Lately, Scott Morrison has tried to bolster his credentials as a compassionate Prime Minister. But why hasn't he acted to help the poor?
SPEAKING AT an event for Lifeline in November 2018, Prime Minister Scott Morrison shared his struggle with the agonising decisions that the position of prime minister requires him to make. In an eye-opening exchange, Morrison spoke of the emotional burden of dealing with serious issues such as the plight of asylum seekers.
Politics is not for the faint-hearted ... and you've got to be prepared to understand and own and carry the burden of these decisions. You’ll find yourself on your knees, you’ll find yourself in tears, you’ll find yourself wrestling with this tough stuff.
Leaving aside the issue of asylum seekers for a moment, one can’t help but wonder if Morrison has shed tears and prayed for his fellow Australians. People who are suffering from various policy outcomes have been either forgotten or ignored under his leadership and those of his predecessors — Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott.
While Morrison and his deputy, Josh Frydenberg, defend tax cuts to the wealthiest companies in the nation and the tax concessions of wealthy property investors, there are everyday Australians who struggle with poverty and access to essential government services.
739,000 children live in poverty in this country, representing over 17% of all Aussie kids. The Australian Council of Social Services has called this fact “our national shame” and that’s hard to disagree with. For a country that was recently crowned the wealthiest nation on Earth per capita (in terms of median wealth), it’s appalling that Australian children are forced to grow up under these conditions.
According to the 2016 Census, there are more than 116,000 homeless individuals in Australia, including more than 15,000 children under the age of 12.
Despite the disturbingly high number of homeless individuals and concerted campaigns by determined social welfare advocates, the necessary changes in policy to ensure a roof over the head of our most vulnerable citizens have not taken place.
For eight months last year, a group of homeless Sydneysiders set up camp in the city’s Martin Place. Amongst other things, their campout was an effort to highlight the struggle of homeless Australians, while surrounded by the headquarters of some of the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful corporations.
Even after a great deal of media attention and raising the public’s awareness of the issues faced by homeless individuals, there was no significant response by the Federal Government.
Every year there is an estimated 500,000 Australians who seek treatment for issues with drugs and/or alcohol problems. However, the current system only has the capacity for approximately 200,000 people a year to receive treatment, often resulting in extremely long waiting lists for individuals to get the help they need.
As these vulnerable individuals try to get their lives back on track after issues with drugs and alcohol, they deserve the assistance they need to move on with their lives. As do their families, who often suffer greatly as they attempt to help their loved ones get through an extremely difficult period in their lives.
Morrison claims to have shed tears and prayed for asylum seekers, yet when presented with over a million Australians living in poverty or lacking access to essential government services, he manages to scarcely bat an eyelid as advocates for the forgotten Australians passionately make their case for change.
This lack of action on the issues faced by the most vulnerable among us only serves to further illustrate the growing and profound disconnect between the priorities of everyday people and those of the Federal Government.
As the Prime Minister says his prayers, perhaps he should be taking a closer look at his own backyard, at the plight of the forgotten Australians.
To remind himself that there are over a million people in this country suffering from issues that his Government could begin to meaningfully solve. If only they could find the will to do so.
Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and political commentator. You can follow him on Twitter @AvidCommentator.
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