At the same time as the state governments around Australia are trying to re-establish the ‘greater good’ by promoting COVID-19 testing when feeling even slightly unwell and vaccination (because the inconvenience of a test or injection is far outweighed by the lessening of risk of others catching the virus), the Morrison Government has redoubled its efforts to look after its mates.
John Hewson, former Liberal Party Leader and now a professor at ANU, recently discussed the concept of ‘the greater good’ in The Saturday Paper.
The concept usually relates to asking for difficult shifts in behaviour that might normally be resisted by each individual, the impact of which is argued to be overwhelmingly beneficial to at least the majority of individuals. It presupposes acceptance of standards of individual behaviour and acceptance of responsibility.
Over several decades the concept has been lost as our politics has become increasingly self-absorbed, focused on the interests of individual politicians, parties and their donors and mates. Our politicians have developed a reputation for having their “snouts in the trough” — cheating on their expenses and otherwise exploiting their claimed “entitlements”, stacking branches, even paying for party memberships to ensure sustained political support. Our governments have willingly spent obscene amounts of money in their own perceived political interest, trying to buy or shore up votes in particular seats to win or sustain government. Accountability is a fundamental requirement for the effectiveness of our democracy. It is not a choice, as Scott Morrison would have us believe, but an essential ingredient of good government.
Regarding the spending of obscene amounts of money, The New Daily recently observed that
The Morrison government gave $13 billion in JobKeeper to businesses that increased their turnover during 2020, new data has shown.
That would have been enough for us to buy 441 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine or 688 primary schools.
As Treasurer Josh Frydenberg continues to keep secret details of overpayments and other JobKeeper discrepancies, budget office data revealed on Monday that $8.4 billion in wage support went to firms that reported rising sales between July and September last year.
It followed earlier analysis that found $4.6 billion was paid to about 157,000 businesses that increased their sales between April and June.
All up, that’s $13.03 billion paid to about 200,000 companies that saw sales rise within six months of signing up to JobKeeper, according to Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) analysis of confidential tax data.
To be eligible for JobKeeper, companies had to show or predict a fall in sales when the pandemic hit, but many companies continued receiving government payments despite sales recovering strongly within months.
It’s not hard to make the argument that the concept behind ‘the greater good’ is more than fronting up at a COVID-19 testing centre when feeling slightly unwell or rolling your sleeve up to ‘get vaxxed’, it is the consideration of the needs and aspirations of the entire country and ensuring the decisions made are beneficial to the majority of the population. It’s also pretty easy to argue that 441 million Pfizer doses or 688 new primary schools have greater benefit to all of us than companies increasing their bottom line using government largesse.
The greater good is also accepting refugees into our community rather than banishing them to concentration camps on South Pacific Islands (while paying a political mate’s company billions to ‘keep them locked up’). The greater good is also protecting funding introduced by a far more progressive Coalition government to provide sufficient resources to Australia’s independent news and entertainment network (the ABC). It is also retaining and ensuring access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme as well as actively working towards net zero carbon emission across the country long before 2050 despite the luddites and conspiracy theorists in the rump of the Coalition.
Rather than budget surpluses and ‘privatisation’ of government assets and services, any government should be determining actions in terms of the common good. What is the best possible outcome for the majority of Australians?
If concessions are made to develop ‘green energy’ industries using our natural advantages of plenty of open space and sunshine/wind rather than subsidising the coal industry, the entire planet will be better off. If the government has to spend a little extra initially to resettle refugees rather than keeping them in prison, or supporting the homeless, the unemployed or those with a disability get a helping hand when they need it, we should be proud that we are doing something that is beneficial to the majority of our community. Most of those that get support when they need it end up repaying the contribution in spades. As Hewson says,
Nobody expects Morrison to hold a hose or draw up a syringe, just to lead on important issues, the resolution of which would clearly be to the greater good of our nation.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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