The political right must be feeling so grateful for the intellectual tour de force on exhibition from Bronwyn Bishop over the expenses scandal engulfing Sussan Ley. It is hardly surprising that cartoonists are linking the expenses scandal with the other scandal: Centre Link’s ham-fisted approach to those considered by the national computer to have received more than they should. Putting the two crises side by side, it appears that those in positions of privilege can receive tax-payer largesse on the basis of flexible rules, while those who are struggling are assumed to be cheating, even when they are doing their best with a few hours of part-time work that the national computer calculates against them.
Bronwyn Bishop has chimed in with the intellectual gem that it is all the fault of the socialists who are out to destroy private enterprise. I presume her remarks mean that if you take tax payer money to aid your private business this is to be lauded as a legitimate exercise in the much vaunted free enterprise known as individualism, whereas if you receive support because of obvious need you are somehow destroying civilisation as we know it.
When I was a boy growing up on a dairy farm up in the 50’s the reds were under all the beds and Epsom salts or Castor oil was the cure all for all complaints, including bovine maladies! In Bronwyn Bishop’s world individuals not only have the right to prosper, but they have this right at the expense of public or social equity. She surpasses her mentor Margaret Thatcher in claiming there is no such thing as society, only individuals. Interesting to read that Theresa May, Britain’s second female Tory Prime Minister, has publicly eschewed this nonsensical ideology. To dear Bronwyn, ‘socialists’ are the ultimate enemy.
Well, I have two responses to that. First, you will be very hard pressed to find a socialist (in the Karl Marx sense) in power or seeking power, anywhere in the world. The Australian alternative government as I understand their policies; is far from socialist. Russia and China have become two examples of rampaging capitalism, not socialism. It is remarkable that Russia, China, North Korea and the US appear now to have much in common. All of them appear to laud (or at the very least accept) ambition in their leader for dynastic favour. All appear to permit, excuse, or encourage their leader to make as much money as possible regardless of what appear to be obvious conflicts of interest. All appear to denigrate (or worse) any who dare to criticise what they stand for, and all seem to thrive on fake news.
Secondly, when Bronwyn Bishop speaks out of her phobia that ‘socialism is on the march’: in the Christian Gospel sense – I would respond “if only that were true”. But there appears to be little evidence of it, quite the contrary. Church leaders at the turn of the 20th century equated socialism with the Christian Gospel. What they meant by this was not that Christianity was camouflage for an economic theory, but that there should be an attitude within society that those who have much should not have too much and those who have little should not have too little (2 Cor. 8:15). In other words, the Christian gospel assumes a commitment within society that those with skill and ability should find fulfilment in exercising that skill in a manner which simultaneously enables their own flourishing and at the same time, the prosperity of society as a whole. It is anathema to the Christian faith that those who have should walk by on the other side when confronted with those in need. And yet that appears to be what we now do. It is not simply the domestic scene. This is bad enough. The prosperous are still not being made to pay their fair share of tax with multiple means available to them of minimising it. Unconvincing arguments continue to be strenuously made that schemes such as negative gearing are assisting the average mum and dad, when it is abundantly clear that the investment market is the prime reason why property prices continue to escalate and society is being divided between those who own and those who will forever rent. All of this while responsibility for the much vaunted ‘budget repair’ falls on society’s vulnerable. On the international scene our appalling decrease in aid as a percentage of our GDP, arguably the lowest level since WW11, should embarrass and appal all Australians.
No Bronwyn, socialism is not on the march, would that it was. What is very much on the march is a sense of entitlement from those halfway (or higher) up the ladder, a sense which appears not immune from destroying rungs below, so that others may not also ascend.