By Warwick Smith
Originally published by The Age on September 3, 2015 – 12:17PM.
Talk of throwing Hockey to the wolves is worrying. After all, it’s his slip-of-the-truth lines that give us a glimpse of the Government’s real agenda: only the rich and powerful matter.
In a political system based on spin and obfuscation, clarity and honesty are rare indeed. This is why recent talk of throwing Joe Hockey to the wolves is worrying. When Hockey tells Sydneysiders to get a good, well-paying and secure job if they want to enter the property market, he is telling us what this government really thinks. If you don’t have a job that pays much better than the average wage then you don’t deserve to own your own home. If the best you can do with your life is be a teacher in a public school or a nurse or a waiter then you’re not worthy of his concern or interest. Get a better job, then come talk about your problems.
Hockey’s unscripted moments of truth and clarity combine with his budget measures to leave us with no doubt that looking after those with wealth and privilege at the expense of those without is the overarching guiding principle of this government. Of course, he would have his own internal justification for this stance that would sound a lot less aristocratic but if exposed to critical scrutiny it would be unlikely to hold water. This, of course, is why such views are not exposed to public scrutiny except in those lovely moments when Hockey has a slip-of-the-truth.
“What [Hockey] really thinks is that those who can’t afford to buy a house don’t deserve to have one.”
Hockey represents those who don’t need to even think about housing affordability. He knows lots of people who are buying in Sydney. He knows lots of people who own lots of houses in Sydney. ‘How can it be unaffordable if people are affording it?’ he earnestly asks.
There are two kinds of people in Hockey’s world; the ‘lifters’ who have money and power and the ‘leaners’ whose primary role is to provide the goods and services to those with money and power. Only the former really matter. If you’re not up to the task of gaining money and power then don’t come knocking on Joe Hockey’s door. By contrast, if you’re wealthy enough to have clever accountants who can funnel your large income through trusts, companies and self-managed superannuation funds then Hockey’s your man in Parliament. He’s keen to cut government expenditure on anything that benefits the ‘leaners’ but massive government tax concessions for the ‘lifters’ are out of bounds in the crusade to balance the budget.
Clearly Hockey is not stupid enough to think that everyone can have an above average salary. Therefore, what he really thinks is that those who can’t afford to buy a house don’t deserve to have one. You’re either part of the wealthy elite or you’re the scum on the bottom of the pond. I wrote about this very attitude in the aftermath of Hockey’s first budget, explaining how Hockey and Abbott want to make Australia more like the United States where being born poor means worse (or no) healthcare, worse education, worse job prospects and worse life outcomes while being rich means paying a lower rate of tax than your secretary.
So, what is Joe Hockey’s internal conversation about wealth and welfare likely to look like? I doubt we need to look any further than the work of Ayn Rand, an author with a cult following among those who run the world. Her books are reverently passed around the halls of world’s elite colleges. The heroes of her novels are people of principle held back by the parasitic masses and the governments who represent them. Rand’s great delusional thesis is that everyone should just get out of the way of great people and let them do their thing. Rupert Murdoch is probably the quintessential real-life Randian hero.
I’d be willing to guarantee that if you could have an honest conversation with slip-of-the-truth Hockey he would admit to being a fan of Ayn Rand, or at the very least agree with her central ideas.
This is a man who would make young job seekers wait six months before receiving any income support while definitively ruling out touching the tens of billions of dollars we hand over every year in tax concessions to the top ten percent of income earners. Maybe you could forgive him somewhat if there were vast numbers of unfilled jobs waiting for applicants but the opposite is true; there are far more job seekers than there are jobs. Joe really wanted to punish young people for not being in one of the non-existent jobs. He knows this is the reality of his proposed measure. Ask yourself what kind of man would want to do that to young job seekers. The same kind of man who thinks poor people don’t drive cars.
Don’t call for them to sack Joe Hockey; his slips-of-the-truth are the only glimpse we get of what this government really thinks.
Warwick is a research economist at the University of Melbourne.
Read the original at The Age .