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How good is compassion and concern?

By 2353NM

You may have seen recently that Dick Smith was somewhat flummoxed when he noticed that the Australian Taxation legislation is configured in such a way that he received $0.5 million in franking credits in a financial year. While it would be easy to suggest to Smith and (probably) others with similar levels of ‘windfall gains’ what they should do with the money, the better option is to talk about what Smith could be attempting to do— initiate a discussion on fairness.

The Hawke Government in 1987 made a determination that allowing franking credits to taxpayers made sense as the alternative, taxing companies on their profits then taxing company shareholders on the profits returned as dividends after payment of taxes, was taxing an income stream twice. On the face of it, the policy makes sense and is a logical outcome from government (both sides of politics have determined the practice has benefit, as they both have supported it when in power). Even though the ALP discussed removing some franking credit concessions introduced by Howard at the last federal election, there was no discussion on ceasing the practice completely.

However, Australian Governments of various political persuasions have made policy that is far less compassionate to parts of our community. Keeping refugees and asylum seekers in detention camps offshore, politicising climate change, retaining a number of social security benefits at a level that is not commensurate with the funding required to live in current society, chasing social security recipients for small debts while treating the crimes of business who underpay millions in wages to staff with significantly greater leniency — and the list goes on.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was recently in Melbourne to meet with Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison. While Ardern was here, she gave an address at Melbourne Town Hall on why good government matters. According to The Guardian, the theme of Ardern’s speech was

politicians should not be stoking a climate of fear and hate.

“We have choices as politicians in a political environment, you can either choose to capitalise on that fear, stoke it and politically benefit from it,” she said. “Or you can run a counter-narrative, you can talk about hope.”

During the address she reflected on the importance of building consensus in politics.

“To be truly transformational in government you have to build consensus. People have to actually decide what you’ve done should stick, otherwise it’s gone,” Ardern said, adding she hopes her government can build a lasting legacy on reducing child poverty and action on climate change

Earlier this year, Ardern received a lot of notice worldwide due to her seemingly implicit compassion and concern to those affected by the Christchurch terrorist attack, including an article on The Political Sword comparing her actions favourably to Morrison’s (and others). The Guardian reported Ardern was asked about the reaction to her behaviour while delivering her recent Melbourne speech

She brushed off the international attention her behaviour garnered, telling the audience, it was a very Kiwi response and she was mirroring exactly what was happening all over the country.

“I was saddened by it, it shouldn’t have been noteworthy,” she said.

And that’s the point. Compassion and concern should not be noteworthy behaviour by a leader in the community — it should be a natural reaction.

You could argue that Ardern’s response wasn’t ‘Kiwi’ specific, Australians are also very generous in pledging time, effort and financial support when responding to natural disasters such as the ongoing drought, floods, bushfires and so on when they occur across our nation. Morrison’s recent appearance at Hillsong Church’s annual conference where he prayed for resolution of a number of issues facing Australia shows that he does attempt to demonstrate (in his own way) compassion and concern for issues facing all of us. It seems that generally Australians, like those over the ditch in New Zealand, do give a damn about the community they live in during times of crisis and ill-fortune.

Why is it that political compassion and concern evaporates soon after the event? Partly it is due to membership and marketing to their supporters. If a ‘rusted-on’ group of supporters is the pool from where officeholders and candidates for elected office is available, it stands to reason that the outcomes delivered will reflect the views and lived experiences of the supporters in the first place. The rest of us then look at politicians ‘looking after their mates’ and disengage, allowing the ‘rusted-on’ to expect greater benefits to be delivered with no effective alternatives being discussed. Obviously, it stands to reason that Morrison understands the tenets of Pentecostal churches and the Liberal Party to a far greater extent than he understands atheists or the Australian Greens. However, all of these groups (and many others as well) have the ability to bring rational suggestions and beliefs to the table.

We can fix this. It touches on all of us having a voice and using it as Smith does. While Australians don’t have a legislated ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘freedom of religion’, there is an implied acceptance that both freedoms are enjoyed. Also implied in the concept of freedom is the ability for others to completely disagree with the stated point of view. We need to listen and respect the views of others. That is the consensus as demonstrated by the practices of the Ardern Government in New Zealand and Hawke’s Government in the 1980s. While Ardern, like Hawke & Keating in the 1980s, manages to get people from all points of view into a room and gain consensus, current Australian political leadership seems to be deficient in comparison. Even conservative political leaders past and present acknowledged the ground-breaking work of Hawke when discussing his legacy recently. There should be a big difference between a disagreement over a point of view and a total repudiation of all the person or group who holds a differing view stands for (with the likelihood of a free character assassination thrown in). Sadly and frequently, there isn’t.

Which is where those flying kites looking for ‘freedom’ legislation have a problem. If you have the legislated freedom to express your love of heavy metal music, a brand of appliance, a political viewpoint or a religion, others have the right under the same legislation to disagree with your viewpoint. No, you shouldn’t be persecuted for loving heavy metal, but others shouldn’t be persecuted because they prefer classical music. It’s the same with politics, the brand of kitchen appliance you choose or your religion (or for that matter, your right to not believe in the teachings of a religion). Those bashing the ’freedom’ drum frequently forget this inconvenient fact, expecting us to immediately see the fundamental error of our ways and adopt their particular point of view.

Consensus is a shared understanding that we don’t all have to agree on everything, that different opinions are valued and worthy, such as Smith’s observations on franking credits. Compassion is assessing the alternate viewpoints with the belief there is something in there that will make the policy more robust and relevant to more Australians. While you can and should argue the case for your opinion, it doesn’t mean that others must be forced to agree with you. The sooner we remember that, the better off we’ll all be.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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8 comments

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  1. Terence Mills

    Dick Smith was attempting to initiate a discussion on fairness and common sense.

    The original purpose of franking credits, as noted, was to avoid taxing an income stream twice but now we have the bizarre situation where those who have organised their affairs in such a way as to pay no tax can claim the tax paid by the corporation (the franked credit) as a cash refund form the ATO : so no tax is paid by anybody.

    A crazy situation that Labor tried to rationalise but they failed to explain their policy so you had “retirees tax” from the coalition.

  2. Kaye Lee

    “all of these groups (and many others as well) have the ability to bring rational suggestions and beliefs to the table.”

    Ya think? This is what ScoMo’s church is bringing to the table….

    “…we unite as the ACC family and across all our churches pray for rain that will break this drought.

    The scripture in 2 Chronicles 7:14 has long been the foundation of our prayers for our nation, and we are asking all our churches to stop on the 14th day of the 7th month and pray that the Lord will heal our land with drought-breaking rain.

    Let us commit to stand together in faith and unity in our Sunday services on July 14, and believe that we, the people of God, can be the answer and bring hope as we pray for rain. “

  3. Terence

    There will never be a rational debate, not now and not in the future, about anything which might make Australia a better place. Honestly people, that boat has long sailed.

    If you wanted proof, look what happened yesterday. Labor sided with the LNP to sweep the whole Crown saga under the carpet. Yes I might call great unwashed stupid but those political piggies and their sycophants certainly aren’t. They might not be au fait about how best to hide their property portfolio from the Members’ Interests Statements but they do know what side their donor’s butter the bread.

    Let’s refer it to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity – Awesome, Move on people, nothing to see here. I’m sure Andrew Colvin will give them a few pointers before he walks out the door on how best to clusterfuck the investigation. Mal Brough’s TV confession?? Pfftt not enough evidence. Staffer confesses to leaking AFP raids?? Pfftt not enough evidence. Mr Potatohead will be most pleased.

    You might get that warm fuzzy feeling in ya nether regions when you are downing your democracy sausage at your local polling station but the reality is that you might as well wipe your arse with the ballot paper for all the good it will do you. The donors have brought the rights and quite frankly they really couldn’t give a flying fig about you or what you think. That’s why the big end of town weren’t that concerned if Labor had of won. They knew Labor would dance to the tune soon enough if they know what’s good for them. So it SNAFU. Did anyone else notice how Labor is beating the Fed ICAC drum after the election? No didn’t think so.

    The whole joint is corrupt and anyone who thinks their side is better than the other is kidding themselves. Just like the banks, Crown will get nothing more than a slap over the wrist and a chance to get rid of some recalcitrant middle and senior managers who might have made life a bit uncomfortable for the old boys in the past. Can’t have some upstart with ethics affecting our retirement plans. The hide of some people.

    I remember when they first put up that monstrosity of a fence around parliament house because heaven forbid, the pollies and all their turd polishing mates were worried that someone might want to blow the joint up. To this day, I still struggle to find a downside to that possibility.

  4. Josephus

    A lot of this is motherhood stuff. A plea for tolerance is nice, but we have values too. I don’t tolerate mass murderers and rapists that much. Giving more to the rich is not what religions are about. Plus, atheists are just as ethical as are believers in voodoo. (Speaking of which, a friend and I did a rain dance in my kitchen recently, but nothing happened).

  5. Paul Davis

    Chris Kenny, ably supported by a couple of NewsCorp headnodders on Sky, demonstrated unquestionably from his logic that this absolute nonsense about allegations of sexual assault by some nice blue tie boys was just that…. a political ploy, lies, smears and mudslinging. As Kenny, Cash and even HolyMo himself have sneered, if there was any truth in these “stories” the women would have immediately complained to the police. Both allegations were serious. One young women claimed her panties were forcably pulled off her before her alleged attempted rapist decamped the scene when she screamed(?).. four years ago and she told no one….. Last year a male colleague allegedly forced his way into the other woman’s home and allegedly sexually assaulted her. She in due course spoke privately(?) to the head of the blue tie party but heard no more about it… Given that both complainants are long time rusted on associate members of the blue tie club, one could wonder why go public now….. no promotion or preselection or other sudden career setback?

  6. Patricia

    Well said, Terrence. Should be said again and again and again.

    All those ALP voters who are defending the ALP for not being a real opposition but just being a LNP lite party should hang their heads in shame as to what the ALP has become.

    The ALP is not the ALP of the past and the unions should stop supporting them because the ALP is not supporting the worker or by association the unions.

    The unions would be better off putting their money into a party that actually stood up for the majority of people in this country, ’cause it sure ain’t the labor party any more.

  7. Keitha Granville

    Morrison showing compassion and concern for issues facing all of us ?? At the Hillsong Conference ? Yeah sure. Free publicity preaching to the converted. But in his capacity as PM he can actually DO something about it, not just offer mealy mouthed prayers at a religious gathering.

    Do as I do, not as I say.

    Jesus would weep.

  8. Wayne Turner

    No compassion and no concern for those that truly need it.

    Says alot wrong, with much of the electorate that they continue to vote for this self serving (Unless you pay them bribes.), lying, mean and nasty corrupt mob.

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