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The decline of the lucky country

By Bruce Haigh - posted Tuesday, 28 April 2015


Brace yourselves - things are not going to get better, at least not for some time.

It is to do with our collective moral fibre or lack of it as entrusted in our politicians, public servants, captains of business and industry, senior military officers and the media, otherwise known as the leadership elite and ourselves; the reason is selfishness, greed and immaturity.

A leadership that deliberately traumatises asylum seekers from the Middle East and Asia as part of a policy of deterrence can hardly be surprised when young men, with the least stake in racist Australia, head overseas to fight for crusading Islam.

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Australians have turned away from mainstream politics; most are fed up with Tony Abbott. They see him as a clown and intellectual lightweight; they are waiting for Turnbull to take over. Few, with the exception of hardcore Labor supporters, see much prospect of basic and outstanding issues being addressed by Bill Shorten.

Until the Liberal Party can find the courage to replace Abbott the country is adrift with the very real prospect of them handing power to Shorten who hasn't a clue what to do with it. Abbott has managed, in a short space of time, to alienate many who otherwise might have been expected to vote for the Coalition. The wealthy, self-interested, 5% of the population do not have the voting power to change the result of an election; these are the people Abbott seeks to please.

The last budget, roundly condemned and rejected by all but the top end of town, was a poorly disguised attack on the Labor Party, those perceived to support it as well as the Unions. Abbott's agenda has been to smash and destroy – the only course of action he is programmed to undertake. His scorched earth policy failed, he is left with nothing and so are we. Talk of Joe Hockey introducing a 'moderate' budget is an admission of defeat of the ideological attack on people viewed as 'not one of us'.

The collapse of Australia's mining exports will see the economy decline in the absence of other revenue streams developing to overcome the shortfall. Australia is moving into recession and there is nothing the Reserve Bank can do about it, armed with only the crude instrument of adjustments to the interest rate. Insufficient provision was made for the future by the populist Howard government.

The same lack of forethought and planning has given rise to the current crisis in health care and education. Enter any Medicare office in a major centre and witness the confusion and anger. Talk to the staff to see how services and payments are being reduced. It is nonsense to argue a case that costs are spiralling out of control compared to ten years ago. Together the costs have risen along with the population and proportion of aged people needing care.

The problem lies with a revenue base that is not keeping pace with the needs of the community. Cutting spending on health, education and research will not solve budgetary problems; it will only create further difficulties. Paranoid politicians and public servants should/must consider cutting defence funding, ideologically driven and exorbitant expenditure of keeping Australia free of the contagion of refugees arriving by boat and the continued subsidy of wealthy elitist private schools.

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It also needs to consider the financial and community cost of the continued unquestioning alliance with the United States. The financial cost of the failed ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan is considerable. The money wasted should have been deployed on social and physical infrastructure, a better form of defence than expended rounds of ammunition. The physical and emotional cost witnessed in high levels of PTSB is a further financial and human cost to be borne for many years. The same outcome has arisen in the Navy because of the government's 'policy' of turning back boats.

Do we want Darwin to become an American Base? Are we happy to be hostages of fortune, dragged into another misadventure, by a decaying, racist, frustrated and angry super power due to our increasing entanglement in the extended US instruments of war on our territory? We don't want refugees violating our sovereignty, but the US government does and provides legal cover for its rapacious multi-national companies to avoid Australian tax. Do we care? Do we wish to develop independent relations within the region or is it all too hard to figure out how we balance the competing demands of the US, China, India and Indonesia?

The national debate about the use and conservation of water and best use of productive land is absent. The National Party should be leading this debate but it is devoid and bereft of ideas and policies to the point that it has welcomed coal seam gas mining. Its interest has focused on the chauvinistic concern of seeking a register of foreign ownership, which is irrelevant when laws do not exist to govern and protect the sustainable land use.

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About the Author

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat who served in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1972-73 and 1986-88, and in South Africa from 1976-1979

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