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.
That is just a list of 20 examples of people who don’t just have a difficult day, they have a difficult day every single day whilst your Government is hurting everyday Australians. Please call an election. It’s not just the Speaker who needed to go. Your entire Government needs to go.
Kevin Andrews has announced that anyone seeking to access the disability support pension, will now be required to see an independent doctor prescribed by the Government, and recommendations from family doctors will no longer be allowed to assess people for the disability pension.
The LNP has effectively taken away the right of choice for people with a disability. All Australians expect a fair go, a right to choose. However, this is now no longer the case if you have a disability. Someone will make this choice for you. For those with a disability who do not need an advocate; who can make their own decisions. For those who need an advocate, this is taking away the right to choose, through denying the choices that the advocate can make on their behalf. This is a blatantly disabling people with a disability, rather than enabling them.
This also strikes me as so raw and so insensitive not even a week after the passing of Stella Young. Stella Young, if anything, taught us that we should treat all people with disabilities as human beings. Taking away someone’s right to choose does not treat a person as a full human being. Kevin Andrews (as all neo-liberals do) is purely focused on money and not the welfare of the person, nor is he focused on client outcomes for a person seeking the disability pension. Scott Morrison inheriting this portfolio, will contribute a ‘show no mercy’ approach to this situation.
In plain Australian English: The LNP does not give a stuff about people with a disability and how they should be treated.
One of the most concerning risks is that if the correct outcome for a person with a disability is not achieved, this will result in that person being moved to Newstart. This person will then receive less money and will further exclude a person with a disability from accessing social inclusion activities, transport and even better choice of housing to name a few. Once again, the underlying message of the Government for welfare recipients is “they are liars and cheats and we must stop them.”
Through this agenda of stigmatization and segregation of welfare recipients, the LNP Government aims to use this stigma and marginalization, so major cuts to welfare and even full closure of some services will result in little resistance from voters. Everything about the LNP is underpinned by cuts, cuts and more cuts, as demonstrated even more today with cuts to housing advocacy and homeless programs, programs for the blind, deaf and acquired brain injury also losing critical funding.
Lisa Gunder’s article, Immoral and un-Australian: the discursive exclusion of welfare recipients, discusses the narrative / agenda set by political leaders since Howard. The focus on the welfare agenda in the Howard era, when Abbott was Minister for Employment; set to recontextualise ‘have a go’ and ‘the protestant work ethic’ (as part of our national identity) within the welfare discourse. In an analysis of Australian identity, the ‘Australian way of life’ features strong connections with hard work the middle class and a protestant work ethic. From Howard to Abbott, they have used this ‘accepted view of our way of life’ strongly within speeches and narratives about welfare; to change how Australians see those who are truly disadvantaged.
The other most prominent issue that Gunder raises, is that in Howard and Abbott’s speeches, they highlight the success of the ‘in-group’ (non-welfare recipients) and mitigate the achievements of the out-group (welfare recipients). In simple terms, they purposely avoid highlighting achievements of welfare recipients and focus on the negative. This sets in place an agenda for stigmatization.
It is through this narrative, that has been used and built on since the Howard years, which sets the tone for stigmatization and paves the way for further cuts and punitive measures for welfare recipients. If you reflect on the timeline, the progression of this negative narrative has extended from the unemployed, to the single parent, aged pensioners and veterans and now the Government believes its narrative has been accepted sufficiently by the ‘in-group’, that harsh and punitive measures for those on a disability will be accepted by the ‘in-group’ or mainstream Australia. In simple terms, the Abbott Government sees punishing people with a disability as a ‘vote winner.’ As Australians, we should strongly see this as a failure to our national identity.
It is simply not good enough for the ALP and Greens and any other party who opposes these measures and this narrative to simply say ‘it is not OK.’ A narrative has been built since Howard’s arrival at the podium in 1996; that has gradually been listened to and accepted by Australians that “it is fine to punish the ‘out-group (aka welfare recipients).'”
As ‘punitive measures and harsh treatment’ are now the norm within welfare; the ALP and Greens need to create a very strong narrative and create a new discourse which places welfare recipients at the heart of the “A Fair Go” and speak loudly and strongly of not only achievements, but of compassion and humanity and how and why we should unequivocally provide assistance for those in need’.
It is essential for the progress of Australia to remain silent on any narrative punishing those on welfare and the disadvantaged and to reject and refuse to create a welfare out-group through stigmatization.
We must move forward and change the narrative completely to build up the strength of our people, through true mateship, kindness and a fair go. Only then, will we all have freedom of ability, freedom of choice, true inclusiveness and a greater participation in work and society by all.
Gunders, L 2012, ‘Immoral and un-Australian: the discursive exclusion of welfare recipients’, Critical Discourse Studies, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 1-13
Well its the holidays Liberal & National Voters all around our wonderful country of Australia. Get your Champers cracking because this week (just in time for Christmas Cheer) you have achieved…
Cutting funding to critical programs that support good and decent people and programs in our communities. The federal government has cut billions of dollars from programs ranging from the environment to health and indigenous legal aid READ MORE HERE
Disrespecting the voice of our Indigenous People (again) ‘What Tony Abbott is proposing to do is slash funding to a body of elected indigenous representatives while spending $1 million to establish a hand-picked Ministerial Advisory Committee in its place (Shayne Nuemann) READ MORE HERE
”The new government has shown that they do not support real decision making for our families and communities through a national representative body chosen by our Peoples, for our Peoples.” (Kirstie Parker and Les Malezer)
Hitting the most vulnerable where it hurts I know the Liberal Party tell you that they believe “In a just and humane society, where those who cannot provide for themselves can live in dignity” (Federal Platform of the Liberal Party) this also means giving these people your precious Liberal Voting Tax Payer dollars – ie MONEY, not just your pity. READ MORE HERE
“I am very concerned that this approach people will see people facing a significantly increased risk of poverty as they are dumped people onto the lower Newstart Allowance. Reducing and restricting access to the DSP is about saving money, not getting people into work.” (Senator Rachel Siewert, The Greens)
Really, what better gift can you give those who have lost their homes? With Australia’s bushfire and cyclone season looming, the Federal Government has announced an inquiry into national disaster funding arrangements. READ MORE HERE
Senator Cameron, who lives in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, which suffered a big bushfire in October, has accused the Federal Government of short-changing residents affected by the fires there (Looks like he is right….)
Destroying Hope for the most vulnerable in our society Now, after the election, Mr Hockey is saying all cuts are on the table, including the NDIS.” READ MORE HERE
“Forty-five per cent of Australians with a disability live in poverty. We need the NDIS to change those things and the last thing we want to have just before Christmas is the suggestion that it might be wound back.” (Australia’s disability discrimination commissioner, Graeme Innes)
Liberating workers from the Production Line Prime Minister Tony Abbott is happy to announce that he celebrates with you, the fact that all the people who have lost their jobs at Holden and associated industries, will be so liberated they will be lining up to thank you…the Liberal and National Voters of Australia READ MORE HERE
“Some of them will find it difficult, but many of them will probably be liberated to pursue new opportunities and to get on with their lives,” (Prime Minister Tony Abbott)
Losing your job is not a ‘liberation’, Tony Abbott (Read Van Badham’s moving story here)
Now Now, we know its not personal against Holden, you will also celebrate the loss of hard workers at Toyota A private meeting between the prime minister, Tony Abbott, and leaders of the main manufacturing union has reinforced their fears that no extra taxpayer assistance will be offered for Toyota Australia to keep its car production operations in Melbourne, where it has a total workforce of 4,200. READ MORE HERE
Yay attacking those Greenies again. Gees…it’s not like they are a business and contribute to the economy or anything… A government decision to remove funding from environmental legal centres will expose communities to damaging development and reduce scrutiny on the mining industry… READ MORE HERE
Conservationists say mining industry will be ‘breaking out the champagne’ at cuts to Environmental Defenders Offices
Aww sweet Liberal and National voters – you have someone to celebrate with!!
Giving gifts to the people who tell Tony Abbott what to do – The IPA and Rupert Murdoch are so excited, maybe their gift to themselves to will be a belated Christmas present, or an early birthday present. All in all Liberal and National Voters, you can celebrate the battle for “Request number 50 to Tony Abbott from the IPA” Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function READ MORE HERE
Group Hug Liberal and National Voters. Your attack on humanity must be so appreciated amongst your own kind…. This Christmas, when you are kissing under the mistletoe with your much loved family and friends, firing up the BBQ on Christmas day and opening up gift wrapped I-Phones, I-Pods and I-Pads, please try to be humble this Christmas in your thoughts or prayers (if you do pray) and think what your #1 in the Ballot Box for Liberal or National has given Asylum Seekers this Christmas….
The Abbott government has disbanded a key group that provided advice on the health of asylum seekers in detention, as research reveals psychiatric problems – such as self-harm – are the most common reasons for the large number of detainee visits to hospital emergency departments. READ MORE HERE
Two women being held in immigration detention have lost their babies after repeatedly being turned away from medical care READ MORE HERE
Ignoring the Experts (again) The Department of Immigration decides who leaves Christmas Island and the manner in which they leave. Doctors may say a child needs urgent surgery in Perth but the department decides when, if ever, that child will reach a hospital on the mainland. READ MORE HERE
And just in case you get the million dollar question and no lifelines – “What is a trait of Narcissistic Leadership…”A trait of Narcissistic Leadership is to Blame others and this is exactly what Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has done. Although he is in charge, somehow this is the fault of the previous Government…..
An intellectually handicapped asylum seeker, who was deprived of her medication by authorities on Christmas Island and then separated from her mother, has begun exposing herself to male detainees, prompting fears she could be sexually assaulted. READ MORE HERE
And Progress will never be made whilst Foreign Ministers are stealing their wages by not doing an honest days work. An honest day’s work for an honest days pay should be the standard for everyone….Ms Bishop has come under fire for praising the conditions for asylum seekers on Nauru, after Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young that the minister had only visited staff housing, not the detainee tent accommodation READ MORE HERE
Yes Liberal and National Voters, its all so easy to Celebrate when you have a helping hand by employing inappropriate people to the top jobs (but nudge nudge wink wink, as long as they are on your side, hey).
Jobs at Mate’s Rates – The Abbott Government has moved to reform the Australian Human Rights Commission by putting in charge a critic of the body whose former employer had called for it to be scrapped. READ MORE HERE
Late update: Anti-Bullying program may be cut to accommodate Tim Wilson’s $320,000 salary READ MORE HERE
The defence of free speech is vitally important, especially in Australia, but this should not come at the expense of the dignity and equality of the disadvantaged (Sarah Joseph)
And while we are on the subject of free speech, the Speaker of the House gives plenty of it to her party…. The parliamentary speaker, Bronwyn Bishop, faced fresh complaints about her impartiality after she appeared to take a dig at two Labor frontbenchers READ MORE HERE
‘The office you hold is greater and more important than your own political rhetoric,’ (Tony Burke)
NB: Please see another blog , which covers discrimination due to the current marriage laws, amongst other areas of discrimination: This is ongoing until it is addressed – An Open Letter to the Prime Minister and Minister for Women.
That was the week that was 15-21st December 2013. Anyway enjoy your week-end coalition voters. Absolutely amazing effort this week. Don’t drink too much, you need to stand proud and all that…Cheers. See you next week.
Think Before you Vote. Join a political party like the ALP or Greens or other left-wing/progressive parties. Get Active. Get Engaged. Discuss issues with family and friends. Share information on Social Media. Join Get Up! Read a wide range of news media. Work hard to prevent right-wing Governments like the Liberal-National Coalition destroying our great country, embarrassing us on the world stage and instilling great hardship on our loved ones, friends and neighbours and on our communities. You CAN make a difference!