Down and out? It's your own fault!
Tony Abbott, Howard's Minister for Industrial Relations, revealed the true colours of the Liberal Government on the ABC's Four Corners program shown on Monday, July 9. "We can't abolish poverty because poverty, in part, is a function of individual behaviour ... We can't stop people from making mistakes that cause them to be less well-off than they might otherwise be", he declared. So, if you are poor and cannot make ends meet, if your children go to school with holes in their shoes and without lunch, or if you lose your job and get thrown out of your house it is not the fault of the employer or economic policies or the social system or the landlord — it is a result of your own "behaviour" or the fact that you make "mistakes". Tony Abbott claimed that the proposition that the rich are getting richer is a "myth". He said that people in the lowest-income bracket are "getting better off". His assertion was immediately followed by the presentation of figures which showed that the top 50 per cent of Australians have 90 per cent of all wealth leaving the bottom-half of the population to divide up 10 per cent of the nation's wealth. Four Corners held a mirror up to society to show that many, even with a job, remain poor. "I run to the bank on Friday morning, pay my bills, pay the rent ... how can I buy my food? How are we going to survive for the whole week? ... If I have $10 I buy vegetables. I cook stir-fry and the kids are happy eating vegetables. We have a stack of sardines ... it's 75c a little tin", said Zenny, a hotel worker. "I went and got one tooth out about a month ago and that cost $150. I don't know when I'll get the other ones (teeth) done", said Mara, a call centre worker. "In the last six months we found out we are going to be replaced by voice-interactive computers. And so our jobs aren't secure anymore". "I haven't saved any money ever. I can't remember the last time I saved any money", said Maro who works in a food processing factory. "The statistics don't show that people are being left behind", said Tony Abbott. "We've got 17 shops planned to be open in the next 12-18 months", said Ted Greenaway for the Salvation Army. "That's just for western Sydney." Tony Abbott, who is a pretender for the position of Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister, had no hesitation in lying about the widening gap between rich and poor and the growing strata of working poor. But he was unusually frank in expressing the capitalist's contempt for the poor. By blaming the victims he abdicates any responsibility of his Government and the system of capitalism for the well-being of the people and the poverty that is spreading in the community. But what was offered on the Four Corners program as a way out? A royal commission into poverty? But we don't need a royal commission to find out about poverty. The facts are already known. The program reporter then trotted out Milton Friedman's proposition that unemployment would shrink if the market were allowed to freely set wages. This nonsensical idea is disproved by the fact that millions and millions of people are unemployed, even in those countries where wage levels are very low. Then there was the idea of "tax credits" which is just another part of Milton Friedman's economic rationalist ideas and amounts to a form of employer welfare. No-one came up with the idea that if workers had more money in their pockets they would be able to buy more and, thereby, create more jobs or that if hours of work were reduced without loss of pay at least some of the unemployed would find work. Four Corners mirrored the reality of the working poor but did not provide any solutions. Perhaps that is too much to ask at this time.Back to index page