Welcome to Morrison’s Hobbesian nightmare

January 16, 2015
Scott Morrison thinking up new ways to make millions of lives nasty, brutish and short.

In the search for a rationale to justify his assault on pensioners, the poor and the welfare dependent, Scott Morrison has reached back to the 17th century work of the English political theorist and philosopher Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes published Leviathan in 1651, a work that gave rise to social contract theory. He was an advocate of strong central government, without which, he maintained, life would be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

Morrison is giving us his 21st century version of Hobbes vision — dictatorial government intent on making life nasty, brutish and shorter for millions.

After doing such an impressive job trashing Australia’s legal obligations as immigration minister, Morrison was shifted to Minister for Social Services as part of a ministerial reshuffle announced on December 21.

Mindful that the festive season beckoned, Morrison made a brisk start to his new portfolio by stripping hundreds of millions of dollars from community welfare groups.

These included Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia, Blind Citizens Australia, Deaf Australia, Down Syndrome Australia, Homelessness Australia, and the National Council on Intellectual Disability and Physical Disability Australia.

Morrison is a former state director of the NSW Liberal Party who was preselected for the safe Liberal seat of Cook in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire in controversial circumstances in 2007.

On Christmas Eve he demonstrated why he is the bloodhound of the Abbott government when he declared a crackdown on welfare funding while managing to mangle the English language at the same time, “…those who aren’t in genuine need and those who aren’t in that situation and don’t need to be on it and may be taking a lend of it are the only people who have to worry about me being Social Services Minister.”

In Morrison’s view, it is the homeless, vision impaired and others with disabilities who are having a “lend” of the welfare system.

After successfully practising the dark art of hostage-taking in his previous portfolio, Morrison wasted no time in announcing that implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) will be hostage to Senate passage of government bills dressed up as “reform”.

These include raising the retirement age to 70, making unemployed people under 30 wait six months for the Newstart allowance, and cutting back the aged pension by changing its indexation rate from the present 27.7% of male total weekly earnings to the much lower cost of living index.

Morrison will have an easier run with the Abbott government’s so-called welfare-to-work program, a policy that has had the support of the ALP since it was first introduced by the Howard government in 1998.

This is a punitive policy that has made absolutely no difference to the unemployment rate at any time, and never will. A recent report by Peter McDonald, professor of demography at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, shows that the net effect of these programs has been absolutely zero.

Morrison’s savage cuts to social services are an escalation of the Abbott government’s attacks across all publicly funded services, with health and education prominent among them.

The universal health system is now said to be “unsustainable” while the private health insurance industry, which is dominated by just two funds, gets a subsidy of $5 billion a year.

The proposed Medicare co-payment is merely the start of the assault on the health system. According to the Doctors Reform Society, the Abbott government’s proposal to reduce the Medicare rebate for doctors by $5 and freeze it until 2018 could lead to a 15-minute GP consultation costing $100 by the end of next year. The government’s favourite cheer squad, the Centre for Independent Studies, is now arguing that access to public hospital care be means tested.

With tertiary education, the Abbott government’s policy is to make sure that it becomes a middle-class positional good because only those with well-off parents will be able to afford it.

Over the next three years, student debt under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) is set to double to $52 billion on the government’s own budget figures. According to the President of the National Tertiary Education Union, Jeannie Rea, student loans will exceed $100 billion by 2020, and by 2025 will overtake commonwealth government debt.

But those who are really taking a lend of the system are lent a hand to do so by the Treasurer Joe Hockey and finance minister Mathias Cormann.

The corporate tax evasion scheme that Hockey had previously pledged to introduce was shelved in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook after consultation with “stakeholders”(i.e. corporate tax evaders) who stood to lose $600 million if it was introduced.

Cormann is now reviewing corporate transparency laws which would see the tax information of companies with a turnover of $100 million or more disclosed on the Australian Tax Office website. This allegedly followed complaints that private business owners could be kidnapped when people realise how wealthy they are!

If all of this wasn’t enough, the New Year arrived with a clamour from conservatives both inside and outside of parliament to extend and increase the regressive Goods and Services tax.

There is a debate that needs to be had about taxation revenue — one that begins with the almost entirely unregulated global Over-The-Counter (OTC) derivatives market worth more than one quadrillion (one million billion) US dollars. This is ten times the total worth, adjusted for inflation, of all global manufacturing products made in the last 100 years.

A modest 10% tax on Australia’s estimated OTC derivative market of $78 trillion would pay for a lot of schools and hospitals. But don’t expect your local federal MP to be raising it any time soon.

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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.