Another week in John Howard’s Australia, another poor-and-vulnerable-screwed-over-by-Work-Choices story. It is great, of course, that the media brings these stories to our attention, but one worries that bad publicity seems to be the only way any kind of justice is served. And one wonders what will happen when these cases become so commonplace the media gets tired of reporting them, or if the subjects of the stories are not particularly photogenic or social-justice-issue symbolic.
This story reminded me of the chap who used to work at the supermarket near my parents’ place when I was growing up, corralling trolleys and mopping floors. He didn’t talk much, and I gathered he suffered from some sort of mental impairment, but he usually had a smile and a wave for me.
One time when I was leaving the car park, a train of trolleys got away from him and slammed into the side of my mum’s beat-up old Volvo. Of course I didn’t give a rat’s arse about the paint job, but I will never forget the look of utter terror on his face. You can only imagine the tirade – and direr consequences – he was expecting, especially if it had been some horrible rich bastard’s Merc or Toorak tractor instead of a crappy old station wagon.
Although these days I am a horrible rich bastard, at least it occurs to me that when we talk about vulnerable people being exploited by heartless politicians and unscrupulous companies, we’re talking about people like him. And that I should do more about it than write pathos-filled reminiscences.