Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Tale Of Two Australias

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made the front page with his observation that he doesn’t want to see two Australias emerge where one sector of the community enjoys the benefits of economic prosperity, while another group falls behind and is left out of the economic sunshine. Obviously, he has become Prime Minister at a pivotal time, when world financial markets are in turmoil, and the United States is confronting a recession at the same time that Asia continues to boom.

But back here in the real world, Kevin Rudd’s two Australias scenario has already come to pass. That’s one of the reasons he was elected last year. Already many Australians fell they have been left behind amidst all the talk of unprecedented prosperity. For those people the question is “if these are the good times, what are the bad times going to be like?”

The great irony here is that in the new government’s mad scramble to fight inflation with budget cuts, it appears that the most vulnerable have been the first to suffer. The scrapping of the medicare rebate for dental work, the confusion over carer and aged pensioner bonuses, and now the news that a modest grant for a miscarriage support service will be scrapped. Is this how Kevin Rudd helps the working families of Australia?

It’s the struggling families, the casual workers, the aged and disability pensioners and the carers who are already contending with increased interest rates, higher grocery prices and higher fuel prices. They are not the ones driving inflation. Meanwhile, the gravy train at the top is still running, despite the collapsing sharemarket, despite the threat of international recession, and despite the repeated calls for restraint.

We already have two Australias, and Kevin Rudd’s supporters elected him because they believed he could change that.

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