6th Jan 2016
A Current Affair, the show that frightens your nan every night on Channel Nine, has gone beyond it’s usual domain of shonky builders, shonky plumbers, shonky fridge repairers and the shonky youth to dip their toe into the fun world of eugenics.
The almost-news program ran a story asking if women should be forced to take contraception to go on welfare. You’d be right to expect such a story to go for about three seconds with a script that looks a little like this:
Hello and welcome to A Current Affair. Thank you for leaving your television on as you fall asleep on the couch. Tonight we’re asking: should women on welfare be forced to take contraception? We asked an expert.
Obviously not. That’s some weird Nazi shit.
Weird Nazi shit indeed. That’s all for us tonight. Remember, email your relatives everything you hear on this show as if it’s undeniable fact and not just some bullshit we made up while bored.
But somehow instead the story got a full berth with a poll being put in the field to see if the Australian people are down with eugenics yet.
It’s truly as if someone misunderstood what we meant by hoping for the ‘eradication of poverty’ and started to push for ‘the eradication of people suffering in poverty’.
The suggestion initially came from former Labor MP Gary Johns, himself an excellent argument for the use of contraception. Johns argues that women on welfare should have a forced medical procedure that would see a rod inserted in their arm which temporarily forces contraception until they were working again. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his argument is that he managed to get it out of his mouth without vomiting at the sheer horror of the thought. It’s the kind of notion you hear about in a documentary right as the footage goes black and white and the music turns ominous.
There’s a lot to step through here so let’s just start at the most obvious. Any plan that starts with ‘women should be forced to -’ is a pretty fundamentally bad plan. There aren’t really a lot of great ways for that sentence to end. It’s pretty rare that something starts so awfully but ends up being something like “Women should be forced to travel abroad. It really broadens the mind.”
The dictating of women’s lives isn’t an accidental repercussion of Johns’ plan, it’s the central thesis. He goes on to claim that “if someone is on a parenting payment.. they should be looking after existing children not having more children. And if someone’s on Youth Allowance… they should be studying not starting a family.”
It’s the kind of social policing that is more common coming from the mouth of William F. Buckley than anyone operating in the last half century. Sure, we’d all like to dictate the lives of others. Hell, I’d really enjoy being able to force, say, former Labor ministers attempting to advocate for class-based eugenics to fuck off into the woods forever. But we don’t do that because we aren’t cartoon monsters. If Johns would like to fuck off into the woods forever of his own free will than that would be really terrific. If he’d rather write terrible books about shitty, outdated and frankly borderline evil ideas on how to control the poor, then he can also do that. Though, of course, it would be preferable if those comments were kept to his mad scratchings and not shown as somehow valid by a national “news” program.
It feels like a side note to place here but it’s also important to note that this won’t work. You won’t stop people from having children you will simply stop people who have children from being able to afford to live. It’s a rare and brave stand to push for a higher infant mortality rate but I guess that’s the kind of scum you find when scraping the bottom of the barrel.
This story isn’t the disease, though. It’s a symptom. Sure, it’s a particularly pus-filled, warty symptom. It’s the kind of symptom that, were you to have, you’d really have a duty to inform all previous sexual partners – but it’s a symptom of a greater problem.
The problem with this story isn’t just the insane fascist parts. Don’t get me wrong, the insane fascist parts are certainly a problem but they’re the fun icing. The scary part is the breathless way in which this question and A Current Affair in general associate poverty and the need for welfare with being of a lower state of human.
The second someone needs societal assistance to get by even for a short time we’re told that they’re bludgers and that they’re incapable of making their own decisions. It seems the second someone leans on our society is the second we want them removed from it.
Obviously A Current Affair is attempting to court controversy to balloon their audience figures from the usual twelve people to a robust fifteen but the attitude with which it’s done speaks to a real sentiment in the community. There’s a nasty but prevalent idea that those on welfare are getting away with something. They’re sneaking one past the keeper. While we’re all away on work they’re lounging about like kings.
It’s a shame that this attitude has grown because social welfare should be a place of pride. It’s pure, fundamental mateship. The idea that we as a society decided that we would not leave anyone behind, that we would be there in the hard times and give you the boost so that you can contribute and help others – it’s wonderfully Australian.
And maybe that’s a long way for A Current Affair to go – maybe we need to give them a stepping stone along the way. Here’s one that seems pretty simple and that most of us got down pat a long time ago: stop using your resources to advocate for eugenics.
There. How hard is that? Before you answer, remember that if you have any difficulty with that idea you might just be a monster.