Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance’s “World to Win” series, aims to give voice to the ideas and aspirations of radical young people who are involved in the struggle for social change. This week, Murray Taylor discusses the ideas behind wealth inequality and the demand for redistribution.
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Remember how Treasurer Joe Hockey promised that all Australians would pay an equal share in his efforts to balance the budget and assist in this recovery?
In May last year, the South Australian government said the federal government had cut $655 million from health funding, $123 million from concessions, $47 million from skills funding and $45 million from education, in South Australia alone. So, did big business also pay their share?
In June last year an Australia Institute report revealed that $18 billion in subsidies had been dished out to the mining industry over the past six years.
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, yet both the Abbott government and the so-called opposition try to place the blame for falling living standards on refugees, Aboriginal people, welfare recipients and the poor and marginalised.
The justification for subsidising big business is to promote investment by Australian and foreign capitalists, which is supposed to create economic growth and therefore more jobs. Policy makers point to the danger of capital flight — claiming if we don’t help the rich, they will close down their businesses and leave. Subsidies, it is claimed, create incentives for capitalists to open businesses, which will result in the creation of more jobs, wealth and tax.
In practice, capitalists usually take the money and run, as in the case of car manufacturers who were given $12 billion in subsidies over 20 years "to protect Australian jobs" but are closing down their Australian factories anyway. Labour costs will always be lower in poor countries. Subsidies to business are actually just "corporate welfare".
Business subsidies are part of a system that helps the rich increase their wealth at the expense of the poor. The richest 67 people in the world own more collectively than the poorest 50% of humanity.
The average wage for an Australian worker is $57,980 a year. Gina Rinehart receives that in 13.2 minutes.
Some of Socialist Alliance’s policies on welfare are:
• Establish voluntary, well-staffed, high quality, free public programs for those who wish to enter the workforce, providing skills at a level appropriate to the needs of participants.
• No further outsourcing of welfare services. Keep Centrelink in public hands. Renationalise the job network.
• Reverse the “Welfare to Work” provisions which unfairly penalise supporting parents, people with a disability and the long-term unemployed.
• Lower the age of independence test for Youth Allowance from 25 to 18 years.
• Develop and implement a community education campaign for new parents aimed at improving the nutrition of children. Provide funding to establish school breakfast programs in disadvantaged areas.
• Increase federal and state funding for the maintenance of current housing stock, and increase funding for new public housing stock.
• Provide more funding to community organisations to enable them to provide education, training and housing assistance packages to young homeless people.
All this and more could be possible if the wealth of society was removed from a small capitalist elite.
Socialism is a system that puts people before profit. This, of course, includes the need for people to have a habitable planet, which is why socialists argue that instead of giving subsidies to big business (which is usually environmentally destructive) resources should be used to create jobs in the overdue transformation to non-polluting energy and industry.
The fight for socialism is more than a campaign to raise workers' pay.