I Still Stand with Duncan
On Monday night, Australia got a new hero in the form of a man named Duncan Storrar, who articulated the inequality created by the budget’s tax cuts on ABC’s Q&A.
In response to the government’s decision to reduce income tax for Australians earning more than $80 000 a year, Storrar challenged Federal Minister and Q&A panelist Kelly O’Dwyer, making her look like a heartless miser (admittedly not a hard task).
“I’ve got a disability and a low education, that means I’ve spent my whole life working off a minimum wage,” said Storrar.
“You’re gonna lift the tax-free threshold for rich people? If you lift my tax-free threshold, that changes my life … I get to say to my little girls, ‘Daddy’s not broke this weekend. We can go to the pictures’.”
Not one to be deterred by a display of humanity, O’Dwyer dismissed Storrar’s pleas and gave an example of a café owner with a turnover of over $2 million per annum who could now buy a “$6000 toaster” and hire more staff.
Similarly missing the point, CEO of the Australian Industry Group Innes Willox chimed in to set Storrar straight.
“If you’re on a minimum wage with a family, you would not pay much tax if any at all,” said Willox.
“I pay tax every time I go to the supermarket, every time I hop in my car,” Storrar responded.
At first, viewers and the general public showered Storrar—who is a part-time truck driver and suffers from PTSD—with support. Not only did the hashtag #istandwithduncan start trending on social media, but a fundraising campaign to buy him a toaster was launched, with more $60 000 raised by the time it wound down yesterday.
But then Storrar fell from grace. Determined not to let someone poor and disabled get away with such a public feat of questioning authority, The Australian newspaper began sniffing around in his past looking for dirt to discredit him with.
And they found it.
On Wednesday, The Australian ran an article entited, “ABC’s ‘budget fairness’ victim pays no net tax”. All that means is Storrar pays less tax than he receives in government benefits, which is exactly how a good welfare system should work provided it is tightly means tested, but the paper didn’t stop there.
“Q&A’s ‘national hero’ Duncan Storrar convicted for kill threats,” blared a headline yesterday. “The truth about my father, Duncan Storrar, the Q&A ‘hero’” said another.
“Q&A star Duncan Storrar exposed as thug as public raise $60,000” said the Herald Sun, coincidentally also owned by News Corp. That particular publication took it one step further too, running another article entitled, “Dubbing Duncan Storrar ‘a national hero’ shows Australia has become all about ‘what’s in it for me’” (no I am not making this shit up).
Of course, the ABC has also suffered from the backlash.
“The ABC presented him as a ‘new national hero’ and a low-paid Aussie battler, but Duncan Storrar’s son, Aztec Major, paints a very different picture of his father,” said Thursday’s interview in The Australian. “ABC hero to villain”, declared the Herald Sun’s front cover today.
So Storrar is not a perfect victim. He has a criminal record that includes assault charges, and, according to his adult son, was an absent parent who has used drugs in the past. But does that invalidate the highly relevant points he raised during Q&A about inequality in Australia? No. And does that mean he is not entitled to the funds people have raised for him, as many have suggested? No – it bloody does not.
By focusing on Storrar’s past, all News Corp is trying to do is deflect from the bigger issues at stake. Do not turn this opportunity to spark an important conversation about inequitable distribution in Australia into a witch hunt. All you are doing is playing straight into the hands of conservative politicians and people like Murdoch, whose sole aim in championing shit like this is to crusade against the ABC and assist the Liberal Party with their election campaign. It is not okay to publicly shame someone and dredge up their past just because they asked a legitimate question. Australia’s class warfare is savage, and until we all start asking questions like Storrar did, nothing is going to change.