Saturday 9 June 2018
We are in a post “World financial crisis” period where people have come to realise that it was greed and lack of regulation that caused years of suffering from recession, country to country.
Australia didn’t suffer as much because our government with foresight acted quickly. Only today with recovery imminent do conservative politicians dare mention the GFC. When at its most destructive they said it never existed.
Nevertheless, good things are starting to happen. Economies are picking up and employment is getting better. However, we have been left with a set of problems that are not solvable with traditional conservative economic remedies.
Before moving on we should at first visit our economic boom under the Howard/Costello Governments. Richard Dennis in the latest “Quarterly Essay” has a lot to say on this subject.
“Australia just experienced one of the biggest mining booms in world history. But even at the peak of that boom, there was no talk of the wonderful opportunity we finally had to invest in world-class mental health or domestic violence crisis services.”
“Nor was there much talk from either major party about how the wealth of the mining boom gave us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in remote Indigenous communities. Nope, the peak of the mining boom was not the time to help those who had missed out in decades past, but the Howard government thought it was a great time to introduce permanent tax cuts for high-income earners. These, of course, are the tax cuts that caused the budget deficits we have today.”
“Australia isn’t poor; it is rich beyond the imagining of anyone living in the 1970s or 80s. But so much of that new wealth has been vacuumed up by a few, and so little of that new wealth has been paid in tax, that the public has been convinced that ours is a country struggling to pay its bills.
Convincing Australians that our nation is poor and that our governments “can’t afford” to provide the level of services they provided in the past has not just helped to lower our expectations of our public services and infrastructure, it has helped to lower our expectations of democracy itself. A public school in Sydney has had to ban kids from running in the playground because it was so overcrowded. Trains have become so crowded at peak hours that many people, especially the frail and the disabled, are reluctant to use them. And those who have lost their jobs now wait for hours on the phone when they reach out to Centrelink for help.”
In essence Dennis is painting a picture of how different Australia might be now had the riches from the boom been spent on infrastructure and services like health and education instead of spending it on tax cuts to secure peoples votes at the next election.
The Neo-Conservatives of today have failed to catch onto the fact that those in the real world are in the early stages of revolt. Even those who benefited from Howard’s tax cuts have come to realise the injustice of it all. That Australia, for all its wealth and riches, was looking after the rich and privileged and that it’s those very same people they intend to reward again with the money of the less fortunate.
“Although people with low expectations are easier to con, fomenting cynicism about democracy comes at a long-term cost. Indeed, as the current crop of politicians is beginning to discover, people with low expectations feel they have nothing to lose.
As more and more people live with the poverty and job insecurity that flow directly from neoliberal welfare and industrial relations policies, the scare campaigns run so successfully by the likes of the Business Council of Australia have lost their sting. Scary stories about the economy become like car alarms: once they attracted attention, but now they simply annoy those forced to listen.’
The reason I’m writing all this is because conservative governments have broken so much of the fabric of our society, destroying our democracy along the way while neglecting how humanity functions. It needs fixing, and it needs to be done quickly.
The ethics of health care often lags behind the benefits of technological advancement because it encroaches on old religious beliefs or mysticism. Rapid change brings with it the need for new rules and regulation that question traditional values and concepts.
So, I ask myself which of the major political parties is more qualified to embrace change, implement it, and legislate it. And do so with the common good as a guiding principle.
By scrutinising the historic social reforms of both of Australia’s major parties and comparing them we can determine who is best qualified to take us through this ongoing period of change and the political, social and economic reforms necessary.
The left side of Australian politics has implemented the following reforms or policies that have directly contributed to change for the better:
A National Health Scheme, a National Disability scheme, compulsory superannuation, a National Broadband Network, Paid Parental leave, major educational reforms, a price on carbon, equal pay for women, the Aged Pension, Mabo and the Apology, and of course the Hawke – Keating major economic reforms that have given the country 24 years of continuous growth.
It has never been afraid of change.
The Howard gun buy back, the GST that benefitted the rich, an increase in immigration after the Second World War and Harold Holt introduced a bi-partisan referendum that gave indigenous people the right to vote in 1967.
And there I have to stop. The Liberal Party website sets out a comprehensive list of “Achievements in Government” and they are achievements as opposed to major policy reforms.
In a world where science, technology and the availability of information progresses so quickly change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making, with its own inevitability.
Conservatives oppose change and are wary of science and intellectualism, as was demonstrated by the Abbott Government.
They seem locked in a world that no longer exists without any comprehension of how much the world has progressed. Remember Abbott wanted to destroy the internet.
They believe in traditional values (whatever they are) without recognising the historical elasticity of society. That change is inevitable. We are governed by rules and regulations. It is the only way change can be civilised and cohesive.
Leaving individuals to pursue their goals without the infrastructure society provides and allowing Capitalism to go on unregulated can only lead to disaster. A society that has change for the common good at its heart can only be attained with conventions, guidelines, systems, laws, policies, instructions and procedures.
Whilst the central argument of conservative philosophy empathies, and overtly supports the rights of the individual it can never initiate the reformist zeal for change like the left.
I have concluded that a society facing the changes confronting us can only achieve worthwhile change under the umbrella of a social democratic philosophy.
An ideology that believes in equality of opportunity, an equitable share of the country’s wealth, individual rights and liberties within a societal framework that guarantees that no one left in need. Where government solves the problems of change with the participation of all that have a vested interest in it.
Change that only serves the secular interests of the rich and privileged is change doomed to fail. Every facet of society including the democratic process needs constant and thoughtful renewal and change. Otherwise we become so trapped in the longevity of sameness that we never see better ways of doing things.
My thought for the day
“I think acceptance and embracement of change is one key aspect of what we try to define as wisdom.”