My wife screamed at Tony Abbott to “get f****d” over breakfast this morning.
Unfortunately, the PM wasn’t present. He was doing a radio interview.
My partner’s outburst was doubly surprising to me as she rarely if ever hurls abuse at inanimate objects, in this case the radio, as animate objects are much more fun.
Furthermore, she has about as much interest in politics as a house cat has in solving world poverty.
I’d like Abbott to meet my wife for several reasons. She’s a migrant who arrived in Australia nearly twenty years ago with little English and even less money and worked her fingers to the bone to start her own business.
She represents the kind of ‘lifter’ whose virtues are extolled by Joe Hockey.
Fiercely determined, undeterred by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, contemptuous of government regulation, and loathe to pay a dollar in tax, she could almost be a poster girl for Neo-liberalism.
Or Socialism with Chinese characteristics.
She would have done well had she inherited a mining company. This was not to be however, and so instead she built a Beauty Therapy business.
Like all small businesses especially those in service industries, trade is often spasmodic. One day feast, the next day famine.
Which is the second reason I’d like her to meet the PM.
The one thing that my wife has learned is that in order to have a strong economy is that you have to have people in work.
And not only in work but also earning enough to have a modicum of ‘disposable income’, the demand for goods and services so necessary to drive a sound economy.
With consumer confidence at its lowest ebb since 2011, and lower by 3% than this time last year coupled with the ‘official’ unemployment rate now standing at 6.3%, of the workforce, my wife’s vehement outburst is understandable.
“Why doesn’t Abbottbastard understand no work-no money-no economy?” (My wife is convinced that any Australian politician who assumes the mantle of PM also assumes the title of ‘bastard’ after their surname, and I lay the blame squarely on my own doorstep as a result of teaching her English during the Howard era).
“Well, he probably does but he thinks that what he’s doing is the best way of going about it.”
She didn’t hear me however, as she’d already left for work.
My wife has good cause for worry as do other small business operators.
A friend who runs a health food shop on an inner city street that was once extolled as one of Melbourne’s ‘shoppers paradise precincts’, looks at the For Lease signs and the growing number of empty ‘retail opportunities’ mushrooming along the strip and tells me that he can no longer afford to employ staff and that his business is back where it started with only family members employed.
In Melbourne’s central business district, the streets are busy but not certainly not bustling in the manner that would be expected only days from Christmas, while the shops are quiet and the owners and staff look anxious.
The fallout from the government’s cuts to public services, and the death of the car manufacturing industry and the shrinkage of allied trades, is starting to bite and likely to bite much harder in 2015.
In both opposition and in government, Abbott and Hockey have relentlessly talked down the economy as part of their agenda of ‘reform’.
The confected budget emergency, dismissed by Saul Eslake as “an abuse of the English language”, the cuts to health education, welfare, science, and the media, have collectively eroded both business and consumer confidence as unemployment steadily rises – 14% of youth and at least 16% of under-utilized and unemployed – while the spectre of a recession looms large, and during recessions it’s small business that feels the pinch first and hardest.
With its back-bench in near revolt and the front bench fighting among themselves like Crosby, Stills, and Nash in the dressing rooms at Fillmore West while the polls slide, watching the Coalition as it lurches from debacle to debacle is similar to watching a porno movie – you always know what’s going to happen in the end.
I think that’s why my wife told the PM to “get f****d!”