Hubert von Goisern
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WELFARE STATE

Miscellaneous: 2005

Thorough education, not long-term laziness

Der Standard 20th July 2005 | Text: Kathi Fleissner | Photo: Wild & Team

Education-hungry pupils discussed what Hubert von Goisern would be without his "Hirtermadl" and how the state could act socially with the musician and politicians in Salzburg

Hubert von Goisern

"There's no poverty in Austria!" With this provocative statement, Hubert von Goisern opened the intense discussion on the subject of the welfare state in the Salzburg Literaturhaus for the Standard's youth project "Österreich 2025". The ÖVP Landtag representative, Ulrike Fiona Funtan, the club chairman of SPÖ Salzburg, David Brenner, as well as Johannes Stumtner (19) and Tom Wieser (13) also had controversial statements to liven the intense debate, which was moderated by Standard editor Bettina Reicher.

Brenner had a completely different opinion from Goisern. Of course there is poverty in this country too. One to two requests requests for emergency help would arrive at the Salzburg disaster fund alone. Funtan underlined Brenner's statement because, for example, nobody could say that there were no homeless people. The basic problem for Hannes lay in the low minumum wage boundary. "it must be raised, otherwise no improvement is possible," the 19 year old was convinced.

"Work and minimum wage are two different stories", answered Goisern. "Work is fun for me, it doesn't have anything to do with money." Naturally everyone should have something to eat and have a roof over their heads, said the musician. "But he should have money himself and be able to decide whether he wants to work or not." Funtan countered: "one must suppose that everyone makes their contribution" she answered assertively.

"I am a strong advocate of your position that everyone must find their own way," Brenner reacted to Goisern's response, which followed a yet more provocative: "Poverty is seen as an illness in Austria - that's not right. Everyone has the right to be a tramp," said the inventor of Hirtermadl, who continually pleaded for the "the right to laziness" for everybody. "Why must pupils study if they don't like it? They only run themselves into the ground doing that," said the singer, who released ferocious contradiction from the youth. Anna Jenny (14) reacted horrified: " Education is an enormously important commodity, I don't want less of it, but more," said the pupil, who sharply criticised the shortening of hours in this regard too. "Apart from that: if people don't work, the welfare state does not function and would have still more poor people," the 14 year old said indignantly.

Life, an art

HvG

"I was also homeless before my life as an artist, I lived partly on the street and managed on 20,000 Schillings year," Goisern defended himself. "But it seems rather more like a Rastafarian cult than laziness you had here. In any case, you didn't hurt the state with it," Tom interjected. "When you support people in the thought that 'the state will address it', then continuous laziness comes in," Christoph Hawle (14) was clear. Tom thereupon presented a concrete proposal for solution: "You must find out whether people cannot work or do not want to. If you discover that they do not want to, you simply retrain them in a job they would rather do."

"Everyone can have it the way they like it", Goisern was insistent. "Excuse me, Mr Goisern," interrupted Brenner. "Not everybody has the opportunity to decide with total freedom what they would like to do. If Hirtermadl hadn't been a hit, Hubert von Goisern would be a guitar salesman now," the club chairman countered heatedly. Goisern then reminded him of the social responsibility the state of Austria has. "We are, after all, a rich country and the citizens pay taxes," but they should also get something for that. Austria recognizes and takes this responsibility - contrary to other countries - very well, Funtan defended the democracy.

He himself is a lone fighter and in any case gladly pays taxes, said Goisern. But what is done with them is not right, said the artist, who quickly had the youth on his side: "You must know where the money goes," Anna also demanded and added that the "government machinery" was a problem. "The right hand doesn't know what the left one is doing." Tom agreed with her and called for autonomy for the federal states and municipalities, which should decide for themselves whether they need financial support "for unnecessary projects" at all.

Welfare state economises

In order to reorganise the budget, Johannes recommended raising taxes after Sweden's example, "many people there pay 90% of their salary to the state." A welfare state may not, for example, save on the cost of studying and "lead to senseless study fees, which don't contribute to improving the situation" (Johannes). Goisern also spoke against studying contributions, but resisted higher taxes: "80% taxes deter me." Apart from that, the system is structured differently in Sweden. "Raising the highest tax here would lead to acceptance problems," Brenner intervened, but had proposal for a solution at hand: uniform EU taxes. "You should at least raise the tobacco taxes," Johannes insisted. The fact that a welfare state must also provide for the maintenance of the democracy in the form of participation, was brought into the discussion by Julia Rohn (14). She pleaded persuasively for the lowering of the voting age to 16. "This reform would be very important for the youth." Funtan showed herself to be open to this request. "But it is important that accompanying measures are introduced, such as political education in the schools, otherwise the reduction makes no sense," the ÖVP delegate qualified her pro-position. Brenner endorsed voting from 16 with no ifs and buts, at federal level too. He was pleased, he said, that "you are thinking about the political process - many adults don't do that." "Why do you actually want to vote, if you are all so accommodated?" provoked Goisern, who noticed that his appeal to laziness had found no disciples. "Laziness may be very nice now and then. But it is more important to, with education, find a job that you like - even if it's bricklayer or carpenter," Tom reacted promptly and decisively.

Christoph was pleased that "at this debate we can finally offer criticism" and said that the state could profit from it. "It gets ideas from us on improving living conditions." From Julia, for example, who wants the same salaries for men and women. "The situation of a woman in comparison to a man is intolerable," Funtan agreed with her and - in addition to Tom's idea for "new, supervised homes for old people" - revealed her vision of a welfare state in 20 years: "Generations must stay in contact, that is an important criterion for happiness."

Brenner hoped for a rethink on immigration: "We will still need immigrants." However, the future is not to be regarded as "dangerous", "because what is coming to us is exciting." Goisern also identified his vision as more respect for one another: "We've got what it takes to make everything a paradise."