24 February 2021

Rick Morton on the disconnect between Canberra policymakers and real lives: “The prime minister thinks only in the hollow terms of political problems. Humanity does not figure into the equation. Worse, for a man who thinks he knows the answer he has never suffered the real problem. Neither he nor almost anyone in his government has ever had to do the threadbare arithmetic of blunt survival. Never had to make a decision to skip meals or medications to feed a family. Never had a single, sudden expense trigger a five-year debt spiral. There have been no back-to-back years of punishing stress which exacts its toll not only on the mind but on the body, too. … The problem is not necessarily that he has not lived this life, but that he refuses to accept the testimony of the millions who have. Millions. It reaches further down, into the public service, where often well-meaning people are forced to reduce the rich and complicated human tapestry to mere budget constraints and policy priorities. For those who have not lived the life of gritty survival, it is difficult to really understand the consequences of enduring scarcity. These aftershocks bleed into every area of government service delivery and into every budget.” One small illustration of this: “A single person on JobSeeker will receive a little over $300 a week to live on. A politician receives more than $280 per day in travel allowance”.