Welfare meets Workchoices
Labor and the Liberals are in a race to the bottom in welfare bashing. At this stage Tony Abbott is just ahead with various schemes to abolish the dole, work for the dole or die for the disability pension.
But Labor has the May Budget to win the prize and prove to all those hansonite supporters with their Bob’s bitch and ditch the witch posters that they really are tough on the undeserving poor, unemployed and disabled.
By undeserving Labor and the Liberals mean anyone who is actually poor, unemployed or disabled.
Labor’s attacks on welfare recipients were tested on indigenous people through the racist invasion of the Northern Territory before they began to expand their attacks onto poor white people.
Both parties regard unemployment, poverty and disability as some sort of lifestyle choice instead of something systemic. The lack of a major left wing organisation to defend the unemployed and the disabled means that many workers agree.
At the heart of these welfare attacks is the same logic that drove Workchoices – to cut living standards and save Government spending on unemployment and disability pensions. These attacks are aimed at cutting wages. Cutting unemployment and disability pensions, freezing the ability to spend half the payments, puts pressure on prospective workers to take jobs at any wage. It is the logic of neoliberlaism and both major parties have the disease.
Labor can’t therefore substantially attack Abbott’s plans to abolish the dole in areas of low unemployment or to impose qua ranting. Indeed on quarantining Abbott made the obvious link to Labor’s policies.
If it is right and proper for long-term beneficiaries in the (Northern) Territory to have their welfare income automatically quarantined, why isn’t it right and proper for this to happen right around the country?
The answer is that it is not right and proper and that is why the Left has been campaigning with indigenous and other groups against the racist intervention. But Labor itself has the same plans so it can’t criticise Abbott on quarantining as a matter of principle.
All Labor can do is embrace the neoliberal within and criticise Abbott, as Finance Minister Penny Wong has done, for releasing an ’uncosted policy’, calling it ’typically reckless economic management.’
Sorry? reckless economic management? Is that it?
What about the fact that this is an attack on the most powerless sections of society. Labor now doesn’t even bother and can’t lie that it defends those groups since it is sharpening its razor and already cutting, as its support and management of the racist Northern Territory invasion shows.
This is debate between Labor and the Liberals over degree, not principle. Both parties are a disgrace, the disgrace that is neoliberlaism and serving the interests of the ruling class.
Meanwhile the tax system every year gives $113 billion in disguised grants to a range of people, especially big business and the rich who benefit to the tune of tens of billions.
There is no attack from Labor or the Liberals on Defence spending, currently running at around $25 billion a year. Labor has guaranteed real spending increases of 3 percent per annum on Defence.
Gillard tonight was talking about savage Budget cuts. These won’t be on the rich and business. They will be on the poor and workers. Here’s part of what she said:
We can take these tough decisions now to bring the budget back to surplus – or we can put them off to the never-never, which will just make these decisions harder and these cuts more severe when the time comes.
Taking some pain now will ensure that households avoid a lot more pain in the future.
What drives this budget surplus fetishism? A neoliberal vision of the world, one where the elite and their politicians seize any opportunity to shift wealth from the poor and working class to capital and the rich.
That is why labor backed down over a slightly stronger resource rent tax. That would have bought in an extra $100 billion over the next decade, more than enough to wipe out the eared deficit and pay for some extra benefits for the unemployed, the poor and the disabled.
Labor won’t do that because it is a party of the bosses and now rules for certain sectional interests of capital, like the miners and the banks.
It is time to fight back, to spread the opposition to the Northern territory invasion to the current plans of both Abbott and Gillard. This is easier said than done since the powerless find it very difficult to organise.
Workers on the other hand have real power in capitalist society. They produce its wealth.
It is workers who can stop the neoliberal Workchoices style attacks of Labor and the Liberals on the unemployed and the disabled and in doing that defend their own living standards.