The Morrison government’s $323,000 a year intended cut to the Foodbank has drawn widespread condemnation. So it should, especially as we enter the Christmas season. It means that families and individuals are going to do it hard.
The backlash has been so severe that Scott Morrison has been forced to appear in public and reverse the decision.
It does not diminish the stinginess of the intent. It came about, because the politicians who make up the government don’t get it and they don’t care. This is not part of the world in which they exist. No one they know, is forced to go out and get some help to eat the next day. After all, their people are doing just great.
Their world stands in stark contrast to what the rest of Australia is facing. Here the day to day reality is that is that life is getting tougher. Poverty is on the rise and there are more homeless in our streets every day.
Never mind all the pep talk telling us how things are getting better. The economy is floundering. Proper jobs are diminishing, and wages get further and further behind the cost of making ends meet. The cost of housing has become, a nightmare. Even people with jobs are struggling.
The crusade against those who depend on Centrelink payments has made it all the worse.
Just about everyone knows that this is the real world for most. Even those politicians in the government have some sense of it, even if it is short of a full appreciation.
Given this, the announced cut came as a shock to many people.
It makes sense though, at least in terms of the government’s economic ideology. It’s rule of thumb is cut back on as much expenditure as possible and hand it over to the major investors. They believe that if this is done, these investors will put their money in Australia, develop the economy, create jobs and bring a rise to everyone’s standard of living.
This of course has not been the result.
It is a short step from believing that the big investors are the cream of society, to regard those who are furthest away as the burdens on society. This makes it easier to see them as parasites, and their poverty is the result of a lifestyle choice, and not because of the economy and government policies.
Thus, the use of resources on these people is a waste. The cut is justified on the grounds that by helping the poor, a bad lifestyle is being encouraged.
This is a vision of society that considers individual greed as the builder of prosperity. There is an alternative vision that sees the best way to build prosperity is by working together and caring for each other. It accepts that we depend on each other and taking care of the collective interests is the way to lift every individual.
Looking at the issue from this vantage point, shows how pitifully inadequate government financial provision for the Foodbank has always been, even without the cut, and this is only part of the picture.
Unfortunately, welfare in all forms is facing the knife, as anyone working in the field will testify. The aim should be not only to restore the cut. It should be that enough is provided to make a big difference.
Money on its own is not enough. Helping others should focus on not only meeting an immediate need. Helping people to achieve their independence and standing on their own two feet should also be goals.
All to often, welfare is provided in a way that builds dependency. In the first place, this means providing the those getting the help with their voice, a say in running services and an expectation that everyone must contribute. The aim must always be to eventually end dependency.
One way in this case could be to encourage a few hours of volunteering to help others. Another could be to devote more effort into putting individuals in contact with more services, and encourage those getting help to participate in collective organisation, to bring about a change to improve their circumstances.