TRUE OPINION: Out of the last 23 years in Australia, the Coalition of the Liberal Party and The Nationals has been the Federal Government for 17 of them. During that time there has been a drift in Australian society away from accountability, transparency, and certainly away from evidence-based policy, writes Rudy Terwilliger.
As a consequence we see our education standards diminishing, with falling literacy and overall skills diminished; including the destruction of the TAFE system – largely replaced by opportunistic carpetbaggers.
In that 23 years we have drifted towards corruption, authoritarianism, censorship and reactionary response. Our society has growing inequality, more intolerance, greed dressed as ‘aspiration’, disconnection with reality replaced with voyeurism, and a general, pervasive torpor.
Our trust in Government, politicians and media is diminished. This has largely been achieved through ‘both-sidesing’ by media, an obsession with presenting more than one side of an argument as equivalents, regardless of whether the counter argument is factual or not. But the politicians themselves, enabled by the media, have contributed to the growing cynicism and distrust of institutions by diminishing them publicly and by politicising the public service.
What are some of the consequences we have seen?
A legal system almost unaffordable for anyone except the very wealthy, with defamation laws favouring the powerful.
The ACCC and ASIC essentially captured by the large corporations that the organisations should be policing – with ASIC turned into a revenue raiser by locking corporate information behind paywalls. The result being large corporations developing monopolies and/or behaving as cartels.
The CSIRO forced to justify research by entering partnership with private enterprise.
A shift of public funding for education away from public schools to private schools.
The widespread sale of public assets – leading to the services people rely on: transport; health; aged care; telecommunications turned into profit/share driven companies instead of placing service as premium.
The ABC disabled, nobbled, under-funded, bullied and attacked – to the point where it appears hesitant to criticise Government.
The ATO compliance division gutted – leaving large corporations to loot Australia and pay little or no tax.
The AFP being very selective on who is investigated/prosecuted – with selection largely dependent on whether the target belongs to the Coalition or their friends.
Unions demonised and diminished – with wages stagnant; wage theft rampant; unsafe workplaces; and workers’ rights trampled upon being the consequence.
The Murray Darling Basin Commission hijacked by huge corporate interests, enabled by Government ministers and members of parliament, with water stolen, money looted and sent into tax havens.
Centrelink used as a vehicle for the demonisation of the poor, the sick, the old, the disabled and the Indigenous – with its services privatised and its support deliberately gutted to provide budget cuts and to frustrate those in need to the point of giving up.
The AEC acting like Facebook – all care (they say) and no responsibility.
The Public Service gutted, capped and gagged – with a myriad of responsibility farmed out to corporate interests via contracting and consulting.
The ABS turned into a laughing stock.
Violence against women continuing unabated.
Policy almost exclusively driven by spin organisations like Crosby Textor, or ‘think tanks’ like the Institute for Public Affairs (IPA) which are clandestinely funded by huge corporate interests.
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Politicians working more secretly with big business lobbyists – and then securing employment with business associated with their Government portfolios as soon as they leave parliament.
The NBN deliberately nobbled to further the interests of a cable service owned by a US Citizen who literally tells politicians what they should and should not be doing – draining the public purse to deliver (way over budget and time) a 3rd rate, 3rd world equivalent ‘service’.
The gradual, but systematic removal of services from Medicare – while the Government and the media hammer the Opposition for drawing attention to this as ‘mediscare’.
The parliament more and more populated with people who think the Earth is 6,000 years old and that a bunch of stories in a book made up by bronze-age goat herders are literal truth.
Parliament turned into a circus – where questions are not answered; documents don’t have to be tabled; lies are told; and accountability avoided where ever possible.
The diminishment of the manufacturing sector, and secondary production, in favour of just digging things up to sell, raw, to overseas clients – at bargain prices, with Government subsidy and with no means (or inclination) to capture the wealth generated for the citizens of the country.
The repeated public tearing-down of any expert (actual, not claimed) who might dare to present information contrary to what the Government wants. This is insidious and underlies much of what else is listed here. It is enabled via NewsCorp, the tabloid media breakfast ‘news’ and the vile creatures which make up most of commercial talkback radio – all engaging in a cyclonic maelstrom of hate and bile directed at anyone who dares stand up to their world view, regardless of the presence of fact.
The demonization of whistle-blowers (including real world consequences) and investigative journalists.
The passive acceptance (and sometimes active support) of right-wing extremists, racists and supremacists – while holding up anyone supporting the environment; anyone brown-skinned or darker; anyone with a non-Christian background; as hated terrorists.
The suspension of habeas corpus for those seeking refuge and asylum – indefinitely.
A decade long undeclared moratorium on climate change action – brought about by the base political opportunism of the Coalition and The Greens initially, from which action Australia has suffered ever since.
The joining of wars, without proper justification or debate, at the whim of an ally who expects exactly that.
All of this (and there is so much more) is hidden under the mythologising of Australia as ‘egalitarian’, giving people ‘a fair go’, and tolerant. The reality is much harsher, far starker.
The Australia of today is a fearful, suspicious, greed-driven place. The cloying notion, religiously promulgated, by Government and media, that Australians are ‘knockabout’, ‘larrikins’ who defy authority and bravely stand up for what is right – is simply incorrect. If it ever were true, which is highly doubtful, it certainly is true no more.
For most of the last 23 years the hope in Australia, the goodwill, the empathy we had as a society developed over the preceding 25 years, has been diminished – systematically dismantled – and replaced by something darker, base and odious. As a nation we have gradually become, in the world’s eye, offensive. No amount of marketing and advertising campaigns can mask the reality of how we are now perceived internationally.
It is hard to see at the moment how that slide to the depths might be arrested and reversed. But if it is not, if effort is not made, then our destiny really doesn’t bear thinking about.