In Australia, the common refrain is that representative democracy is what ensures outcomes for those who in any other political system would be oppressed. It comes as no surprise, then, that in 2005, after just 15 years of budding representative democracy for indigenous Australians, ATSIC was abolished- with Howard declaring that “the experiment in elected representation for indigenous people has been a failure.” Naturally, it failed because it offered an institutional challenge to white imperialism, rather than the supposed claims of indigenous democracy being “corrupt” and “male dominated.” For those who voted to abolish ATSIC, apparently these are idiosyncrasies that Australian Parliament has at no point suffered from.
And now, close to 20 years after the abolition of ATSIC, we have seen what a political landscape devoid of decision-making by Aboriginal communities has resulted in. Political gains have regressed to the point where Tony Abbott is now the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.
His latest action in this capacity is to propose a budget that will starve the poor by destroying what remains of our already strained welfare state. Firstly, the Liberals want to shatter the universal healthcare system by introducing a Medicare co-payment – where we will have to pay $7 every time we visit a GP, the emergency ward, pathology or get an x-ray. In addition, the Abbott government wants to tighten welfare restrictions for the disability pension, while also introducing punitive measures for people under 30 on Newstart, such as a six month waiting period to start receiving payments. Now, a 24 year old on Newstart will lose $2496 a year while someone on $200,000 will lose $400 a year.
Discussion of land rights and treaties have been long abandoned, where instead we focus on preserving a welfare state that only makes possible a life of subsistence. In the supposed quest for a surplus, even this modicum of support for those who have been occupied for centuries could be slashed. This is an egregious injustice amongst one of many injustices that is arousing the political consciousness of students, who condemn this government’s agenda. This is not just one step in the wrong direction- but one of many.
Let’s halt them in their tracks. Join us outside Fisher Library at 1:30pm this Wednesday for an Emergency Budget Rally before we march to the main convergence at UTS at 2:30pm.
Brendan, Phillippa, Chiaria and Oliver