Phew! I wrote this article the day before the budget was announced, which means I don’t have to talk about it to the exclusion of everything else. This is partly because by the time you read this, we’ll all know what’s in it but it’s also because, even though it’s not out yet, I am bored sobless by it already. I won’t ignore the (cue terrifying reverb) “End of the Age of Entitlement, Share the Pain Budget” (*unless you are rich, *unless you send your kids to a fee-charging school, *unless you are a church, *unless you are a mining company, *unless you are a large-scale polluter, *unless you have generous superannuation, *unless you have negatively geared investment properties, *unless you invest in fully franked shares, *feel free to add your own exemptions) because it’s impossible, but do not abandon hope (about this column, anyway): there will be lots of budget-free content.
To get the gloomy budget stuff out of the way; I liked these two pre-budget articles particularly. And look, in keeping with the current obsession with “balance”, one Ross Gittins is having a go at Labor at this one in the Fairfax press, and in this one Peter Martin is having a go at the Libs, also in Fairfax press.
I like an equal opportunity slagging off: a pox on both their houses, I say.
I confess I also enjoyed the fun that was had, such as in this article by Saffron Howden in the Fairfax press, over Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann getting caught on camera by Channel Nine kicking back with a couple of fine cigars. Indeed, I must offer a disclaimer here: I more than enjoyed it — as you will see, I joined in.
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Enough of the bloody budget; there were plenty of other things that caught my eye this week. The enigmatic Victorian MP Geoff Shaw, who through weird and unfortunate circumstance (God’s will?) now holds the balance of power in an increasingly shaky state Parliament, also raised his entrancingly leonine head. Firstly in this remarkable (non-) interview on ABC Radio National with Waleed Aly.
Then in this fascinating piece by Jacinda Woodhead in Overland, where she reveals that Shaw appears to have buried his beliefs in his election material, not that many of the voters in his electorate would be under illusions about his motivations now.
Of course, there’s a reason Shaw kept his beliefs quiet when standing for election: as Woodhead points out, anti-abortion zealotry is not a vote winner. How could it be, when abortion is not theoretical to half the electorate, but our lived reality? Here’s Clementine Ford putting the case on the ABC with typical clarity and punch.
Speaking of women and reproduction (whether they want to do so or not), I also enjoyed this from the always-reliable Jon Stewart on women, mothers and grandmothers in politics. You have just got to love any man who acknowledges that in politics “it’s OK to be a pussy, as long as you have a dick”.
Speaking of possible female presidential candidates for the 2016 election, I also enjoyed this plain-speaking interview with Senator Elizabeth Warren on CBS’ Face the Nation. She is increasingly being seen as a rival for the Democratic presidential nomination against “Grandma” Clinton (see story above).
Her common-sense approach to the increasing gaps between rich and poor on one side of the world (she thinks the system is rigged in favour of moneyed interests) led me to this intensely moving and powerful plea from a food bank operator in Scotland via podcast host Michael Greenwell. Loaves and Fishes representative Dennis Curran’s accent can be a bit impenetrable at times, but stick with it; you’ll get the gist. He’s basically talking about decades of economic rationalism that is leaving people hungry — in the United Kingdom. I can’t recommend it strongly enough. “The only thing that changes in these meetings,” he says at one point, “is the date.” He’s that good.
Which inevitably brings me back to Australia’s version of an austerity budget. Is Dennis Curran giving us a window into our own future?
As he says, “the powers that be, it’s time you woke up to reality. We don’t need to have meetings to decide whether benefit cuts have anything to do with the rise of food banks. My seven-year-old grandson has Asperger’s, and he can tell you that it is …. people are getting penalised for being poor.”
I hope our powers that be are at least as clever as Curran’s seven-year-old grandson, but I doubt it.