Turning back the clock on politics not the answer: Opinion
TO quote an old Arabic saying , "If people are thirsty enough they will drink the sand.” I do not believe that 23% of Queenslanders are turning to One Nation because they are racist. It is more that they feel they are not being listened to by anyone else and will put up with it.
There is no doubt that social inequality is increasing. The poor are being vilified and disenfranchised while we hear stories like we did last week about the six executives from Australia Post taking home half the profits. Jobs are disappearing and it is the less educated who are suffering. They are being outsourced to countries where labour is cheaper and we are being replaced by machines everywhere from the coal mine to the supermarket checkout.
Back in 1964 Donald Horne coined the phrase, The Lucky Country. While this phrase is generally now accepted as a positive reference and has been repeated everywhere from cigarette adverts to patriotic Aussie songs, Horne's original meaning of the phrase was somewhat different. He noticed that the structure of our economy was more like a developing nation. We export lots of raw material and then we buy back finished product.
We also do not have a great record on the management of our environment and are an essentially Anglo-Saxon culture country in the middle of Asia and haven't really worked out our place in it. Australia was seen as The Lucky Country as it enjoys a very good standard of living despite all this.
Quite simply there are a lot of natural resources compared to the size of the population.
Fifty years on from Horne's book our luck is running out. I believe the future of Australia requires us to structurally change our economy. It requires us to increase our educational standards (which aren't all that great compared with other countries), invest more in science and innovation and actually start exporting knowledge and products.
It requires world standard infrastructure, like the original NBN.
Populist politicians are tapping into the very valid emotion people are feeling that things felt better in the past. One Nation's idea seems to be to go back to 1964 when Australia felt lucky. I do not believe that rolling social attitudes back to 1964, denying climate change or rolling back education to what was required in the 60s is going to make us lucky again. It isn't going to bring the jobs back.
It is my sincere hope that the next elections are fought over policy issues and that our debates move to positive ideas on how we don't leave sections of our community behind in terms of rising living standards. Drinking Pauline's sand will not quench your thirst. It will make you even thirstier and your guts will end up ... well ... full of it.
Robert Forsythe, Glenlee