Australian Budget 2011: Part Deux

A few days ago I blushed when a few influential Twitterblatherers picked up on my post moaning about the Opposition’s ‘response’ to the budget.

Since then there’s been a lot of talk about the invented New Urban Poor so suddenly beloved of News Ltd. papers and tabloid TV journalism. I’ve spent the rest of the week saying snarky things on Twitter and trying to come to terms with the idea that somebody on nearly three times the average wage can seriously be considered to need Government welfare.

The most astonishing part of the debate has been the traditional enemies of welfare in any form, the Liberal Party (the spiritless, I mean heartless, I mean spiritual sibling of the UK Conservatives) going in to bat for the NUP. Their idea of welfare is suggesting a grizzled billionaire install the Government’s digital set-top boxes for pensioners rather than the Government’s chosen (and flawed) method. The Liberals also seem to think that private health funds, surely the worst value for money product in Australia, and possibly the world, need to be subsidised by the taxpayers who then somehow have to wear annual double-digit increases in their contributions without having a say in it because if they don’t join before age 30, they’re penalised.

From the same Opposition who opposed the Flood Levy which hit actual poor people, the rural poor, the worst off. The same people who are refusing to outline what they would do to achieve a budget surplus (oh, puh-lease, Julia, what were you thinking?) in 2012-13 because they know it would make them extremely unpopular. The Liberal Government who attacked those who earn a third of these New Poor with the introduction of WorkChoices to ensure they earn even less and become even more dependent on Government welfare they so despised having to distribute in the first place.

If these New Urban Poor are genuinely struggling, they have only themselves to blame. It’s these people who have been relentlessly over-paying for real estate and driving up the median house price in the country’s three largest cities. Sydney’s Daily Telegraph outlined the ‘struggle’ of a family on $143,000 whose net disposable income every month (after mortgage, by the way, so their biggest ever expense was already well underway and controlled) was a ‘measly’ $3510, a figure one had to divine with some arithmetic because it wasn’t actually mentioned in the article. They would have even more if they reached the $150,000 cut-off so what on earth do they need with the $70/fortnight or whatever it is they get from the Feds on top of their other range of benefits such as the 30% that is kicked in for their private health cover?

Will they have to settle for a two-bedroom villa in Bali this year? Gasp! The shame of it all!

While that’s more-than-slightly judgemental, the sheer hypocrisy of the whole episode is literally beyond my comprehension. I’ve never been genuinely poor but for two years I lurched along on a meagre redundancy package doing menial part-time (and character-building) work for almost two years, in a depressed state, wondering if I would have to move my young family back in with a set of parents. I couldn’t even get a job shilling mobile phones. I’d worked very hard and had almost everything taken away from me during those two years. We sold everything we could.

We survived because the Government helped us out. I have been earning pretty good money ever since, just recently finished repaying the staggering debts we ran up during those two years but not once – not once – have I thought that since being employed full-time, did I deserve a single extra cent from Canberra. I still don’t own a home and don’t wish to dig myself in a mortgage hole like so many of these whining, middle-class whackers getting hives every first Tuesday of the month in case the interest rates are lifted.

I know what it’s like to one day hide in a darkened room, have just a few dollars in the bank, three maxed-out credit cards and a phone in my hand that hadn’t rung with good news for nigh-on 22 months. It did that day. I’m one of the lucky ones, one of these New Urban Poor, as it turns out.

I don’t feel poor. Because I’m not. I may not be rich either but I sure as hell am not going to satisfy the Right by participating in a class war that has no winners. There are few people in it who aren’t already losers by their own hand because they can’t save up for something or, worse, realise just how damn lucky they are.

I’m also not going to satisfy the smug sections of the Left saying $150,000 is ‘rich enough’ because, again, that’s a side of the battle that has no winners, just a huge chunk of the population looking on, wondering how this argument even got started when they can barely afford to feed their kids let alone have $3500 left over at the end of the month. Or even $3500 to start with. I reckon those people don’t give a toss about the surplus, they care about keeping their jobs and perhaps grabbing a ten dollar a week pay rise that might cover their rising power bills. I know I did.

As I said to a fellow Twitterer the other day, earning $150,000 is its own reward. A welfare-filled slap on the back from the Government is the last thing we need. Not only does it hurt well over 50% of the population, it’s stopping us from reaching the ludicrous goal of a multi-billion dollar budget surpluses which is the pathetic reason these ‘cuts’ were introduced in the first place and something the Liberals have been wanting to hear for months.

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