Written By: - Date published: 9:02 am, June 5th, 2016 - 24 comments
Categories: australian politics, capitalism, class war, cost of living, Economy, employment, Media, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, wages, workers' rights, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: dirty politics, malcolm turnbull, news corp, rupert murdoch
Over in Australia the Nation is in campaign mode. Politicians are looking for every opportunity to get air time and impress the electors with the quality of their thoughts and world views.
The Liberal Party has slipped into business as usual mode and is campaigning on corporate tax cuts worth $AUS 48 billion even though much of the benefit will simply flow overseas to foreign share holders. The recent budget also contained a provision to lift the threshold for the second top tax rate from $80,000 to $87,000 to address tax creep. You have to wonder at what stage will the right realise that trickle down does not work and change their ways. But for now clearly the right’s backers have expectations that have to be met.
But the policy is meeting resistance with one recent response from an ordinary Australian dominating the campaign.
The show Q&A provides an opportunity for politicians, industry leaders and normal people to have their say very publicly. On a recent episode a resident of one of Sydney’s outer suburbs, Duncan Storrar, questioned the fairness of tax cuts to the wealthy when he often could not afford to take his kids to see a film on the weekend. He is a low wage employee without job security struggling to make ends meet.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
Mr Storrar is a part-time truck driver with two daughters and a mental health issue. He earlier told Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer he had spent his whole working life on the minimum wage, distilling a common critique of the budget to personal experience.
“You’re gonna lift the tax-free threshold for rich people,” he said. “Why don’t I get it? Why do they get it?”
He was referring to the government’s move to lift the upper end of the 32.5 cent tax bracket from $80,000 to $87,000 – saving $315 a year for people earning more than $80,000.
It set in chain a series of awkward answers from Ms O’Dwyer, who could only wheel out the Turnbull government’s talking points on small business and trickle-down economics, and business lobbyist Innes Willox, who told Mr Storrar he “would not pay much tax” anyway, and that “not everyone can win out of every budget”.
O’Dwyer mentioned how the corporate tax cuts now allowed a Sydney cafe to afford a $6,000 toaster so that it could produce toast, lots and lots of toast. Her response shows the intellectual paucity of the right, thinking that a piece of machinery that will do a job quicker and probably cout someone their job is preferable to actually making sure that an ordinary worker can take his kids out and afford to buy couple of pieces of toast.
Innes Wilcox, the head of Australia’s Business Lobby was even worse, sliming Storrar by saying that he paid no tax and implying he should be grateful. Clearly not only is business keen on keeping ordinary workers on minimum wages augmented with Government support, they also wish to insult their contribution and suggest it is worthless.
The video is fascinating and the comments from the right were full of the same rhetoric we have been inundated with in New Zealand for so long.
The $6,000 toaster meme quickly caught on offers of help poured in. Someone set up a GoFundMe page Buy Duncan Storrar a toaster and at the time of writing this post the page had raised $60,000.
The responses were heartfelt and generous. Clearly Duncan’s plight struck a chord. Again from the Sydney Morning Herald:
User Jake Lee donated $48 and wrote: “They reckon this budget is saving me $6 a week or something like that. I don’t need it and sure as hell don’t deserve it as much as you so here’s a few months worth of tax cuts”.
Eddie Hughes donated $20 “for some popcorn for the girls mate”.
Q&A series producer Amanda Collinge tweeted on Tuesday night that people had been emailing from London wanting to send Mr Storrar movie tickets.
But then the right’s clobbering machine kicked into gear and in scenes reminiscent of what has happened here in recent years Mr Storrar had his background checked out and splashed throughout the media. A troubled relationship
With an older son was highlighted. Criminal convictions and a couple of jail terms for breaching court orders and making threats to kill were publicized. And his personal finances were analyzed and displayed to show that in net terms he does not pay any tax.
And the culprit? Good old Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
From the Guardian:
[Storrar’s] part in the story could have ended at this point, given way to a broader discussion of inequality in Australia – persistently increasing over the past decade – or of the limits of tax and welfare systems in a straitened economic environment.
Instead Storrar himself has become the focus of remarkably savage coverage, branded a “thug” in Melbourne’s Herald Sun and a lousy parent in the Australian.
On Friday, the ABC broadcaster Jon Faine grilled Damon Johnston, the Herald Sun editor, about the stories.
“I query your paper’s value system,” he said.
“It’s as blunt and profound as that. Twice this week you’ve taken people with obvious mental issues … people who dare question people in power and positions of authority, and they get ground into dirt. What a way to conduct yourselves.”
Johnson shrugged it off. “If you’re going to be on the national stage in the middle of an election campaign, it’s equally legitimate to have your own past looked at, and that’s what we’ve done.”
Threaded through News Corp stories are similar attempts to justify its coverage. It appears to hang on a tweet from a Q&A producer, Amanda Collinge, who described Storrar on Tuesday as “a new national hero”.
“The ABC presented him as a ‘new national hero’ and a low-paid Aussie battler, but Duncan Storrar’s son, Aztec Major, paints a very different picture of his father,” the Australian’s Thursday story said.
“ABC hero to villain,” ran the Herald Sun’s Friday front page.
Four words – now deleted – but enough to turn Storrar, like Zaky Mallah before him, into an abstraction, fodder for a culture war between a media empire and the public broadcaster.
Storrar is said to be reeling, willing the spotlight to move on. He might take comfort from the Australian’s editorial the day it interviewed his son, that its coverage was not personal, just business.
“Storrar is not the issue,” it said. “We wish him and his family all the best.”
This event causes me so many feelings of deja vu as well as disgust, from the treatment of Natasha Fuller who had her benefit levels publicized by Paula Bennett to the whole Dirty Politics episode. There has to be a better way.