Tag Archives: Abbott

No love in Abbott government’s tough

12 Jun

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey have taken to describing their budgetary cruelty as an act of “tough love” for which we may well rail against them in the present, but will respect them for in the years ahead, presumably when we can see how their tough love has achieved the goal of all tough love, that is to bring the poor amongst us to their senses and force them to live non-vulnerable, standing-on-their-own-two-feet lives, or die.

Tough love is a phrase usually associated with advice given to parents of drug-addicted offspring: refuse support in order to achieve a drug-free outcome. It demands that one have sufficient strength to withdraw all assistance that might enable the addict to continue on their self-destructive path. It requires the stamina to watch another spiral into an abject desolation and marginalisation that is allegedly entirely his or her own doing, and in which, the theory would have it, the addict will hit their own personal bottom line and in so doing begin the long trip back to sobriety and a decent life. I have no idea if it works or not.

There is no love in the tough Abbott and Hockey are dealing out to the vulnerable who will bear the brunt of their withdrawal of government support. Indeed, it is very telling that Abbott and Hockey appear to equate (with no evidence whatsoever to support their bigoted assumptions) economic vulnerability with anti social addictions, and have set about “curing” the vulnerability by withdrawing already meagre support in the deranged belief that if you make people starve, they will stop being vulnerable. Vulnerability is, in the Abbott and Hockey ideology, a choice, and people must be forced to stop making it by using the harshest possible methods until they hit their bottom line, and wake up one morning enlightened, repentant, and ready to get a job.

This government has no interest in equality. The admirable ethos of the “fair go,” so intrinsic to what we fondly think of as our national character, has been mangled beyond recognition in the first few months of the Abbott incumbency. Instead, we have Hockey thundering why should you pay for someone else’s education, completely overlooking the fact that someone else paid for his. We contribute to the costs of educating others because it benefits all of us. Educating people gives us the professionals who are absolutely essential to our daily lives and well-being.

Abbott and his government are in the business of installing a new regime of truth, one that is foreign to us, a regime that casts fairness and concern for others in a negative light, a move that is made even more inexplicable by the Christian affiliations of the PM and his Treasurer. The marriage of religion and neo liberalism apparently spawns an extreme of wilful ignorance, and the inevitably cruelty that accompanies the trait.

In his excellent piece in The King’s Tribune, Tim Dunlop argues that progressives need to change the current conversation, that there is little to be gained in agitating for a change in LNP leadership, or castigating Abbott, pining for Turnbull or bringing back the ALP in its current configuration. The Australian ALP appears to be in its own downward spiral, following the lead of the UK Labour Party, described by George Monbiot in this Guardian piece  as selfishly committed to inequality in its acts of omission, and its commitment to supporting aspects of the obscene Tory attacks on that county’s vulnerable.

What progressives must do, Dunlop argues, is work from the premise that we do want a country in which it is possible to offer everyone a fair crack at a decent life, a premise that will lead us in a very different direction from that offered by the LNP. The way in which we might achieve this revolution is by vocalising our resistance to the government’s imposition of inequality as a way of life in our country, using protest and withdrawal of labour. Where there is power there is always resistance, as Foucault noted, and the most powerful form of resistance available to citizens in situations such as ours is taking to the streets, as often as we have to, and letting the government know we are not a people who desire the increased suffering of the already vulnerable, rather we are a people who will fight for the fair go.

There is no love in the Abbott government’s tough. Much as Abbott and Hockey seek to portray themselves as men of character who are willing to risk short-term popularity for long-term gain, the reality is these men have gone for the jugular of the most vulnerable human beings in our country. There will be no long-term gain for the vulnerable. There will be increasing hardship, despair and disintegration. Abbott and Hockey will deliver us a new underclass, generations of citizens who have never been given a fair go.

Vulnerable people have never experienced entitlement, that is the province of the wealthy and comfortable. The age of entitlement is not over, it thrives. The age of the fair go has come to a sticky end, and we will all be the poorer for its death.

Abbott redefines “human” to exclude vulnerable

29 May

I don’t know if anyone else is feeling traumatic fatigue as a consequence of the unrelenting assaults on truth and decency perpetrated by the Abbott government.

Where to start, recovering HECS debts from the dead, lying about the circumstances that led to the death of Reza Barati in the Manus Island riot; $111 million cut to CSIRO while $250 million given to school chaplains; Abbott and Hockey’s persistent efforts to sell their draconian budget as “fair” when anyone who looks for more than a nano second can see it patently is not, favouring, as it does, the rich, while demanding that those who have little give more than they can bear from what little they have, must I go on?

One thing all the government’s ideologically inspired torments have in common is their attack on human dignity, be it the dignity of asylum seekers, of disabled people, of pensioners, of students, of women who are unfairly disadvantaged, of the young unemployed, of the children who will be born into generational disadvantage as a consequence of this government’s policies, must I go on?

Attacking the human dignity of just about everyone, in fact, except the comfortably off and the rich, causing me to conclude yet again that in the conservative mind, the only human who deserves to conduct their life with dignity is the human with power and money.

Which one of the bastards said it is necessary to break eggs if you want to make an omelette?

Denial of human dignity discredits the worth of any cause that needs such denial to assert itself… What may be true for omelettes becomes a cruel lie when applied to human happiness and well-being.*

The ideological assumption from which many, if not all of the Abbott government policies are born, is that if you find yourself in a position where you need government assistance of any kind you are exiled from humanity, that is, they have redefined human to exclude the vulnerable. Indeed, you are not vulnerable at all, as the conservative mind does not accept the notion of vulnerability. You are a bludger, a scrounger, an importunate failure whose existence can only serve to drain the resources of the successful, and this has nothing at all to do with the circumstances of your life, or the society in which you attempt to live it. To the conservative mind, vulnerability equals immorality.

No evidence is ever presented by either politicians or the media who support their ideology, to substantiate claims of bludgers sitting on couches living the high life on the dole. No evidence is ever provided to substantiate the stereotypes of profligate youth, lazy mothers, thieving pensioners, criminal asylum seekers, people faking disability, et al, all of whom apparently exist only to deprive the successful and the powerful of what they claim to have worked their arses off to achieve, that is, depriving the humans who deserve to survive, and survive with dignity.

The value, the most precious of human values the sine qua non attribute of humanity, is a life of dignity; not survival at all costs. *

Yes, Prime Minister Abbott reassures his audiences, this is a hard budget, it will be hard but it is necessary. Yes, Prime Minister, this is a hard budget and it is hard on those who can least afford the pain it will bring. It is an attack on the vulnerable, an attack on human dignity, a disgraceful, undisguised war on anyone who is not, in conservative terms, successful.

And if Bob Ellis is right, though I dare not hope, I dare not, it will bring you down so hard on your unsellable arse that you will never get up again.

The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human, wrote Hannah Arendt. And neither does the Abbott government.

 

*Zygmunt Bauman

The Budget: All cruelty springs from weakness

19 May

Cruelty springs from weaknessIt can’t be denied any longer, conservatives really do believe they have no responsibility to the vulnerable, and it is perfectly acceptable to the Abbott government that those who can least afford it endure the most harsh of financial limitations.

This piece in the Sydney Morning Herald reveals that while high income couples stand to lose scarcely at all, families on benefits may lose up to 10% of their income. Known as “Detailed family outcomes,” this information was withheld from the budget, contrary to custom, by Joe Hockey, obviously because it reveals the Abbott government lie that everyone will be doing their fair share of the heavy lifting allegedly required to get the budget back on track.

Abbott also stated in an interview with Alison Carabine on Radio National Breakfast this morning that the highly paid, such as politicians, judges and senior public servants, will suffer a pay freeze for twelve months, costing Abbott something like a $6000 addition to his $500,000 plus benefits salary package. Not even the most witless among us could possibly believe this can be in any way comparable to the situation of a young person without resources denied Newstart benefits, and low-income families and pensioners having to choose between a middy, a treat for the kids, the doctor’s bill, and medicine, for which they will also have to pay more.

Pensioners also stand to lose extras such as free car registration, and reductions in rates, water and electricity. These concessions were made available to the people in the community who were recognised as vulnerable and needing assistance by governments unlike this one, governments who were capable of making such acknowledgements.

The question I am waiting for a journalist to ask the Prime Minister and the Treasurer is, why are they placing an intolerable burden on the most vulnerable while the wealthy are called upon to do comparatively very little?

What is it in the conservative psychology that makes such unfairness acceptable to them?

No country can afford to be governed by people who hate and fear vulnerability, as do these Australian conservatives. Far from being adult such people are dangerously immature, incapable of understanding any life experience other than their own. Convinced of its superiority, this government asks little or nothing of those best placed to contribute to the country’s needs, while demanding that those least able, relinquish what little they already have. In other words, the Abbott government is determined to punish the vulnerable for their vulnerability.

All cruelty springs from weakness, declared the philosopher Seneca. Wealth and power do not guarantee strength of character, and it’s hard to detect that quality in Abbott and Hockey. Strength of character requires the ability to identify vulnerability and refrain from taking advantage of it. Hockey and Abbott have indeed identified the vulnerable, and have proceeded to take the most appalling advantage, of the kind they would never dream of imposing on the wealthy and comfortable.

Conservatives are, in general, weak and cruel. Our government is weak and cruel. We are in dangerous times, with this weak and cruel government. As we have seen with the treatment of asylum seekers in this country, (and this has been demonstrated by both major parties) once the bar has been lowered for the treatment of a particular group of human beings, it is very easy to escalate ill-treatment.

This budget is devastating for the vulnerable, and pays no mind to their survival. This budget will lower the bar on the treatment of vulnerable people in our society. It will become easier to treat them even more harshly, to consider them even less worthy, to demonise them as threats and parasites, just as has been done to asylum seekers in the last fourteen years. And in the way of things, as history has demonstrated over and over again, ill-treatment becomes normalised, and scapegoats become the bitter focus of a community’s fears and discontents.

Beware of cruel governments. They will only become more cruel. Because they are, at their heart, cowardly and weak, and when the cowardly and weak attain power, the vulnerable will be the first they destroy.

Abbott uses society’s vulnerable as means to an ideological end

2 May

It seems to me that it’s a core conservative tradition to use  the most vulnerable people in society as a means to an ideological end. There are endless current examples of this: threats to pensions, restricted access to Newstart for unemployed youth, destruction of universal healthcare, proposed reduction of the minimum wage and a cap on that wage for the next ten years, all part of the Commission of Audit’s recommendations to the Abbott government prior to its first budget in a couple of weeks.

None of these measures will affect anyone as disastrously as they will affect the poor, and while middle class journalists  on a good wage, some of whom are Abbott’s most vocal supporters,  scream like stuck pigs about the flagged “debt levy” on incomes over $80,000, nobody much is pointing out the ideologically-based, systematic crippling of the lives of those who struggle hardest to keep poverty from their doors.

Conservatives seem to hold the ideological position that poverty is a moral failing, for which the individual is solely accountable, and if that individual has been incapable of taking care of her or himself and his or her family, they’ve no one to blame but themselves. If they do sink into a morass of underprivileged misery then they ought to be able to find ways to redeem themselves. If they don’t manage this feat, they obviously only deserve what little they get, and the conservative will do his or her best to take even that away.

This unexamined belief that the less financially fortunate are immoral and a drain on the prudent is, it seems, impossible to eradicate from the consciousness of the privileged and entitled, who lack any ability to comprehend context, and the myriad forces at work in society that affect the course of a life. This, coupled with the conservatives’ traditional love of a good clichéd stereotype, works to reinforce their sense of entitlement, and their contempt for anyone less blessed than are they.

The conservative disregard, some may even allege contempt,  for those other than (lesser than) themselves, allows them to use rational agents as a means to an end, contradicting the Kantian position that to use others as a means, and not an end in themselves, is to flout the fundamental principle of morality.  Perhaps this is nowhere as starkly obvious as in the current and previous governments’ treatment of asylum seekers. Both major political parties have, for many years now, used boat arrivals as a means to achieve political success, and not as rational agents deserving of consideration as ends in themselves. In this sense, the ALP finds itself on the same side as conservative politicians, something that should chill the heart of any ALP supporter.

There is no point in decrying the lack of humanity and compassion in conservative ideology. Both qualities are regarded as belonging to the bleeding hearts of the left, hindrances to freedom, obstacles to profit. So we find ourselves in the bizarre position of having a Human Rights Commissioner for Freedom, Tim Wilson, who recently claimed that McDonalds has “human rights to own property” and that “spending” is an expression of free speech.

It’s a dangerous situation when a Commissioner for Human Rights equates the ability to spend with the right to freedom of any kind, including speech.

It makes no sense to take any measures that prevent or discourage people from taking care of their health, such as co-payments for doctor visits for example. This will increase the pressure on accident and emergency departments, already stretched beyond their means, and result in people becoming chronically ill, at much greater expense to the taxpayer.

It makes no sense to continue to spend billions of dollars incarcerating a few thousand asylum seekers, for example, when there are many less expensive options  such as allowing refugees to live in, work, and contribute to the community.

It makes no sense to waste billions on a paid parental leave system when the money could be much better invested in increased child care for parents who want to work, but find it difficult to access adequate care for their offspring. Good child care is also an investment in our future: children can benefit enormously from early education and socialisation, a child care centre doesn’t simply “mind” them, it educates them.

However, none of the above is of any consequence to a political party driven by ideology. Humans are, to such a party, a means to an ideological end, not an end in themselves. Obviously, it is much easier to treat the less financially blessed as a means to an end, and if you already believe poverty and disadvantage to be  indicators of lack of morality and worth, why would you care anyway?

You may not agree with Kant’s categorical imperative, but there is something very dark about the Abbott government’s willingness to impose harsh circumstances on those already doing without in this wealthy country. It is easy, Mr Abbott, to make life more difficult for those without the power to protest. It is more of a challenge to work towards an equitable society based not on ideology, but common sense, and respect for everyone’s humanity.

Note: It’s with my tongue firmly in my cheek that I use this conservative image of Jesus.

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Transfield, detention centres, ethics, depression & Abbott’s Commission of Audit

2 Mar

transfield-services-clyde

 

Douglas Snedden, Non Executive Director of Transfield, the global operations, maintenance and construction services business awarded  the $1.22 billion dollar contract to provide ‘Garrison and welfare services’ to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru, is also a director of the St. James Centre for Ethics, and Treasurer of the Black Dog Institute.

Tony Shepherd, handpicked by Joe Hockey as Chairman of the Abbott government’s Commission of Audit,  was until October 2013 the Chairman of Transfield. His record is far from exemplary, according to this report by Bernard Keane, in which Shepherd is described as ‘Transfield’s doyen of debt.’

The St James Centre for Ethics works with business to promote ethics and ethical decision-making. It is extensively supported by the business community. The Black Dog Institute is concerned with the treatment of mental illness, specifically depression and bi polar disorders.

Transfield subcontracts  the security management of the detention centres on Nauru and Manus to Wilson Security. Counselling and medical remain the responsibility of International Health and Medical Services.

‘Garrison and welfare’ services are the responsibility of Transfield. ‘Garrison’ is a military term meaning a permanent military post. Transfield have considerable experience with defence.

Quite what welfare services the company is responsible for providing to the prisoners held in the camps I have not yet been able ascertain. Presumably these are the services that were previously supplied by the Salvation Army. I have also been unable to ascertain if Transfield have any prior experience of providing welfare services. Based on the company’s own account of their business, the specific welfare needs of the prisoners held on Manus and Nauru would not appear to be included in their expertise.

Former Transfield ChairmanTony Shepherd is also President of the Business Council of Australia, an association of CEOs of one hundred of Australia’s leading companies, as well as a past (2012)  Director of the Migration Council of Australia.

Isn’t this all nice and cosy?

Many thanks to @mix1127 for first pointing out some of these connections.

Why I can’t call Abbott a cunt

7 Sep

Abbott Winker

 

One of the most telling revelations Tony Abbott has ever made about himself occurred in his chat with Annabel Crabb on ABCTV’s Kitchen Cabinet last week.

Describing the circumstances that led to his abandonment of theological studies and his goal to enter the Catholic priesthood, Abbott explained that while struggling with a 500 word essay on the desert fathers, he had a conversation with a mate who was about to leave for London to enable the satisfactory conclusion of a billion dollar business deal. Upon hearing his friend describe his venal life, Abbott experienced a Damascene moment. Christopher Pyne will tell you how to correctly pronounce that word.

What the hell, Abbott wondered, am I doing sitting in a seminary writing about the desert fathers, when I could be carving out a future for myself in the world of power, money, and fame?

Well, that’s not a verbatim report of what he says he thought, but it would be, if he’d been truthful. He couched his moment of enlightenment in terms of doing good, however, in the context of the billion dollar business deal, one is given cause to ponder that ambition.

In short, Abbott found God sadly wanting in comparison with what the world could offer, and without much ado, quit his service.

Some may say it was at this point that Abbott embarked on what was to become a lifelong commitment to selling his arse. In my book, arse-selling has been his highest and most consistent achievement, and before too much longer he’s going to need a colostomy bag to contain his excrement when his arse, abused beyond endurance, finally falls out.

So why can’t I call Abbott a cunt, as do so many others?

I’ve long been ambivalent about the co-option of this female body part to perform as the worst expletive Western culture can manage. I acknowledge the admirably explosive possibilities of the cunt word. Its unique ability to convey a profound, rage-filled and terminal contempt is undeniable.

And yet, and yet and yet…

The cunt houses the only human body part whose sole purpose is to provide its owner with pleasure. How this can possibly bear any relation to Tony Abbott I’m damned if I know.

The cunt, pink, plump, shiny with the juices of desire, is a thing of exquisite beauty, hidden from view, shown only to the chosen one, repository of what is most astonishing in human sexuality. When I think of the cunt, the last association I make with it is, yes, you’ve guessed right, Tony Abbott.

The cunt, with its miraculous ability to open beyond imagining when fulfilling the task of delivering new life into the world, does not in the least remind me of Tony Abbott, whose desiccated countenance and impoverished speech patterns symbolise a shrivelling of human spirit I cannot associate with any life-giving qualities at all.

Or am I being too harsh?

In truth, I love my cunt and everything she can do. I have never been entirely comfortable using her name as a means of conveying contempt, though I fully understand why that is done, and I’m not getting up a petition to have it stopped.

This leaves me with the problem of how best to describe Tony Abbott. I like to think of him as a rat-fucking piece of human excrement who sucks dead dogs’ balls.  I know that is far clumsier than cunt, and takes more breath.

But please, do consider my argument for the beauty of the cunt, and think twice before likening our next Prime Minister to her.

A tale told by idiots

26 Feb

And so we enter the next stage of the Gillard/Rudd cage fight.

It’s nasty. It’s dirty. And despite Attorney-General Nicola Roxon’s political speak, Monday’s leadership challenge will not be the end of it, no matter which contestant triumphs. In a valiant effort to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted, Roxon is now calling for everyone to get behind whoever wins. Yes. I can see that happening. They’ve all demonstrated their capacity to focus on the big picture, haven’t they?

We are witnessing a clash of egos. It’s likely that anyone who seeks to lead a government is going to need exceptional self-belief and both Gillard and Rudd have demonstrated they’ve got it in spades. Remember Gillard announcing Rudd’s ousting with the revelation that the government had lost its way and she was the messiah who was going to get it and the country back on track?

Then this week we have Rudd telling us that only he can save us from an Abbott-led coalition government, to which Roxon responded that we ought to stop being fanciful about messianic rescuers. Of course she didn’t add, only if they were Rudd.

Neither of the contestants is messianic. They’re both more than a little shabby, and tainted by circumstances of their own making. If anyone is depending on either of them to save the country from Tony Abbott, they’re going to be very disappointed.

There’s a monumental battle going on to claim the high moral ground, when it ought to be about good governance. The level of vitriol directed at Rudd by Wayne Swan, Simon Crean and others is alarming: suppose Rudd does win tomorrow, or at  later date, how are they going to work with him? Have they all forgotten why they were elected? Man up, people. Stop whining about the demon Rudd and get on with your jobs. The world is full of people who don’t get on with their bosses. Most of them have to just suck it up.

This can’t be the first government to endure serious tensions, but they usually don’t get into this disgraceful self-eviscerating state about them.

As if that isn’t enough, the populace by far prefers Rudd to both Gillard and Abbott. It’s a reckless politician that denies the popular will, especially with this history behind it.

The overthrow of Rudd was bound to end in tears. What a pity those who dreamed up that scheme lacked the foresight to predict it’s inevitably long-lasting and complex repercussions. There seems to be an alarming disconnect between the government and the people, one that began when Rudd was ousted without much explanation. It’s a bit late now to wash that dirty linen, and it also looks rather after the fact.

Gillard may well be more capable of facilitating the daily business of governing the country than Rudd proved to be. Rudd may well be streets ahead in popularity, and perhaps this does indicate he stands a better chance against Abbott in 2013. That depends on what he does between now and then, should he win tomorrow. If his return to the leadership causes widespread revolt and ministerial resignations that’s only going to play into Abbott’s hands. This doesn’t augur well for Roxon’s preferred solution, and as she has already stated that if Rudd offered her a portfolio she wouldn’t accept it, one has to wonder just what she’s on about. While Rudd may be difficult, some of the others don’t sound so straightforward either. They also sound a long way from making the best of it and getting behind whoever wins.

This morning Education Minister Peter Garrett announced he wouldn’t work in a Rudd government. Who do these people think they are? Elected representatives, that’s who they are, and they aren’t elected to refuse portfolios.

If Gillard is returned, she and her camp can be accused of yet again ignoring the will of the people, who’ve demonstrated in the polls they want Rudd back, and more, didn’t want him thrown out in the first place. Somehow, Gillard will have to turn around those who are resentful, feel cheated, and don’t want her as leader when it comes time to fight the next election. One can imagine how Abbott will use this “denial of the will of the people” narrative against the ALP.

The only winner of tomorrow’s contest is likely to be Abbott, I fear. Serves the ALP right, I also fear. But pity the poor punters. We’re the victims in this farce. Not Rudd. Not Gillard. Not any of those precious pollies who just couldn’t find a way to work with their boss. They should have tried harder, shouldn’t they? Because they are probably going to pay the ultimate price for ousting him when they become the opposition in 2013.

This is truly a tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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