Who holds the key to Australia's potential?

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Source: medicalnewstoday.com

Bruce Haigh discusses Australia's lack of political leadership, increasing self-absorption and loss of empathy. 

AUSTRALIA has great potential but it remains locked away.

The key to unlocking it lies with the federal government. But that key has gone missing — lost or stolen.

When did this happen?

It’s hard to say. Perhaps it was mislaid around the time Howard and Costello decided to secure their own political futures by large direct hand outs of tax payer money to taxpayers.

It was a bribe financed at the expense of future health, education, infrastructure and research.

Or perhaps with the meanness, narrowness and lack of leadership contained in the remark,

"We shall decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come."


No country could hope to prosper with such inward looking leadership. And that set the benchmark for political discourse and decision making for the next twenty years. It put the nation on hold. Like Menzies before him, Howard was lucky with a booming economy — for him based on minerals rather than wool and wheat.

In from a working class backyard blew Pauline Hanson. She embodies the anger and disillusionment of a lot of unversed, hard working Australians. Resilient and tough she was burnt a number of times but like Phoenix, rose from the ashes. She is a champion of simple solutions to complex social problems, she has no inhibition in pursuing bigotry and advocating racism. The times have moved in her favour.

The mainstream media and the political process have merged, offering no intellectual questioning of poor government decision making. Issues come and go — mere props for media personalities to enhance their egos and ratings. Nothing is sacred. Belief in the substance of ethics and morality is an inconvenience to the promotion and advancement of self, a catechism of the Right. Narcissism is an essential ingredient to the right of self fulfilment — which is the core belief of many fundamental Christians, together with the acquisition of wealth.

Established churches have suffered at the hands of corrupt leaders who are unable to adhere to the precepts of their own teachings. Paedophilia and indifference to the plight of the suffering – whether Aboriginal, asylum seeker, drug user, abuse victim or disabled – has negated any and all public pronouncements and exhortations. Pell has become an emblematic figure of clerical collapse.

Leadership, whether political, business, public service, police and defence force marches under the banner of "whatever it takes" — the effect of which is secrecy, cut corners and corruption. Politicians spend millions on their own travel and transport. The collapse of the 2016 Census program and the subsequent handling of the crisis by the ABS is a metaphor for what is happening in other branches of the public service, from tax to Immigration and foreign affairs.

The Left has evaporated, no one talks of socialism and no one discusses nationalising the banks. Australia has moved so far to the right that without an iota of embarrassment, the Sydney Institute claims it represents the views of the centre of Australian politics. The centre is where the remainder of the Left mill about in confused silence.

A sense of achievement is a fading notion and defined as winning the war in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, stopping the boats and winning Olympic medals. Inflicting pain and suffering in the national good, preserving the Australian way of life and protecting northern borders from the great unwashed are key planks in the political platform of the conservative, reactionary Right.

Negative is the new positive. Abbott demonstrated that. He is a key and effective practitioner in the art of mendacious spin. The creative art of wrecking, which he learnt from Howard and Rudd, has put great strains on Australian democracy.

We no longer understand what it is to build and nurture. To the Right – as embodied by Bolt and Bernardi – to nurture is to undermine the fabric of society. To nurture is to demonstrate unmanly qualities, "sissy" stuff, not for them. Males and females must be proudly "macho" in the ultimate icon of the Anzac tradition. Invasion of other countries is what this nation was built on.

And God help those who "invade" our country in the form of desperate asylum seeking across the seas which girt our shores. Our response to the plight of courageous boat people is a barometer of the collective conscience of the nation and on present reading, we are pretty sick.

There is no threat to Australia from asylum seekers arriving by boat. Pursuing that line has been a tool of the Right to corral the politically naive and vulnerable.

The collapse of the ABS and its ill-advised 2016 Census should be an indicator to the Coalition Government on the poor state of the machinery of government, which in some instances has been promoted by government ideology such as the gutting of the CSIRO. Research is not a creative instrument or priority of the Right which has trouble grappling with concepts and creativity. They are of a mind that the Arts have nothing to do with industry or creating wealth, embodied in the new national motivator — "jobs and growth". Members of the Coalition can say it with their mouths and minds closed.

Climate Change is a metaphor for nothing left to lose. Successive governments have shown little desire to locate the key; they battle to enjoy the spoils of office and privileges of power but not to govern.

With increasing intensity the dispossessed fight over degraded water resources, deteriorating infrastructure, diminishing health and educational outcomes and rusting cranes — and lament for a leadership that might locate the key.

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat. You can follow him on Twitter @BruceHaigh2.

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