Compare the pair

UnemployedJobsJoe Hockey’s budget has been widely rejected by the Australian people. And he knows it. How do I know he knows it? Because why else would he ramp up his rhetoric about welfare bludgers to desperation levels in such a whiney and pathetic tone?

This week Hockey’s been promoting hatred of welfare recipients by telling Australian workers that one month of their annual salary is being sucked away by these sub-human, leech-like, lazy, good for nothing dole bludging sloths. Ok, he didn’t exactly use these words, but this is the image he’s clearly trying to conjure up.

It is moments like these that I am reminded how important it is for independent media sites like this one, and independent voices, to get an alternative message out there. Because Hockey’s hobby of blaming Newstart and Pension recipients for all the world’s problems is not only bully-boy lazy, but it also completely misrepresents the situation to make it appear that the only people in society who benefit from government spending are those receiving welfare payments. And the mainstream media, on the most part, support this lazy myth.

The inconvenient truth for Hockey is that all Australians benefit from government spending of one kind or another, because without government spending there is no civilisation. And as I wrote recently, the key fact that Hockey will do his best to supress because it doesn’t fit his ‘let’s-blame-welfare-recipients-while-we-bring-about-an-ideologically-inspired-small-government’ narrative is this: it’s the rich who benefit most of all from the very existence of government. You don’t believe me? Well how about we compare the pair? Who’s really benefiting most from Australia’s publically-funded civilisation?

Olivia’s life
Olivia is 32 years old and rents a one bedroom studio apartment in western Sydney for $140 a week. Olivia has been out of work for two years ever since the manufacturing company she worked at sent all their factory jobs to China, and since then she’s been sending out resumes via the computer at her local library but hasn’t had a single call back. She completed a qualification in production systems at TAFE while she was working five years ago, but very rarely sees a job advertised requiring this qualification. Each week she receives a Newstart allowance of $255.25. After her rent and household power and water bills are paid, she is left with $90 a week for food (three meals a day across a week equates to $4.29 per meal, so sometimes she skips meals). Some of the food she buys includes GST so a portion of her spending goes back to the tax office. Olivia can’t afford to go out and walks everywhere as she can’t afford public transport. She avoids seeing a doctor as she can’t afford to go to the chemist to fill a prescription. She hasn’t bought new clothes in the two years she has been unemployed – when her clothes wear out she goes to the local op shop. Her TV broke eighteen months ago so she doesn’t have any entertainment at home, except when her elderly neighbour invites her over for a tea and they watch the ABC news headlines together. Olivia is an only child and her parents live on the Central Coast of New South Wales and don’t own a car, so she only manages to see them every few weeks when she has enough money for a train ticket. She has friends who call her sometimes to chat, but she can’t afford to call them as her phone never has any credit. Her friends don’t ask her out anymore because she can’t afford to do anything. Her life is lonely and miserable and most of the time she is depressed.

So let’s recap the benefits Olivia receives from government spending in an average week. She completed her education at a public school and co-funded her government funded vocational training at Tafe. She sometimes sees a bulk-billing doctor and if she got seriously sick or injured, she would have access to a public hospital. She could also call the police if ever she needed to. And she has received a Newstart allowance for two years, and hopes one day to find a job. So this hypothetical Olivia doesn’t exactly sound like someone who is really enjoying their ‘welfare Queen’ status while screwing tax payers, does it? She doesn’t sound like she’s benefiting that much from the civilisation she lives in.

Now let’s compare Olivia to Mark and Jenny:

Mark and Jenny’s life
Mark and Jenny, both 32 years old, live in a three bedroom townhouse in Wollstonecraft on Sydney’s north shore that they bought for $750,000 four years ago with help from both of their parents and the first home owner’s grant. Their home has appreciated by 4% each year since they bought it. Mark works as an accountant at a large pharmaceutical company in North Sydney, which sells many of its products via the government funded Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Mark takes the publically-subsidised train to work every day. Jenny works as a physiotherapist in a public hospital and drives to work every day on publically funded roads. Together they take home a weekly household salary of $3,000 after tax, and after they’ve paid their mortgage, they have around $2,000 each week to spend on life’s necessities like energy and water bills, insurance, internet, car payments, petrol, Foxtel, groceries, gym memberships, take away food, wine, beer, spirits, Friday night drinks, Saturday night dinner parties or movies, tickets to sporting events and concerts, designer clothes, books, magazines, gifts, pet toys, home wares and furniture. Each week they put money away in a savings account to pay for their yearly overseas holiday. Both Mark and Jenny needed a university degree to work as an accountant and a physiotherapist and they both contributed to the cost of their degrees through the HECS system, whilst most of the investment in their education was made by the government. Mark attended a public school and Jenny went to a private school, with the cost of her education partly funded by her parents and partly funded by the government.

Mark and Jenny have a good life and much to be grateful for. They are content in their work and have busy and enjoyable lifestyles. When you look closely at the lives of Mark and Jenny, you can see that government spending has not just influenced much of their success, but it has been at the very foundation of the civilisation where they enjoy their affluent lifestyles.

So back to Hockey. He is clearly trying to make the Mark and Jenny’s of the world resent Olivia. He wants Mark and Jenny to think about all the hard work they do each day (and no one is questioning that they do work hard) and to resent that some of what they earn is taken away from them and given to someone else who needs it. But what Mark and Jenny need to also understand is that they did not reach their level of happiness, comfort and first-world lifestyle on their own. The government funded civilisation that they live in enabled their lives and continues to enable their lives every day. It’s the fact that there are so many government-enabled lifestyles in Australia that makes Australia a rich country – a place where so many people make money by relying on others being able to afford whatever it is they sell. If there really is a class war going on in Australia as Hockey says there is, Mark and Jenny are winning and Olivia is clearly losing.

So rather than resent the tax that the likes of Mark and Jenny pay, and begrudging people like Olivia who benefit so little from our civilisation, how about everyone ignore Hockey and instead offer some gratitude for the opportunity they’ve been given to be part of a civilisation that gives them so much benefit? And how about some empathy for the Olivia’s of the world who exist day to day in poverty? Because the truth is, Olivia isn’t lazy. Olivia doesn’t bludge. Olivia just survives. And Olivia would love to pay as much tax as Mark and Jenny do, so as to reap the benefits of the position in their society that their highly-paid government enabled lifestyles affords them. Think about that next time you see Hockey blaming Olivia. Think about that next time someone talks about lifters and leaners.


  1. Reblogged this on Christine R and commented:
    Another excellent article by Victoria Rollison, comparing the ways an unemployed single woman and a two-income family benefit from government in our society. Joe Hockey is doing his best to encourage the latter to resent the former.

  2. Once again Victoria, you have nailed the issue to the wall. The actual role of Government is to serve its citizens, by doing all of the things you have said.

    As far as i am concerned the biggest bludger in the game is Joe Hockey. He is on a very nice wicket thank you very much. So he is actually reaping the benefits of the Taxation of all Australian citizens.

    Yet he tries to tell us all that we are the problem.

    One of the biggest impost on Australians Nowadays is the Cost of living pressures we have due to the so called free market policies of the Liberals. Take Electricity for one. Actually they created a false market. And now we are paying through the nose for it.

    Even Malcolm Fraser said in an intervirew at an Ethics forum, that its OK for the State to own Utilities which do not lend themselves to private ownership and he cited telecommunications and Electricity.

    In 1993 just before the liberal Premier and his cohorts, the IPA privatised the State Electricity commission of Victoria, it was the 8th cheaper supplier of Electricity in the OECD and it was running well.

    Here is a link to Prof Sharon Beder’s submission to the Owen Enquiry in NSW about privatising their Electricity industry.

    Click to access UnionsNSW.pdf

    a good read which highlights the efficiency of the SECV and the jobs lost (over 13,000) in Victoria. Just for the sake of ideology.

    Don’t believe for one minute that sale of any asset will make prices for that service cheaper. The first thing that happens is they add a Profit margin. So the price is likely to go up by at least 30%.

    My point is that the Joe Hockey’s of this world are all about redistribution of wealth, assets that we own will be sold off to overseas interests for the sake of a quick buck. The dividends that Governments get from these assets on a yearly basis which help citizens will be gone, but the cost of using the assets will rise.

    This is economic Illiteracy writ large. For those reading this, another Economist who doesn’t like selling off assets is John Quiggin
    His site is here

    Well worth a read.

  3. I made the same observation yesterday on the Guardian site,Hockey is trying to pitt the haves and the have nots against each other and it is despicable and smacks of desperation on his part,and he knows no one likes his crap budget and he cant be seen to be back tracking on it.
    The next salvo will be from Abbott about the crisis in Iraq,he will mount a massive scare campaign to scare the shit out of people into thinking there is some clear and present danger to Australia and only he can save us from this terrible threat. When a PM is down in the polls and sinking like quicksand they search around for a war,any war will do as long as they can manipulate the perceived threat fot their political survival. This mob are dangerous people and must be removed by democratic means at once.

  4. Another impressive post. What enrages me most is that Hockey and Abbott have no concept whatsoever of any life beyond their own circles. They attribute hardship to laziness. They know NOTHING!
    I find it completely insulting that they dare pontificate about the fecklessness of the poor as flick gold dust off their custom-made suits and wallow in the bonanza of public funded ‘entitlements’ which both of them could afford privately without a ripple in their standard of living. They are arrogant, smug and ignorant – none of it forgiveable in so-called leaders.

  5. anything stopping Olivia from getting different training / moving someplace else / getting a job outside her immediate area of expertise?

    • Don’t want to be rude, Andy, but to me, your comment epitomises the gulf in understanding that exists between Abbott/Hockey ideology and Olivia’s reality.
      What you really fail to grasp is that Olivia hasn’t the resources – financial, emotional, intellectual, psychological: any or all of these – to think the way you think or do the things you might do. Her view of life is determined by her natural ability, her education, and the opportunities available in her environment. She is busting her gut the best way she knows how, to break the vicious circle, regain her self-respect and make something of her life. What may seem simple and logical to you is way outside her field of reference. Surely simple humanity demands that we respect her for who she is and the effort she’s making, rather than condemning her for not having your ability.
      To say we are born equal is nonsense. We are all born with different levels of ability. But we are born with equal rights, and one of those is the right to respect.

      • so in response to a hypothetical person that Victoria put up, I posited that she was intelligent and able to do things for herself (as evidenced by her study in the past and her ability to hold down a job), and you posited that she was incapable of helping herself in any way. And you then leap to me not respecting her? I’ve painted her in the most positive light possible.

        I know first hand how mentally debilitating being out of work can be, and sometimes you need an outside party to nudge you into study / activity to get your mind working again. if i was in her situation, with no dependents and no mortgage to service, i’d probably move back home with parents, study by distance education and get skilled up.

      • which is exactly my point. That’s what you would do, from which you extrapolate that this is what Olivia should do, disregarding a whole wealth of difference between you and Olivia. That’s what frustrates me so much: the assumption that one size fits all. It doesn’t.

      • so what’s your suggestion for this hypothetical person? Blaming the liberals wont help her.
        My suggestions are aimed at getting her into employment as promptly as possible rather than leaving her in long term unemployment.

        You’d agree at any rate that she’d be better off in work in terms of her economic and emotional wellbeing than being in long term unemployment, even if it wasn’t her dream career? at least it’d show employers in preferred career paths that she was keeping her work ethic up, and she wasn’t idle in waiting for the dream job to come.

  6. Andy, I am all ears…exactly what place and job are you and Big Joe suggesting….Olivia is obviously a leaner and not a lifter like you two…

    • since when was it the job of the government to provide everyone with a job? the government can provide the economic environment where people have the ability to start businesses, employ people and to prosper, but we don’t live in a command economy, and countries that have gone down that path haven’t really been shining examples of human flourishing.

      • Andy, you were suggesting that she move house and look for a job outside her field…that is fine, and a good idea in principle, but it should not be the mandatory obligation for someone in her position…we probably differ on this point.

      • Kim: She’s renting. Far easier to move than if she held a mortgage.
        she’s welcome to live wherever she likes, but surely if she wants to keep getting money from the taxpayer, she owes it to the rest of us to do all she can (including moving place and skills) if that enables her to maximise her flourishing rather than remaining on the benefit in the possibly vain hope that manufacturing comes back in the part of the country she lives in.

        Not mandatory, but probably a good idea, at least in this person’s case.

  7. Having read this I thought it was extremely enlightening.
    I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this
    shot article together. I onc again find myself personally
    spending way too much time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

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