Is this the Australia we really want?

Jul 13, 2022
I can’t say our casual acceptance of the growing divide between rich and poor makes me proud to be Australian. Source: Getty

Last week, Australia’s largest media company published a story about a man who was “shattered” by the latest interest rate rise, because it meant he was unlikely to achieve his ambition of owning 30 properties by the time he was 30 years of age.

22-year-old Morgan (who still lives with his mum) specialises in investment strategy and economics, according to his website.

I’m not sure what scares me most – the fact Morgan is already in hock for $1.2 million to the bank, or that people would seriously take his advice.

Anyway, the same day that story hit the news, I heard about Michael who’d just been kicked out of his home of 7 years.

Michael is 76. He left school at age 15 and worked full time until he was diagnosed with cancer at 63. He survived cancer but still struggles with chronic health issues.

A month before eviction day (when the new owner of his home would be free to fill his apartment with Harvey Norman furniture and list it on Airbnb), Michael’s niece put out a call on a local Facebook community board.

In her post, she outlined Michael’s situation and asked whether anybody could help with affordable rental accommodation in the suburb where he’d lived his entire life.

Here’s a random selection of the comments:

  • “Why didn’t he buy a house when he was working? Or did he piss all his money away?”
  • “Can he get into aged care?”
  • “If he’s on the pension, they all get rental assistance, so the taxpayer pays the bill anyway.”

Look, I can overlook the lack of empathy in those comments. Even though we live in a cruel world, chances are the people who wrote them have never suffered a day’s hardship in their entire lives.

I wonder if any of them, plus our mortgage broker Morgan (the 22-year-old who lives with his mum at the start of this story) could even imagine being old, sick, and potentially homeless.

Yet it’s Morgan and his shattered dreams that get the media attention. Not Michael, an ordinary Australian who is just a statistic. And it’s not a statistic we should be proud of.

Thousands of older Australians are just like Michael. Through no fault of their own, they’re facing a future of insecure housing, rampant rental price gouging, and potential homelessness.

But when it comes to housing policy, the focus of governments – past and present – is to subsidise the Morgans of this world through tax incentives, rather than provide support to people like Michael.

That’s not how a fair society should work. It’s certainly not something a compassionate society should accept.

And while I’m not planning to pack my bags and move overseas, I can’t say our casual acceptance of the growing divide between rich and poor makes me proud to be Australian.

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