PUNISH THE POOR

 

The Reverend prepares to exorcise Tony Abbott of evil spirits

PUNISH THE POOR

 

There’s an old game

that politicians of both “Major Parties” in Australia like to play, and thats a game called Punish the Poor. You play it by bashing on Welfare recipients in public. Call for more restrictions, quarantine their payments, make them move to god-forsaken desert towns to dig ditches, make them waste endless time with futile forms and pointless meetings, and bullshit “mutual obligation” requirements etc, etc. You moan on sanctimoniously about how soul-destroying welfare is and how all you really want to do is encourage people back into the workforce so they can have some dignity. But you know and they know that the real purpose is just some more ritual humiliation of poor people. Give them as little as possible to sustain life and make ’em grovel for that. All while you have the hypocritical satisfaction of playing the moral paragon.

Its a move that always plays well in the stix, or so it seems, playing on all those work-a-daddy middle-class mortgagee, fee-paying frustrations and resentments of the class locked into jobs they hate and private schools they can’t afford and taxes they resent. Apparently theres some deep primal fear there in the suburbs, that somewhere theres “dolebludgers” lying around having a good time on their taxes.

The reality of course is somewhat different. “Who can afford to go on holiday’” expostulated one welfare recipient of my acquaintance, “I can’t afford to go to the shop down the road.”

Or as one welfare mother related somewhat more plaintively, ”I save all year so I can take my daughter to the beach for a few days at Christmas. I don’t want her to have a childhood where she doesn’t know what its like to ever go on holiday.”

So who would want to make life harder for people scrapping by under the poverty line?

Certainly Punishing the Poor is a game that is always warmly applauded by the columnists of the Murdoch /Packer press and that class of self-righteous radio talk-back hosts. (You know, professional, self-promoting cranks) Certainly, Punishing the Poor has been written into the Liberals DNA since the dawn of time. Punishing the Poor wasn’t just a game for little Johnny Howard. Oh no. It was a life-time commitment, a core promise.

As a Protector of the Poor, Labor leaves a lot to be desired. They’ve almost inherited the mantle by default it sometimes seems. Mainly they seem anxious not to appear soft on Welfarism in comparison to the Liberals, and thus are ready to sacrifice the interests of the Welfare Class at any time to refute the suggestion they might be hankering after any old style vision of a welfare state. Thus while the Labor party may not introduce the more repressive welfare legislation whilst in office, they also rarely repeal that legislation the Liberals introduce during their tenor. Thus we have a kind of slow, quick, quick, slow, waltz rhytm to socially regressive legislation in Australia.

Only the Welfare Organisations stand up regularly in defence of their clients interests, and they are just as regularly dismissed as being a self-interested, self-perpetuating “Industry” who aren’t really interested in seeing their clients escape “the poverty trap”.

 

So now Tony Abbott has launched a new round of Punishing the Poor. Among his novel suggestions is the suggestion that the grimly paternalistic “payment quarantine” should be extended to apply to ALL Welfare recipients. Not just dsyfunctinal fuck-ups who can’t even get their kids to school. Everyone.

A truly monstrous, humiliating move that says in effect, “If your on Welfare you can’t be allowed to manage your own financial affairs. Your not considered capable.”

Now when a pensioner or dole recipient pays their rent or buys food at a supermarket their money is as good as anyone else’s. In the future all such transactions will have the humiliation of having to have Centrelinks seal of approval. If, as George Orwell feared, the future of the human race is a face with a boot in it forever, then the foot in that boot is surely Tony Abbott’s.

How about those nice fat pensions parliamentarians get when they get turfed out. How about we quarantine THEIR payments. And have campaigns to encourage ex-politicians back into the workforce so they can regain their dignity. And we should definitely discourage that “sense of entitlement” politicians have towards their pension.

I also find the timing of Abbotts anti-welfare campaign interesting, if not cynical in the extreme. For it may just be one of those co-incidences that it came four days after the NSW state election. And it may be a co-incidence that according to Newspoll research, the main socio-economic groups of voters that stuck with Labor , were welfare recipients, people in public housing, public servants,and people of middle-east extraction.

Aside from hinting that a purge against public servant “fat-cats”, and a pogrom of “terrorist suspects” of middle eastern origin are in the works, it also suggests that, electorally speaking, Tony Abbott has nothing to lose from Punishing the Poor. No, they will never vote for him, no matter how badly Labor treats them. They are, as the saying goes, “rusted-on”. Memories, of Whitlam, Chifley, even Hawke and Keating keep them there. Besides they’re generally too busy trying to survive to organise politically to fight back.

Yes, basic primate politics at work here. Every good baboon knows to attack the weakest member of the pack to re-inforce their own position, ey Tony? That and throwing shit at your opponents. Which is what Tony and his mob use Question Time for mainly.

Tony is after all a very mammalian politician. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day in Parliament he lept onto that big desk they have there and, baring his hairy chest to the world, started beating on it in a primal display of dominance.

Indeed, if the truth be told, Tony Abbott is cursed with a rare affliction, for, like our simian cousin, the Chimpanzee, he can never smile. No, thanks to his genetic abnormality all he can do is bare his back teeth in a kind of a grimace that passes as a greeting. They use to tease him about it at school, you know. That and his vestigial tail.

But despite his Disability, Tony has been able to get on in Life and climb the Liberal Party Ladder as high as any normal boy might do. Naturally he feels that others with a handicap should be able to do likewise. Nay. They must ! And he will make them. Nothing like a bit of hardship to build character, ey what. Of course Tony is one of that generation that benefitted from the Socialist Whitlams free tertiary education but then he had the Moral Certainties to overcome its temptations. Others may not be so strong.

Charity. It just encourages them. Like stray cats when you feed them. “Should have them all forcibly neutered”, I heard Tony Abbott declare on the radio, “or put down..it’d be a kindness really.”

I’m pretty sure he was referring to feral cats.

*

***

No review this week. Shouldn’t have had that sixth martini.

********

The Reverend Hellfire is a practising performance poet and a professional Voice in the Wilderness. He is not without honour save in his own land.

************

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~ by reverendhellfire on April 3, 2011.

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