Australian Economy

‘We’ve earned better than this’: voters give their verdict on the Australian election | Melissa Fisher, Rachael Coco and Patrick Lukins

‘Ignoring us won’t make the problem of poverty go away’

As we’re coming to the end of the election campaign, I’ve been both happily surprised and majorly disappointed. Both Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison have mostly failed to discuss poverty in the public forum, although a few Labor MPs have broken party lines to say they support an immediate increase to jobseeker. The Greens and a lot of smaller parties and independents have an increase in welfare payments as their policy. I believe the lack of having these conversations just shows how out of touch Australian politicians actually are. Both sides are talking about the cost of living but leave out the impacts this is having on people living below the poverty line who are impacted the most.

Living on $330 a week is unsustainable and I can’t help but wonder how long it’s been since a politician had to choose between a loaf of bread or two litres of milk. If they have to walk around a supermarket with a calculator stopping to type in each product, afraid to go over a limit, and have to put things back at the checkout? Have they ever had to sleep in a tent instead of a house and not by choice? This is what Australians are facing and letting people access their super early isn’t going to fix it.

Whoever wins the next election has a big job ahead of them. I hope they also understand that governing the country is a privilege and not a right. They need to govern for all, not just the wealthy. After all, the poor vote too. Ignoring us won’t make the problem of poverty go away. It will just make us louder. Poverty is and always has been a policy choice. Now we need a government to make the right choice.

Melissa Fisher is an Adelaide artist and anti-poverty activist who relies on jobseeker

‘The attention regional Australia receives is tokenistic at best’

Election promises during an ever-evolving campaign have been diverse and plentiful but whether meaningful change is on the way for north Queensland remains to be seen.

While the seat of Herbert is being hotly contested and inspiring some good old-fashioned pork-barreling, and the Coalition certainly capitalised on discretionary grants in their pre-election budget, it’s difficult to determine which policies and commitments will amount to long-term sustainable growth for our region.

Both major parties have committed $70m to the NQH2 Hydrogen Consortium and promised support to the Townsville City Deal. The Coalition supports Hells Gate dam and development of an industrial precinct in Ayr, while the opposition is promising manufacturing opportunities and backing the NQ SPARK defence simulation facility.

A variety of policies to address the regional housing crisis have been announced and debated, from building tens of thousands of homes and lowering deposits for home buyers through to capping mortgage rates and the concept of government co-ownership. I fear that stimulating demand without properly addressing supply may inadvertently result in price hikes and the cynic in me questions the “benefits” of quick-fix solutions to such a complex issue.

It’s sad to note that both parties seem to be neglecting the western region of north Queensland. Many game-changing, capacity-building projects are simply being overlooked, thereby stifling growth in agriculture, innovation, health, research and skills development, and ignoring our inherent potential.

I try not to roll my eyes each time I hear that regional Australia is the “lifeblood of our nation” when the attention we receive is often tokenistic at best. I doubt that either party sincerely acknowledges the development of northern Australia as a priority, lamenting that it will probably remain nothing more than a pipe dream unless our regional electorates miraculously become marginal seats. Wouldn’t that make a difference?!

Rachael Coco is a management committee member of the North Queensland State Alliance and a contract administrator

‘Inadequacies in our chronically underfunded healthcare system’

With little focus on healthcare from either leader, for me this campaign has come down to a competition of character. Covid was only muttered in the same breath as economic recovery, as our PM claimed credit for saving the country despite surging cases and record deaths. The health system is still under enormous strain and staff are fatigued from doing the actual saving, but Scott Morrison was too loudly singing his own praises to notice. He created distractions and behaved like Covid was a distant memory, basking in its afterglow while arguing workers getting slammed to drive his miraculous economic recovery didn’t deserve a pay rise.

There’s been no acknowledgement that all it took was a virus to expose the frightful inadequacies in our chronically underfunded healthcare system. No vision to create the brighter country that anxious Aussies dreamed we could become during the dark days of lockdowns. Only the Greens have made any attempt to better the healthcare system by announcing dental and mental into Medicare.

I found the PM mocking Anthony Albanese for his slow Covid recovery distasteful when I know paramedics who have long Covid – my workmates couldn’t wait it out in the Lodge and they certainly couldn’t brag about their workload while lying face down in a coma.

While I did find Albanese’s campaign style too cautious and uninspiring, I don’t blame him when he’s up against a bulldozer and one gaffe away from losing a week of policy announcements to tabloid click-bait frenzies.

The fact that 70% of aged care workers still haven’t received their pandemic cash bonus confirms to me that Morrison is all sales pitch and no substance. No matter the result this Saturday, we’ve earned better than this.

Patrick Lukins is a paramedic in Sydney

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