(First published by Independent Australia)
Imagine, if you will, a twenty-seven-year-old woman in a country town who loses her job as a waitress on a Friday and finds she is pregnant the following Monday.
Under Joe Hockey’s new rules she will get no money for six months, and must fend for herself until the baby is born, and, after it is born, will get no Paid Parental Leave either, because she has no job.
What is happening to her is ‘fair’, Joe Hockey says, and complaining about her is ‘the class war rhetoric of the 1970s’. Some of us would think it was unfair, and if there’s a class war on, he’s declared it.
Joe would argue that the woman can, in her ninth month, move to another town and work for the dole, away from her family, and their support system, and give birth in the workplace, but some of us would find this unfair also.
Joe would argue this is an ‘isolated case’, probably no more than twenty women will be in this position in the next two years, but the trouble is, ten million women will have heard of it, and vote his government out because of it.
This inability to join the dots characterises Joe. He may be the most incompetent politician in our history. He is certainly the most incompetent Treasurer.
He imagines seven dollars is no great sacrifice to an old woman in a nursing home with a chronic treatable condition who must go to the doctor twice a week, spending twenty dollars on two visits and four bus fares. He imagines she too is an isolated case, and ten million women will not hear of her. Of course they will. And they will not find her treatment by him ‘fair’.
The Budget is now a quicksand sucking to their doom every rural MP in the country. Manufacturing jobs are vanishing apace, and Joe won’t subsidise them, and the women fired from them won’t get PPL, not a cent of it.
Joe is proud of this. Women once ‘entitled’ to have a subsidised baby won’t, if they lose their job, and are not yet thirty, get any pregnancy money at all, and if their husband has lost his job too, at the Holden factory Joe invited to go away, for instance, or the fruit-canning factory that last year moved offshore, well, they now have the ‘age of opportunity’ to look forward to, and a mortgage to pay with relatives’ money till they have to sell up and start to sleep in a car outside a gambling casino, hoping to beg enough to bet inside on their ‘age of opportunity’, roulette or poker machines.
Joe thinks his Budget has not been sold well. He’s right about that. No-one in the nation cares about the Surplus any more, apart from maybe thirty economists, and everyone is scared shitless of losing their job and not getting another, ever, because the oldies are now working till they’re seventy. And those that have a job are worried about those that haven’t. Everyone has an unemployed relative, or a disabled one. And Joe didn’t realise they would care.
It is hard not to think him actually crazy. He’s certainly fanatical. Is there some lesson from his Maronite upbringing that emphasised self-help, and God not answering the prayers of the lazy? Does he imagine the millions his wife brings home can remain a secret? Has he joined the dots? I don’t think he has.
It’s unlikely Palmer will even talk to them unless Joe is removed. It’s unlikely, after what they’ve said about him, they’ll get anything through except the ending of the Carbon Tax, which worsens the bottom line.
It’s probable Joe has done for them. And he still thinks he can turn opinion round. Win back the 1.5 million votes they’ve lost in eight months.
He’s actually as crazy as that.