(Image above courtesy of Sovereign Union)
It takes a village idiot to drag high government policy down to the level of farce, and no-one has done that better than Tony Abbott.
In all of his gaffes and clangers, the reference to “a lifestyle choice” in relation to Aborigines living in remote communities takes the cake.
In fact, it is reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s famous “Let them eat cake” remark –she insulting people who had no access to bread, let alone cake; he insulting people who have no lifestyle choice options.
Indeed the whole concept of lifestyle choice relates to affluent Australians. It is offensive to apply it to any of the marginalised and the poor in our community, let alone to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians living in remote communities.
But there is another level to this particular gaffe that has been overlooked in the rush to condemn it.
If it were a simple matter of stupidity and ignorance we could just lock it away as another treasure of our times, as something to drag out for future generations desperate to understand contemporary racism and conservatism.
Underlying the Prime Minister’s contemptuous dismissal of remote ATSI communities is a profoundly reactionary interpretation of federal-state relations.
Shortly we shall publish a more complete analysis of where Abbott wants to take us under the title The Constitution, Federation, Taxes and our Future.
In it we examine the federal government’s White Paper on Reform of the Federation.
Abbott wants to return responsibility for delivery of “soft” services like education, health and housing to the states and territories. This means making them responsible for raising the revenue to fund these services.
Once again the ATSI peoples are the nation’s guinea pigs.
WA Premier Barnett’s plan to close up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities is a direct consequence of a decision by the Commonwealth to cease funding remote communities and to pass the responsibility for this entirely to the states.
It foreshadows what will happen when similar decisions are taken in relation to health and education.
Abbott’s reactionary use of the Constitution to require the states and territories to fund service delivery is a recipe for state-by-state imposition of a savage austerity agenda.
Abbott simply won’t chase the big end of town – the big local and overseas corporations and high wealth individuals – for the taxes they continually avoid paying.
So he gives costly services back to the states and territories and lets them sink or swim according to local circumstances.
It is not that “the taxpayer should not have to fund ATSI people’s lifestyle choices”; as Abbott maintains; rather it is Abbott’s concern that the rich who own him, his government, and the parliament should be allowed to continue to enrich themselves at the cost of Australian working people’s living standards.
Watch for our forthcoming publication for further reading on Abbott’s reactionary agenda.