Last nights Q and A was a corker, really telly-shaking and bellowingly entertaining and not least because the liberal representative Steve Ciobo (Minister for Trade and Investment) seemed determined not to let one of two audience members with real, valid questions stand in the way of his ideology. Not a small business person and certainly not a member of the working poor. Oh no.
I want to know why people are missing from the liberal ‘jobs and growth’ mantra?
Sure people are the recipients of jobs but when you don’t tell us what jobs and what growth and what we have to give in order to get these opportunities we start asking questions and challenging the basic assumption that jobsandgrowth is good no matter what.
No matter what?
Just listening to the guy who is one of the growing number of working poor. Not everyone can access jobs that earn them an income that gives them choices, many people earn incomes that just about allow them to maintain a roof over the families head and a bit of dinner on the table. You only have to go as far as what has happened recently with the farmer’s milk price issue to know that many families can’t even afford the dignity of choice of being able to vote with their wallets to help save their own – to pay the extra dollar or two a litre that might just trickle back to farmers and keep them in business.
And these people often can’t afford to live next door to work. More often than not work is concentrated around the cities and cities are expensive to live in, even outer suburbs are expensive now because there are so many people trying to cram into such a small space to get so few jobs. In NSW around Sydney we are talking $400,000 plus to afford a basic house 50Km from the CBD – 50Km that could leave you with up to a two-hour commute each way for the privilege, plus the fuel and wear and tear if public transport doesn’t happen to work for you or doesn’t link up to your neighbourhood.
And when these people get to their jobs they will be lucky to be earning a decent choice-making salary. $40-$50,000 per year is a pretty decent slab of cash for someone working in retail, call centres, customer service or hospitality. Double that for both partners (if there are two) working full-time and guess what? You STILL don’t have money left over at the end of the week for a coffee in a coffee shop, a choice in how your child or children are educated or a different brand of milk. Oh and now, and now you have the added complication of who looks after the children while you are making your way to and from work each day. Who pays for that?
Choice? You tell me where the choice is here?
So then up pops a cafe owner who (rightly in my opinion) says something to the tone of ‘shove your tax break for my business government, I’d rather my community had more money as my income comes from them and a tax break on my business would only amount to around $8 per week’ and to that I say ‘fair point, well made’.
And you would have thought that Steve would have started by saying something along the lines of ‘good point mate’ or whatever but no. Instead he proceeded to carry on with his rhetoric as if the good man WITH a business wasn’t relevant.
Which again makes me wonder why the liberal party are not picking up on this. Look I can’t lie, I’m voting for the Greens this time and will put labor ahead of the Libs but not because of reasons of the economy, my reasons fall outside of that. However, I’d still like to be able to get past the distrust I feel when the human element of policy is minimised and into some policy discussions with the liberal party rather than feel like every time they open their mouths its to re-confirm my suspicions that we, people, REAL people are not really the focus at all. That growing the economy IS more important than anything else and that the economy shall be made to grow in spite of everything including the environment, Peoples mental health, the fairness of a policy or how effective it actually is at doing its job.
I am particularly sensitive to this at the moment because of what is happening out here in the West, the way that we feel we are being shoe horned into accepting an airport the size of Dubai surrounded by thousands of homes and a World Heritage Listed National Park in order to deliver jobs on our doorstep. OK so we might (and I say might because these jobs aren’t well-defined), might address one problems of local jobs but the trade-off is dangerously high pollution, 24 hour noise, choked roads and the potential of loosing Heritage listing on our National Park.
I am really hoping that the Liberal part start to think beyond their ideology and ‘great on paper’ policies (if indeed they are great on paper) as soon as possible as reality won’t go away. It will just get bigger and bigger and uglier until we don’t just have one or two people asking awkward question in an audience, we have a whole generation standing up and asking ‘what went wrong’ regardless of what our economic KPI’s are telling us.
People are the reason we do all of this.
Let’s get the people back where they belong.