The Hashtag #MalcolmWasSoPoor has been trending around the Twitter-verse. This is in response to a recent public video from our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. In a cruel morbidly satirical twist to the election; our obnoxiously wealthy, high end of town associated, Cayman Island investing, Australian Prime Minister has tried to prop himself up as the very battler his own party oppresses.
Turnbull tells the story of his single father – A hotel broker – a life of real battles and struggles. He speaks about this battle and struggle of a hotel broker parent as synonymous with the lives of other single parents – the low paid workers and the welfare dependent.
In his out of touch way, he also tries to draw the implicit comparison that genuinely poor people understand, and that is that ‘sometimes love is all that gets us through.’
Love is all that gets us through when we need to eat hot milk, bread and sugar to fill our tummies and keep us warm; not when we are worrying about what the elite private school we are attending might be serving us for lunch!
It is well known that Turnbull has had a privileged life, attending a school for the wealthy, has had high-flying well known connections to assist him to get ahead in life and is now a multi-millionaire. Australians are not dolts and the viral hash-tag shows that many Australians are beyond belief at this latest grab for votes.
This attempt to identify with those in poverty, would have been more palatable, if he had recognised his privilege, but identified that he has used that privilege to listen to people and work on ways to help them. But he did not.
The release of this video in the midst of an election – an election with class-war as the centrepiece, draws parallels to cultural appropriation in the form of poverty appropriation.
You simply cannot dress yourself up as a poor and disadvantaged person and ‘borrow’ that way of life as if this gives you entitlement to the pain and struggles of these people. It is insulting and denies the credit of the struggle of the poor and disadvantaged that they deserve. Poverty appropriation is a new low in politics.
The disconnect of Turnbull and the Liberal party to the poor and disadvantaged demographic is ingrained within their constitution:
2. d (vi) looking primarily to the encouragement of individual initiative and enterprise as the dynamic force of progress. Which translates to:
This is a stuff and nonsense platitude that does nothing but add another label or ‘laziness’ or ‘bludger’ to the poor and disadvantaged, who are already stigmatised by the empty LNP rhetoric and their harsh policy decisions.
Turnbull doesn’t want us to look at the Duncan Storrar’s of this world and say ‘how can we help as a collective – as a nation? How can we work together to do better to assist people like Duncan lead a better life? What can the Government do about this?’
No, Turnbull wants us to look at people like Duncan and cry:
“Shame! You have not used your own initiative, you are lazy and can do better! The Liberal Party gives you the individual freedom and punitive welfare measures to push you forward and make you work hard and the free market to do this in. It is your fault if you cannot be the best you can be.”
…and this was very loudly backed up by the Liberal Party’s biggest advocates – The Murdoch Press.
There are kids who are the real battlers of today, who do not need to use some type of poverty appropriation to experience it, to empathise with it or identify with it – they live it every day. Here are ten kids poorer than Malcolm:
1. The eight year old boy in regional and rural Australia who is struggling to get a proper education because his family has no access to the internet.
#MalcolmWasSoPoor in his judgement of rural and regional Australians that he completely misunderstands their communications needs and how a communications infrastructure is essential and affects their prospects for the future.
2. The ten year old girl who can sing like an angel, who has the potential to be another Dame Joan Sutherland, but is unable to compete beyond the local eisteddfod, as her parents cannot afford singing lessons, let alone the travel for state or national competition.
#MalcolmWasSoPoor in his understanding of how a few spare dollars a fortnight can make the future so different for some children, when his party cut Family Payments.
3. The seven year old girl in a regional community who misses her dad so much when he goes away for treatment for weeks at a time, as the regional hospital does not have the services to treat his condition.
#MalcolmWasSoPoor in his understanding of the crucial role public health plays, particularly in regional communities when his Government cut critical health funding by $80 billion dollars.
4. The six year old boy who sees the shame in his mother’s eyes simultaneously with the judging eyes of the shop assistant as his mother hands over her Basic’s Card and he feels the not yet understood feeling of stigma.
#MalcolmWasSoPoor in his life experience that he cannot empathise and feel the shame and stigma that income management brings.
5. The nine year old girl with undiagnosed learning problems who will get further and further behind, because the school cannot afford additional remedial support staff to assist her.
#MalcolmWasSoPoor in his choosing a life dedicated to individualism and the free market over democratic socialism, that he cannot comprehend how an ideology based on individualism hurts those most in need and it is the chain that holds them back when he chose not to ‘Go the Full Gonski – whatever that means.’
6. The three young children who were so hungry their stomachs hurt, because they were unlucky to live in a disaster prone area when a flood hit and they had no access to funding for food after all of theirs was spoilt and destroyed.
#MalcolmWasSoPoor in the checking of his privilege when he supported his party to cut Labor’s disaster funding guidelines which excluded so many needy disaster stricken families in desperate need of financial assistance.
7. The eleven year old girl who knows how to grab her four year old brother quickly to find the hiding spot and knows how to keep very, very still and not make a sound as she cries when she hears her mother get thumped and dragged and beaten and her heart races with every blood curdling scream, because Mummy says there is no where for them to go.
#MalcolmWasSoPoor in his commitment to feminism when the Liberal party cut funding to domestic violence services and Community Legal Centres in Australia and decided to inadequately address funding needs for this sector in the budget.
8. The young person who will suicide next week due to not being able to cope with early onset of psychosis and his family cannot afford $600 to see a private psychologist.
#MalcolmWasSoPoor in his understanding that all lives matter more than dollars when he made the commitment to discontinue organisations such as the The Early Psychosis Youth Services (EPYS) program.
9. The young teenage girl who will develop serious health problems and die at only age 26, as in making the choice between a paying for a blood test or food, she chose food.
#MalcolmWasSoPoor in his foresight that destroying and privatising Medicare that this situation will be a young person’s future reality.
10. The thirteen year old boy who is so afraid inside, but must show he is brave as he continually swallows the urge to cry, as he sleeps tucked up inside a stolen sleeping bag in an abandoned industrial building with his new ‘friends’.
#MalcolmWasSoPoor in his comprehension that being a homeless youth is terrifying, lonely and dangerous when the Turnbull-Abbott government cut more than $500 million from homelessness support services.
As a child raised below the poverty line, this latest Turnbull video – an attempt at garnering votes saw me initially remain silent. Regardless of Turnbull’s intention with this video, it has made me feel by ‘borrowing the lived experience of real poverty’ as his own, he has mocked my childhood and my experiences with contempt as he lilts and lulls his inflections with aplomb and tries to romanticise a life of disadvantage as ‘one that is the foundation of success’, as long as you have a ‘good dad.’
As someone who normally enjoys political satire, I have not been able to participate in the #MalcolmWasSoPoor Twitter frenzy and mock Turnbull’s attempt at poverty appropriation. I did not know why, until I worked out how this had actually made me feel.
I can only speak for how I feel and not for others, but this latest political stunt has developed a seething inner child who has screamed so loudly to stand in solidarity with the children of poverty who exist today that I was compelled to pen this post and give them voice through this medium.
To say the least, writing this list has been extremely confrontational, even with my own lived experience. I have used poetic licence to bring these stories into the context of today, but every single example is a built from a real example of someone I have made a connection with throughout my life, except for number 9, which is a hypothetical of the result of a Medicare system under destruction. These stories are not fiction.
Rich or Poor we have the power in this country to make our world better for these children and we can do that with a vote. There are children like these in every electorate, this is their reality. Vote for an end to the conservative agenda permeated with individualism and put the LNP last on July 2. Our voice is our power. Please use it wisely.