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Joe Hockey's intergenerational report — written for the rich

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The argument behind Joe Hockey's intergenerational report is that those who create wealth should be allowed to keep it for themselves and those who can't must suffer because of their lack of financial ability. Former associate chairman of the British Conservative Party, Josh Stevenson, debunks the Coalition's latest propaganda exercise.

In the nineties, I was the founder and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Psycho-sociological Development. The purpose of this organisation was to bring to light the effect on the world view of the people of New Zealand – by the application of depth psychology – the distortions of democracy that were being wrought by those in positions of power in that country, be they political, business or media. (At that time Serge Halimi of Le Monde wrote of the New Zealand media that it was as 'self satisfied as it was mediocre'.) I am however, now resident of Victoria.

During that time a submission was made to a Select Committee of the New Zealand Parliament analysing the attempt to tell people that changes to the state pension (called superannuation in that country) were necessary because of the very same kinds of reasons the Abbott Government is now using to attempt to alter pensions for the Australian people.

In short, the argument being used in New Zealand and now in Australia, is one of the proportion of generators of wealth to consumers of wealth. 

This is a totally fallacious argument, because in a free democratic society it is the wealth available to the citizenry that matters — not who generates it. This basic fact of a democratic society is of course extremely unpalatable to today's political right who have corrupted the traditional conservative right (to which I used to belong as an association chairman for the British Conservative Party ) into the New Right of a world determined by those whom Shakespeare once referred to as 'mere arithmeticians'.

The unsaid argument behind the Abbott Government's thinking appears to be that those who create wealth should be allowed to keep it for themselves by not taxing them too highly and by extrapolation, those who can't generate wealth for themselves must suffer because of their lack of financial ability.

May I make three further points?

First, it is the GDP of a given country that matters here, not the proportion of the citizenry that created it to those who consume it. Brazil has the seventh largest economy in the world yet over 20 per cent of its population live below poverty line.  This situation exists because of the use of political power by those in a position to exercise it.

Second, if it is the proportion of generators of wealth to consumers of wealth that determines a country's economic success or failure, then why did not the Australian economy collapse when women were not part of the work force? I don't have the statistics available, but it would appear that in the fifties and sixties, generally regarded as economic boom times, women generally did not work and therefore apparently did not contribute to the Australian economy. What was the percentage of generators of wealth to consumers of wealth during these boom times, when women were regarded as being purely consumers of wealth?

Third, intergenerational matters are a two way street. The young today benefit from the work of the old. They cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge, they drive on the streets and use the hospitals built by those who went before. If the economic purists really adhere to intergenerational fairness, why are they not also suggesting that the young buy from the old the infrastructure – like the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the WA water pipeline – that those who went before have built and paid for. By so doing, the wealth transferred from the young to the old can be used to pay for the costs of the so called "ageing population".

See the submission referred to in this piece on the Centre for Psycho-sociological Development website here.

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Joe Hockey's intergenerational report — written for the rich

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