The ‘New’ Australia: Agile, Greedy And Inequitable

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Turnbull’s budget and election pitch are nothing new. Inequality is not innovative, writes Dr Richard Hil.

So here we are in the new nimble, agile, innovative Australia of 2016.

But wait a minute: the poor are being done over yet again. According to recent modelling carried out by the ANU, the 2016 Federal budget benefited the rich over the poor, and sole parents (among the nation’s least well-off) were the biggest losers of all.

Meanwhile, Mr Harbourside Mansion brushes aside his investments in a Caribbean tax haven and denies that negative gearing fills the pockets of surgeons, dentists, lawyers and the like – which it does.

Back in battler-land, the Law Council of Australia reports that since 2010, 24,000 mostly poor people – repeat, 24,000 – have had to represent themselves in court, thanks to budget cuts to legal aid by successive governments. The Council also reports that, annually, 160,000 people are turned away from community legal centres, including women who have suffered domestic violence.

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With the Australian prison population in 2015 standing at around 36,000 – up 6 per cent from the previous year – you’d think a bit of pro bono might help keep poor folks out of jail. Indigenous people, who make up 3 per cent of the Australia’s population, now account for 28 per cent of the adult prison population. Equally startling, Indigenous juveniles make up more than half of the juvenile detention centre population, a graphic indicator, as Canadian academic Henry Giroux puts it, of a “disposal society.”

If poverty is indeed linked to crime – in fact, the crime is poverty! – then you have to wonder why governments support policies likely to make life even harder through cuts to education, health and welfare.

The real beneficiaries of all this are – yes, you’ve guessed it – rich folks on the hill and especially corporations, many of which are subsidised disproportionality by the poor through current taxation arrangements. Mr Harboursdie Mansion and his up-town mates haven’t worked out yet that inequality costs: economically, socially and hopefully, politically at the upcoming election.

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Dr Richard Hil

Dr Richard Hil is Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Human Services and Social Work at Griffith University, Gold Coast, and Honorary Associate at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney. Richard’s more recent books include Whackademia: An Insider’s Account of the Troubled University, published in 2013 by New South, and Selling Students Short; Why you won’t get the university education you deserve, published by Allen and Unwin in 2015.

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