Out of work pollies set to get a taste of reality
THERE are some things that are best left unsaid and can never be unsaid.
Among them was this bleat from an unnamed government backbencher during last week's conniptions: "A lot of our people are facing the fact that they are in the last six months of their political careers.
"They've got houses, school bills, cars that they've set up for themselves on the basis that they're earning $200,000."
That's not just poisoning the well of political respect, it's as good as peeing in it.
"What do they do if they're suddenly out of work?" he asked.
Well they wouldn't be human if they didn't worry, especially those sitting on salami-thin margins and the careerists just now enjoying the fruits of political apprenticeships. However, it would be nice to think their new-found financial fragility would open their eyes to plight of millions of others who suddenly found themselves out of work. Or never enjoyed the dignity of work to begin with.
It goes beyond schadenfreude to take some satisfaction from the predicament of those who have spent recent years punishing those least able to help themselves, decrying fellow Australians as "bludgers", and penalising those kids for whom they have failed to provide employment.
Even now, as the ship sinks beneath them, members of this government are scanning the skies for distant helicopters when they would be better off grabbing the flotsam of real discontent around them.
They have belatedly seized on freezing or lowering power prices as a policy lifeboat. Nice idea but, given that the Government is yet to demonstrate that it understands the workings of a light switch, maybe it should accept that power bills would not be so politically toxic if people had the money to pay them.
Power prices are just one item in a burden of costs that people feel are bearing down on them despite the assurances of modest official CPI indexes.
I came across this from an unnamed woman on a website called startsat60: "Welcome to the aged pension, where life is all about balance.
"I have noticed the same items I buy from the same supermarket are going up in price every week and it's not just by one or two cents. It is getting depressing.
"I find myself making more soup, I do a lot of cooking with mince, and fried rice is a staple. I am cooking these types of dinners more than ever before, mainly because they are filling and cheap.
"Vegetables are good but God almighty I get sick of them. We have an excellent butcher with beautiful meat, but … it is not cheap.''
"The supermarket isn't the only place I've noticed this happening either. The op shop is another good example - no longer selling their donated items for a couple of dollars. Prices now start at $4 or $5.''
For goodness sake, have we now reached the stage where pensioners and others scrimping on welfare payments can only press their noses against the op shop window?
The other day I took my imaginary share of the aged pension on a shopping expedition while my wife did the real thing. I reckon I had spent half my share of what I imagined to be the supermarket portion of my pension before I had left the shampoo, deodorant and shaving cream section. I hadn't got to the chocolate aisle.
It's instructive to realise how quickly day-to-day needs can become luxuries. And how quickly necessities can become frivolities.
This column might seem unduly concerned with aged pensioners but it's just as tough for those on other benefits (especially the miserable Newstart allowance) or trying to find their way into the world on the back of casual work or on the minimum wage.
A lot of people are doing it tough - some through their own indolence and some because of life calamities - but they all deserve a modicum of comfort and dignity.
They deserve the understanding and support of their government, not headline-grabbing contempt and suspicion.
Hopefully, some of our soon-to-be-unemployed politicians might one day return with some new insights into reality beyond ignorance, ideology and disrespect.
Before it ran into its own quagmire of egos, ambitions, treachery and intrigue, the government tried to exploit a largely unquantified horde of bludgers, rorters and layabouts.
They're out there but, armed with a similar lack of real statistics, I feel free to suggest that the percentage of welfare bludgers would be matched by the percentage of politicians cynically gaming a system of their own creation.
Terry Sweetman is a Courier-Mail columnist.