It's difficult to explain why I'm so infuriated with this government. It's infuriating that I find it so difficult. It should be easy. There's so much to be infuriated about, but finding a starting point is beyond difficult. It's like deciding which shining light you will start with when embarking on the intimidating task of counting all the stars. We have before us a galaxy twinkling with examples of selfishness and greed. The Liberal Party is our NASA. Tony Abbott, our Neil Armstrong, taking giant leaps for mankind in the wrong direction.
When my parents were born in post-World War II Australia, they lived their childhoods through a conservative and modest era. They weren't rich. Far from it. Despite this, my mother had nine siblings. My dad's family wasn't far off that figure either. They lived at a time when the option to live off a single salary and raise an army of rug rats was more than feasible; it was the norm. These days, such sized families are either an option only for the rich, or a tell-tale sign of the irresponsibly poor. And that infuriates me.
My parents had free education. They could have pursued tertiary education without incurring debt. They could fill their brilliant brains with philosophy, and science, and art, and the wonders of the world without forking out a single hard-earned dollar. As it turns out, in their particular case, they chose not to. Dad instead pursued a number of methods of earning money to pay for the house, which he and Mum filled with children. There were six of us when they were finished. Due to the gradual introduction of American-style user-pays tertiary education, my children will never have such a choice. Thanks to the changes to the budget last week, in a couple of years, universities will be able to charge whatever they want for an undergraduate degree. It's likely future students will incur debt in the hundreds of thousands before they enter into the workforce and begin the decades-long task of paying that debt off. The politicians who made this decision belong to the same generation that got their tertiary education for free. And that infuriates me.
When I left university in 2003 with a Bachelor of Media Studies degree, I had no experience beyond writing some fairly childish music reviews for street press. I turned to the “New Start Allowance” to get me through six months of hell while I searched for a job in the media. I wasn't picky. I sent resumes to newspapers around the state, which went unanswered. I called radio stations begging to volunteer only to be told to call again in a month or so. I did, and was told the same each time. I even applied to be Glenn Ridge's coffee boy for $400 a week (before tax), and was turned down. Eventually I landed a very junior role at the Seven Network after meeting a stranger who happened to know someone who knew someone. Before that first job came, I lived in limbo, but at least I could afford to pay rent in my sharehouse and get my $60 worth of weekly groceries. Following the changes in the budget, had I been leaving university for the first time now, not only would I do so with a much larger student debt, I'd face a six-month waiting period before I could receive an allowance for my “New Start”. Instead of addressing the issue of serious youth unemployment, the Abbott government has chosen the stick, not the carrot, and is punishing people for being unemployed. This from the same politicians who received free education and, if necessary, access to welfare, when it was their turn to step out into the world and have their own “New Start”. And that infuriates me.
I've written before about the housing affordability crisis in this country, thanks to economic engineering by politicians from successive governments. In 1985, Hawke and Keating essentially introduced to Australia the modern form of negative gearing which allows investors to use the purchase of properties to reduce their income tax, while simultaneously increasing competition in the market. In 1999, Howard and Costello halved capital gains tax, which again encouraged investors into the market and doubled house prices in the following four years. In 2008, Rudd and Swan allowed temporary residents of Australia to buy property without having to report it to the Foreign Investment Review Board, fuelling speculation on the market while simultaneously reducing the nation's ability to monitor foreign investment in real estate. When my parents bought their first home, the average house cost three times the average annual wage. These days, it's close to eight. Instead of addressing negative gearing or capital gains tax or foreign investment laws in the budget, which cost the nation billions in unpaid tax each year, the Abbott government ignored housing affordability entirely. And that infuriates me.
Following the budget, when I finally retire (should I be lucky enough to reach old age and not die at 47 from stomach cancer caused by stewing over the injustices of life), I'll be 70. If I'm lucky, I'll have spent 50 years of my life working, paying taxes, and portioning off an absurd amount of my wage to a savings account I can't touch. Superannuation; a system put in place because apparently all of us are too irresponsible to save for our retirement without the assistance of a federal bean-counter looking over our shoulder. If I could, I'd fire this corrupt unseen accountant. We are paying obscene amounts of our own money to faceless corporations to manage our life’s savings. By that very fact, we're paying them to mismanage our money. When Joe Hockey decides to leave politics, according to News Ltd reports, he'll immediately receive more than $200,000 a year under the old parliamentary superannuation scheme. And that infuriates me.
I’m too infuriated to keep counting stars. I'm following the advice of comedian, Russell Brand. I'm looking in the faces of the people we are being asked to vote for and I know it in my heart; these aren't the people who are meant to be leading us. These leaders manipulate our ‘democratic’ system to serve their own agendas. They say one thing to attain power, so that they can use that power to do another thing entirely. Well I say, “enough!” Maybe I lied? Maybe we all did? Maybe when we voted, they were non-core votes? Maybe we don’t really acknowledge their right to govern now that we’ve seen the cards they were really playing with? I agree it’s time the age of entitlement should be over, but I suspect our definition of ‘entitlement’ varies considerably. It’s time we reset the rules and held our politicians accountable for failing to maintain a duty of care to this country and its people. No more spin, no more half-truths, no more lies. I was told by a friend that if I was older and wiser, I'd see the lies Tony Abbott told before the election, and his subsequent broken promises delivered in the budget, as necessities to fix our country. I truly believe that if those in charge were younger and more naive, they'd play by the same rules as the rest of us. It would be irresponsible not to challenge the system. Especially when it has never been clearer that it’s being run by people taking small steps for their own self-interest, and giant leaps for mankind in the wrong direction.
The opinions expressed in The Side Project blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Project or the Ten Network.