When does neglect, indifference and intentional avoidance morph into absolute racism?

Many Australians are indifferent to the plight of their less fortunate neighbours. Others would rather turn away than attempt to come to an understanding of what is happening to fellow citizens. Indigenous Australians bare the brunt of much of this neglect, indifference and avoidance. Recently arrived asylum seekers are daily pushed to the edge of despair by being excluded from below poverty line handouts by the current Coalition Government. Others who arrived by boat after Kevin Rudd’s arbitrary cut-off point languish on Manus and Nauru, even though they have been found to be refugees in need of our protection.

The current Australian government is in breach of numerous international conventions, agreement and protocols which previous Australian governments have freely entered into, signed and ratified. Some of my fellow citizens may well say that this is of little consequence, times have changed and that we should just get on with the new order of things.

However, is it justifiable just to ignore current acts of inhumanity when they result sending people slowly mad and in driving some people to suicide on distant prison atolls? Can we really believe that it is ok to deprive vulnerable Australian citizens of food and shelter when United Nations conventions we have signed and ratified require us to ensure sustenance? If there are any who claim that it is alright to do so then I am at a loss to know on what moral authority that is so.

Some recent research

Many studies have been conducted into “work for the dole” programs. What is clear from many of them in 2018 is that whatever downsides there are to compelled labour in our cities and larger towns they pale into insignificance when compared with the brutal “work for the dole” regime inflicted upon rural people. The over whelming majority of rural “work for the dole” recipients are Indigenous.

According to the ANU Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, there has been a 740% increase in financial penalties since the (current “work for the dole” program replaced the previous remote job and communities program in 2015. Remote workers are 25 times more likely to be penalised than non-remote jobseekers, and 50 times more likely to have a serious penalty imposed, which can mean up to eight weeks with no payment…..

But between 2015 and 2017 there has been a dramatic drop in participants “that cannot be accounted for by job placements or movement between regions”, according to Lisa Fowkes from the ANU. Almost 6,000 people may not be receiving any income support at all, Fowkes said. Almost 60% of those disengaging with the scheme were under 25, and a further 31% were 25- to 34-year-olds.”

This study was not alone:

“Remote work-for-the-dole scheme a ‘national disgrace’, former Fraser minister says Former deputy Liberal leader Fred Chaney says Community Development Program a ‘scandalous failure of policy’…“It’s another assimilationist, bureaucratic, irrelevant approach that will inflict more hardship, hunger and dysfunction on Aboriginal people…

“Aboriginal people in remote Northern Territoryface many barriers to complying with the type of work programs involved in the scheme,” the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency said. “These barriers include language considerations, lack of accessible Centrelink agents, excessive wait times on the phone, limited to no access to mobile reception and internet, high rates of illness and disability, and difficulties accessing even basic healthcare.

The Coalition Government is not content with just excluding Aborigines from “work for the dole” payments it has other ways of pandering to powerful white interests in 2018 it was reported that “Indigenous affairs minister Nigel Scullion has given almost half a million dollars’ worth of funds earmarked for alleviating Indigenous disadvantage to fishing and cattlemen’s groups in the Northern Territory. The grants will go towards legal fees for the groups to argue how they might be negatively impacted by land rights claims, he told a Senate estimates hearing”.

It is pertinent that Scullion was the Minister whose interest was not piqued by the tear gassing of young Indigenous detainees in Don Dale Prison by guards.

I think that whilst some might want to describe this assault on the economic viability of Aboriginal people as an oversight – it could be more accurately described as part and parcel of the race war which the invaders have been inflicting on the Indigenous population since the 26th of January 1788.

It is not only a race war but is also a class war which the Liberal Party is waging against poorer Australians

There has been the robo debt standover debt recovery where by paid commercial debt collectors are souled onto people to “Recover fictitious debts” which the Government says they owe.

In 2019 it was pointed out that “One in five parents on the government’s contentious job-ready scheme for disadvantaged parents had their payments suspended in the program’s first six months, new data reveals.

As the Australian Human Rights Commission argued the ParentsNext program was “manifestly inconsistent with Australia’s human rights obligations” and social services and legal groups call for the program to be overhauled or scrapped, departmental figures show thousands of parents are having their payments cut under the new program.

More than 16,000 parents received a payment suspension between July and December 2018, representing 21% of the 75,000 participants. The suspension rate for Indigenous parents – who are targeted for eligibility and make up 19% of participants – is higher at 27%.”

Last financial year, expenditure on social security and welfare was $6.3b less than estimated in the 2017-18 budget, with:

  • “NDIS payments down $2.5bn, reflecting lower than expected numbers of participants entering the NDIS and lower utilisation of participants’ individual support packages
  • Age pension down $894m, reflecting the ongoing impact of the previously implemented measure to increase the age pension qualifying age from 65 to 67 years of age
  • Family tax benefit payments down $790m, reflecting lower than expected average payments and reconciliation payments driven by improving economic conditions
  • Jobseeker payments down $335m, reflecting lower than expected average payments and recipient numbers attributable to the strong labour market”

Well doesn’t that just show the Liberals are better managers of the economy than Labor?

It’s certainly an off quoted assertion by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and his Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. And in a sense, it is a debatable assertion. Certainly, in the short term, it may be in best interests of the big end of town. But in the longer run such policies destroy the fabric of society. They impoverish substantial pockets of less well-off citizens, drive some towards criminality and undermine solidarity. Such policies lead to far more unequal societies, increase health problems and often costs. These, in turn, lead to the need for more police and prisons. Everyone’s wellbeing is undermined until gated communities become the order of the day and people are left to hide behind their own insecurity in isolating complexes guarded by privatised security guards. It is a sort of rich man’s prison where humanity atrophies.