One dire and dismal term of Tony Abbott may be just the medicine to make Australians remember the fair go values we once stood for, writes Jeff Schiller.
With the Four Years of Hate behind us, people are starting to wake up to who they took home. Moreover, people are wondering why they ever disliked Gillard so much. Her price on carbon proved to have had little impact on the voter's wallet.
By removing it, Abbott will only further prove this point.
On the other hand, changes to Medicare, GST, worker wages and entitlements – all of which are on the cards – will hurt Aussies. Changes here will disproportionately impact poorer Australians than the top end to boot.
This government has made it clear. They are closing shop on our cultural identity of the 'fair go'.
Now, it is all about “personal responsibility”. We only have ourselves to blame if we can't pay our home loans and utility bills and medical bills and for our groceries and...
(Image via nofibs.com.au)
A Model Australia
This government is conducting a social experiment. It is one that certain conservatives have insisted would work for about as long as the Communists have played with their own equally impractical model.
You will recognise it when anyone talks about "freedom," "small government" and "deregulation" in the same breath. Some call it “neo-liberalism”.
It's big business orientated — not market based. This is evident by their attitude on the carbon price.
Further, freedom, while a positive, is a loose term and in this case is exploited.
The best way I can put it is to paraphrase a comment made to me by a small business owner I know:
"Australia is becoming all about freedom — without democracy."
In our daily lives, we certainly have freedom.
However, it only makes sense when we have the power to fairly assert our own autonomy. That fairness is the boundary where one's personal freedom begins to impose on others.
Without fairness, it is no different to outdated autocracy.
Feel free to mow your yard and grow a veggie patch, just don't think it's okay to chuck the scraps over my fence. Likewise, I'll power whatever device I want to on my yard — but I won't expect to run a lead to your wall socket.
Yet freedom, as this social experiment defines it, is limitless, imposed by those who have the greatest capacity to express it. Through deregulation and a small, toothless government, this freedom unfairly distributes influence to the highest bidder.
Worker entitlements and the autonomy of the ABC (that is, the freedom of the press to investigate information in the public interest) both represent greater fairness. They challenge this model. And that is why they are under fire.
(Image by John Graham)
Pandora's trade agreements
Before I get to the rosier points, I should also note the rabbit hole.
There is another way to undermine any government and regulation. Perhaps surprisingly, Abbott has indicated his approval of it.
This is the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Clause that the United States want Australia to sign up to as part of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). While former Prime Minister Julie Gillard ruled these out, Abbott is happy to sign Australia away.
In short, the ISDS would allow private industry to sue Governments for passing laws which damage their "potential profits".
This is a clear threat to our sovereignty.
So Australia would have two options — watch as the environment is degraded for private profits or watch as private industry flips out their contract with the PM (legally binding unlike that you and I received in the mail) and demand a healthy share of the public purse in compensation.
And if you doubt this, read about the sad story already being played out in Canada.
How much would the Australian Constitution mean if our public purse and public resources are at the mercy of private investment? Our only choice would be — which of them would we prefer to lose?
Signing the ISDS clause is a step towards powerless national governments, unenforceable regulations and a Great Southern Land sold to and ruled de facto by foreign corporations.
And now for the silver lining
Neo-liberalism in Australians is doomed to fail. Having a mere one term of grace is why it is being pushed as quickly as possible.
The Coalition won the September election through pushing the cost of living. We are an easygoing people who expect nothing more than a fair wage for a fair job.
If the cost of living is high in Australia (which it is — our house prices are among the highest in the world), well, we expect wages to suit.
The Abbott model will raise the cost of living. So the voters won't stand for it.
Arguably, the relentless and increasingly disgusting war on refugees is losing support as well.
Remember how it was sold in the Howard era as protection against possible terrorists?
Did Abbott miss the fact that the War on Terror is over?
We're talking about a few thousand people annually. Fleeing despair, they come to the “lucky country” for a fresh start. It is the same tradition that has always brought immigrants to Australia.
I wouldn't be here if my £10 Pom mother was locked up on Christmas Island, at 6 years of age, on her way over here. Likewise, it would be true if my father's ancestors were sent to Nauru in 1870 rather than helping to build rural Australia. My family even produced one for our Light Horse infantry, who was sent to Europe to fight for genuine freedom. He too would have been erased.
The shocking death this week of a detained refugee on Manus Island is a horrible black mark upon Australia's international reputation. I doubt voters will stand for it.
So don't despair
For the next two and a half years, we will need to weather a drought in Australian cultural values from our elected representatives. But we are tough.
Keep note of it all. Remember the Aussie "fair go" and pay attention to which politician attacks it.
In doing so, a number of politicians would then be playing at political suicide. Likewise, this social experience should also be remembered, detested and avoided by future governments.
Having one bad term gives us a silver lining; it reminds us that being the lucky country is the result of effort on our part. It isn't a given.
We must remember our hard won cultural values. These include fairness and a sweet balance between "hard yakka" and easy going.
Let's continue to stand for fairness.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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The originals of John Graham's art, featured above as well as throughout IA, are available for purchase by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can see a gallery of John's political art on his Cartoons and Caricatures Facebook page.