Friday, April 20, 2012

Moving to Oz? (III)

Or, "it's a class hatred thing"

In a previous post, I mentioned that it's unusual to hear people talking about the experience of being a lower-class Aussie.

Well, I intend to touch part of this subject in this post. I will argue that Australian society is not as egalitarian as it is commonly believed.

Before starting: these posts provide details explaining why I feel "entitled" to speak on this subject. They also work as a warning: I am expressing personal views.

But instead of commenting myself, I will try to present mostly quotations from others. They reflect my personal experience, so you are free to disagree.

My first quotation comes from a reply to a recent post at Peter Martin's blog. I've commented on this subject before.

Martin reports that the Newstart Allowance (the notorious dole), plus AU$ 60.10 of rent assistance, add up to $304.95 per week. This is insufficient to pay for the $420 median weekly rent on a one-bedroom flat in Sydney (let alone any other expenses) and barely covers rent, leaving nothing else, in Melbourne or Perth, where rents are lower ($300). (See here)

An anonymous commentator replied to Martin (April 17, 2012):
"(...) None of this is coincidence. These policies are the way they are because both sides of politics despise unemployed people. It's a class hatred thing. And Labor is just as mean as the Libs on this. Listen for the dog whistle next time the Prime Minister refers to 'working' families". (My emphasis)
"But that's just one person's opinion", someone could say. "Can one find evidence of the contempt or class hatred this person speaks of?"

Let me try. Take shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey, who recently revealed his plan to end the "age of entitlement" in Australia (see here). Interviewed in ABC's Lateline, by Tony Jones, Hockey repeatedly refused to specify what entitlements he had in mind (see here):
"TONY JONES: OK, let's just try a couple of things. The baby bonus in Australia, would you keep that? Would you keep that or would you look at it because it's not means tested?
"JOE HOCKEY: Well I'm not going to get into cherry-picking Australian initiatives from London. What I'd say to you is that we need to continue to be vigilant. Welfare represents around a third of the entire Australian federal budget. It is an enormous cost burden."
"So, there may be a doubt", is a potential objection. "Maybe the entitlements to be cut are the so-called middle class and corporate welfare?"

Everybody else may have doubts here. Hockey's fans, however, did not have much difficulty guessing what entitlements were those and expressed that clearly in the comments section of Annabel Crabb's latest piece in The Drum (see 19 Apr 2012 5:32:51pm):
"Ahimsa_Fruitarian: The welfare parasites are there because the welfare is paid easily and for free. If the gov't stopped unemployment payment to the long-term unemployed then most of them would get a job fast. Employers can also help to make more jobs if that becomes an issue by being allowed to reduce wages so they can afford to employ more (U think this sounds crazy?) Think about it - it also means more productivity per employer so items become cheaper to make and buy. Farmers would be able to afford to grow fruits that now they say are too expensive in labour (wages) to grow. This means Australian farmers cannot afford to grow the world's best species of fruit trees, so that proves our present system of wage rises and taxes to pay welfare parasites does not work." (Emphasis added)
"Ah!", I can almost hear it, "That's just an isolated extremist".

Maybe. But if that was an extremist, it's not alone. In fact it has plenty company.

Say, News Ltd's Malcolm Farr:
"There was a chilling line in a Daily Telegraph piece on girl gangs back in 2008. Reporter Lauren Williams had a 2.30am chat with a Glebe teen called 'Carson' in the article.
" 'Carson' explained why she and her friends stole.
" 'If the government gave us more money then we wouldn't have to rob people,' she said, apparently satisfied she had delivered an impregnable justification for purse snatching, shop lifting and mugging".
After suggesting that dole recipients tend to criminality, Farr goes on to explain that the unemployed are not meant to be comfortable: "comfort" (i.e. having a roof over your head and some money left to eat) would deny them the incentive to look for a job. Like cattle en route to the killing floor, they need to be probed to overcome their laziness. [*]

If subtler and more articulate (Farr, after all, is a professional journalist) this is the same argument made by "Ahimsa_Fruitarian". So, it's hardly an isolated thing.

I could present more examples, but I will limit myself to one more quote. This is the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle's 23-10-2011 opinion piece, entitled "Selfish Rabble Got What it Deserved". (See here)

Its title is self-explanatory, but by "what it deserved" Doyle was referring to this:


"Doyle's disgust was directed at the Occupy Melbourne protesters against inequality, not against the unemployed", will be the objection now.

True, that was his ostensible target. So, this means he was justified to use unnecessary force against peaceful protesters against inequality?

Further, as in Crabb's case, his supportive readers clearly understood that the message was not limited to the protesters:
"Rob of Melbourne (Posted at 12:29 PM October 23, 2011)
"great work robert doyle you have the support of the 99% and the losers who think they are will quickly realise they are nothing more than dole bludgers with too much time on their hands."
"too many passengers (Posted at 7:46 AM October 23, 2011)
"why does the media give these oxygen wasters publicity?. cut their dole,and give them a job. Until then they have no right to protest" (Emphasis added)

"Again, these are isolated extremists."

Well, if "isolated extremists" pop up everywhere, they don't seem "isolated" any more.

But extremists or not, these are Coalition voters, supporters or at the very least sympathizers. Are the Coalition politicians absolutely irresponsive to them?

I find it dubious. According to these last comments, dole bludgers have no right to protest. This is part of Hockey's speech:
"So perhaps what we are witnessing [the European welfare state] is a chronic failure of the democratic process.
"A weak government tends to give its citizens everything they wish for. A strong government has the will to say NO!"
This at least means that Hockey, like Farr, is an advocate of "tough love". From here to deny dole bludgers the democratic right to protest is a small step, one that Melbourne's Lord Mayor (a Coalition politician, if I am not mistaken) was only too eager to take.

It's time to face reality: it's not just the unemployed or the protesters. Watch the current affairs shows at channels Nine and Seven, listen to the talkback radio shock jocks, or read the so-called "right of centre" newspaper columnists. It's the "queue jumpers" (i.e. asylum seekers), the already mentioned "dole bludgers" (also "job snobs"), the "welfare queens", the "Bogans" and "Lebs", it's the low paid workers and the trade unionists ("union thugs"). Some years ago it was the "Wogs", "Chinks" and the "Abos".

If you are a poor Caucasian don't fool yourself into believing you are better regarded. (Overseas readers: Bogan is Aussie slang; basically, poor white trash). They won't call you that when asking your vote; they'll call you "battler", "aspirational Australian", "working families". But, deep down, they still see you as a Bogan, and you know it. So, let's quit pretending.

Chances are the objection now would be: "It's not right to bundle 'dole bludgers' and 'working poor' together".

Let me ask you, why not? Nowadays nobody is immune to graduating from "working poor" into "dole bludger" overnight. No one is more at risk than the working poor; but not even the so-called middle-class is free from that risk. In essence, if you work for someone else, you are one step away from turning into that most despised creature: the "dole bludger".

Don't get me wrong: I am a fucking wog and include myself in this "precariat" underclass and I do work, part-time (I lost my second part time a month ago, or so). I walk over a very thin line and any push could send me to the wrong side. So, now you'll understand that I use the pronoun "we" to refer to you and I.

In this sense, race and religion are the icing on the cake. It may make some of us even more hated and despised. But we all are already hated and despised! It's a "class hatred thing", as Martin's anonymous commentator put it.

And race and religion are used to divide us: to deliberately pit Bogans and Lebs against each other, for instance. (See here)

Having said that, does it mean every non-poor Australian (make no mistake, born here or "imported") hates and despises us? Clearly, that's not the case. There are genuinely egalitarian Aussies, perhaps most Aussies.

But this prejudice is by no means uncommon. It's not unusual at all among well-off Australians, whether locally born or "imported" (and the higher up the food chain, the more frequent it is). And, as far as I can tell, this applies regardless of religion, age, education, gender, sexual orientation.

That's why the Coalition will use this prejudice to get votes, while Labor either won't do shit about it, or might even join the bandwagon. Mark my words.

They will sell the view we are parasites, knowing full well that it's not a hard sale. So, for them, we are the parasites, not the miners who don't pay taxes, not the executives who get astronomical bonuses and tax concessions; not the equity fund that sold David Jones and ran away without paying taxes; not the swindlers from the "colleges"/"immigration agents" who took money from Indian students and forced them into slavery with their "permanent residence" courses: all of them deserve what they get, and, boy, do they get a lot! It's us who don't deserve crap.

The weather forecast? Incoming rhetoric thunderstorm in the months ahead: "Aussie battlers" this or that (even Abbott's or Hockey's battlers, for Christ's sake!), "aspirational Australians", "working families", pensioners vs "dole bludgers", "welfare queens".

Just watch the current affairs shows or listen to the radio in the coming months, count the number of times they mention those words and how many times people will mention that Fortescue Metals Group did not pay corporate income taxes until this year, and remember what I just said.

In fact, and to be fair, even some in our so-called Marxist/anarchist left are not immune to this (trust me on this).

Whether you are thinking about moving to Australia or already living here, the sooner you understand this, the better for you.

Further reading:
Parnell Palme McGuinnes (April 1, 2012). "Justice isn't Blind, it's Biased".
Mark Metherell (March 30, 2012). "When it Comes to Oral Standards, Poor Face Their Moment of Tooth".
Ben Butler (March 23, 2012). "Law Too Soft on White-Collar Criminals, says Former Judge Finkelstein".
Guy Standing (February 9, 2012). "Those Running Just to Stand Still Will one Day Turn and Fight".

Notes:
[*] I suppose this would surprise Farr, but his account of unemployment ignores that perhaps unemployment exists because bosses sack people and then, well,  don't want to fill the positions left vacant.
Others have argued abundantly, and much better than me, about this. Pick at random pretty much any of Bill Mitchell's posts, for example.

Updates:
22-04-2012. Okay, I'll cheat. I'll add one more quote. But it's for a good reason: it's very funny.

Fairfax Media's Tom Reilly (October 10, 2010) on our youngest billionaire, Nathan Tinkler:
"Clearly none of his cash has been spent on media training. When The Sunday Age called him on Friday about his interest in the Bathurst team, Tinkler exploded.
" 'You're a f---ing deadbeat, people like me don't bother with f---ing you,' he said. 'You climb out of your bed every morning for your pathetic hundred grand a year, good luck'.
"Angered by a previous story about his horse racing interests, he added: 'There's a tall poppy syndrome; you would have heard of that because you hang around with the deadbeats and the losers who have done nothing with their lives'."
(See here)
If Tinkler looks with contempt at a journo, whom he thinks earns "one hundred grand a year", imagine what he would have said of people, like yours truly, who'd see a "hundred grand a year" as winning the lottery!

On top, Tinkler, who supposedly was once an electrician, has been mischievously described as a "bogannaire" (a portmanteau of bogan and billionaire).

Paraphrasing the TV add: "a professional soccer team, $X million. Good humour:, priceless!"

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