Aren’t we better than this?

AustraliaDayIf Australia can’t champion progressive reforms that make our country a better place for everyone, not just a few rich people, who can? If we can’t grow a collective will to restore dignity to the impoverished, to welcome desperate families from war torn countries or places of depraved persecution, to have an economy that provides stable jobs, and not just profit, what country in the world can possibly expect to beat us to it?

Australia Day is a good day to reflect on the privilege of being Australian. I’m not saying this is the best country in the world. It’s the only country I’ve ever lived in, so I’m not one to judge. But I can judge my own life experiences and say that I am incredibly lucky to be Australian. We are a rich country, we have (in the most part) a very pleasant climate, our cities are not overcrowded, we have a stable economy which has been growing for over 20 years, we are mostly employed, and mostly living relatively comfortable lives. Yes, there are many Australians struggling to make ends meet, but we also have a social welfare system which is designed to look after those in the community who can’t look after themselves. This social welfare system is by no means perfect, but at least we have one. That puts us way in front of many other countries in the world.

Yet, with all this luck, if the election of Tony Abbott is anything to go by, Australians are not just ungrateful for our luck, we’re petty, mean and completely and utterly selfish. Abbott played to this side of our national character, targeting our lowest common denominator to whip up fear about what can only be described as #FirstWorldProblems. Why? Because a very small number of refugees, who have nowhere to else to go, are looking for a safe haven, and happen to choose Australia as that safe haven. We’re not talking tens of thousands of people. We’re talking about tens of people at a time, several thousand across an entire year. A completely manageable number, a miniscule percentage of our rich population, and an amount which has no impact on the residents of Australia. None. Yet in a recent poll, 60% of lucky Australians wanted the Abbott government to treat asylum seekers more harshly. Perhaps we should stop referring to Australia as the lucky country, and instead refer to ourselves as the cruel and sadistic country. Why? Because Australians are gullible enough to believe big polluters who say they are fighting against the Carbon Price for the good of the community, when really it’s for the good of big business profits. Because Australians believed Tony Abbott when he said climate change was crap. Because Alan Jones is apparently a credible expert on climate science. And the big one – because an increase in our electricity bill, however small this amount was when compared to the cost of our lifestyles, was just too much to ask, regardless of the compensation the government gave us to soften the very small blow. Perhaps we should stop referring to Australia as the lucky country, and instead refer to ourselves as the selfish and greedy country. Why? Because Abbott promises to get rid of that horrible nasty red tape and green tape that was only put there in the first place, apparently, to annoy capitalists. Except it wasn’t. Except every single regulation ever produced was designed for the betterment of our community, to protect us from the greed of big business. Environmental protections ensure that profitable activities don’t destroy our environment. Red tape like occupational health and safety laws are designed to increase the likelihood that Australians don’t die at work. Red tape like minimum wages, like the 8 hour work day, like paid maternity leave, like sick leave, like holiday pay, are the only thing that ensures business owners can’t treat workers like slaves. Or would you prefer to remove all this regulation, and let companies like McDonalds pay their staff $7.25 an hour for a 36 hour work week? That’s $261 before tax. But rather than see ‘regulation’ as the necessary protections for workers to stop business owners from taking advantage of them, Australians are happy to vote for someone who vows to repeal as much regulation as he possibly can (in fact 1,000 pieces in one day). Note that Abbott is consulting business to decide which laws will be scrapped. Business. Not workers. Perhaps we should stop referring to Australia as the lucky country, and instead refer to ourselves as the determined to make the rich richer at the expense of the workers country.

My question to Australians on Australia Day is this: aren’t we better than this? Or when we elected Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, were we determined to prove that we’re not better than this? We are rich, we are comfortable and very few of us have anything but lifestyle problems to worry about. Yet, all it takes for us to elect a wrecking-ball Prime Minister, is for him to appeal to our pettiest, greediest, meanest selves. As I reflect on my love of Australia on Australia Day, I wonder whether political leaders on the left are thinking about how they can bring out the best in Australians, rather than the worst at the next election. I’m hoping they can come up with a way of convincing us to be better Australians, because I really want to believe that we are better than this.


  1. Howard was the first to reduce us to our lowest common denominator: Abbott, in attempting to do the same thing, isn’t as wily a politician, and is thus not able to be as sneaky about it. I suppose that’s the single thing we must be grateful for – that every terrible thing this rabble of wicked children perpetrates upon us can be seen instantly for what it is.
    But we still need people like you, accepted writers and journo.s, to comment on it. Thanks, Victoria.

  2. My thoughts exactly! Abbot is more of a businessman, than he is human. Some of his views, especially those on gay rights and equality between women and men at work places really get on my nerves.

    • elaborate. how exactly does the coalition oppress women in the workforce? Their PPL is far more generous to women who are working, and actually compensates at a rate commensurate with their salary (what they would have based their domestic budget on).

      Rudd held the same views on gay rights, and didn’t do anything for gay marriage when he held the top job. i’m guessing you despise him just as much?

      • wannabearchitect said nothing about ‘oppression’ so please stick to the actual comment – ‘Abbott …gets on my nerves’. Rudd had the GFC to deal with – there wasn’t much time and space to add gay rights to the agenda.

      • @vivienne: “equality between women and men at work places”. That’s plainly what i wanted clarification on. That i didn’t use exactly the same phraseology doesn’t obviate my point.

        Guessing that Rudd couldn’t walk and chew gum as he was minister for everything and delegated with the skill that a fish uses a bicycle. Rudd may not have had time to legislate for it, but he made plain that his views were that which Abbott holds to.

    • If Abbott was a businessman he would go broke very quickly. Did you read the vacuous tripe that he spouted in his keynote speech in Davos? Australia can do so much better than him.

      • Care to list all the businesses labor politicians have run to show they have runs on the board?

        It may be true that australia could do better, but if you’re after business acumen, it wouldn’t be found in the progressive world.

      • Cecil, how about you list all the businesses run by Liberal politicians first. One – Turnbull gets a tick but I don’t think he employed anyone.

      • @vivienne: Wikipedia is your friend.

        Joe hockey: banking and finance law
        Turnbull: Before entering politics, he worked as a journalist, lawyer, investment banker, and venture capitalist. How may boards do you need to sit on before you count as being a businessperson worthy of consideration?
        Julie Bishop: she was managing partner of top Australian law firm, Clayton Utz. Effectively employing (in combination with the other partners) the other staff.
        Eric Abetz: After University, Eric worked in Hobart’s northern suburbs in a legal practice before entering into the firm Abetz, Curtis & Dutton which had 2 offices; one in Hobart and one in Kingston. Being a “name” in a company indicates they had a fair few employees.
        Brandis: Brandis was called to the Queensland Bar in 1985 and quickly developed a large commercial practice with a particular emphasis on trade practices law. If you’re a barrister, you’re a self employed businessperson. Much like a tradesperson.
        Barnaby Joyce: Joyce and his wife have four daughters and live in St George in western Queensland, where Joyce had an accounting business.
        Ian Mcfarlane: He was born in Kingaroy, Queensland, and was a farmer and president of the Queensland Graingrowers Association before entering politics. Farms employ a fair few people.
        Peter Dutton: Prior to being elected to Parliament, Peter owned businesses and employed over 40 staff. He started his working life at 12 – delivering newspapers, mowing lawns and working after school as a butcher’s boy – a job he continued until starting university. He purchased his first property at 18.
        Bruce Billson: He was Manager of Corporate Development, for the Shire of Hastings

  3. Are we better than this? Of course we are. We just need to keep making as much noise as we can, all of the time, just like Victoria does along with all of those other writers & journos.
    The March in March would be a good place for people who see Australia being flushed down the gurgler by TA & his incompetent bunch to voice their disapproval.

  4. The impoverished are given the most dignity when they get the satisfaction of earning what they receive rather than being dependent on the government for their sustenance.

    Australia resettles more refugees (rather than just letting them camp indefinitely in refugee camps) than nearly anywhere else in the world. It is disingenuous to paint australia as miserly when we pull well above our weight, and it is insincere to consider those who pay off people smugglers as more deserving of our charity than those who the UN have already processed, asssessed and decide need resettlement. How would you choose who gets to come here, and how would you exercise any control over the numbers?

  5. Hi Cecil, It’s not relevant whether or not Labor politicians have run a business. They are not in government. The point of my comment was the shortcomings of Abbott & the sycophancy of News Ltd journalists. If & when Labor returns to government then I will question the suitability of their politicians to run the country. It often amuses me that given the vitriol employed by Abbott & his breathless boosters in the media & in blog land during 2010 -2013 just how sensitive you are to any criticism of your hero, no matter how mild.

    • It is relevant insofar as you were bagging Abbott for hypothetical business uselessness without being prepared to back it up in the labor party having more credible credentials than the coalition. I’m prepared to concede that the coalition aren’t made up of a collection of messiahs. Why not question the qualifications of the labor party before they get back in power? That’s the time to examine their CV, not after they win power.

      Your comment made no mention of news ltd. they are free, in a free world, to hold whatever editorial position they want. Or is it better if the government states what private organisations may report, or the views they may hold? The antipathy of Fairfax towards the coalition isn’t in line with my preferences, but they are free to hold them. I’d not trust any government to regulate the media.

      My comment was measured in admitting that perhaps we could do better. Hardly a “breathless booster”. If you think we could do better, could you tell us which party could lead us with better experience than what we have at present?

      • Cecil, the trouble was no one questioned or examined the creds of the Liberals while in Opposition.

      • @Vivienne: and nobody looked past the facade of being “howard-lite” that Rudd used to win 2007.

  6. Aren’t we better than this indeed. I’m not sure. About ten years ago, I remember arriving in Australia and watching dumbfounded as Current Affairs (which I have since realised means something else entirely in Australia) reported a woman quoting thus: “We are too poor. We cannot buy T-bone steak. We make do with mince, for meal after meal!” There is no context here to the kind of deprivation that people suffer in other countries. Hence, we are indeed the lucky country and that is a Blessing as much as a Curse.

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