Hockey’s dodgy figures reveal heartless individualism

Issue 
Joe Hockey celebrates the fact that about half of Australians now pay for private health insurance.

When Treasurer Joe Hockey addressed the Sydney Institute on June 11, he complained that it is not fair that more than $6000 a head will be spent by the government on welfare this year.

He said this means "the average working Australian, be they a cleaner, a plumber or a teacher, is working over one month full time each year just to pay for the welfare of another Australian."

Hockey probably based his dodgy calculation on average male earnings, but what he is really attacking — from an ideological standpoint — is the notion that members of any society should collectively contribute to the welfare of all, especially — shock, horror — the welfare of others.

This is the neoliberalism and individualism at the heart of the federal government's attacks. Neoliberal concepts like “user-pays” have been replaced with phrases such as “the age of entitlement is over”, or the idea that preparedness to pay for something dictates how good that thing is, whether it is a visit to the doctor, a university degree, or a new home.

The victims of neoliberalism are now held up by Hockey and his ilk as the heroes of this brave new world.

For example, in the same speech, Hockey celebrates the fact that about half of Australians now pay for private health insurance with hospital cover, and that 5.6 million private health insurance policyholders have a household income of less than $50,000 a year — like this is a good thing.

Rather than Hockey's upside down logic, this statistic illustrates a devastating consequence of the neoliberal agenda.

Consider for a moment the millions flowing into the pockets of private health insurance companies, instead of sustaining a free, accessible, quality public health system, tackling preventable diseases and improving health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, for example.

Green Left Weekly is proud to defend the ideals of solidarity, including a health and welfare system supported by collective financial contributions through a progressive taxation system, which targets the super-rich and corporations.

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