Jacqui Lambie made a tearful speech in parliament recently, asking the government to reconsider their $1.3 billion cuts to welfare, including support for single-income families. She speaks from experience, having been a single mother of two children on a disability support pension “at the bottom of the crap pile”. She stated that “you have no idea how bloody tough it is for those people” and that “every little cent counts”. She admitted that when she was on the pension, she drove an unregistered car and did not have a driver’s licence, because she could afford neither registration or licence renewal1.
But as we all know, the far right looks upon single mothers as a blot on society. Failed One Nation candidate from the recent Western Australian Election, David Archibald, wrote an article in Quadrant (March 2015), suggesting that some welfare programs should be cut because they support ‘lifestyle choices’. The first that sprung to his mind apparently was ‘single motherhood’. He stated that “These are women too lazy to attract and hold a mate, undoing the work of possibly three million years of evolutionary pressure. This will result in a rapid rise in the portion of the population that is lazy and ugly”2. One wonders if he owns a mirror.
Archibald went further, claiming childcare funding, indigenous affairs and the disability pension should also be wound back. He also stated that the Stolen Generations, the forced removal of aboriginal children from their families, was a myth2. Such comments were not enough to get him dumped from One Nation. Perhaps that is not surprising.
The welfare cuts, which Lambie pleaded should not be passed, were passed with the help of Pauline Hanson. Born Pauline Seccombe, she was married to a Polish refugee (Walter Zagorski) at 16, having become pregnant with her first child (born 1972); she had a second child in 1975, but the couple divorced in 1977. She met Mark Hanson in 1978 and they married in 1980 when Hanson became pregnant with her third child, a son. A daughter was born in 1984, but the couple divorced in 1987. It was after this she opened a fish and chip shop in Ipswich. So, Hanson has been in something approaching Lambie’s predicament, but is seemingly unsympathetic.
There is much talk about right and left in Australian politics these days, with Hanson and One Nation being on the right of the spectrum in some ways, along with the religious nutters of the right of the Liberal and National parties. The Labor Party is somewhere to the left of the middle and the Greens somewhere slightly further left. However, these labels are all simplistic and in part meaningless. The big difference between people in power in Australian politics is that some of them are able to ‘walk a mile in another’s shoes’, while many are not. It is most common for those on the ‘left’ to be able to do this, while for those on the ‘right’ it is much less common. It is very difficult for a multi-millionaire to understand the concerns, let alone the budget constraints, of a single mother, or a person on a disability pension. The awful thing is that many multi-millionaires do not seem to care.