By David Bates

The election of Donald Trump has commentators scrambling to understand the so-called ‘silent majority’ or, as we misleadingly call them here, the ‘forgotten people’.

The conclusion being reached by commentators across the political spectrum is that Trump was elected by an aggrieved American working class who were tired of being forgotten. These commentators accordingly argue Australia’s own working class must have been forgotten too.

Take last weekend’s edition of the Weekend Australian for example. The paper’s front page focussed on an unemployed couple with ten children who were (unsurprisingly) struggling to make ends meet. These are, apparently, Australia’s ‘forgotten people’. 

Really? 

To compare that family to America’s own working class appears rather misleading to me. After all, America’s working class employees don’t accrue a minimum of four weeks of annual leave (or receive a generous ‘casual loading’ in its place).

They also don’t get paid one of the world’s highest minimum wages. They don’t have a union-dominated Fair Work Commission to interfere in virtually every aspect of their employers’ businesses. And they certainly don’t have access to one of the world’s most generous social security regimes and universal (and free-at-the-point-of-delivery) health care systems.

I don’t believe an unemployed Australian couple with ten children is ‘forgotten’ at all. In contrast, they are ‘remembered’ by Medicare and Centrelink. They are ‘remembered’ by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS). They are remembered at every state and federal election when our screens are filled with ads promising child care rebates and family tax benefits, and much, much more for all ‘working families’.

To be clear, I’m not for one second suggesting life isn’t tough for an unemployed family of 12, but it’s nowhere near as tough here in Australia as it is in the US, and I think it’s misleading to conflate Australia’s working class with their American counterparts who voted for Donald Trump.

In my opinion, Australia’s true ‘forgotten people’ are its hundreds and thousands of small business owners. You know, the men and women who employ the vast majority of Aussies, who get up before dawn and go to bed after midnight.

The ones who make sure every employee and every invoice is paid before they pay themselves. The ones who help secure the retirement of millions by paying compulsory superannuation contributions, and who aren’t accruing any paid annual leave or sick leave no matter how hard they work.

The same ones who are promised support during every election, but who are then abandoned by governments of both sides of politics who find it expedient to praise small businesses during campaigns but then paralyse them with regulation and red tape once they’re elected.

Looking for a ‘forgotten person’? You’ll find them running your local small business.