The Australian senator went viral this week — that’s not a sentence you hear every day — after delivering a short speech to parliament to thank Australia’s childless for “all you do for others”.
During his speech, Leyonhjelm took it upon himself to apologise to Australia's childless population for being an ostracised and ignored social group.
“I am sorry that rather than receiving thanks, you are often ignored, pitied, considered strange or even thought of as irresponsible,” he told the senate during his speech.
“You work for more years and become more productive than the rest of Australia. You pay thousands and thousands of dollars more tax than other Australians. You get next to no welfare and your use of public health services is minimal.
“But you pay when other people get pregnant, you pay when they give birth, you pay when they stay at home to look after their offspring, you pay for the child’s food, clothing and shelter, you pay when the child goes to childcare and you pay when the child goes to primary and secondary school. And then you pay when it goes to university.”
Leyonhjelm delivered some interesting points, but his controversial delivery derailed an important message.
The truth is, yes, some childless couples are paying taxes that contribute towards families, just as families pay taxes into a system that allows negative gearing, a tax break for those who can afford to invest in property and shares.
Just as everyone contributes towards a tax system that gives multimillionaires and corporate giants massive tax breaks on their business tax rate and reduced tax on their superannuation.
And just as healthy people contribute taxes that fund health treatments for the obese, for smokers and for drug addicts.
And just as compassionate Australians unwittingly financially support a refugee program that is inhumane and cruel.
I could go on and on.
With his long-winded speech about Australia's forgotten childless finally coming to a close, the senator's motivation for jumping on his soap box was revealed: Senator Leyonhjelm was speaking in support of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No Jab, No Pay) Bill 2015, which would compel parents to immunise their children in order to receive government support of up to $15,000 per child annually.
“It is bad enough that people continue to bring wave upon wave of these little blighters into the world,” he ranted. “The least they can do is immunise their bundles of dribble and sputum so they don’t make the rest of us sick.”
This is an important issue — and a message that got completely overshadowed by his focus on childless Australians.
Because at the end of the day, we all contribute in some way, shape or form. Even if we don’t pay takes and bleed the government of welfare support, our kids could grow up to be productive, contributing members of society.
So perhaps Senator Leyonhjelm should have stuck to the topic of child vaccinations and government support, rather than getting derailed on a “parents vs. non-parents” rant.
Because the reality is, no-one lives in a vacuum in society — we are all in this together and we’re all dependent on each other in one way or another.
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