Since the beginning of April, when the fear for a spread of the pandemic was high, we have repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to warn that the unjust and dangerous decision of the Federal Government to leave the most vulnerable people out of subsidies would have put everyone’s safety at risk. A community is like a living organism, we argued; therefore, to expose its weakest part will endanger us all.
Today, the short-sightedness of that choice is unfolding dramatically: while Victoria is forced to a second lockdown, the rest of Australia is holding its breath.
As it happened elsewhere, 80% of the new wave of infections in Victoria have been traced back to workplaces. Most of the workers affected by the virus are casual workers and migrants with temporary visas, including students, who have been forced to go to work to make a living despite the medical advice. The Federal Government has pushed this category of workers to this decision by not including them in the subsidies (even after discovering that 70 billion was left over from the allocated budget).
Cleaners, hospitality workers, meatworkers, private security guards, gig economy workers, nurses in aged care or childcare: they all have been forced to go to work in dangerous conditions. Despite being considered essential workers, many of them are underpaid and casualised, without paid sick leave. In the absence of any other help, they were left with no choice but to go to work even when they were told to self isolate. Amongst them are thousands of international students left without financial assistance and with school fees to pay. These students are crowding the foodbanks for a hot meal, as Luke Henriques-Gomes wrote in The Guardian on the 15th of July.
“We cannot afford to support everyone” the politicians said in April, holding in his hand calculations that would later prove to be a rough overestimation. What would they say now in the face of the economic consequences of a second lockdown in Victoria and with a much more expensive price to pay? And how will their calculations take into account the human cost that the virus is inflicting on our community? What does the Federal Government say about the consequences social isolation is having on the most vulnerable people in terms of mental health, and what about the widespread alarms on the increase in suicides and domestic violence? How much would this cost to the taxpayers and to the Australian society and who is going to pay for it?
One thing is for sure: the whole community is already paying a hard-to-estimate price. While the politicians turn a blind eye to this, the invisibles are taking the heaviest toll.
Nomit members have been doing everything they can to help those in need, by trying to allow them to stay home when they had to. This has been possible thanks to the high standard of morality shown by the Italian community, which understand solidarity is like a safety net that protects those standing on both shores: the ones who need everything and the ones who have something to give. Nonetheless, this is far from being enough.
Therefore we ask once again the Italian institutions to act in support of our initiative and we renew the appeal that we launched to the Australian government through Eureka on April the 9th: The best thing to do, both morally and politically, is not to just give orders from above, but to guarantee that those who are asked to stay at home to protect the health of the whole community will not have to struggle to put food on the table. As the virus does not distinguish between temporary and Australian workers, a wise government shouldn’t either. At least not in times like these, when a financial support for all workers will protect the entire community.
Thanks to Anna Grogan, Enrico Moscon and Giovanni Di Lieto