Perhaps I have not lived in Australia for long enough to know how the rot set in!
While we are far from being the only part of the world where the adverse effects of increasing levels of inequality are destroying society, that is no cause for complacency.
So many issues in recent times, many of them pre-COVID-19, have highlighted how the Australia, which we tried to project to the world in 2000 as a Dinky Di paradise is dead, buried and cremated. (Thank you, Tony Abbott, for the quote! You certainly helped the rot set in!)
A large part of the problem has stemmed from the politicians – but we elected them!
So, quite clearly, some, at least, of the blame lies with us!
Look at the greed of shareholders which led to the revelations of the Royal Commission into Banking. Remember – the directors, who are responsible for choosing the CEOs, are voted in – and out – by the shareholders.
True, the most influential shareholders and the directors whom they elect are, in many case, all part of a tight knit circle with fingers in many pies, so that the shareholders with smaller holdings cannot make their voices heard.
Look at the increase in numbers of our prisons, which signifies not – as many would have it – an massive increase in crime, but rather a failure on the part of society to intervene in ways which divert individuals into more socially acceptable paths.
Too many children are growing up in dysfunctional homes, and effective interventions seem to be beyond the imagination of the relevant government departments.
Take one example: Drugs!
The minute a drug is illegal, it is immediately attractive to many, and if the drug is one of addiction, future prospects are not good.
Many turn to drugs because they feel life holds nothing for them, sometimes because of mental illness and sometimes because of failure to get necessary help and support.
And because there is always an element in society which is happy to make money out of other’s misery, when an addict cannot afford a fix, theft is the obvious route to satisfying the craving. Decriminalise drugs, and the prices tumble!
Many involved in law and law enforcement have tried – and, sadly, failed – to explain to politicians that other countries have gone down the path of decriminalising drugs and – lo and behold, the sky did not fall down! In fact the prisons were no longer overflowing!
Most recently, the pandemic has revealed the long term failure of governments to ensure proper services, staffing and care levels for elderly citizens spending their last days in Aged Care Homes run by for profit organisations, which have been subject to totally inadequate supervision and regulatory processes.
And another issue, which has been a running sore during the pandemic, has been the failure to recognise the very limited ability of many security firms to offer a higher standard of security service than can be expected from a nightclub bouncer.
I was asked the other day whether I had been as involved in politics when John Howard was PM.
I was not.
And as I answered the question, I realised it was because, at that time, I had been working full time, and while I was aware of the unpleasant policies which were being increasingly adopted, I had other things foremost on my mind.
Now I am in the enviable position of having retired, with a comfortable superannuation scheme – of a type which is no longer available to young people starting a career – with a home which cannot be taken away from me – short of an earthquake or another Cyclone Tracy – and with time to watch what is happening here in Australia as well as elsewhere in the world.
So I am wrong to be critical of younger people, who often have far too much on their plates to even notice what is going on around them.
That might change, however, with so many people unable to find work and so few jobs available for those seeking them.
I do wish to highlight two particular areas where I think the cruelty of the government must be addressed.
The first is one of which many out of work are only too well aware.
Fortunately many people have been able to survive, up to date, because the Coalition copied the ALP’s actions in the GFC, in providing financial assistance to at least some of those whose jobs were lost because of government decisions to shut down anything which prevented suitable social distancing, and so reduce the cross infection rate.
Not everyone was looked after. Many were totally ignored, while some benefitted from unintended generosity because the program had been developed in haste.
Without any ability to prove that things are, or soon will be, improving, the government has just embarked on reducing the support currently available to some – but not all – of those out of work, or on JobKeeper and any who now seek unemployment benefits will again be expected to be looking for work in order to continue receiving support, and probably have an unrealistically low level of assistance, replacing JobSeeker.
But reducing support will harm those who have benefitted from a partial moratorium on bank foreclosures and rental evictions, now that they will be expected to resume payments – plus interest accrued – with no hope of doing so. It is insane and downright cruel.
How does the government expect these people to survive?
They also appear to plan to bring forward tax cuts – completely ignoring the fact that the people who most need financial help – which, by being spent on necessities, would go straight into improving the economy – will get very little, while the greater share will go to those who will tuck it immediately into savings – so not helping the economy by one iota!!
How on earth did we elect such idiots?
Finally I want to raise the issue of a neglected group of people, who are being deprived and cruelly tortured, and who seem to have been pushed to the back of most people’s minds.
You might have an inkling of who I refer to when I say that if Peter Dutton were to appear in public wearing jackboots and waving a swagger stick I would see that as a truthful representation of him and his policies.
And, remembering that Scott Morrison headed up Immigration before Dutton, his facade of religious conviction could be seen as a consequence of indoctrination, similar to that which produced the Nazis and the SS!
Yes – I know it was Kevin Rudd who stated that no refugees who came to Australia by boat after a certain date would be allowed to settle here.
I wonder if he regrets that decision and the damage and death that has been the consequence?
He did it to save himself from a barrage of criticism over a flood of boat arrivals.
Why should so many people suffer so much in a futile attempt to save one individual from embarrassment?
We have seen many die, from suicide and from neglect. We have seen billions spent to maintain this cruel policy.
We have seen hours of court time – and more millions of our money – wasted by government attempts to prevent sick offshore detainees from getting urgently needed medical attention in Australia.
The pandemic has prevented – hopefully only temporarily – the relocation to other countries of some of the refugees, so they languish in offshore or onshore detention, under the control of security contractors who seem to regard themselves as sharing the role of corrections officers – even though the detainees have committed no crimes.
It is so sad that Australia has no Human Rights laws to protect those suffering these human rights abuses.
Refugees from some countries – Iran springs to mind (remember – an Australian is being detained there for no apparent crime!) – cannot return home because they would be put to death for fleeing their homeland. The conditions under which they are detained here are inhumane. They are denied time out of doors, they cannot exercise properly, they are, in fact treated more cruelly than murderers – yet we let it happen.
Is ability to feel compassion totally dead in us as well as in our leaders?
In a recent article I wrote “We need a government which does not ask “What will it cost the economy?” but, instead asks “What more do we need to do to make sure people are not struggling to survive?”
I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:
“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”
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