Politics Opinion

Morrison Government makes life even harder for struggling Australians

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

The Morrison Government has made Australia an even more unequal and unfair place by supporting the big end of town, writes Tarric Brooker.

WHILE it is impossible to get unanimous agreement on just about anything, there is near-universal agreement that our nation is based on a foundation of fairness and mateship.

This basic tenet that we claim is at the core of our morality as a nation, makes the actions of the Morrison Government all the more jarring when viewed through this lens of basic fairness.

Yet, since the pandemic began, fairness has arguably been thrown out the window by the Morrison Government.

According to an analysis by Australia Institute Chief Economist Richard Denniss, somewhere between $40 billion and $70 billion of the total cost of the JobKeeper program was spent on providing the wage subsidy to companies to “save jobs” that were never actually at risk.

At the same time, everyone from social services advocacy groups to the business lobby was pressing for a permanent increase to unemployment benefits (previously known as Newstart, now known as JobSeeker).

With the overwhelming weight of political pressure and a chorus of economists making the economic case for "raising the rate", the Morrison Government was finally forced into making a change but the increase amounted to a paltry $3.57 a day.

Now as hundreds of thousands of businesses fend for themselves without JobKeeper and almost 1.3 million Australians remain reliant on Centrelink unemployment benefits, you really do have to ask, What is the government thinking?

Where is the fairness in wasting tens of billions on JobKeeper payments on companies who never needed them in the first place, followed by the Government refusing to implement any mechanism to claw them back?

Where is the fairness in wrongly hounding hundreds of thousands of welfare recipients through the Robodebt scheme, over a sum of money that amounts to less than a fortnight’s waste of the JobKeeper program?

This is not the way a government should conduct itself.

While there is always likely to be debate surrounding the role of government and exactly how much intervention is too much, it’s equally clear that the role of the government is not to make life’s inequities even worse with poorly concocted policy.

From the Morrison Government’s perceived implicit guarantee that housing prices won’t fall significantly to poorly targeted stimulus, its actions often fly in the face of the fairness Australians claim to hold at the core of our national identity.

The pandemic could have been a catalyst for change — a $300 billion overhaul of our nation and its priorities. Yet here we stand 13 months later with little to show for what The New Daily’s Alan Kohler labelled 'stimulus overkill'.

Our housing isn’t more affordable, our homeless haven’t been housed and our less fortunate are still forced to jump through hoops for a payment that's well below the poverty line.

The Liberal Party likes to talk of free markets and of government staying out of the way wherever possible. Yet when it comes to the big end of town and the property market, they are seemingly more than happy to claim that their intervention is fair and just.

In reality, the actions of the Morrison Government have made Australia an even more unequal and unfair place.

Tarric Brooker is an IA columnist, freelance journalist and political commentator. You can follow Tarric on Twitter @AvidCommentator.

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