Australia’s housing crisis – both for the homeless and for those attempting to find their first home – has become a national epidemic. This year, 30,000 Australian adults and 18,000 children accompanying them have attempted to access homelessness services; just 1 in 3 of them has been successful.
Kevin Rudd, in his election campaign and post-election rhetoric has suggested that the federal government would address homelessness. He even went as far as asking federal politicians to visit a homelessness shelter in what can best be described as a convenient gesture towards the “unfortunates” in our society.
To many people, homelessness has the perception of being unique to gamblers or addicts and whilst there are examples of this, homelessness remains a divorce or a job-loss away from all of us. In fact, many homeless in Australia are young people unable to afford the massive house prices that continually rise as the rich get richer and purchase even larger sections of the market. Given the current financial crisis, there is little doubt that homelessness and the housing crisis will worsen.
The Rudd Government last year promised $150 million to address homelessness, and Rudd commissioned a White Paper on the issue, “We don’t believe it is something which a country as wealthy as ours in the 21st century can just ignore.” Rudd also went on to say that “We have a situation where as the country gets wealthier, homelessness gets worse,” forgetting to mention that his party initiated and continues to pursue the neo-liberal policies that have increased the wealth disparities in Australia.
In the United States, tent cities have sprung up across the country and bosses and politicians have already begun their ‘blame the victim’ campaigns.
The truth of the matter is that until wealth distribution in this country is realistically addressed and democratic control of industry is in the hands of workers, homelessness plans like Rudd’s will continue to be band-aid solutions. Capitalism is, as a system, unable to ensure that ordinary people receive decent wages that are enough to shelter and feed. Bosses continue to expect massive profits and therefore force workers to accept bare subsistence wages which cannot adequately pay for the basics.
As this crisis worsens, bosses will attempt to force the worst off in our society to accept wage reductions or retrenchments and their political allies in the ALP and the Coalition will argue for wage-restraint whilst protecting the profits of the super-rich. Workers on the minimum wage should not be forced to accept no wage rise whilst the banks and corporations maintain billion dollar profits.
Rudd’s plan is incapable of addressing these problems. The only way that we as a society can begin to ensure that everyone – not just the wealthy – can be housed is to take control of the wealth in our society by implementing a democratic socialist system.
By Socialist Party reporters