One wonders why someone who possessed several weapons and chemicals for making bombs as well as instructions on how to make them, wasn’t subject to out anti-terror laws. One also wonders why his sentence of one month’s jail only made page fourteen of “The Herald-Sun”.
Of course, the fact that he was a member of one of our “patriot” groups may have had something to do with it. Strangely, there were no calls for the leaders of the various “patriotic” groups to condemn him and to remind their members that violence needs to be rejected.
That’s the thing about politics. We view exactly the same behaviour completely differently depending on who’s doing it.
I think one of my favourtie moments of irony in the past twenty years was when Pauline Hanson first rose to prominence and John Howard, rather than condemn her, said that it was pleasing that we’d reached a point where all this “political correctness” wasn’t stopping people from speaking their minds.
Which wouldn’t be quite so bad if the Liberals themselves hadn’t disendorsed her as a candidate for doing exactly that. After she wrote a letter to the newspaper suggesting cuts to aboriginal funding and immigration, the Liberals decided that she was no longer their candidate. Unfortunately for them it was too late, she was already on the ballot paper, and she won anyway.
To be fair, they may not have disendorsed her for saying what she thought (ok, an oxymoron in Hanson’s case, I know) – they may have done it because she released their policies prior to the election.
Whatever, the point about the same behaviour attracting different reactions remains. Take the way we’re asked to view business, for example. Businesses, we’re constantly told, provide jobs and these are people who take risks in order to create something and they should be rewarded for it.
Now I don’t have a problem with much of that. Just the suggestion that they’re all doing it to make the world a better place. I think most of them are doing it to make a profit and I don’t begrudge them that. I’m happy to pay the local coffee shop something to put my cheesecake on a plate and my latte in a cup and if he can do that without bringing in 457 workers who sleep on his floor at night and still make enough to drive a nicer car than mine, good on him. I’m happy to allow a company to make me pay exorbitant prices for putting a tick on my footwear, provding they aren’t doing it by exploiting the starving children that were the reason for my mother insisting that I should finish my dinner. (Although even as a child, I couldn’t see how eating more food was going to help those who didn’t have enough!)
But I do have a problem with the idea that you should be rewarded just because you have taken a risk. I mean, it sort of takes the meaning out the word risk for a start. However, that’s what’s started to creep into the way we treat big business. Small business owners, of course, are on their own, except at election time when they’ll get lots of praise and maybe even a tax break if it’s a really close race. Compare the way the world treated Wall Street during the GFC with the way they’ve treated Greece. Both had the potential to cause a flow-on effect, but while Greece was subject to austerity demands and has to pay back the bail-out. Many of the companies that were helped now thumb their noses at the governments and complain about paying too much tax. Yes, I know that some of you will immediately want to remind me that Greece has a social security system that’s far too generous, but remember, I am comparing it to Wall Street and I think you’ll find that they have a pretty good pension scheme too – they just call it “performance bonuses”.
When workers seek more wages, they’re portrayed as greedy. Nobody writes articles telling us how these kindly workers support several million businesses with their generous spending. No, it’s only ever the employers who are doing things out the goodness of their hearts and a love of their fellow man.
And so, when I read accusations about a job network signing vulnerable people up to overpriced training courses costing them thousands of dollars, I couldn’t help think about something I read recently about school principals ensuring that they spend their money ethically and don’t hire members of their family or close friends for work. The implication that if you get your electrician brother, for example, to do the wiring at the school, that’s corrupt. Or at least has the potential to be seen as corrupt. It doesn’t matter if he can give you the best deal, you need to steer clear of things like that.
However, it’s not a problem if you’re a job network provider to steer people into useless training. We don’t need to cancel their government contract. t’s not a problem if you’re a financial adviser to advise people to choose a product based on your bonus, rather than their return. We don’t need extra laws requiring disclosure or to ensure that the person you’re paying to give you advice is acting in your interests and not their own. These things are just part of the “risk” of private industry which people should be rewarded for.
Of course, I’ve always thought that the risk should be borne by the business, not by the consumer.