Australian human misery: a dirty dozen cases

Jun 20, 2021

The prime minister has an eye for the public relations opportunity. Recently he was quick to be seen at the announcement of the success of an FBI-AFP operation targeting drug traffickers. He condemned criminals for bringing misery to Australia. Regrettably, we have plenty of misery already, thanks to his government’s policies.

Upon elevation to the office, Prime Minister Morrison assured Australians that he was going to rule for everyone. In reality, his government’s record has revealed a rather more narrow focus of responsibility. Perhaps the difference between the perception he hoped to sell and the reality which has come to light in policy can be explained by his little reported assertion that Australians are ‘up-comers’. This odd term might translate roughly as ‘aspirational’. It suits a certain self-delusion that Coalition policies provide an economic framework that helps Australians in their struggles to improve their living conditions.

When it comes to creating misery, there are many policies which outdo anything international criminals have thus far imported. Consider this limited list of a dirty dozen.

  1. Our hypocritical treatment of asylum seekers and the cruel treatment of the Biloela family, at a cost of over six million dollars diverted from social services,
  2. Our opposition to ‘medevacs’ and the wasting of money on the Christmas Island alternative,
  3. Our failure to alleviate domestic violence and sexual harassment,
  4. Our opposition to marriage equality,
  5. Our denial of justice to Indigenous peoples, continued tolerance of the disgraceful ‘gaps’ and rejection of the Uluru Statement,
  6. Our acceptance of up to perhaps 2,000 suicides associated with the imposition of ‘robodebt’,
  7. Our indifference to thousands of deaths among people waiting for an aged care package,
  8. Our failure to prevent deaths from the ‘Covid’ virus in nursing homes and the decision to ignore state based health systems in the delivery of vaccinations,
  9. Our determined maladministration of support for people with disabilities,
  10. Our indictable frustration of the young over climate change and the creation of cynicism about politics,
  11. Our suppression of wage growth, creating a working poor, destroying purchasing power and transferring debt from the minority who already monopolise our resources,
  12. Our failure to address homelessness.

The list could go on and on. It could include for example, our cavalier despatch of troops to overseas conflicts with false understanding of their tasks and our failure to provide veterans with adequate repatriation assistance. It could include the shrinking overseas aid budget by which we export despair rather than hope.

Deliberate use of the possessive pronoun ‘our’ is a somewhat futile attempt to acknowledge that the broader community elected the Coalition government. Unfortunately, the well documented erosion of the democratic processes of answerability, accountability and responsibility and creeping authoritarianism make radical changes less likely.

An observant friend likens the Australian policy process to an old blue heeler chasing its tail. We tend to have no ability to plan ahead but react when issues have become overwhelming – essentially when it is too late. The timidity of some sections of the media and complicity of others ensure that the parliamentary opposition does not offer viable policy alternatives, or certainly not bold ones.

Until we accept that our upcoming is at the expense of others less powerful than ourselves, the misery will increase. Helping the FBI in its endeavours is all very well, but it is hardly the morale boosting achievement that a policy-poor government claims. The prime minister’s discomfort with the bushfire victims in Cobargo is more consistent with his unconcern for the misery his government creates. The misery created by international criminals is an easy target, but it is a tiny part of the broader misery experienced by Australians.

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