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There is hope for the end of Australia's apathy

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Cartoon by Bruce Keogh / keoghcartoons.com.au

Truth in independent journalism and lobby groups are helping to give Australians a voice against a corrupt and uncaring government, writes Bruce Keogh.

CONTEMPTIBLE POLITICAL and corporate forces impact heavily on our lives, but most Australians don’t care. It’s crazy but true.

Sure, the broader society views the establishment with disgust and disdain. And yes, trust is at an all-time low. And a lack of confidence in the system is understandable.

But these cannot be excuses for not caring — quite the opposite.

Collective disengagement – apathy on a grand scale – has become a national cancer and the prognosis is not good. Continued inaction will invite the Grim Reaper to remove the Australian soul.

To quote John F. Kennedy:

“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”

Society can be divided into two categories: the minority, which actively advocates action and the rest, whose apathetic silence is deafening. For them, comfortable inaction must feel safe.

Meanwhile, the resolute minority soldiers on, driven by social, political and environmental conscience. It cries out for progressive, radical change. It must surely be bewildered at the task of overcoming public apathy as well as confronting the issues that bedevil Australia.

And the issues are profoundly concerning for those who care:

  • the sinister power of political lobbying is nothing short of corruption on a grand scale. It is a multi-billion dollar industry which employs a sophisticated strategy to win political favours for its clients. Alas, we know little about these secretive machinations that affect our lives;
  • political donations for election advertising campaigns wield major influence over outcomes. More than $100 million in donations from hidden sources was handed to the major parties during the 2019 election year;
  • the fossil fuel industry is a massive political donor, so it is little wonder that the Morrison Government continues to defend and promote this sector, which is the major driver of climate change;
  • we fear what lies ahead for future generations as a result of climate change. The science is conclusive, but Australia still has no energy policy. It is incomprehensible that climate change denial can still exist, but it does in the form of ultra-conservative, pro-coal Federal Liberal and National members. They have derailed Australia’s attempts at a coordinated response for a decade with breathtaking irresponsibility;
  • we are unfortunately beholden to the banking and finance sector. The Royal Commission into its practices revealed appalling breaches of law and social trust, resulting in billions of dollars in compensation and repayment of stolen money. We can safely assume that the sector is only sorry that it got caught. We can also assume that in future, it will try to get away with what it can; and
  • where is the outrage on other issues that desperately need reform? What about the grim statistics of women dying at the hands of domestic violence? What about the human rights abuses of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island? What about the persisting blight of gender inequality, with women being undervalued across the social, employment and sporting spectrum?

There is much more and it all seems insurmountable. But there is hope.

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Reactive, incisive and fearless journalism has flourished over the past decade. Independent news websites like Independent Australia, Crikey and Michael West are testament to that, as they hold the powerful to account. Over that time, the influence of the conservative press, with its dangerously high concentration of rightwing ownership – particularly that of Murdoch – has diminished for profit-driven reasons. With ethically driven, progressive journalism on the rise, the status quo is being challenged like never before.

Independent commentary alone may not bring about change, but it raises awareness and acts as a springboard for activism, as the disillusioned turn to lobby groups like GetUp, Solar Citizens and Change.org.

By example, the success of GetUp is cause for real optimism.

Interesting insights come from an SBS article by Nick Baker:

Calling itself a movement to “build a progressive Australia”, GetUp is a lobby group which campaigns for public policy change in fields such as the environment, the economy and human rights.

 

Thirteen years since it started, GetUp now stands as a potent force in Australian politics, claiming a “membership base” of one million people. For comparison, the Liberal Party and Labor Party have a combined membership of around 130,000.

 

And it knows how to make money, taking in more than $11 million dollars via donations in the last year.

The achievements of GetUp are inspirational — proof that collective activism works. Its campaigns are highly organised, targeted and powerful. It can well afford to mount legal proceedings at the highest level.

As more lobby groups of this nature gain momentum, the brighter the future will be. Praise be and halleluiah for when the broader society realises that real action and reform is essential and possible and, even better, acts on it.

The establishment is a shameful blot on the national landscape and it cannot be tolerated any more.

Let it be known that we care about who we are as a nation. We will not be messed with.

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