By Joe Montero
The Turnbull government’s war against Centrelink benefit recipients is based on the lie that they are imposing a burden on those who have a job.
It is this painting of Australians not able to find a job or not able to work, as spongers on the rest of society that has been used as the cover to impose humiliating processes, public attacks and denial of payments on hundreds of thousands of victims. This sort of profiling is reprehensible and shows just how far any concept of basic human compassion has gone missing, as far as our political leaders are concerned.
This is a wrong that calls out to be righted. It is also evidence of the kind of politics that has raised its head in our society. When politicians pick up a knee jerk habit to justify whatever they do, by signalling out a defenceless section of our community as the cover, something is seriously wrong. This is what we must pay attention to.
Research commissioned by Anglicare and carried out by Per Capita, has its results published in a report called The Cost of Privilege. It shows that the drain on taxpayer money is not those who go to Centrelink, but the wealthiest households that are given a staggering $68 billion a year.
The system of subsidies and loopholes allow the following examples. The wealthiest households get, $40 billion for Capital gains Tax exemptions, $20 billion for superannuation concessions and $3 billion for private education and health care. There are also the generous negative gearing provisions for investment properties, and a whole array of other loopholes existing in the taxation system.
A weakness in the report is that it concerns the wealthiest 20 percent of households and does not tell the full story that even here the benefit is skewed sharply upwards. The top 5 percent, for example, get much more. They send their kids to the most expensive private schools, have the resources to gain the most from negative gearing and capital gains tax, and can take much better advantage of the tax avoidance opportunities.
Compare this to the little under $11 billion total cost of Newstart for the unemployed and under employed, and this is the costliest service provided by Centrelink.
The staggering gap shows that there is a major class division in Australian society. Although it is very much part of it, the miserable treatment of those who find themselves at the Centrelink office asking for help, is far from the whole of the story.
Handing out miserable treatment for those who find themselves at a Centrelink office to ask for help is far from the whole story. Most Australians lucky enough to have a job, find themselves in an increasingly precarious position. Real wages are buying less and less, and about a third of the workforce has now been casualised.
Among the causalised, a high proportion is constantly in and out of work. Others are not paid enough to make their own way. Both groups are forced to front up at Centrelink. They are the working poor.
The abuse of both those without a job and the average wage earner is backed by laws and government practices. Nothing could illustrate more clearly that this is government for the wealthiest. Income is taken from one side of society, to maintain the lifestyle they are accustomed to. This is what must be put to an end.