I never choose to watch the televised version of Parliamentary Question Time because I find, most of the time, that the appalling behaviour, of so-called adults, makes me shudder at the thought that groups of children might make a visit from school to see how the country is run.
They might quickly understand why it is in such a mess, which I suppose could be regarded as instructive!!
Even listening to a parliamentary ‘debate’ is highly unedifying. And the fact that individuals are required to follow party lines, results in some really strange outcomes – like the time Christian Porter forgot to tell the Liberal senators how to vote and the matter had to be brought back to the Senate Chamber the next day to reverse the outcome.
Clearly there cannot have been adequate – or any – discussion of the relevant Bill in the party room previously, if members did not even know what the party line was.
Which makes we wonder – why do we need so many politicians if decision making is done by a select few?
I have watched debates involving teams of school-aged children and of undergraduates and, with both groups, their manners, language and general demeanour would be a good model for our elected representatives.
In fact – when I really think about it – our parliamentarians do not ‘debate’ an issue, but mainly have a party line, which they pursue by hurling insults at each other. Far too much of what is said is ‘ad hominem‘ – which is the basest level to which any debate can descend – and the intention seems to be more highly geared to making the other side look bad, rather than providing a coherent argument, and giving a foundation to your reasons for supporting or opposing some course of action.
Have you kept count of how many times since 2013, members of the Coalition government have laid the blame for current problems at Labor’s door? And how many times have they promised we would be in surplus – as if that were really important – without yet achieving that goal, through 3 Prime Ministers, as well!
And in the past, when Labor has been in government, the same sorts of behaviour have been in evidence.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the jobless rate for our young people was far higher than for adults younger than 45 – 50. Those made redundant in later life also had a pretty hard time finding work, and it often ended up with their taking on something which did not require their acquired level of expertise.
Those over 60 have virtually no chance of finding a job, even if they are white collar professionals, and to earn a reasonable income needs the sort of skills appropriate for FIFO employment.
Incidentally – one reason wages are low is because employers use labour hire firms which cream off their cut – a bit like a brothel when you think about it!
You often read political discussion where the derogatory term ‘sheeples’ is substituted for voters. And it seems equally appropriate for many of our MPs and Senators, since, it seems, their contribution is essentially limited to voting as they are told, enforced by the Whips!
We are still not through the pandemic crisis and will have to live with the fact that infections could break out again anywhere, anytime and a vaccine is not a certainty.
Consequently, we now have two crises on our hands – one affecting our long term future and one more immediate – but BOTH needing to be dealt with NOW.
No government, at any level, can go on, head in sand, pretending that there is no climate emergency.
All along, the climate scientists have been looking at 2030 or thereabouts as a deadline to avoid going past a tipping point, as regards increasing temperature levels.
Just as an aside – why do governments listen to medical scientists but not those whose research expertise is in matters concerning climate and the environment?
The issue of climate change is actually all so simple that it is incredible that supposedly intelligent people cannot grasp it!
In all branches of science, hypotheses are formed, tested and amended as necessary.This includes making computer models based on known data, making predictions based on a variety of assumptions, and changing the assumptions and models in order to predict best and worst case scenarios.
Since the Industrial Revolution, mankind has ‘progressed’ by harnessing power obtained from a diminishing store of fossil fuels, to make life increasingly convenient and comfortable – and to enrich increasingly massive, and monopolistic, global corporations.
In consequence, we have polluted the atmosphere with so-called greenhouse gases, including, but not limited to, carbon dioxide and methane.
The scientists tell us that this increasing pollution, by fossil duel emissions in particular, is having dire effects on climate by causing rising temperatures on land and in oceans, melting ice at the polar caps which is raising sea levels and changing weather patters leading to increasingly intense droughts and storms, which are also becoming more frequent.
The ‘tipping’ points relate to the levels reached by increasing temperatures above an agreed baseline. One degree Celsius above has already been reached. If we get up to 1.5˚C above, then that is a ceiling which will mean life is not really comfortable but we can cope. Significantly above that, then climate events are likely to become unmanageable.
For a more scholarly explanation, made available in December 2019, see this.
You will note that 2030 scores a mention, and we are well into 2020, with time passing alarmingly quickly!
So, at a time when many people have lost their jobs because of, necessarily, shutting down businesses, to limit infections and death from the COVID-19 virus, we must not think in terms of returning to normal, because what we once thought was normal is no longer an option.
We are not going to get back on any sort of track soon, so please can we take the time to totally re-think capitalism and the role of government.
Australia has long ceased to be the Lucky Country for many of its inhabitants.
We might have shed the White Australia policy a few decades back, but it lives on in a level of cruelty and unwelcoming attitudes towards refugees, and migrants, which leaves many Australians bitterly ashamed of their government’s policies.
At the present time, when nearly everybody has major problems, empathy and compassion are more necessary than they have ever been – and they are required from all of us!
I noted in a tweet (sorry! Guilty as charged!) the other day that there are 3 groups who are not severely affected by the current economic crisis – the very rich, those retirees on indexed pensions for life and – in between those two extremes, because most of the pensioners are not rolling in wealth – politicians in safe seats!
It is easy to see, sometimes, why policy making for the poor and underprivileged is so based on punishing and cracking the whip, rather than holding out a helping hand – because those making the policy have no experience of real hardship.
Currently, policies around Centrelink benefits, NDIS provisions and the cashless Indue card, seem predicated on the assumption that anyone without a job, and/or in need of support, is somehow in that situation because they are too lazy to do anything about it.
How many of our elected representatives have been in the position of having to apply for a required number of jobs in a dictated time period, when for every vacancy there are 15 or more applicants?
Soul destroying would be my summing up of such a situation – and I have never been out of employment, except of my own choosing.
I did grow up in England during WWI rationing from 1940 to 1954, when, unless you could afford to buy on the ‘black market’, we lived on the bare minimum, with food rationing, clothing coupons, and no petrol for civilian use. But please note that these restrictions applied to everyone in the country, irrespective of income level or occupation.
Back to our young people.
What do they have to look forward to?
Education is disrupted, universities have lost funding and staff, many businesses will not re-open, our apprenticeship system was in a bad way already and there will be queues for every job vacancy.
We have actually had some good policy decision-making in the current National Cabinet system. Even many Coalition supporters would be critical of the exclusion of the Opposition Leader from that body, because the need for bipartisan agreement is more critical now than ever before.
The few days that an attenuated parliament has sat has shown, possibly because of that exclusion, that adversarial approaches are alive and kicking. Sad – because now more than ever we need rational discussion and consensus decision-making.
Everything I read about the Great Depression indicates that it was worse and lasted longer because of austerity approaches.
The government is going to leave a debt for future generations, but it is not really a debt if we have booming industries and high employment – which we could have if we keep up support levels for as long as they are needed.
And a serious move to using renewable energy in one of many forms now available, and re-establishing industry, to reduce our dependence on imports, would ensure more jobs and possible more export income.
If we went the whole hog, cancelled HECS debts and all post-secondary fees, stopped using private course providers, given how many of them took the fees but did not deliver the course, and generally fell over backwards to ensure all young people had a chance to be equipped for a vocation, that would not be an expense but an investment, and a first step towards equipping a workforce to pay off the debt.
Interest rates are so low, that loans for businesses to re-establish would be no great hardship and the states could consider cutting some of their fees and charges.
There should be no tax cuts for high income earners and the whole tax system needs a complete going over anyway. A task force to begin that work should be got underway ASAP.
Others will no doubt tear this apart, call it socialism and say if is impossible.
Social justice is not socialism and governments are elected to help not hurt those who elect them.
And the economic model has to be designed to service the whole population, not a select few.
Let’s give our young people hope for their future.
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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