Want to end poverty? Start by putting politicians on the dole

August 19, 2018
For those politicians who believe life on the dole — or on any pension — is a holiday, it would indeed be a savage wakeup call.

Here’s a novel idea: Instead of politicians voting themselves another pay rise, how about we give them a pay cut? A real pay cut. We ask them to do what a couple of million Australians are expected to do, week in and week out.

We could have lawmakers legislate that it be a condition of nomination that all aspiring politicians agree to receive no more than the current rate of the aged pension, or Newstart, as remuneration for their efforts.

No superannuation, no expense account, no car allowance, no perks. In other words, we get them to work for the dole.

They would, however, be given an Opal card permitting them unlimited free travel on public transport, so they could move around their electorate and meet constituents. This would mean no more Commonwealth cars, no more overseas junkets and no more 5-star hotels.

I wonder how many of the current crop would bother to renominate — especially those perceived by many to be simple seat-warmers or stooges of vested interest, and deserving of the disparaging but appropriate epithet “pigs at the trough”?

Or, would they flee like rats deserting a sinking ship?

Just how committed would they be to “serving the community” or “raising the poor from the daily grind of a deep and dark despair”, to quote the poet David Lewis Paget?

This would be a genuine acid test.

The current seat-warmers would be put on notice that at the next election their sinecure would be ending.

For those politicians who believe life on the dole — or on any pension — is a holiday, it would indeed be a savage wakeup call.

Is it possible there then might be the stirrings of a genuine understanding, or empathy even, from the ruling class? From those who have never known hunger or what it’s like to not sleep in a comfortable bed or to have to make do with a cardboard box in an alley?

Might we then expect a real effort to address the inequities that seem to be entrenched in our society?

It is only by walking in someone else’s shoes that a real appreciation of reality can be truly gained.

In 2016, the Australian Council of Social Service published figures showing that at least 3 million Australians were living below the poverty line. How is it possible then that a much-lauded former Labor prime minister could have promised in 1987 that “by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty”?

This utterance from a “champion of the people” — a leader of the party that purports to represent the interests of ordinary people — shows just how far removed politicians are from the day-to-day realities of working-class Australians.

That includes those in the Labor Party, a party that continues to move to the right and whose ideology, if it maintains its present course, will surely converge with that of the conservatives — if it hasn’t already.

Will we then see the emergence of a one-party state under the banner of the Laborils? Perhaps it already exists — in everything but the name.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.