There was a time when Australia enjoyed a good reputation.
When called upon to defend freedom, we were there. But that seems to have morphed into demanding regime change in foreign nations, too often to those who are more sympathetic to US trade aspirations.
In the past, we opened our arms to refugees from war and persecution. Now we lock them up indefinitely.
We were one of the first to introduce a price on carbon. Now we have the ignominious distinction of being the only country to abolish it.
Our treatment of Indigenous Australians has always been shameful but things like the 1967 referendum, the Apology to the Stolen Generation, the Reconciliation marches, and the Uluru Statement from the Heart, whilst largely symbolic, gave us some hope that we were moving forward.
Now we have spiralling incarceration rates with documented abuse of youth detainees, large numbers of children in state care and a worsening substance abuse problem, the infantilising Cashless Welfare Card, the rejection of a Voice to parliament, and the apparent shelving of constitutional recognition for our First People as too hard.
We used to have a free press expressing a variety of views. We have now slipped to #21 in the World Press Freedom Index, and that was before the raids, with rising concerns about increasing media ownership concentration, draconian legislation targeting journalists and whistleblowers, excessive defamation laws, and laws on terrorism and national security making covering these issues almost impossible.
The ABC, in an impossible never-ending attempt to deflect accusations of bias, has become a regurgitator of press releases and a purveyor of populist puff.
As a wealthy nation, blessed with resources, a favourable climate, lots of space and no shared borders to squabble over, we used to feel an obligation to help poorer nations. Now, foreign aid funding has been cut in the last six budgets to a record low and any help we do offer is likely to be military.
Australia has strong anti-discrimination laws. Now they are being criticised as an inhibition to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Or an attack on men’s rights.
We used to trust the experience and expertise of educators to manage a continually evolving curriculum to best prepare students with the knowledge and skills that they need to be successful in the society and job market of the future.
Now we have bureaucrats demanding we focus on phonics, our Judeo-Christian heritage, and more standardised testing. We have parents demanding the removal of resources designed to promote respectful relationships. We have demands for higher standards for teacher trainees with no offer of better pay or conditions or greater support. And resources poured into religious and wealthy independent schools at record rates.
There was a time when Australians understood and valued the work of unions in giving workers a collective voice to protect their safety and gain entitlements like holiday pay, sick leave, parental leave, overtime rates, compulsory superannuation, equal pay, meal breaks, skills training, job security, and a myriad of other things that workers don’t appreciate until they are under threat.
Now unions are collectively labelled as thugs, bullies and thieves.
There was a time when Australians accepted a genuine contest with the best team on the day winning. Now we have football teams placed on experimental performance enhancing drug regimes and cricketers using sandpaper to tamper with the ball. And politicians willing to say all manner of hyperbolic lies to get elected.
Australians used to hate bullshit.
Boy, has that changed.
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