By Nick Chapman, Independent NSW candidate for the Australian Senate
Our lives revolve around our relationships with partners, family, friends and colleagues.
Relationships are the cornerstone of strong communities. They ensure that we support each other and that we are not alone. Most of all these relationships allow us to connect with others – a very strong human need – and to enjoy ourselves!
For me personally, my family is very important to me and my first priority.
Despite the importance of relationships our current political environment seems endlessly focussed on jobs and money. Jobs allow us to contribute to society, enable self worth and are sometimes even enjoyable! And money is obviously vital for providing food, shelter, and clothing; and gives us the opportunity to do the things we enjoy. But for most of us jobs and money is not our sole reason for living. While we may enjoy our work – most of us love our relationships, social activities, and hobbies. At the core of this is the human need for connection, freedom, and fun!
In the media we often hear stories such as “depression costs the economy $8 billion”. Really, the cost is damage to people’s health, self esteem and their relationships. These are the true costs and what most of us really care about. Why does our society need a dollar value on something to give it worth? Surely human impacts should be our first priority.
Obviously governments need to manage the national finances and adjust policy to encourage job creation – that is a given and a very important government function.
Australia went through an economic re-making over the last 30 years and the nation has reaped the financial benefits. Our focus should now be on well-being so we can reap the societal benefits, and increase health and happiness as well as wealth.
I am not proposing any specific policy here, it is more about our collective attitude and outlook. I think as a highly advanced wealthy nation it is time for us to focus on building a healthy society not just a strong economy.
We need cultural change to create an environment where well-being is a focus as well as economics.
This requires leaders to make well-being a priority in the way they talk and act. Politicians have the power to influence our thinking and the direction of the nation. As a community we need to change our collective focus. Business also has a part to play and many forward-looking businesses already have policies that encourage a work-life balance.
This cultural change would encourage individuals to make decisions prioritising well-being such as choosing social time instead of overtime, working in the jobs we like not the ones that pay the most, keeping ourselves fit, caring for our social and physical environment, and engaging positively with our local communities.
Having our leaders create a cultural of support for well-being, and appropriate policy, will make it easier to make these choices.
Attitudes to drink driving are an example of recent cultural change. Drink driving is now seen as poor behaviour by the majority, whereas it was widely accepted behaviour in the past. What is key are people’s perceptions and individual beliefs not just government policy.
In the short-term there are areas we can address to help increase national well-being:
- Housing affordability. Expensive housing adds considerable pressure to earn more money and can force people to move away from their local communities. Making negative gearing and Capital Gains Tax fairer can help to moderate home prices and reduce financial stress (more on this in the next few days).
- Focus the $70B federal health budget on a comprehensive preventative health program helping people to keep fit and healthy.
Example initiatives could be:
- Holistic health checks conducted by a multi-disciplinary teams to identify potential health problems and the root case of current issues, extensive public education programs on healthy lifestyles and mental health (think how much smoking campaigns have helped reduced smoking), and short-term subsidies of sporting activities.
- Reduction of health over-servicing and over-medicalisation. Investigation and acceleration of new, active and alternative health treatments, and increased support for in-home care and self-care.
- Better school education on well-being including psychology and mental health to give children the skills to understand their health and warning signs.
- Support for healthier food industries such as short-term incentives for natural food products (also a big market for the Asian middle classes).
- Continue to have fresh food GST-free.
- Incentives for clean energy to reduce the effects of pollution and climate change.
- Volunteering as part of the school curriculum to increase community interaction and ties.
These polices would make a contribution to the well-being of society.
But ultimately, it comes down to our collective attitude to well-being. Leaders need to lead us in the right direction. And individuals need to take responsibility for the well-being of ourselves, those close to us, and our communities.
About Nick Chapman: Nick is a consultant whose experience includes working in Canada and the UK. Nick values freedom, respect, integrity and innovation and believes in policies that benefit society as a whole. Nick stands for:
• A fair economy for a healthy society
• An independent check on government power
• Individual freedom and individual responsibility
• Political transparency
Find out more at www.nickchapman.org
Also by Nick Chapman: Political transparency