Farida Iqbal gave this speech on behalf of the March Australia committee in Perth on May 18.
This is a budget founded on lies. There is no budget emergency. The whole thing is a complete fabrication. The budget deficit is 34.5% of GDP, compared to the average of 117% among OECD countries.
But that wasn’t the only lie. Treasurer Joe Hockey told us we have to cut back the safety net because we are a nation of lifters, not leaners. When he said that, he lied to us about who is doing the lifting and who is doing the leaning in this country.
It’s working people who create the wealth. We’re the ones who are the lifters. The politicians who get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars are the leaners. The super-rich who are getting billions of dollars’ worth of government subsidies out of this budget are the leaners. They don’t deserve their money. They built it off of working people’s backs.
We are the ones who create the wealth in this country. And when we’re unable to find a job, the government wants to take away our Newstart allowance. They want to take away our health care, our age pension and our public education system.
The government wants us uneducated, sick, homeless, hungry, half crazy, and so demoralised we can’t stand up for ourselves. The government wants us too busy trying to look after our own interests just to survive that we can’t stand up for each other.
Hockey told us that young people have to work because work gives people a sense of self. I wonder if it gives Hockey a sense of self to kick us like this. Is that work? Does that deserve a wage of $365,868 a year? No, it doesn’t.
This budget is a matter of life and death. The worst case scenario is the government doesn’t care if we die. This budget, if it goes ahead, will drive up the suicide rate. And if you cut $50 billion from public hospitals, people will die.
This budget has left a lot of people feeling very despondent. And that’s totally human and totally understandable because the government is launching a full-scale attack on society. But despondency will not drive back the budget.
This isn’t just an “economy”. This is a society. And it’s time for society to fight back. Even though it’s going to be a hard fight ahead, we have to find it in ourselves to stand up to this. We have to find strength in each other. Society has to say no.
We have to be united. Now isn’t the time to say “I’m not a pensioner, so the cuts to the age pension aren’t my concern.” Now isn’t the time to say “I’m not Aboriginal, I’m not gay, I’m not a refugee, so those people’s concerns are not mine.” The fact is, everybody is under attack. Right now, everyone has to stand up for everyone.
We need to build a united movement. A determined movement. And we need the Greens and the ALP to block the budget in the Senate.
We need to rebuild the trade union movement. The unions gave us a lot of support to put on this rally today. But we need more of it. Everyone here today who isn’t in a union has to join. Not only that, we have to get active in our unions and breathe new life into them.
We can drive back this budget. We can beat the government and the super-rich if we come together and stand our ground. We will not be stomped on by the government. We are here today and we’re standing up for ourselves.