It’s time to show our compassion

In September last year, about a week before our current government rode a muddy landslide into office, I wrote a very angry post expressing my disbelief at what the Australian public was about to do. I was angry about the LNP’s asylum seeker policies, its promised cuts to foreign aid, its backward climate policies, its failure to fund the Gonski education reforms, its crappy broadband, its draconian stance on gay marriage, and its leader’s overt sexism and lack of vision.

I was angry because, despite all of these reasons not to elect them, Abbott and his blue tie clad cronies (and Julie Bishop) were about to win office.

They won, of course.

Neither political option was ideal on election day, but Australia made a clear choice last September. In plainest terms, Australia voted for money over people. We voted out a dysfunctional government, ignoring its significant economic and social achievements, without realising that the alternative was far worse. Labor’s dysfunction was as much to blame for the outcome as the Murdoch press’ dirty campaign to remove them, and the public’s failure to see beyond Labor’s leadership crises. It was a grand circus, which took the attention away from the Libs’ policies, or lack thereof.

But despite all of this, there’s really no excuse. We knew this man. We knew his values. We elected his party. And here we are… What were you thinking, Australia?

Today, after the devastating May “austerity” budget, the government’s approval rating on a two-party preferred basis sits at 45% – a 7.5% swing against them since the election. Abbott’s personal approval rating is at 31%. Again I ask, what on Earth were you thinking, Australia?

To the 7.5% who have changed their minds about the LNP since the election, help me out here. I am really not clear on what in the bloody hell you were thinking! You didn’t like the budget? What did you actually think they were going to do to?

While “surplus” was the pot of gold that this government convinced the people pre-election that we needed to reach, the journey to get there has clearly not been the rainbow ride as promised. We’ll cut the carbon tax. We’ll save you money. We’ll fix the economy. Vote for us! You seriously believed that?

Where did everyone think the money was going to come from to pay off our national debt? The miners? Big business? Industry? Don’t be ridiculous, people, this is a Liberal government. You’re paying the debt, you duffers. Working families, pensioners, students, kids, the unemployed, the disabled, poverty-stricken people in the third world. $7 at the doctor here, interest on a university degree there, no dole for six months if you’re under thirty (tough luck if you can’t pay your rent), cuts to family tax benefits, removal of international aid. University debt for life? Can’t pay the mortgage? Can’t afford TAFE fees? Don’t worry, our economy is in surplus! That’s what you voted us in for, and we did it. You can thank us, now.

As for me, I’ve been angry since September. In fact, I’m a little more than angry. I’m outraged. I’ve been outraged over and over again to the point where I find it impossible to list all of the policies and decisions that have caused the outrage, but I’ll give you the general gist.

I’m outraged because my government, a government that abolished the ministries for Science and Climate Change, and the Climate Commission, clearly has an ideological opposition to reason. It’s 2014, people, yet this government and its leader are unable to see beyond the immediate financial gains of the fossil fuel industry to consider planning sustainably for the future. Put plainly, the LNP has vested interests in maintaining the status quo. You want evidence? In his address to the Minerals Industry Parliamentary Dinner in May, Abbott told his mining buddies,

You see, the main difference which I’m sure you know but which I suspect many of our people have forgotten, between the modern and the pre-modern world is energy consumption and it is our destiny in this country to bring affordable energy to the world.

It’s particularly important that we do not demonise the coal industry and if there was one fundamental problem, above all else, with the carbon tax was that it said to our people, it said to the wider world, that a commodity which in many years is our biggest single export, somehow should be left in the ground and not sold. Well really and truly, I can think of few things more damaging to our future.

You read it right, Australia, our “destiny” is to dig up coal and let the world burn it.

Sorry, what year is it? Did someone abduct me in the DeLorean while I was sleeping? Our nation’s leader should be a visionary, an innovator, investing in solutions to solve today’s challenges for future generations. I’m lost. Could someone please take me back to the future? This is just getting ridiculous. Mr Abbott, I can think of few things more damaging to our future than digging that stuff up, shipping it through the Great Barrier Reef, and sending it off in a cloud of CO2. And the “wider world”? They’re setting up emissions trading schemes; establishing carbon taxes, not removing them. I think there are a bunch of us who’ll have to agree to disagree on that one, Mr Abbott.

Abbott’s entire pandering, obsequious, slavering speech is here. (Warning: you might vomit a little in your mouth.)

Added to that, approving the world’s largest coal port in the Great Barrier Reef Heritage Area, abandoning emissions reduction targets, and embarrassingly requesting the de-listing of World Heritage listed Tasmanian forests all speak to the lack of interest this government has in preserving our environment for our children.

I’m outraged that, in 2013, we elected a Prime Minister who would select only one woman for his cabinet, who has the audacity to appoint himself Minister for Women. I can’t write any more about this as I’m having trouble keeping myself from exploding.

I am enraged at our federal Education Minister, Christopher Pyne, who, upon appointment, called for a review of the Australian Curriculum. This is a document that was drafted through an exhaustive process of consultation, and has begun implementation. Pyne initiated the review, and appointed Kevin Donnelly, a Liberal staffer and critic of the Australian Curriculum, to lead the review, because he disagrees with the “left wing” content. Yes, understanding Aboriginal perspectives is left wing. So is sustainability. Because only socialists care about the Earth, apparently.

I’m enraged that Pyne and Abbott repeat the line that they’re supporting Gonski reforms when they’re not. As a teacher, I am appalled that a funding model that would have brought equity to education – rich or poor – will not be followed through, because both of these men have ideological sympathies towards private schooling and the maintenance of privilege.

I’m infuriated at the attacks on higher education. TAFE fees. Uncapped university fees. Interest on HECS. Cuts to university funding. If our goal is to become the ignorant country, we’re doing a pretty good job. But hey, we’ve got some new fighter jets. Screw you, kids.

I am outraged that a $7 medicare “copayment” for GP visits will mean that the poorest won’t access medical help when they need it. Kids won’t be taken to the doctor who need to be. And yet funding is being lavished upon medical research. Prevention is better than cure? Not for this government. And it’s unsurprising that it’s our poorest who whose access to medical care will be affected.

I am outraged at our treatment of asylum seekers. Detention (onshore or off), “stopping the boats”, handing people back to their persecutors, the incarceration of children, secrecy and cover-ups, and the inherent racism of all of these policies, is unfathomable to me. These are people. Full. Stop. The government and media propagate fear of the “other”, and we listen to them. I’m disgusted.

I’m outraged that in a world that’s increasingly smaller, a global village in which we should be encouraging our children to see themselves as global citizens with a responsibility towards those less fortunate, our government has declared that helping our neighbours in poverty is not a priority. You need food to survive? Clean drinking water? Vaccines? Can’t help. You’re in another country, across a border – an invisible social construct that means we’re not obliged to care if you live or die. Your kids are going to starve? Sorry, we’ve got to get this economy into surplus.

Does that sound harsh? Sadly, it couldn’t be closer to the truth.

And don’t even get me started on school chaplains.

On Sunday, a bunch of people will take to the streets to show that we are a nation of compassion, despite our government’s actions to the contrary. I’m taking my kids, because they need to learn that empathy and care and humanity are more important than a budget surplus.

It may not change this government’s policies, but there is something to be said for walking in solidarity with a crowd of people and knowing that you’re not alone in your outrage. Our silence makes us complicit. Let’s make our voices heard.

Bring your placards.

Bust The Budget

I’ll see you there.


9 thoughts on “It’s time to show our compassion

  1. Oh my gosh, who are you darling? You have articulated everything and more that I have been feeling over the last year since this bunch of rightwing, ideologically driven, sociopathic crooks got elected into power. What has happened to our once great nation? Abbott and his cronies are using fear and hatred to turn Australians against one another; demonising our most vulnerable for political pointscoring. it is abhorrent, reprehensible and unacceptable. Thankyou Ms Edwards. Your words are like a ray of sunshine penetrating a dark and dusty room…

  2. Erm lulz i think you made a few mistakes here:

    “You need food to survive? Clean drinking water? Vaccines? Can’t help.”

    How can we be expected to help other people when we apparently cant help ourselves? The NBN (turned MTM is a joke), education reforms forget it, cuts to make life harsher for both young and old putting up the cost of living ridiculous.

    I wouldn’t want our government to help others either, they’d probably just end up cutting things.

    “You’re in another country, across a border – an invisible social construct that means we’re not obliged to care if you live or die.”

    Borders are an invisible social construct?… yeah not really in this case its a literal border since we’re surrounded by 4 sea’s and an ocean…

    Other then that though good sentiment 😛

  3. I think you’ve covered most of the nightmare so far.

    An additional bit I’m outraged about is the adult population of Australia being treated like children. Being expected, indeed told, to believe all that they tell us.

    They present us with their “opinions”, dressed up as “facts” which are based on distortions. What chance does the average punter stand if he/she is not savvy to pollie talk.

    Here’s one of many cartoons covering their performance so far (more on this site). . . . .


  4. Lisa never voted for him and still don’t approve of what he is doing. Don’t get me started on funding for special needs at school, although no one has got that one right for a very long time. We knew he would not help us.

Go on, say it. I know you want to.

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