No, seriously…this is not a blog about policy, or numbers, or even political affiliations; if you want that I posted some choice tweets last night that I was pretty happy with and the right wing members of my family probably had seizures over. This blog is about people. People affected by the budget and our society’s view of those groups (that may or may not have lead to certain policies that we won’t be discussing…you be the judge). Really when it comes down to it, one can’t change policy…we can bitch about it (that’s fun) and protest, and vote for someone else in the hopes that they’ll reverse it, but we ourselves can’t undo these things someone else has done. But we should by all means take this opportunity to consider the lives of all affected by policy, not just our own. Whether you associate with the left or the right, or you really just don’t know or care, people are what matters.
Let’s start with an easy on shall we? (*Ahem*). Students and young people. It seems that society loves babies (because…ALL the cuteness), then once we start to talk they start to dislike us. It is a sad but accurate statement that discrimination based on age (both young and old) is very much a part of our society. Students are told by men who never had to pay for their tertiary education that they are a strain on the system. Sadly, that’s just too damn bad sometimes. Very few people could afford to pay university fees up front, which is why the HECS-HELP debt was introduced, to ensure equal opportunity for participation in the university system. Now let’s move away from policy associated with students (I promised remember) and towards their value as individuals. Students are future teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, criminologists, policy-makers, dentists, CEOs, journalists, novelists, economists and so many more. It is a simple fact that in order to perform certain professional careers, one needs to acquire a degree in the chosen area. Hate us now, but it is an inevitability that we are the future. We will take over your roles, take care of you in your old age, write books and articles that you love, and determine policy for years to come. So maybe that’s threatening to some people, but it shouldn’t be. That’s because we look to the older generation to teach us….you guys have the opportunity to be teachers, and we’re asking you: show me, teach me, help me appreciate what it is you do because you’re who I want to be. Maybe feel complimented.
As a young person and student, I have a dream….a fickle fantasy. You wanna hear it? I would like to get through a few days without being referred to as entitled. Every few days it seems that someone who knows nothing about me or my life decides that because I’m an eighteen year old Caucasian woman, I’m entitled. It’s rare for someone to say it to my face, more likely to happen anonymously in response to commentary on the internet, but is almost always is used as a blanket term to describe all people of my age and/or generation. Really, what makes me so entitled? Is it because at fourteen I wasn’t off in the salt mines, earning my keep? (That’s child labour kids, look it up). Because I got to go to school and got into university? Because I live with my parents? Because I was born into the a world where there’s opportunity, technology, and ease? Ah, that last one probably made a few of you nod (you’re probably also not 18). The complaint of the older generations is that we have it “so easy” compared to them, because they’re parents spanked them, and they had to do laundry by hand, and takeaway was only for rich people. GET OVER IT. Yes, technology has vastly improved and made my childhood different to yours; you also have access to this lovely new technology, use it if you want. My parents just had to be more creative than yours in teaching me the value and inevitability of hard work, responsibility, and kindness; personally I think they did pretty well, as did a lot of parents of generation Y and Z. The fundamental thing I think a lot of people forget is that I didn’t choose to be born in 1995 to a middle class family any more than James Packer chose to be born in 1967 to an upperclass empire. We don’t choose when or into what circumstances we are born, hence it is pointless to victimise and discriminate against people for it. Accept it, have faith that the younger generation is not made up entirely of superficial airheads (give me literature over couture any day), and treat people fairly.
Next I would like to present you with the greatest love-hate relationship of all time: pensioners. They’re your parents or grandparents. They feed you sugar, alcohol and homemade remedies because “it builds character/a good immune system/can’t hurt you”. They’re awesome (unless they’re telling you that your generation sucks, then I’m gonna have words). They’re also costly. Pensioners take without really giving back in return through income tax. Though their spending can help to stimulate the economy, like any consumer, they’re viewed on par with students in terms of money: sucking the public teat. Though pensioners seem to be entitled (there’s that word again) to claim they’re hard done by. The reality is that pensioners have done their stint in the work force, they contributed and played their part in serving their country; so when they can no longer work, yes, they are going to receive things without giving back. That’s life, they surely earned it. Pensioners today lived through some of the world’s biggest disasters. They worked through wars, economic crises, law and policy shake-ups, and a rapidly changing landscape of technology. Women worked in jobs where they earned way less than men, were grabbed on the ass and told that it was a compliment not sexual harassment, and often fired when they got married or had children. They’ve played their part and left us a prosperous future, so maybe go easy on the pensioner whining.
Finally, we come to the public health system (*annoyed grunt*). On the way to the library every few days I walk through the Mater Public Hospital and Mater Mothers Hospital in South Brisbane. Here you share an elevator with every walk of life you can imagine, both worker and patient. This is where young doctors become the future of medicine; where nurses fill the lives of many with joy and compassion; where volunteers smile as they walk through the wards because they know they’re doing a good thing. I love this place, I look at my future career every day and feel happy. But I also feel sad. I know that the patients sitting in waiting rooms have been waiting a long time, not just today but for months to get here. I know that the young doctors are working hard, for a small salary, to impress their superiors (to quote Miranda Bailey from Grey’s Anatomy: you work every second night until you drop – and you DON’T complain). I know nurses try their hardest to improve the quality of life and care of their patients while they work under-staffed and under-paid. Patients are often unsure whether they are truly an “emergent” case and wait to seek attention, causing an escalation in even the most treatable of conditions. This is why we should also lay off the rich…for every person who can afford private health care, that’s another bed free in a public hospital or seat free in a bulk billing clinic for someone who can’t afford a $160 specialist consultation, or a $70 GP fee. The people in the public system are doing the best they can with what they have, and sometimes it’s not good enough. This is what cements health as an essential service, policy changes are literally life or death for some people. Some people need to understand that the public system is not just people getting something for free, though there are numerous cases of people misusing an already ailing system. You might not have to pay for your hospital treatment in a public hospital, but that doesn’t mean it is without cost. Upon using the private system recently (Oh God the fees…) because my GP just happens to refer to private providers, I was struck by how quickly the health system moves if you have money (which I don’t, so I might as well head back to public and wait there). I was literally asked “I’ve got an opening in two weeks, shall I write your name down?” for a surgery that in the public system would have taken me months or even years to get. I’m not commenting on whether this is good or bad, it’s just something to consider having never experienced such speed before.
These are the people of Australia. These are the people who reacted to the handing down of the budget last night. They are the stakeholders. Consider each of their situations as you pass judgement on the budget (oh I know you will, it’s fun). There are more people with more stories that cannot be done justice in this one post, but they too are affected by the consequences of government policy, no matter which party is doing the handing down. These stories are here so that you can see the multiple points of view and how different people may be affected by the same decisions. What’s your story? How will it be rewritten in the wake of the 2014 Budget?