In recent days, the contraction of federal government departments has come as quite the shock to many Australians. Our PM announced that 18 departments would be contracted into 14, with the purpose of "getting more focus on Australians." God knows that would be a welcome change. Praise be.
The consolidation of Education, Skills and Employment makes sense - these three areas are certainly connected and a "synergy" between them would surely foster integrated relationships that could better serve the Australian people. Or, at least, it's a good spin story to distract us from the fact that the Liberal-National government has cut $3 billion from TAFE, apprenticeships and vocational education, more than $350 million of which occurred in 2018. But hey, we got a careers ambassador in Scott Cam for $345,000 a year to fix that problem: how good's empty shirt celebrity endorsement? A bargain at twice the price.
The thing that's really concerning is the new Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications makes zero mention of the arts, which seems to have been lost in the departmental amalgamation. The current head of the Department of Communications and Arts, Mike Mrdak, was not consulted with regards to the restructure and had in actual fact been "told of the government's decision to abolish the department" only the day before the announcement, according to SBS. I find myself pondering how an amalgamation could successfully be achieved without consulting the department head of one of the bodies being amalgamated.
This seems less about "[busting] bureaucratic congestion" and more about consolidation of power.
The arts is a $100 billion-plus industry - that's nothing to sneeze at. It's more than just a painting on the wall. It's not just high-brow, elitist, Sotheby's-listed investment: it's a cultural link, part of a national identity, our very self-expression.
The arts connect us to culture, heritage and land, as well as to the past, present and future. It is inherent to our very sense of self and it's core to our First Nations people's identity.
Our culture is preserved through the arts - drawings, paintings, sculptures, architecture, design, dance, song, connection, community - and it's only through these cultural activities that we are gifted a glimpse into the ancient world. Its purpose is to shape our cultural identity and define our legacy.
A pattern of putting the best interests of the Australian people anywhere but at the centre of government emerges.
It's hard to imagine this government doing anything that puts service to the people at the centre of its agenda when it deliberately generates robodebts without mind for accuracy and puts the onus on the people to prove it wrong. It practices economic apartheid by rolling out the cashless debit card, which is increasing hardships for people and destroying their sense of agency and dignity. It also repeals the Medevac Bill that was designed to save lives on our watch; under his eye, it defunds the nation's peak body for Indigenous survivors of domestic violence; and it refuses to raise the rate of Newstart, instead introducing legislation that would cut payments by increasing waiting times.
Having a Home Affairs Minister in Peter Dutton who has previously stated that he has "long regarded parliament as a disadvantage to sitting governments," together with a PM who espouses the virtue of "Quiet Australians" while articulating the desire to introduce tighter laws to restrict protesting, and a pattern of putting the best interests of the Australian people anywhere but at the centre of government emerges.
The best weapon any government has in its arsenal is its ability to create an enemy within the people, divide the populace between "us and them" and sit back and watch us destroy ourselves in the name of its agenda. It has created a war on retirees through building resentment of those who are self-funded AND those who aren't because they are considered to be an "economic burden", there is a war on people living in poverty and dependent on welfare as we are fed the stereotype of a drug-addicted lazy bludger, and there is a war on people "disrupting" the flow of society through protest by encouraging our anger about the inconvenience the disruptions cause.
Under their eye, we are lapping up the propaganda. And we have no one to blame but ourselves. Blessed be the fruit.
Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocateat impressability.com.au