When the political party that was meant to be a saviour of the poor lets us down, it's time to take matters into our own hands, writes Duncan Storrar.
SINCE THE END of the last election, a lot of independent activist commentators (what else do you call poor people with no resources trying to affect public policy?) have been lost. We feel that Labor gaslighted us regarding raising the rate of Newstart. As we expressed this, we were attacked online. At the time, my view on this was “well, we are all grieving and emotions will calm down”. They haven't, it has become very personal and we have all been guilty of losing our cool. But we are poor — this is our lives people are playing political games with.
This all came to a head when Parliament opened in the Senate — a thing happened that the media didn't really cover. But down here, where us poor people dwell, it was a massive moment in history. Something in time people will see as the spark that woke people up.
The Greens put a motion up to raise the rate of Newstart. Labor voted with the Liberal Party to defeat it.
The Senate voted down my motion to increase Newstart today while on the brink of approving $158billion in tax cuts, most of which will go to the wealthy. pic.twitter.com/Yiz4NH0hwr— Rachel Siewert (@SenatorSiewert) July 4, 2019
Now, Labor says this is because raising the rate is a stunt and would have no effect. This is the defence they put up to the almost one million people on these benefits and they are right, it was a stunt — a stunt that showed us poor people where everybody stands on whether children have a right to eat or not.
Both of the main parties are responsible for putting single parents on Newstart and exposing parents who are already in trauma to more, via mutual obligations. It is no longer just about the dole bludger kicking back in Byron Bay eating lobster (yes, this has been levelled at us many times), it's also about the hungry child, the mother and her three children sleeping in their car every night, terrified. And a new group, due to changes in DSP and retirement policy, the grandmother rough sleeping or sitting quietly eating one time every two days, too ashamed to tell her kids or anybody else she is starving.
Labor's argument? Well, let's look at it this way: let's exchange Newstart with apartheid and ask if, in the same situation, would they vote against it because it was a Green stunt and couldn't change the law? When you vote against increasing Newstart, you vote for children to be hungry.
This act broke the souls of the poor that have been told since childhood that Labor is our only real viable hope in Parliament. When we expressed this sorrow, Labor party members (I think, but who knows with social media?) just attacked us.
I use Twitter, not Facebook, so the hashtag #notmylabor and the like popped up. Some people like Jeremy Poxon have copped heaps since the election. It has been nasty. All of the people that actively post about poverty, coming from all points across the political spectrum and the one thing that unites us is persecution of our poor (us) by our Government. So, this is the background to where we are.
On Monday, I looked at my Twitter and saw that I was getting slammed for my post about that Newstart vote. I will not list them, as I don't see the point in publicly embarrassing people that are just angry. I don’t think like them. We all have to see from other's hills. Privilege traps us all.
So, on Monday, one person just would not let me alone, but in saying that I will admit it was me as well making the mistake of interacting for over twelve hours. He forced me to look at things that were waved through Parliament over the last ten years, not just poverty policies but Indigenous policies and the one that hit me hardest, the so-called “anti-terror” laws.
In doing that, I came to the conclusion that we have two Right-wing parties running the country.
At this point, a Labor Party member told me to “go get a fucking job”. In anger, I replied, ‘Okay, I'll take Richard Marles's seat’. This story is repeating in towns across the country. Because of the actions of the so-called party of the downtrodden, we have collectively decided that the only way to get change is to run for election. Where a seat includes people who are trapped in poverty, then people who are trapped in poverty have to run. We can't just blindly give our vote to Labor.
Could Australia follow Canada and New Zealand and take action to decrease poverty?https://t.co/Iey6Zjxcfo— CCLSWA (@cclswa) July 11, 2019
This is the spark I was telling you about and why that vote was important.
We are all in different little parties, or some of us are in none, just poor people looking for a voice. But as long as your views are not racist or homophobic and you wish to end poverty, you are welcome. We will all help each other across those different lines. We realise that only the poor can speak for the poor.
Now, unfortunately, the poor live in seats that are held by Labor and, as such, this road we are taking is going to get us a lot of well-organised pushback. But we have worked out that if we support each other, we can endure. We the poor, we have woken up. We are traumatised, remember that when you attack us. Your attacks are why we woke up. And instead of attacking, you should ask: “is my party doing things that would hurt poor people?” If the answer is “yes” (it's called listening to the affected), then work to change it.
So, I really want people in poverty to know that it is going to get very bad, but we must use that to organise and get poor people a voice, one where it is poor people speaking.
If you are suffering the effects of the Government persecution of the poor and want to get active in changing things, you can seek out groups like the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children and the Anti-Poverty Network South Australia.
So, this is how I came to the point of deciding to run. I’m getting naturalised now and I will be running for the Federal seat of Corio. Many more people are doing the same; a spark has happened in politics and only poverty activists can see it — we woke up. I would like to thank everyone who has told me they will be there for me no matter how bad it gets media-wise, because without this, I could not even contemplate running.
Duncan Storrar is an anti-poverty advocate and has started an advocacy service for children in care and their families. You can follow Duncan on Twitter @indica2007.
Is Newstart really the pacesetter Scott Morrison says it is? | Inside Story| Whichever way you measure it, Australia’s unemployment benefit is far from being “one of the best safety nets, if not the best, of anywhere in the world” #auspol https://t.co/wIcQLiwotM— Cheryl Kernot (@cheryl_kernot) July 11, 2019
This would have to be the wettest and dumbest of hot takes on how Labor should ... "work with the government" to increase Newstart and enfranchise black Australia... 🤦😖https://t.co/tp39qN6vz9— Anthony Burke (@Pool_Depth1_1) July 7, 2019
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