Friday, 23 May 2014

People ‘cost too much’: the Abbott Government and Neoliberalism « The Australian Independent Media Network

People ‘cost too much’: the Abbott Government and Neoliberalism « The Australian Independent Media Network

People ‘cost too much’: the Abbott Government and Neoliberalism

flagWhere will our Conservative government take this country, if allowed to do so? Dr Strobe Driver turns to America for an insight – and possibly the answer.

What to do, what to do . . .

The current non-acceptance of the 2014 Budget by the Australian
population—which in turn has been reinforced by the majority of state
government premiers—does not bode well for the future of the Coalition
as a unified force in politics. Perhaps what is worse for the Abbott
Government is it comes on the back of the debacle by Attorney-General
Brandis and the proposed changes to racial vilification laws. The
seeding of dissent in a party is usually political death as the
Australian population witnessed under the Rudd-Gillard years, and
Brandis’s byproxy non-acceptance that Australia in now a multicultural
country, (some of whom these ‘other’ cultures live in the seats of
Liberal Party members) may be a bitter political truth for many a person
wanting the ‘good old days’ of ‘Anglo-only’ Imperialism back. 
Nevertheless, wanting those days back does not reshape the reality that
multiculturalism is here to stay.  Moreover, the same blithe attitude
that was exhibited to those objecting to the changing of the law, now
appears to be exhibited towards those that expect honesty from their
politicians with equally dismissive statements. The treatment of
dismissing people out of hand in terms of delivering a ‘this is what you
get, take it or leave it’ attitude smacks of a ‘born-to-rule’ attitude,
one which has as its undertone that ‘we’ (the Conservatives) will not
be questioned by those that know less. This is a dangerous though not
unexpected path for Abbott’s Conservatives to do down. A broader
perspective than the decisions of the 2014 Budget need to be addressed
in order to find out how this attitude has become manifest.

Free education and healthcare are the cornerstones of Western
liberal-democracies, at least those that follow the Western European
style of democracy (a style of democracy that the United States of
America willfully abandoned many years ago), and it was essentially
borne out of many historical precepts. For the purpose of this article
however, two instances to articulate where welfare ‘came from’ are the
Industrial Revolution and the subsequent demands from the
population—this is where unionism also sprang from—to be cared for so
they could work for the industrialists; and the wage-earning individual
could pay taxes which equaled mutual prosperity. The aftermath of the
horrors of the Second World War also placed demands on Western
liberal-democratic governments as those returning home insisted the
State—which they had sacrificed so much for—help re-join their shattered
lives. From this there was a maturity of populations, as populaces
realised that the State in fact had demanded (and continued to demand)
so much from them in terms of taxes, labour, loyalty, citizenship and
even death in defence of the system (through the wholesale drafting of
the population in world wars), is to mention only a few demands the
State placed on its citizenry. We can now turn to what has happened to
America and the way in which it has gone on to influence the world and
in doing so influenced Australian politics, in particular the Liberal
Party in Australia.  Whilst the US has in general a shocking and
despicable system of healthcare, one which can only be held up and
praised by the most wealthy and hardened industrial capitalists and/or
people whose judgement is deeply affected by lobby groups, as the poor
are simply disregarded. A cursory Google search of Wisconsin’s
history of medical care toward there citizenry is a shocking read to
anyone wanting to be informed about adequate healthcare for the poor,
particularly under the current governor. America, however, does have
free education for some as it does healthcare: those that have served in
the military. The benefits one gets during and after service are
life-long and generous and what’s more this has the offshoot of building
an ongoing military–never having a shortage of recruits. Starving the
general population of generous benefits and giving them to the military
will always draw in a stream of new recruits as it is seamlessly coupled
to an assumption that a posting to a war zone is unlikely; and if that
happens the war is eminently survivable. Of course there are other ways
of ensuring a vibrant military and having a well-cared for population
(examples being Switzerland and Finland) however, this is not the
neo-liberal way.

Back to the point of free education and excellent healthcare, Prime
Minister Abbott seems to not understand that after WWII those that
fought demanded a high standard of free healthcare, not dissimilar to
what he expressed would happen under a Coalition Government prior to the
last election. And there is the other issue of those baby-boomers that
were the children of those who fought and died for their country, they
too were inculcated by their (sometimes widowed) parents about what to
expect from the government in terms of benefits and moreover, the State
should do the ‘heavy lifting’ on their part. More to the point the
baby-boomers have grandchildren now and this is perhaps the point which
seems to be fundamentally lost on a Conservative and intellectually
stultified Front Bench. Telling a baby-boomer (even if he/she was
faithful enough to vote for the Coalition in the first place) that their
grandchildren will not be able to see a doctor for free is, and will
be, a very dangerous political move. However dangerous it is, it is
shaping up to be trumped by Abbott’s commitment to the US-style
neo-liberal system. Including but not restricted to the cutting of all
welfare; a disdain for those that cannot work; the Howard-style belief
that private enterprise is able to deliver and care for the public much
more efficiently than a dedicated public service; and the commitment to
create a two-tier Australia along the lines of the American model.  An
assured outcome is that of having a working-poor that underpin the
wealth of the elite. How does this work? One need not look far to see
the system which the Abbott Government wants in action with regard to
how a two-tier Australia will ‘work.’  Whilst this is moving away from
healthcare it nevertheless offers evidence.  A good example of the
two-tier system is that of Walmart employees in the US having
to have their wages topped-up (read: a welfare payment from the
government to move their wage into the category of a ‘living’ one), and
this is due to their minimum wage being so pitifully low that although
they work five-plus days a week, their wage remains so abjectly moribund
that the government has to contribute to their well-being through a
top-up—the two-tier system in action. The advantage, however, for
companies who use this model is that they are able to claim that people
have a job and therefore ‘dignity’; and a ‘better’ place in society.
Regardless of the disdain a company such as Walmart shows to
their workers and of the executive being resentful about paying any sort
of respectable wage—as has been the case shown in recent times by some
mining entrepreneurs and other industrialists in Australia—the true
‘worth’ for companies in having employees is the political leverage they
obtain; and the power that it brings. Threats of a future offshore
location of a business is enough for governments to be
panicked—especially Conservatives—into adopting the ‘too-high minimum
wage’ mantra. The truth of having a minimum wage so low, as per the
American model, is that it in turn needs to be topped-up by government
(read: taxpayer) funds.  A further insight this offers is it displays
the near-absolute contempt a company such as Walmart has for
not just their own employees but all American taxpayers–further
highlighting their slavish dedication to the Industrial Capitalist
system. One could also go on to question where the morality is in taking
money from other taxpayers in order to sustain a billion-dollar
company’s network of employees, but that is beyond the remit of this
article and has been exposed in the aforementioned. The American model
comes into stark relief as the Conservative Abbott Government begins to
push harder and harder on welfare recipients and works toward bringing
in a neo-liberal agenda. What is also of interest here, however, is what
if Australians reject the Liberal Party’s neo-liberal agenda; and in
doing so see the American model for what it truly represents? What to
do, what to do?

Assuming the Abbott Government keeps taking negative hits from their
neo-liberal policy, not unlike those that led to the systemic decline
and then decimation at the polls for the Thatcher Government in Britain
during the very beginning of the 1990s—the Poll Tax being the ‘bridge
too far’ to save the Tories, the Abbott Government too will be faced, if
the polls continue on a downward trend, with the dilemma of either
replacing or politically resuscitating their leader. Of course, they
will not be able to depose Abbott due to the ramifications it would have
in the political sphere of their unrelenting criticism of Labor; and
the unseating of an elected member of parliament, and leader of the
country. Therefore, resuscitation will be their only real answer. The
other problem for the government will be the Coalition as a political
entity will be faced with what it represents to the public: the domain
of aging, elitist, out-of-touch (mostly) white males. A point one could
argue that was symbolically driven home by the punitive treatment of
under-30s in the election.  High profile senators—and a possible leader
of the future amongst them—Abetz, Andrews, Hockey, Truss, Dutton, Robb,
Pyne, Brandis, will be pushed to do something as Abbott’s credibility
declines and this will bring about an inconvenient realisation which
will need to be considered: the under-30s are the grandchildren of the
baby-boomers. Thus, giving credence to the argument that the
Coalition-the Thatcherism-aspects of simply not understand
inter-connectivity elements within society. Thatcherism reigns supreme.
The Coalition’s belief in the neo-liberal mantra that Thatcher instilled
(or at least attempted to) that ‘there is no such thing as society,
only individuals’ ultimately means they do not understand, or
deliberately ignore that there is an inter-reliance within society and
this attitude is rusted-on.  Within this paradigm fail the Conservative
Abbott government also fails to understand that grandparents’ actually
love their grandchildren and are committed to what’s best for them.
Neoliberalism has blinded the Abbott government to their Western
European-societal roots, in which it is the actual duty of the
State to care for its citizens. Once again what to do, what to do? The
Coalition has two choices, to ride out the punitive measures of the
Budget and hope that the Australian people—come the next election—will
forgive them for their dalliance into the Americanisation of Australian
society, or they will continue to push hard and eventually tell the
Australian people it’s time they gave up on Western European societal
norms because they ‘cost too much’.  If the ‘costs too much’ scenario is
successfully implemented and the shift toward the individualistic
Americanisation of Australian society is successful, there will be no
turning back.

To be sure, the ethics and morality of how a person and/or people
have come to ‘cost too much’ is far beyond the template of this essay,
suffice to say that Abbott who is highly-educated in theology should be
at the forefront when it comes to care and wellbeing of the Australian
people. Notwithstanding, convincing pensioners however, who will be in
need of the most care that they should fend for themselves and that
hospitals, (of which most are an arm of the State), will be reticent for
them to attend their emergency wards because they’ll be too crowded by
people using them as substitute for their General Practitioner will be a
game-changer for pensioners. Yet again, this offers the premise that
the Coalition is addicted to the neoliberal ‘American model’ of society
utterly and completely. This said however, one does need to ask how a
Front Bench which has such an array of deeply-religious God-fearing
people on it could possibly resort to such Dickensian treatment of the
poor and underprivileged. It must be that they do believe and it is
present in their rhetoric, that they know best and that they have the
highest moral/ethical values but in turn have a low application of these
principles when delivery of care to their populace is required.
Everything about health (and education) is ‘too costly’ even if the
Federal government is the eventual beneficiary of an intellectually
robust and healthy nation.

Should the American (insurance-industry driven) model is embraced it
will mean a two-tier health system which will eventually exclude the
poor, low-class and the elderly, and if the new education principles are
adopted it will also be a two-tiered system. Eventually being only for
the ‘deserving’ (read: wealthy) people, essentially those that have a
lesser chance of going to prison. This amounts to both education and
health being reserved for privileged, upper-middle class (mostly) white
people.  There is a distinct correlation to the Abbott Front Bench and
inter-connectivity in this scenario too.

This article was first published on Geo-Strategic Orbit and has been reproduced with permission.

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