Trashing the constituency

When our elected representatives are out there trashing “welfare bludgers,” they create the conditions for policies that hurt us all. And I’m left wondering, how do we show Liberal voters how their party’s policies are working against their own interests?

I have to admit, even for the Libs, they’ve managed to find a way to go even lower than I expected them to.

First, there was the Centrelink “cashless welfare card.” The entire concept is an horrendous infringement on the autonomy and self-determination of the people affected, but the cost of the card is two-thirds as much as what the welfare recipients actually receive, which is a pittance and far from enough to meet basic needs.

(As an aside—for anyone that ignored what was going on in the NT Intervention, or thought that it was necessary or a good thing, welcome to the reality of those same principles being applied in your backyard, to your people. Perhaps next time you’ll take more notice, to speak out more, if only to avoid being on the receiving end in the future. Always think: “what if this were me?” Because before long, it might just be…)

And then the Minister for Social Services shows the utter contempt she has for the people she is supposed to be serving, coming out with this pearler:

Ruston was quoted by the Murray Valley Standard as telling a single mothers forum in the South Australian Liberal stronghold of Barker that the government “can’t just keep on adding money to this bucket, because we’re not making a difference”.

“Giving [people] more money would do absolutely nothing … probably all it would do is give drug dealers more money and give pubs more money,” the paper quoted Ruston as saying.

There are so many issues with this, but one of the biggest things that really melts my brain is the premise that Newstart and social services are just propping up “druggos”, “alcos” and “bludgers.” This is a convenient trope that the Liberals and shock jocks consistently employ to justify their abuse of the most vulnerable in our community. Like their continued attacks on refugees and asylum seekers, they seek to dehumanise for political point scoring.

Firstly, this image of the average “Newstart recipient” is completely at odds with reality, when the largest single group of people on Newstart is the over 55s. But that never stopped the Libs from twisting things to support their objectives.

But secondly, I take this sort of swipe personally. My mother was one of those people. She raised me on a single income and at times was out of work, relying on social benefits in between jobs. She was never on drugs, never resorted to alcohol, and was never a bludger.

And I think of myself, when I was just starting out, finished uni and trying to get my first job. I relied on the equivalent of Newstart to cover my basics. I worked hard, picking up jobs where I could. I did not resort to drugs, never abused alcohol.

These people they’re talking about. They’re people like my Mum. They’re people like me.

So whenever I read about Dutton or Ruston, or Jones or whoever is spouting this rubbish, I think of my Mum and I. And it makes my blood boil. If find it utterly offensive. Rude.

But at the end of the day: these are our elected representatives that are supposedly there to serve us. I hear some of you laughing, but why? It is the truth. They are, by definition, “public servants.” How is this serving us? The utter contempt with which the Liberals treat the people that voted them in is astonishing. Sickening, even. I genuinely don’t understand how they keep getting voted in, when they so blatantly implement policies that work against the interests of the people that voted for them. How does that work?

I know folks that vote for the Liberals, that are compassionate and caring people. I genuinely don’t understand how they continue to justify to themselves how their vote is being abused, damaging the people that they would otherwise be compassionate towards and care for if they knew them.

I think the answer lay in this “scapegoating”—by painting these policies as a response to the “bludgers” or “druggos” to obfuscate the fact that they’re hurting the “battler,” the “average Australian.” It puts a distance between the policy and the reality of who it really affects.

It’s the same ploy used by Dutton when he gets up on 2GB and calls for the “naming and shaming” (where’s my pitchfork?!?), jail time, and cancelling of welfare payments for climate protestors. Having cemented the idea of the “welfare bludger” into the public psyche, it’s then oh-so-convenient to lump climate protestors, or anyone that legitimately opposes Government policy, into the same camp (or should I say “boat.”)

Don’t be fooled—this is not the result of one or two rogue MPs shooting their mouth off. This is deep in the core of the Liberal party’s world view and a foundational perspective that guides all of their policy, not just their public statements. And, in fairness, it’s also evident in the Labor party’s swing to the right—no doubt a result of pressures from the right-wing factions in that party. It is systemic. And it needs to change if we’re going to maintain any semblance of humanity and care in Government policy.

I don’t know how to break through this mirage. How to cut through to those moderate, caring people who call themselves Liberal voters, for whom these policies would be considered abhorrent if there were seen for what they actually are. And I find that maddening… Any suggestions?