The current crisis has revealed many aspects of Australia and Australian life which were less clearly defined before.
We have become much more conscious of the fact that, among those who are most important to our survival, are those who are least well remunerated for the thankless tasks they perform, or looked after if they cannot work.
Modern life has resulted in massive changes to the ways our community works.
Before I was born, few women aspired to a career, because their role was seen as marrying, having children, then staying home to look after them and their wage-earning husband. Some, in industrialised areas, might have continued work in a factory, but still carried the full burden of home duties.At least that was true in urban societies.
In country areas, agriculture was largely family business, but for me, growing up in England, where agriculture could never hope to provide food for the nation, but manufacturing industries were significantly present, has made me more aware of the urban scene.
In those days, families looked after their own. If daughters did not marry, theirs was inevitably the role of looking after elderly parents.
Some countries in Europe, many of whose citizens have migrated to Australia, are very family conscious and respect for their elders has been very strong.
But, increasingly, and in part because growing longevity has resulted in larger proportions of our elders suffering from dementia, our elderly are placed into care.
The government does provide funding assistance to support some of these institutions, but many, while receiving government funds for some less wealthy patients, are run by both for-profit and charitable organisations.
Regulation does exist but is not always adequately enforced, funding is not over-generous – and the for-profits have to satisfy shareholders – so many of the staff, employed, and trained, to perform some of the most basically personal aspects of care, are poorly paid and often do not have English as a first language.
Hospitals would have cleaning contractors, whose employees would be drawn from similar, though less well qualified, sources. And these are some of the people who, along with the more highly qualified nursing and medical staff, have been at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19.
Their risk of becoming infected themselves has been magnified by the failure of authorities to ensure an adequate supply of Personal Protection Equipment, and the mental strain of not wishing to carry home the infection to family members has been particularly strong for many.
We also in this country have many jobs, often seasonal or temporary, for which employers have trouble recruiting, so they turn to temporary visa holders. Again, they are too often exploited, the women having to rebuff sexual advances and many of them exploited to an unacceptable level, while foreign students, doing part-time work, too often experience wage-theft.
Writing all this, I am reminded of Charles Dickens books and the years he spent trying to improve the lot of the poor and disadvantaged.
Have we really progressed?
One massive change I have seen in my lifetime, has been the growth of dependence on entertainment – whether it be watching professional sport, TV and radio, music gigs, major concerts or, for niche audiences, stage and opera productions.
While some who provide this entertainment are successful to a superstar level, a majority perform on the fringes, supported by backroom support, pretty well all of which is casual or temporary.
These, along with many foreign students whom we lured to our shores, and our temporary workers, have now joined the forgotten people.
Many of them are totally without work or, having a job, have no leave entitlements and have either been unable to work or have to continue to work while themselves infected with Covid-19.
And then we look at the privileged side of society.
Those who holiday abroad, party while they are there, and keep partying on their return, with scant regard for the possibility of spreading infection. In some cases they have even being exempted from going into social isolation after emerging from their private jets!
Clearly one rule for us but no restraints on the privileged!
And I need to say here – I am not a believer in Communism, I have yet to find a political party I respect but I strongly support social justice.
And our politicians – what do they have to offer?
They grant themselves privileges which are way beyond those claimed by politicians in many other countries, they are slow to refund allowances that they wrongly claimed, they pork barrel to a corrupt extent and they refuse to ban political donations or set up an effective ICAC.
They have no idea how awful life is for many people and they presume to pass policies to ‘help’ us in crisis situations without any clear idea of what help is needed.
And they now want us to get back to work ASAP – despite the enormous numbers for whom no job now exists!
They are refusing to recognise that action on the climate emergency – we have a brief interregnum in emission levels but not sufficient to stop the global warming process – would allow the creation of clean, green jobs, rather than continuing to support fossil fuel extraction and export.
Where are the plans to boost TAFE – run by the states and territories NOT by private providers who rort the students too often! – and concentrate on training courses that look to the future not the part.
Until the current COVID-19 crisis reared its head, no member of the Coalition, including Scott Morrison, had a good word to say about the way that the Rudd Labor government handled the Global Financial Crisis.
Practically every other government of a developed country praised Australia but the Coalition had nothing but criticism.
It was only successful, they said, because the Howard/Costello government had left a surplus.
They did not mention that the surplus was achieved by selling assets and outsourcing services, both of which have proved to be a disservice to us – the people.
They were critical of infrastructure spending which improved things like school facilities.
They were highly critical of the pink batts affair – and while no unnecessary deaths of employees are acceptable, do not employers have a responsibility for their employees safety, too?
Ironically the Labor government was criticised for inadequate supervision of the process – but who opposed an inquiry into the banking industry?
At every opportunity over the intervening years the Coalition criticised everything which Labor had done under the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd regime. And the mainstream media has persistently supported these attacks, while the ABC walks the tightrope of truly balanced journalism under constant threat of further funding cuts!
Then – having also been scathing about Labor’s revolving door of leadership, with 3 leaders spanning 6 years – blow me down with a feather, but we then have 3 Coalition leaders over the next 5 years!
And over that entire period back in power, and right up until the current crisis blew up, blame for every problem Australia was facing was laid, by the Coalition, at the door of the Labor Party!
It just hit me – about the only significant policies which the Coalition have developed involved tax cuts for the largest corporations – intended, so they claimed, to create more jobs.Yet unemployment and, more importantly, under-employment has stayed stubbornly unchanged while wages stagnated!
Do you remember we had it in black and white that we were to have a surplus announced at the end of the 2019/20 fiscal year. In fact it WAS announced by Josh Frydenberg, Treasurer, in 2019.
Do you remember Labor’s treasurer, Wayne Swan being lambasted because he announced a surplus which, because of a change of circumstances, did not materialise?
He was pilloried by the mainstream media.
What are they saying now when the Coalition government faces the same situation?
Clearly the necessary policies in relation to protecting the population against the crisis have not been proposed by Scott Morrison.
The one thing he can be congratulated for is setting up a National, cross-party cabinet.
Consensus politics is essential at all times but particularly in an emergency.
The rapid changes in the policies developed are clear indications of reactive thinking, yet, even in a crisis, it is surely wise to think it through and get it right first time.
We are being told that the increase enjoyed by WorkSmart recipients will be short-lived, no one has yet looked at the fate of casual and temporary workers who have no entitlement to any part of the package released to date, and the needs for help by a massive number of those now unemployed are just that – massive!
Yes – we have not got rid of the virus – and we may never do so.
Yes – we may never even have a vaccine.
Please do not fall over backwards to thank Scott Morrison for the job he has done.
Do you honestly not realise that he would have to have been dragged, kicking and screaming, into accepting the package which is so clearly modelled on the Labor response to the GFC?
And do you think he is man enough to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Labor for blazing the trails?
In your dreams!
Power corrupts so let’s limit the power of the politicians!
I end as always – this is my 2020 New Year Resolution:
“I will do everything in my power to enable Australia to be restored to responsible government.”
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