The spectacle of political parties jostling with each other for ascendancy is ugly.
Promises of money are thrown around like confetti – a tax cut in five years’ time, an infrastructure spend after two more elections, hubs aplenty, and always a crumb for the little people at the local sporting club.
Huge numbers over ridiculous time frames are touted with an accuracy that is impossible to believe considering projections do not last six months and are often influenced by events beyond the control of our government.
Accusations fly about racism, sexism, economic vandalism, ecoterrorism, cronyism, corruption, intimidation – the pack is waiting to rip apart anyone who misspeaks or who is photographed with the wrong people, now or in the past.
The government is spending an inordinate amount of time on a scare campaign about Labor’s costings. It is a sad indictment of themselves that they are not focusing on their record over the last six years and their vision for the future. They haven’t articulated the reasons behind what they are doing and the results they hope to achieve. Saying “a strong economy” over and over isn’t a plan – it’s an aspiration reduced to a slogan without a goal.
Why is it that when we talk about reform it is nearly always about how much something costs rather than what it is worth?
I remember the joy of the Whitlam years. It was invigorating. The changes he made – not promises for the distant future but real achievements – could truly be labelled reform.
- Ended conscription and got us out of Vietnam
- Opened relationships with China
- Established Medibank
- Introduced the supporting mother’s benefit and welfare payment for homeless people.
- Equal pay for women and extended adult minimum wage to include women workers
- Abolished the death penalty
- No-fault divorce
- Federal funding for state schools
- Free university education
- 25% cut in tariffs across the board
- Sewerage connection
- Reduced voting age to 18
- An Order of Australia replaced the British Honours system
- Racial discrimination act
- Land rights to Indigenous people
- Replaced God Save the Queen with Advance Australia Fair as the national anthem.
- Established the National Gallery of Australia, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Heritage Commission, FM and community radio.
- The film industry flourished
Talk about tax cuts, national security, and surpluses doesn’t have the same inspirational ring to it somehow.
And before anyone brings up the economic indicators from Gough’s time in office, they should read Ian Verrender’s excellent article showing how comparatively well Australia did in a global context where the price of oil skyrocketed and stagflation and recession crippled the UK and the US.
Ah, those were the days when one could feel pride in our nation and real hope that we were moving forwards towards a better society for all.
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