“I’ve got a disability and a low education, that means I’ve spent my whole life working for minimum wage. You’re gonna lift the tax-free threshold for rich people … Rich people don’t even notice their tax-free threshold lift. Why don’t I get it? Why do they get it?”
Victorian man Duncan Storrar asked this question on the political debate TV show Q&A soon after the launch of the 2016 Australian election campaign. Soon after, his life was turned upside down. Before long the country’s most read newspaper declared him a “villain” on its front page.
How come rich people get a lift in their tax-free threshold? @cassandragoldie responds #QandA https://t.co/ypCU0S3iyE
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) May 9, 2016
I don’t plan to relitigate these events here. That’s been done enough elsewhere.
For me, the most disappointing element of this whole saga was how some people, wilfully or otherwise, ‘played the man’ and simply ignored the issues Duncan so bravely tried to put in focus.
I wrote the below statement in my capacity as Media and Communications Manager at VCOSS.
There has never been a more dangerous time to be an Australian. Just ask Duncan Storrar.
We now live in an age where simply having the temerity to ask a Government MP a question about tax relief makes you fair game for public ridicule. After his appearance on Q&A, some have elevated Duncan to the status of a national hero. But Duncan didn’t ask for that. Others have sought to tear Duncan down. He certainly didn’t ask for that.
They say never to pick a fight with somebody who buys ink by the barrel. And that may be true. But all Duncan did was ask a question.
The truth is this isn’t about any individual. A federal election is upon us and every minute we spend debating whether or not Duncan is a good bloke is a wasted minute.
Its 60 seconds we’re not discussing the future of fairness in our country or how to make our tax system more equitable.
Instead of dissecting Duncan’s life, we could be discussing how in Victoria alone we currently have more than 650,000 people living in poverty. We could be musing on the fact that, of these, almost one third are earning a wage but it’s just not enough to pay the bills.
We could be outraged that 22,000 people are homeless in Victoria
We could be discussing how entrenched social disadvantage is mighty difficult to fix, because social problems are complex, with multiple, interrelated causes.
And, specifically, we could be discussing proposed changes to Australia’s tax regime. And how such changes might affect those who are doing it tough.
So why don’t we focus on the issues? That is what Duncan asked for.
(This post originally appeared on VCOSS’s Facebook page.)