Monday, January 31, 2011

Fire and rain

I understand that we all feel sorry for those affected by the recent Queensland floods and I appreciate the fact that people from all over Australia have donated time, labor, goods and money to the appeal. This effort combined with the $1 million dollars given to Queensland and the upcoming Flood levy imposed by the Federal government, which will raise $1.8 Billion dollars will ensure that houses, businesses and infrastructure will be rebuilt and people will feel settled and happy again. A similar level of generosity was expressed after the Black Saturday bush fires in which people died and property was lost, however more than $100,000 million dollars donated by Australians has yet to be spent.
What I want to know is why we as a nation can't do something similar to overcome the crisis in public housing? More than 41,000 people are currently waiting for public housing in Victoria and most spend half of their pension on private rental accommodation, leaving very little for them to 'live' on. Their trauma is a daily one, played out in constant worries about lack of funds and a place to live.
Are 'we' as a nation only concerned about people in Queensland because their produce or lack of it impacts upon 'us'. Fruit and vegetables are set to rise more than 70% and according to this Age article, the recent spike in fresh food prices will lead to more Australians replacing fresh fruit and vegetables with cheaper foods that have poor nutritional value. Excuse me, but about 2 million of our current population of 22 million people already eat 'cheaper foods' because they can't afford nutritional foods that may contribute to a healthier lifestyle and this figure doesn't take into account the numerous students who must live on the meagre funds given to them by the government to support them whilst they are studying or struggling families who depend upon the salary of a low-income worker.
Do we only have the ability to conjure up sympathy for those who are are deluged by water or fire? What of people who, generally through no fault of their own are forced to live on unemployment benefits, old age, single parent, disability support or veteran affairs pensions? Australian people are generous, I believe that they only need to be reminded from time to time that they are 'lucky' and that there are others who need their help. Overcome poverty and housing and you are part way there to overcoming crime and mental illness!
And just a final point, regardless of their income, anyone affected by the Queensland floods may apply for the $1,000 Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and may, according to Dr Michael McGann, research fellow in the school of historical and philosophical studies at The University of Melbourne also end up diverting income from the poor to the rich.


  1. I agree with you Julie. It is similar to the way cute animals more readily attract funds if they are endangered whereas the sharks and croc's are hunted down.
    Emotion drives decisions,whipped up by the media.


  2. This article is instructive

  3. OK, I read the article 'America's largest public housing project...' and I was certainly not suggesting that the government create new ghettos, such as the La Corbousier style large-scale housing commission blocks that mar our cities and create enclaves for isolation, depression, fear and drug dealing. I would hope that when funds are allocated for future public housing that those making the decisions think outside the square to avoid the problems that occur when you marginalise people. Purchasing existing established properties may be the way to go and setting up a fund for this would be ideal. But, as I said before, I don't think the public would like their tax dollars providing housing for people they generally regard as 'loosers' 'no-hopers' 'pot-heads' and the like. Perhaps if the media got behind this and used their obvious power to sway public opinion we could all make a real difference. (I'm such a dreamer and idealist! Oh well!