06 March 2016
by Kaye Lee

The next election is our chance for a people’s revolution

Last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) produced a paper titled Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality : A Global Perspective.

They found that “increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth—that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down.”

They identified weakening protection for labour as one of the common drivers of inequality and suggested that policy “should focus on raising the income share of the poor, and ensuring there is no hollowing out of the middle class. To tackle inequality policies should focus on raising human capital and skills and making tax systems more progressive.”

Whilst I hasten to add that this was not modelling based on the Coalition’s policies, it could well have been – and its findings show the Coalition is going in completely the wrong direction.

About the only thing we know for sure is that the Coalition is going to attack unions in this election, further undermining labour protection and negotiations. In 2012-13, the estimated economic cost of work related injury and illness was $61.8 billion, representing 4.1 per cent of GDP for the same period. With stagnant wages, rising unemployment, and almost 200 workplace fatalities each year, now is not the time to give up our collective voice.

Far from raising the income share of the poor, we have seen repeated attacks on welfare, penalty rates, workplace entitlements, and universal healthcare.

Rather than raising human capital and skills, we have seen billions stripped from education, moves to privatise vocational training and to deregulate university fees. They would prefer foreign students who pay exorbitant fees and foreign workers who you don’t have to train or care for.

Every attempt to make the tax system more progressive has been ruled out as the Coalition strive to protect wealthy investors, entrepreneurs, speculators and big business, despite the ‘trickle down effect’ being proven a fantasy. Making the rich richer only helps the rich.

One of the most important causes of the French Revolution was inequality.

“The fundamental issue of poverty was aggravated by social inequality as all peasants were liable to pay taxes, from which the nobility could claim immunity, and feudal dues payable to a local seigneur or lord. Similarly, the destination of tithes which the peasants were obliged to pay to their local churches was a cause of grievance as it was known that the majority of parish priests were poor and the contribution was being paid to an aristocratic, and usually absentee, abbot. The clergy numbered about 100,000 and yet they owned ten percent of the land. It maintained a rigid hierarchy as abbots and bishops were all members of the nobility and canons were all members of wealthy bourgeois families. As an institution, the Church was both rich and powerful. As with the nobility, it paid no taxes and merely contributed a grant to the state every five years, the amount of which was self-determined. The upper echelons of the clergy had considerable influence over government policy.”

Other contributing factors were a growing debt due to profligate spending on wars and the deregulation of the grain market, advocated by liberal economists, which resulted in an increase in bread prices and food scarcity when the harvest was bad.

Very little has changed in the last 220 years other than replacing the aristocracy by the corporatocracy ably abetted by the political class.

Churches are still exempt from tax, many still engage in tithing, big money is still going missing with George Pell, the man tasked with finding it, saying “who knows who was involved.” Big business seems immune from taxation, the poor are still paying high rents to landlords, wealth and property is still concentrated in the hands of a few, and church and business still dictate policy. And the neocons are still pushing their free trade and market ideologies.

It is not IS or asylum seekers who threaten our society, it’s not unions or climate scientists, it’s not people on unemployment benefits or disability and age pensions, it’s not gays or single parents or the Aboriginal children we persist in locking up.

It is those whose greed has blinded them to the inevitable consequences of their actions. Those who are happy to sacrifice the planet while they wring the last cent of profit they can out of pillaging our home. Those who are more concerned for people buying their second, third and fourth properties than for those who are homeless or trying to buy their first home. Those who listen to business and Christian lobbyists but refuse to work with unions or Indigenous groups. Those who look after their own, creating high paying jobs for people who have failed at their current job but must be bought off. Those who claim every cent they possibly can, contriving photo ops to justify claiming money to attend private functions while railing endlessly at “welfare cheats” and “double dippers”. Those who strip hundreds of billions from health and education to spend on wars and to give to foreign armaments manufacturers. It is those who sell our assets for quick gain on a balance sheet ignoring the loss of our common wealth and the cost to future generations.

Howard dug the grave. Abbott and Turnbull are putting the nails in the coffin lid. They present the greatest current danger to Australia and we will soon see if the people are smart enough to see through their lies and strong enough to stand up to them.