Monday, April 11, 2011

On disability and hairy-nosed wombats

Contributed by...
Ernie Lightpole

I heard it. I saw it! Did you miss it?

In a rare joint press conference with Julia’s nemesis, Tony, called to correct misinterpretations raised by both Julia’s and Tony’s policies on getting people off government welfare, into work, all was revealed.


A transcript follows. It went reasonably well to start off with when Julia took the lead:

"Look", she said in reassuring tones, "We are committed to rebuilding Queensland and around the nation, costing tax payers $5.6Billion. All that while tax receipts are down, arising from recent natural disasters with the terrible situation in Japan also hurting our economy. I understand it’s tough for people with disabilities but it’s tough for the economic environment too! Some portray that as moving unproductive economic burdens – and let me remind you there are some two million of those - off our balance sheets to concentrate on the basics, like the economy.

But of course that’s not our message. We will put innovative policy in place to move those who can work, into work. Look, it’s all about opportunity and participation – and the economy."

Tony agreed, with one qualification: "I agree with Julia about one thing and that’s the economy. Of course we all love disabled people but when things get tough, as Julia described, it’s all about who is productive, economically. And who is not. The Liberal Party has always been about opportunity so we’re pleased to be at one with the ALP on this central plank."

"Where we don’t agree is that climate change necessarily has anything to do with it..."

Julia: "Tony, I did not mention climate change…"

Tony: "You said natural disasters. Same thing. As everyone knows I only believe in climate change on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday, alternating bi-weekly. Today is Wednesday. I know what ‘natural’ means."

Julia: "Oh, Tony..."

Tony: "No, seriously, what are we going to do on the other days when climate change effects really start knocking us around? Which Australians will be left to put their shoulder to the economic wheel, when the wheel also has to support a sizeable section of malingerers… Besides there will be only a very small wheel left, when, on those days, stronger cyclones, floods, droughts and what else cripples our agriculture, exports, and slows consumption right down to a trickle."

Julia:"Well, as you know I have always believed in climate change Tony - I believe it’s true eight days a week. Look, we are both evidence-based on this. Let me explain. You would have seen the recent research report on the near-extinct hairy-nosed wombat..."

Tony: "Of course, good report."

Julia: "Then let me draw this analogy, for the benefit of working families, and the other people... This research is about a highly vulnerable species – and yes biodiversity loss is one of the effects of climate change – not, I hasten to add, anything to do with mining. Now, this new economics tool simply spits out the data on which species are too expensive to save. In this case it looks like we’ll have to let it go. We could not find any way of bringing the hairy-nosed wombat into the market, say for its tourism value, or it’s glands. It has no tusks. They actual smell, but there is no aphrodisiac in it we can flog to the Chinese for example."

Tony: "Yeah, I get ya."

Julia: "Now with people with disabilities likewise..."

Tony: "Uhuh, they’re not bludgers if they can be included in the economy… As our Della said it all really : "[People with disabilities] represent a significant human resource whose potential can be harnessed. [They] can help address ... skills shortages for the good of our nation."

Julia: "Tony, at this point I must raise a serious point of principle and significant difference between us: It’s our Della, not yours! "

Tony: "Whatever..."

Julia: "But let me continue Tony... This is exactly why we have a social inclusion policy, where we reframed disability from a patronizing dependency to one of a view of insurance risk, opportunity and participation."

Tony: "Yes I know, we support it too: NDIS. Read the draft report. Efficiency, effectiveness and competition. Right with you there but let’s give credit where it's due: My political Dad John Howard started all that."

Julia: "Well, I don’t recall. Let’s not be historians here. It’s ALP policy now in any case. But as I said, unlike the hairy-nosed wombat, people with disabilities...

Tony: "Ah! Aphrodisiac? ??"

Julia: "...can be given value in a market. The disability industry is a great, hard-working sector. We’ll expand that. We’ll further stimulate the economy with individual funding. Carers will pop out of the ground like topsy. No more bickering over meanings of inclusion because our economics tool, like…"

Tony: "... gotcha, like that used for the hairy-nosed wombat."

Julia: "yep, sorts that right out. Is it cost-effective? Does it fit into the market? Then it must be – it is in fact - social inclusion. You now have value-added disabled people. No problem. No need for difficult-to-grasp principles or rights. And people with disabilities agree. They want to be valued and included. Everyone happy!."

Tony: "Mmmm, agree, and that idea for a national data base, which we as next government…"

Julia: "It’s still up for grabs Tony, and we’re still here!"

Tony: "... can use for easy fraud detection - on page 10.2 I think - , I really like that."

Julia: "So, it’s all about participation…"

Tony: " the market”"

Julia: "And opportunity"

Tony: "For us…, uhh, the economy… But what I still don’t see is what happens when the economy shrinks on those days that we experience escalating effects of climate change. Another $5.6 Billion and we're economically stuffed. We must still fund disability services and individual funding packages, including when they are marketised. How could we then still afford this inclusion that you talk about?"

Julia: "Tony, Tony, let me go over that hairy-nosed wombat example with you again, in private..."

After that clarification, we’ll now take you back to Julia’s public interview with Chris Uhlmann...