Yesterday Elizabeth Farrelly wrote an article for the SMH titled The Australian fair go is dead: now it’s the strong beating up on the weak which struck an ominous note with me.
“Increasingly, Australianness seems to involve the strong beating up on the weak. Rich on poor, male on female, citizens on refugees, priests (and others) on children, white on black, developers on communities, private schools on public, big mining on fragile ecosystems.”
Its truthfulness made me angry. If there is one thing I hate, it’s bullies. Greedy, dishonest bullies.
To address domestic violence, we commission a report from PwC which argues against violence against women because it “costs us $21.7 billion a year”. In this world, it seems we are only motivated to act if there is a financial gain to be had. Are we so addicted to paying consultants that we can no longer decide right from wrong? Spend the money on refuges, affordable housing, legal aid, preventative programs, mental health….giving it to consultants to come up with that report does nothing to help.
The rise of patriot groups, supported by rogue politicians, is encouraging racists to whip up fear and hatred. In a country where religious freedom is enshrined in the Constitution, we have people engaging in legal action to stop a mosque being built in case it promotes the spread of Islam.
We are told that the majority of Australians condone the torture of asylum seekers and accept the secrecy that shrouds the wasting of tens of billions of dollars persecuting innocent people who came to us seeking help. How can this be?
Cardinal Pell is living a life of luxury in Rome, refusing to be held accountable for his actions in covering up, and hence perpetuating, child abuse by Catholic priests. The hurt this must be causing the victims is hard to imagine. This is, of course, the man who has publicly stated that abortion is a greater sin than pedophile priests.
As hundreds of millions are stripped from Indigenous programs, we see high incarceration rates, low school attendance, low life expectancy, high unemployment and tenuous land ownership. As Tony Abbott so crudely put it – we can’t afford to subsidise their “lifestyle choices” and, as we are seeing in Queensland, any rights they thought they had can be stripped away if there is a dollar to be made by the big miners.
Increasingly we are seeing community groups bearing the brunt of the fight for sustainable development as opposed to rampant greed by developers who only see regulations as impediments to business rather than protection of the best interests of our society. Governments from both sides have shown themselves to be putty in the hands of big business whose voice shouts louder, and whose pockets are deeper, than any other.
We hear much talk about coding and STEM subjects in our schools but there has been no reinstatement of the funding ripped from the future education budget. The Liberal Party’s connection to private schools sees them prefer a funding model that gives a great deal of money to extremely wealthy schools. It is worth pointing out that the top 8 places in the HSC in NSW went to state schools with James Ruse taking the top position for more than 20 years.
We now have society serving the economy. Venture capitalists are protected at the expense of the sick and elderly. Assets are privatised with future income lost for short term gain. We can’t do what we know to be best for the planet and for our society unless big business says yes. Policy for profit is now the name of the game.
So how can we address this?
Government is the only organisation powerful enough to protect us against corporate greed and they make the decisions about how funding is allocated so the people we elect should be of a much higher standard. George Christensen for Pete’s sake? They really should undergo psychological screening.
We should get rid of all these political advisers and image and spin and marketing people. Provide clerical staff to politicians and employ good public servants that stay in a department regardless of who is governing.
Stop meeting with lobbyists. Get advice from credible experts rather than astroturfing institutes with no members and people who get anxiety headaches.
Stop the secrecy and restore some meaning to freedom of information. How can we be assured that practices are above board if there is no scrutiny? I can understand a tender process being confidential but, once the decision has been made, and before the deal is signed, the reasons for the decision should be made public including cost, any modelling, and the cost/benefit analysis not purely in financial terms but, more importantly, the cost and/or benefit to society. It is the only way that sensible, informed decisions can be made – decisions that take advantage of the expertise in this country to point out possible problems or improvements or better alternatives.
When you form your policies on the basis of what advertising people tell you from focus groups, you are reacting to ignorance rather than leading. Stop employing consultants who charge a fortune to stick to a narrow brief to produce a report favourable to a predecided direction. That’s marketing, not governing. Listen to advice from public servants who have no vested interest beyond the public good. Seek out experts that can explain the science. Check the credibility of your sources – the Murdoch press should not be considered a reliable source so could we please stop paying for all your subscriptions to his papers and for the trashy books you read. It’s your democratic right to read what you please but if you want to read trash, or give gifts to people, pay for it yourself.
I could go on and on…and on…about the changes we need to make in government but it boils down to honesty, integrity, accountability, responsibility, and compassion.
Which brings me back to the strong beating up on the weak.
Governments are a reflection of society as every member of parliament received enough votes (or made a sneaky enough deal), to be elected. The mirror shows that we really don’t care about anything but increasing our own personal wealth or power. The strong will be encouraged, the weak preyed upon. The rich will get richer and the poor will get more desperate. Business will be protected while those without a job will be persecuted. Corporate cheats will be exonerated while welfare cheats will be hunted down. Politicians can double and triple dip but new mothers should get back to work if they ever want to accumulate any superannuation. Every man for himself and women should stop playing the victim. And if we need to torture children to achieve our goals, or keep them living below the poverty line, whatever it takes.
Is this who we have become?