Dreaming of Equality of Opportunity

Every time the Labor Party goes on a reformist tangent the Liberal National Party starts screaming about “class warfare” and “equality of outcome”. Over the past forty years this country has been in the midst of “class warfare”. Not the type of class warfare you’re thinking about, when the have nots have asked for a few more crumbs to be brushed off the ruling class’ table, but an insidious type of class warfare that has seen wealth being distributed from the poorest section of society to the richest. During the deregulation, privatisation, globalisation, corporatisation revolution Australians have seen billions of dollars stripped from the pockets of people on social security benefits and wage earners, into the pockets of the investment class and that small section of society that owns the means of production, distribution, exchange and communication. So, let’s forget about class warfare and equality of outcome – everybody receiving the same wages/benefits – it’s a furphy, plain and simple.

When this strategy fails, the Liberal national Party claims it believes in equality – not an equality based on equality of outcome but an equality based on “equality of opportunity”: which allows the cream to climb to the top. “Equality of opportunity”, they must be dreaming! Does a child born to a single parent family on social security benefits have the same opportunity as a child who is sent to a private school, whose parents are part of the privileged investment class? Of course not – it’s another furphy.

Australia has the best health care system money can buy, it has the best education system money can buy. The key word in that sentence is ‘money’. Australia is not an egalitarian community, inequality has ballooned over the past four decades. Equality of opportunity disappeared when university fees were re-introduced and the newstart allowance was frozen.

In order to have equality of opportunity you need to have positive, not negative, discrimination in support of people who cannot get to the starting line on time, let alone take part in life’s race. Equality of opportunity can only occur when taxpayers’ money is used to support public enterprises. It will never occur while taxpayers’ money is used to support the private sector at the expense of the public sector. Nothing in current government policy supports equality of opportunity. The tragedy about lack of opportunity is that a much needed pool of talent is shunted aside because of lack of equality of opportunity. No cream will float to the top if young Australians are not able to develop themselves to their fullest potential. Denying an increasing number of Australians the ability to fully participate in society is not only unfair to those who will never have access to those opportunities. It also denies the country access to much needed talent.

Dr. Joseph Toscano

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