Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie is worth listening to, says Bill Hoffman.
Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie is worth listening to, says Bill Hoffman. MICK TSIKAS

When Jacqui Lambie speaks, it's worth listening

NEARLY every time Jacqui Lambie rises in the Senate to speak, she underscores the stark difference between a conviction politician and Pauline Hanson.

What she rose on Thursday and told the Turnbull Government deserved the attention of the full Senate chamber but, as is often the case, her emotional attack on its welfare cuts echoed into a near empty chamber.

Lambie's views can jar.

But what doesn't jar is the integrity of those convictions.

The Senator leads with the heart rather than a view to the next vote and she speaks with coherent honesty about the reality of life in Australia for the poor, the increasing number who don't have a stake in the Monopoly game that underpins the gap between the haves and the have nots.

"This is what it is like," Ms Lambie told her colleagues putting lie to the nonsense that people on welfare are leaners or are taking some mythical "easy" ride through choice.

"It is not a choice for many of us to be on welfare.

"It is shameful and it is embarrassing, and it is bloody tough.

"I want you to know that's what it's like to be at the bottom of the crap pile, through no fault of our own, for many of us.

"We do it not because we want it but because circumstance put us there.

"For you to take more money off those people, you have no idea how bloody tough it is, every little cent counts to those people. And if you really realised the damage you are doing to that part of society you would stop doing it.

"I'm just asking you, I know you haven't been through that ... our kids paid the price for that through no fault of their own. I just wish you would reconsider what you are doing because you know we've not living when we are like that, we are surviving."

The comparison with the feeble explanation provided by Malcolm Turnbull's Small Business Minister Michael McCormack to the reality he charged taxpayers just under $50,000 to stay in his wife's Canberra apartment could not have been starker.

The National compared his allowance to penalty rates, presumably having already forgotten the cuts made to those part-time, low-income workers in the hospitality sector by his government.

And yes McCormack is right, he didn't breach any rules but there's the rub.

The rules aren't equal in their application and never will be as long as governments and oppositions continue to argue over the minutia rather than first principles.

Remember once not that far back, but an age in politics, when everything was going to be on the table in a discussion about taxation?

The whole Tax Act needs to be if the real leaners in this country are ever to be exposed for the government to secure the revenue required to sustain the type of just society to which Australians once aspired.

Yes, the cost of child care benefits for instance is rising chiefly because they have become corporatized profit centres feeding off the government purse while still leaving those who actually deliver it among our poorest paid professionals.

The provision of support to families is also iniquitous allowing smarties able to pay accountant to arrange their affairs to minimise their taxable income to the extent they enjoy maximum fee relief while driving vehicles for which, unlike Lambie's poor, they find no trouble paying registration fees.

Yet tax reform remains untouched while politicians of both major parties squabble over inconsequential matters, pandering to extremes to protect their ever finer mandates while ignoring harsher realities.

They play in a safe sand pit, comfortably renumerated and mouthing platitudes about jobs able to buy apartments while on work trips on a whim.

Reports out this past week have concluded provision for the future support of the aged is undercooked because the presumption most will own their own homes no longer holds.

Who would have thought?

But of course we now live in a suspended reality where Sydney is pointed to as the country's economic powerhouse while those who work there increasingly will never afford a home of their own.

Ms Lambie has shone an honest light into an Australia where politicians who set policy blame without shame for their circumstance, those who fall victim to it.

This will become an increasingly meaner place if voters allow them to continue to do so.

Ironically for all his myriad of faults, Clive Palmer provided Ms Lambie with a pathway into politics.

She walked away from PUP now accusing Palmer of turning his back on the battlers something she said Hanson was now doing in backing the government's freeze on Family Tax Benefit increases to fund childcare payments.

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