indeed.

I hope other religious people not only from the Christian tradition, but from the many other faiths represented in multicultural Australia, find the strength and courage to speak out where they see injustice and oppression and join Dr Parris to make a stand and speak confidently and openly about the damage the Coalition, as well as the vested interests directing policy (not just the figurehead, Tony Abbott), are doing to Australia.

I don't know the source of this poster
but will happily credit it. 


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