A Fairer society is a healthier, wealthier one – The Mercury, June 2016

Meg Webb Opinion Pieces and Public Commentary, Uncategorized

View original article on Mercury website

THE ties that bind a community are the foundation on which everyone succeeds.

Tasmanians know social and economic issues are linked. Having an affordable home, access to transport and a healthcare system that helps you stay well are essential for our happiness, and our participation in jobs, education and the community.

Too often we are told the economy must be fixed and then we can take care of the people doing it tough. While this seems simple, it is wrong.

The case has been made by the International Monetary Fund that reducing the gap between those doing it tough and those who are very wealthy is the proven way to drive economic growth. They agree that economic security does not trickle down, it has to be built from the ground up.

In Australia, we have increasingly seen advantages provided to the wealthiest while support is cut to those most in need and funding eroded for universal services.

This has built prosperity for some, not all. It has created insecurity, vulnerability and misery in those left behind.

This is not in our interest.

Real stability for our community comes from providing opportunity and support to all. Any party that offers economic solutions in a vacuum of social policy is failing our state.

It’s time to prioritise social issues this election to create a more equal and thriving community and economy.

We have a social safety net for a reason. Across the course of our lives, we and the people we love will draw on its support. Whether it is an aged pension, family payments, child care subsidies, unemployment payments, carer’s payments or disability support — it is in our interests to ensure this safety net works and is not a poverty trap.

There has been virtually no mention in this election campaign of increasing the appallingly low payments and allowances. A third of Tasmanians rely on these payments, each year they fall further behind cost of living.

Newstart Allowance is $38 a day. The Business Council of Australia agrees this is unliveable. It’s time we had an independent commission to set pensions and allowances to cover the real cost of living.

Real stability for our community comes from providing opportunity and support to all. Any party that offers economic solutions in a vacuum of social policy is failing our state.

Lack of affordable housing is a national crisis. Too many people miss out on life’s essential foundation — a home. Addressing this requires a national strategy and ongoing investment from state and federal governments. Any party that has not presented a plan to address affordable housing at this election has failed the Australian people.

As a community we identify health, education and the economy as top priorities. We know these three things connect our economic and social wellbeing. An excellent education for all is the best way to deliver economic outcomes. A healthy community is best able to participate and contribute to a productive economy.

It is an easy scare campaign to suggest the money we need to invest in health, education, housing and a reasonable social safety net will be taken out of your pocket. Invoking fear and self-interest is a powerful way to influence people. But we don’t have to accept false choices that pit us against one another.

As a country we are the wealthiest we have ever been. We are able to make positive choices as a nation about where we raise money and where we want to spend it.

We can create a fairer tax system to make multinationals and very wealthy people pay their fair share. We can stop cutting health and education, and invest in universal services to deliver the best opportunity for all. We can provide a genuine social safety net to support fellow Australians with dignity, not punishment.

We have economic winners and losers — and the gap between them is getting wider.

Making a fairer community takes longer than three-year election cycles — more reason to think bigger than slogans and divisive campaigns.

Real leaders inspire with a vision of a better future. They draw people together in a common purpose and seek to expand humanity, not lessen it. Leadership that tries to divide leaves us vulnerable. When our leaders resort to invoking fear and goading our self-interest, they fail us.

Let’s not fall prey to leadership that aims to progress the interests of some by eroding the wellbeing of others. This can only destroy the ties that bind us.

Meg Webb is manager of the Social Action and Research Centre at Anglicare Tasmania.