With so many failures of government to be angry at this month, it is hard to know where to start. An anger management course?
Let’s begin with the Robodebt debacle, when flogging the least fortunate in our community with bullshit debts was the sport of the day.
Their mental and physical wellbeing was sacrificed on the altar of dole-bludger rhetoric for pure political gain.
More than 558,000 people received illegal notices. People died as a result, killing themselves with stress and shame, and key government figures knew it was illegal right from the start.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) found, in case after case, that recovery by the government was thwarted, because the process of calculating the debt was unlawful. Yet, the department deliberately refused to appeal these cases, because it would give publicity and approbation to the result.
Why on Earth we cannot actually see the names of those referred by the inquiry for civil, disciplinary or criminal consideration is beyond my comprehension. What if the agencies like the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) were just as secret? We would never know what they do.
For all the thoroughness of the report, that is a deep and fatal flaw.
Moving along, I am just so angry at the utter failure of government oversight that has led those poor buggers in Sydney to have worthless apartments.
The dwellings were all checked and passed by private certifiers so they could be occupied, and all sold for squillions.
Now they are all worthless, as the desperate owners try to manoeuvre around confusing laws of bankruptcy, liquidation, strata and so-called default schemes.
Most of these strata unit owners have mortgages, many can’t even live in their properties, or if they do can literally have a waterfall in the wardrobe.
Surely, the biggest asset ought to be the most regulated, but it seems like this is a government obsessed with being a minor nanny state – think pink, green and blue slips when transferring a vehicle from Coolangatta to Tweed.
And as expected, this government oversight failure is starting to be seen here in our area too, as the big developers move in.
Meanwhile we are all being squeezed by the privatised electricity market, with rises so far above inflation it’s a joke.
Those states that did not embrace the neoliberal absurdity of putting profit motive into an essential service are now reaping the rewards.
Fat cats make millions over suffering vulnerable consumers who now lurch from provider to provider, every six months, in search of a deal that might keep them cooking and warm.
It’s another utter failure of government policy, writ large.
And thence to flood recovery, where my blood just boils. I am going to write a satirical play where the government actually sets out to develop a natural disaster recovery debacle with no transparency; limited unappealable, shifting, illogical criteria; false promises in black and white; untenable delays; and doublespeak hijinks from government agencies here today and gone tomorrow.
I’ll subtly call it North Coast Flood 2022. Meanwhile, people who actually believed they would be looked after just sip their tea, made with their one power point from the front porch power box, and sit in the caravan under their house in despair.
If this is a climate change litmus test, I’d be holding out zero hope that the government can provide anything other than hopelessness and inaction. We would be better off learning plastering ourselves.
And here’s Tim, my old builder mate ringing me again. He bought his house with his compo money from an injury 15 years ago. The one thing he owns. He was a victim of Robodebt, having been told he owed $18,000, and had the debt collectors set on him. Call after call, letter after letter for three years, money was demanded for fraud he had never committed. He got $6,000 in January 2022 from the class action. Then, his house was flooded over the roof and he lost everything.
And because his home is apparently one shade short of red on a map of dubious, but unchallengeable authenticity, he gets nothing.
Despite the fact that his house went under in 2017 as well.
He spent the $6,000 on the caravan he lives in under his sodden, now mould-ridden, un-occupiable house, reeling from one of the coldest winters in years.
The electricity is now so expensive he huddles under a blanket in bed rather than run the one bar heater.
He rang to tell me he’s been offered a pod. Yay! I tell him. ‘Nah, he says, I’m not moving. I’m okay here.
‘The government won’t help, dunno what’s next. I can’t just walk away. It’s all I have’.
It is hard to package up and send away anger like mine. I know the theory – breathing, exercise, gratitude – and a recognition that anger is just like drinking poison and expecting someone else to get sick.
I have taken to walking into the nature reserve and screaming at fig trees, ripping off my clobber and rolling in the leaf litter, moaning just like my deep ecologist friends told me to.
Sometimes, all that just doesn’t help that much, the rangers are frowning and the green ants are disconcerting. I have found a temporary solution though. I bang the keys harder and harder when I type.
This hurts my fingers, buggers the keyboard and annoys my partner. I wonder if my lovely readers can tell?
♦ David Heilpern is Dean of Law at SCU and a former magistrate.