Inequality is not new to Australia. Our history is laden with the long and violent act of dispossession, of forcefully taking members of the First Nations from their homes, introducing massive inequalities in rights, in life expectancy, in happiness, in hope, writes John Falzon at The Guardian.
Class inequality is not a recent phenomenon either. It certainly wasn’t invented by those who bear its brunt, no matter how zealously it is denied or papered over by its historical beneficiaries.
The recent report of a 9% jump in the number of people forced to work a second job, for example, will no doubt be celebrated by the inequality apologists. “A triumph of the rule of choice”, they will cry. “The market working its magic when government gets out of the way”.
What this, and indicators in income, wealth, housing, education resources, health and wellbeing, point to, is a trend towards worsening inequality in the post war period.
Everyone deserves a fair crack at happiness. In prosperous Australia, however, instead of judiciously ensuring that no one is left out we are witnessing a growing sense of inequality, not only in incomes, but in all the elements that go towards enjoying a decent quality of life, what used to be called, without any mischievous negativity, welfare.
In the neoliberal frame, government might talk a lot about getting out of the way, to justify the abrogation of its responsibility to ensure the welfare of all of the people it is meant to govern for. In reality though, the neoliberal agenda means government isn’t simply abandoning the schoolyard; it’s arming the bullies with sticks and instructing their victims to stand still for the tormentors.
It is a political choice, which successive governments from both sides, have made, that has seen a failure to lift the unemployment payment in real terms since 1994.