“Big Australian Issues”
Please find below an idea I have developed for The West Australian newspaper based on discussions with friends and family about frustrations with TV news.
Many “baby boomers” are tired of the so-called news that is dished up by TV stations 24/7. It mixes important Australian and international news with local trivial issues and deals with news in an uncritical way, using mostly poorly informed “reporters”, looking at small issues in TV time-bytes aimed at those with the shortest attention spans, and failing to see the bigger picture.
For those of us who still read newspapers to educate ourselves on the news, it would be great to have a series of well-considered articles on the big-picture issues that face Australia. For us, such issues include:
- The total breakdown and failure of our present political system, with senseless self-interest and opposition and time-wasting attacks on individual politicians in the Lower House, and an overly expensive, poorly-co-ordinated Senate that is determined to stop any sensible legislation irrespective of whether Liberal or Labour are in power. Is it time to abandon a centuries old Westminster system for a more collaborative system in the twenty-first century?
- The issue of growing unemployment and underemployment, whose magnitude is disguised by released statistics. In the big picture, this has repercussions on Health as depression and suicide increase and on Police as crime increases. Should full employment be the major big-picture issue addressed by Government for a stable future for Australia?
- The issue of subsidies to keep our manufacturing industries vibrant. The loss of an Australian automobile industry alone would see hundreds of thousands of jobs lost both directly in the industry plus indirectly in parts suppliers and retail and hospitality businesses that depend on those jobs. If Government considers the cost of subsidies outweighs the impact of greater welfare payments, loss of income tax revenue, and increasing health and criminal issues, can it be inventive in terms of “subsidies”? For example, could all Government departments be ordered to buy Australian-made cars, even although this might upset ministers who drive or are driven in Mercedes and BMWs. Perhaps we could look to Malaysia for guidance?
- Similarly, instead of inventing new taxes that large corporations and mining companies will always avoid, could all international companies operating in Australia be required to buy a certain proportion of Australian-made products and hence directly support Australian industry. We need inventive ideas, not continued fiddling with tax schemes that can be avoided by the rich and powerful.
- Should we examine the harmful effect that sensationalised reporting on TV current affairs has on the Australian economy. The live-export controversy cost ranchers their livelihoods. The greyhound exposure has indirectly cost tens of thousands of jobs in NSW. The NT detention program will cause a Royal Commission that will cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Yes, these matters should be exposed, but not in the sensationalised form needed to attract viewers which then causes over-reaction by Government at the expense of innocent elements of the population.
- The issue of water supply for our cities needs to be a priority as our population grows, particularly in WA where the population has increased about 20-fold since the dams were built. Ernie Bridge’s idea of a pipeline for the Kimberly has been assessed purely in terms of the relative costs of water delivered. However, could it be justified in terms of a holistic appraisal? If it came inland, there would be an energy cost for pumping stations due to the topography, but what about the benefits: retention of expertise and equipment sidelined due to the decline in the mining and construction industry; massive job creation; a new road to reduce trucking costs and open up the interior to mineral exploration; a continuum of agricultural opportunities for remote communities. Perhaps James Packer could be induced to contribute to costs if allowed land to build a unique casino-country club-golf course facility with access to Australian wildlife and flora: a potential magnet for wealthy Asian businesspeople? Is this an alternative to energy-guzzling desalination plants? Could this be a national infrastructure project to solve both WA and SA water-supply issues for the next century?
- The Australian culture needs to be preserved, not lost forever under a barrage of political correctness and the use of cries of racism, sexism or religious bias when rational argument fails to defend a cause. The majority become powerless to present a rational argument. Even universities, “the bastions of free speech”, are weighed down by excessive political correctness.
- The Prime Minister espouses innovation as Australia’s future at a time when educational standards are falling in schools and universities are becoming businesses to educate foreign students. Governments think matters will improve by throwing more funds at the problem instead of putting in place systems to produce better teachers in our schools and provide incentives for Tertiary education of outstanding Australian students. We should also ask the question why Asian students consistently perform “above their weight” in terms of academic excellence in order to identify strategies to improve the local product.
- For many years the Government has continued to distribute funding to Aboriginal peoples but their situation, in general, has not improved: dependence on Government funding is not the answer. The children of today will be the Elders in two generations. Compulsory education is required for Caucasian students. Should this be the case for aboriginal children? Only education and resultant careers can improve the pride and position of any group of people. Why can’t our Government accept this and put strategies in place to improve the situation, not just throw taxpayers dollars at the problem from the isolation of Canberra?
These are just some of the big issues that come to mind. Unless we identify them and resolve them, Australia will stagnate and it will be the normal hard-working people in the population who will suffer due to an impotent, internally unstable Government faced with an “Opposition” and hostile Senate in an unworkable parliamentary system that wastes much of its energy on matters of limited national importance or related to social engineering.
Emeritus Professor David Groves