By Kyran O’Dwyer
In terms of the changes facing modern society, the process of change by erosion presents as the greatest threat, in my opinion. We have had an erosion of trust in our public officials, caused by their all too frequent abuses of the very trust upon which they are reliant. We have had an erosion of trust in our public institutions, caused by their frequent abuses of the very rules they are obliged to uphold and protect.
The greatest threat posed by erosion is not that the change occurs, but that the change occurs gradually, over time. The change is not noticeable on a daily basis, but at the end of a year, a decade, a century, you suddenly notice all that has eroded away. You suddenly realise what you had, only because you suddenly realise it has gone.
The ‘progressive’ government of the 70s were heady days. Criticisms at the time ranged from ‘trying to do too much, too soon’ to ‘not doing enough, quickly enough’. Whitlam’s changes were social changes, transitioning a society from the old Menzian thinking of the 60’s to the new thinking of the 70s. Whitlam was able to achieve this change not just because it had popular support. He spent years formulating policy and explaining it to the constituents, modifying it when necessary. “It’s Time” resonated with them as it attempted to enshrine basic standards for health, education, welfare, equality under the law. Basic standards for everyone. It was time to understand that women aren’t chattels, that our First People are our First People, that education is an investment that yields far greater returns than any corporation could ever dream of, that health and access to universal health care was a solid foundation upon which to build a healthy society, that a legal system had to be accessible to all if it was to have any value (let alone merit), that social ‘safety nets’ aren’t welfare as much as they are insurance taken out by society to ensure the safety of those who are most vulnerable.
It was a time when Australian’s took to the streets in their hundreds of thousands to protest an indefensible ‘war’, in righteous indignation of what their government had committed them to.
It was a time when Australian’s not only developed an independent conscience, but demanded that their collective conscience be heard.
In the modern context, you have the likes of Corbyn and Sanders. Both of whom formulated much of their policy based on what their constituents wanted. Both of whom appeared to have won the fight for votes, but lost the war with ‘the establishment’.
The problem is that all of those hard won standards have eroded away. Gradually, over time, the ‘conservative’ elements have repeatedly established bulwarks against change, by stealth.
In my opinion, ‘conservatives’ don’t have policies. They have nothing more than ideology, devoid of substance, fact, evidence. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Can you imagine any politician or political party going into an election saying “Medicare will go”, “Pensions will go”, “Your rights, under the law, will go”, “There will be no National Broadcaster”, “Unions will go”, “Universal education will go”. The list is long, but the point remains the same. No politician or political party would do it.
The likes of the IPA/LNP know this. Their plan is to do it by stealth. Erode the protections, bit by bit, and hope no one notices. When MSM are on-side, there is an endless supply of distractions, blame shifting, obfuscation and outright deceit.
Can you imagine how many votes a politician or a political party would get if their ‘manifesto’ mirrored the infamous IPA Wishlist? A wishlist so blatantly partisan to corporate greed and removal of oversight that it would be unpalatable to even the most uneducated of voters?
A manifesto justified with a faux truth. “Be like Gough” was meant to create the illusion that it was, somehow, a social policy, rather than what it really was, an anti-social policy. That it was, somehow, a catalyst for change that would benefit the many.
As opposed to its real intent, protecting ‘the few’ and their outrageous fortunes, their sense of entitlement and their complete lack of accountability for any ‘adverse’ outcomes resulting from their rampant greed.
In its opening paragraphs is this gem:
“No prime minister changed Australia more than Gough Whitlam. The key is that he did it in less than three years. In a flurry of frantic activity, Whitlam established universal healthcare, effectively nationalised higher education with free tuition, and massively increased public sector salaries. He more than doubled the size of cabinet from 12 ministers to 27.”
If you need to look at the IPA wishlist, find it yourself. Its promotion is not my intent.
In essence, it promotes an idiotic notion. That only by empowering ‘the few’ can we progress as ‘a whole’. That we not only need to empower them, but to protect them by removing any oversight or accountability.
The problem with the first Abbott/Hockey budget wasn’t the ‘obstructionist Senate’. It was the crappy content of the budget.
There was an observation in a recent broadcast on a ‘religion and ethics’ radio show. It suggested that the global push for basic global rights (of all sorts) in the 70’s was met with a fierce attack from the likes of Reagan and Thatcher, promoting corporatocracy over society. Secrecy over transparency.
The observation that was interesting was that the ‘progressives’ became defensive of the hard won rights, rather than openly attacking the idiotic notion that a corporation could ever be more valuable than a society.
Since that time, the ‘progressives’ have relinquished rights on a gradual basis, the erosion occurring gradually under the relentless waves of ‘conservatism’.
The time to draw a line in the sand and say “No more” has long passed. The erosion has been so great that there is no possibility of a ‘retaining wall’ doing any good. It’s time for reclamation.
In a recent three part series on The AIMN, “Bill ‘Horten‘ – Labor’s Agenda”, John Lord offered something that has been missing from so much commentary. Not just an alternative to ‘what is’, but an opportunity to define ‘what can be’. Marcus Champ offered similar aspiration with “What if we had a better government” and Steve Laing’s “Can you beat a stacked deck” rounded out the trifecta.
One of Mr Lord’s comments pertained to the Constitution.
“We undertake to set up a people’s representative group to review the constitution over the next two years and take its recommendations to the next election.”
Our current Constitution, the ‘rule book’ of our society, is more concerned with the definition of federation than with the welfare of our society. Its lack of reference to any basic human rights, other than in an abstract form, is a sad reflection of where we are today.
By rewriting it, we have an opportunity to not only change the current political malaise, but to ensure that there will be no threat to the hard won rights we all deserve, through erosion.
If it starts with a Charter of Human Rights for every Australian, it can ensure a fundamental right to equality under the law. If that Charter of Human Rights includes fundamental rights of health, education and opportunity, it can eliminate the constant need for vigilance against the incessant erosion of those rights.
It has always struck me as idiotic that our current ‘entitlements’ are dependent on our geography. That our access to healthcare, education, the law, public transport, et cetera, changes merely because of which state or territory you may reside in. Changing the Constitution requires a referendum and is, historically, NFG (‘no good’, with an expletive in between). Rewriting it allows us to dispense with so much ridiculous inequity.
The ramifications of such change are profound. As are the benefits.
For decades now we have been told that there are different rules for different people or groups. Even more obscenely, we are told that this is as it should be. By rewriting our fundamental ‘rule book’, we have the unique opportunity of not just effecting change, but of protecting that change until such time as we, the people, think it’s OK to do so.
You may well call me a dreamer, but dreams are far better than nightmares. When we are living the nightmare, a dream can’t hurt, can it?
What would you put in our new Constitution? A unique opportunity to dispense with the politics of celebrity, identity, ideology and replace them with fundamental protections, for ‘we’, the ‘people’. Rewriting is far more realistic than amending. Surely?
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