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Hockey goes Marie-Antoinette on Entitlement: We need a code of civil rights!

It is said that Marie Antoinette, wife of King Louis XVI, when confronted with the fact that people had no bread, said, "Let them eat cake, then." This story is supposed to illustrate how out of touch Marie-Antoinette was - so much so that she could not see the absurdity of her pronouncement - which was that she was rich but the people were starving. Australia has a whole slew of Marie-Antoinettesque politicians who peddle fundamentalist global economic policies, apparently with no idea at all of how angry people are becoming about being treated like children with no rights to self-government at all.

The Australian Financial Review sums up Hockey's thinking as, "The entrenched entitlements of the welfare state, corporate handouts and the 'fair wage' are now exhausted," (Australian Financial Review, 5 Feb 2014, p.38.) It's an odd mix of subject matter and I for one do not believe that 'corporate handouts' belongs in there; it's just there for camouflage. The corporates are running Australia; they aren't going to deprive themselves of handouts. Like the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, Hockey is a Roman Catholic, and extremely wealthy, married to an investment banker. One cannot help but think of the role of the Catholic church in places like the Phillipines and Haiti, where it fosters overpopulation and disempowerment, and worry about its ascendency in Australia.

Politics of South Africa

It is kind of interesting to realise that this 'age of entitlement' stuff probably comes from misquoting Nelson Mandela, who talked of ordinary people demanding economic justice as succumbing to the 'culture of entitlement'.

"Mandela warned ordinary South Africans against any expectation that the new government would alleviate the country’s mass poverty. “We must rid ourselves of the culture of entitlement that leads to the expectation that the government must promptly deliver whatever it is that we demand,” he declared. The New York Times noted on Thursday that Mandela also told workers to “tighten your belts” and “accept low wages so that investment would flow.”

At the same time, Mandela courted the South African ultra-wealthy. The Guardian’s obituary noted his “attachment to the glamour of the very rich.” The newspaper explained: “[M]oney was dazzling. Hence, once freed, he holidayed at the Irish businessman Sir Tony O’Reilly’s Caribbean island and gave the go-ahead for his takeover of South Africa’s biggest newspaper group, in anticipation of his ‘magic money’ providing black empowerment in the media. He allowed the casino king, Sol Kerzner, to host the wedding of his daughter Zinzi. He borrowed rich men’s houses and flew around South Africa in their aircraft.”

The social and economic disaster now evident in South Africa stands as an indictment of Mandela’s role in preserving capitalist rule and of his perspective of promoting a “non-European bourgeoisie.”" [https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/12/06/mand-d06.html]

But Mandela spent many years in prison as punishment for fighting against apartheid. This gave him some status and credentials among the poor of South Africa. In Australia we have leaders who have never suffered from any kind of poverty using Mandela's approach, without even bothering with a figurehead.

The bullies are ganging up

Another user of the 'culture of entitlement' term is Bernard Salt, advocate of widows downsizing to give worthier young people more room to live, whilst at the same time a huge pusher of high immigration. Salt and his allies have managed to penetrate the public and commercial media and have often been presented as apparently disinterested experts in fields where they have massive commercial interests. Their methods are questionable. The failure of even the ABC to protect Australians is largely responsible for the fact that political bullies are now openly ganging up on the Australian public. See: http://candobetter.net/?q=node/1711 and http://candobetter.net/?q=node/3613, for instance.

And don't count on 'union leaders' to get you out of this nightmare. 'Union leader Paul Howes, made a feature article and also got to write the Opinion in the Financial Review on 4 Feb 2014, by urging both Libs and Labor to include family homes in aged pensions asset tests. Is he aiming to do a Bernard Salt?

Howes started his political career among the Democratic Socialist Party and Resistance, and has gone on to abandon even their empty left-styled human rights rhetoric. Recently he angered the Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who called him a "Sydney blow-in" 'peddling lies about the Tarkine wilderness in his claim that a heritage listing for the Tarkine will shut down mines in the area'. (Herald Sun Nov 4, 2012).

Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt, has accused Howes of "giving ammunition to Tony Abbott's attack on Australian wages" and has suggested that he should resign his post. (James Massola, Judith Ireland, "Paul Howes: Excessive wages growth is 'pricing some sectors out of the market', "The Age February 05, 2014.)

Note that Mr Bandt is not saying anything about how excessive immigration is driving Australians into the depths of unemployment, housing stress, debt and homelessness. Almost no-one in the press is saying anything about that except candobetter.net. It's as if there's a civil war on in Australia but our politicians think they can paralyse resistance by flooding the media with pro-growth propaganda.

Whilst economic policies look bad, what is worse and what makes it possible for the rich to ride roughshod over the rest of us, is that Australians have almost no civil rights. Unlike the continental Europeans, we never had a code of rights, but we did have public institutions that had obligations towards us, including public banks, schools, universities, power and resources departments, public lands, public housing, baby health centers, employment services and a relatively democratic industrial relations system etc. (See more on this here: "Tingle shoots blanks despite Great Expectations - review of Quarterly Essay".)These public institutions are all being privatised and destroyed in a process that began post 1970s oil shock in all or most anglophone countries. With the disappearance of public-serving institutions disappearance from the public domain, little traction on government remains for citizens and residents. Australians also have diminishing private resources. These are being transferred to the corporate sector - notably banks. Our governments have become dominated by property developers and mining interests, corporate farming and media and big finance. Australians need to fight for their civil rights.

A 'rich nation' - that's rich!

Added to this mix of contradictions is the frequent and infuriating reiteration that "Australia is a rich nation".

"The second force driving the end of the entitlement age is the reshaping of the Australian economy from a protected domestically focused manufacturing base into a supplier of minerals, energy, services, food, and niche manufacturing to Asia. Among rich nations, this makes Australia is [sic] uniquely placed to prosper from the rise of China and the rest of Asia. [...]"(AFR, Editorial, 5 Feb 2014, p. 38, referring to Hocking's speech.

If we were rich then we could be able to preserve the institutions that once served us, we would be able to afford homes and education. It's ridiculous to tell Australians that they are rich, but rich Australians among a jumped up elite keep doing so. Do they mean to insult our intelligence? Or are they just completely deluded? You get the impression that these economic fundamentalists have no concept of the laws of thermodynamics; that they think like children or cargo-culters. Australia as a supplier of energy is a joke; we are now a net importer of oil and we are desperately digging up our best farmland for coal!

Comments

Regarding Paul Howe's suggestion that the $ value of the family home should be assessed when looking at eligibility for the age pension, this looks to be a way of forcing people out of their homes in old age possibly to live nowhere near where they are used to living and nowhere near the facilities they need. The $ value of a house is almost meaningless as house prices have risen rapidly with population growth. In Melbourne for instance house prices have risen at over 10% per annum in recent years . Advocates of making the family home assessable for the age pension talk of houses worth $1 million as though the owner occupant is rich. A house bought for $40,000 30 years ago on a salary of $20,000 p.a. is still the same house. It may have been well maintained and improved, but it still sits on the same block of land. The dollar of today is not the same as the dollar of 30 years ago largely because of rising house prices. Following the logic that a couple who live in a 1 million dollar house and need the age pension are in fact rich is as logical as converting the Australian dollar into Indonesian rupiah (In Indonesia daily transactions at the supermarket may amount to a million) and saying "oh, your house is worth 10 million of these, so you're rich!” The houses were bought in a different era with a different salary. It is totally unfair to deny people the age pension because government engineered population growth has pumped up the $ value of their ordinary homes.
If it is fair then then it has to be admitted that our standard of living has fallen badlly and we are on the wrong track.
Post scipt: the houses targeted by both Howes and Salt are the ones over which Barry Humphries had us rollng the aisles because they were so familiar and which artist, Howard Arkley depicts in a way that made us look again at the ordinariness of Australian suburbia.

A family home is not a source of income, but a place to live. The only way it can create any revenue is to downsize, and move out into an area outside family, friends and support groups, and be alienated. The difference in price will give some short-term cash, but it's predatory to expect older people to capitalise on the home that they would have worked and saved hard to buy.

Some of the "profit" will also go on stamp duties.

After 20 odd years of economic growth, why is our economy failing to perform its basic duty of care to provide for the most vulnerable - the older, sick and disabled - and educate the young?

Ponzi economics means that as the economy gets bigger, it's more expensive to maintain, and the disparity between wealthy and poor becomes more acute. The size of the GDP gets bigger, but a bigger and bigger proportion must be churned back into it to keep the whole system operating. It's said that $1 million is needed in superannuation funding to live a comfortable retirement. How are the working public supposed to save this amount, even with employer contributions?

Ponzi economics also requires on-going population growth to create housing investments, for pensions and super funds. This false scheme will eventually collapse under the weight of ever bigger and successive ageing populations - like a beached whale with insufficient skeletal bones to support its frame!