The word ‘democracy’ means something different to each of us. In short, it represents empowered people, with all else open to debate, as it should be.
In Australia, empowerment is embedded with the belief of fairness; the ‘fair go’ for the individual to make a life for themselves, based not on class, but solely merit. Fair opportunity, not privileged positioning.
I have to admit, for most of my three and a half decades of life, the ‘fair go’ felt to have left polite conversation. I believe it quietly sat within the Australian values goodie bag while the market took our imagination with bling, sprawl and SUV’s.
Yet, so nasty and individualistic has this government’s attitude been that it has reminded us of our core sense of fairness.
Make no mistake; the student protests and the March Australia protests are truly free, democratic processes. The Aussie ‘fair go’, is back.
The right to be free from sickness
For a small cost to taxpayers collectively, we all have the right to genuine healthcare. We are all empowered to seek out quality medical help when we need it, regardless of our social status.
It opens the doors to those most disadvantaged and works to Close the Gap for indigenous people. It gives us all a ‘leg up’ in tough times.
For me, as a young and healthy professional, I know I’ve paid more than my share of use of public healthcare.
So what? There will come a time where I am no longer so young or so healthy. I may suffer illness that limits my capacity to earn. My support for Medicare will, at that point, be returned to me. It’s a personal investment as much as it is a social service.
The co-payments may not currently hurt me personally, but the same cannot be said for those who must struggle to make ends meet. For them, a doctor visit, potentially leading to blood tests, x-rays and/or medicine, all add up. Rather than working to Close the Gap, it rips it a new one.
Some might point out that co-payments are limited to the first 10 visits for concession holders. Does the government really need that $70 from a poor person’s pocket, especially when $50 of it goes to research?
Gina Rinehart once lamented that she had to compete against companies in Africa where they could get away with paying employees little better than crumbs.
Australia is an expensive country when compared to developing countries in Africa. It is expensive not only to pay wages, but also for workers to make ends meet.
What we trade abroad must meet that challenge. Rather than flogging off iron ore, coal and wood to whoever would buy it, we must refine our resources and develop specialised products that include due premium.
We are also moving towards a service based economy. All of which requires a population with specialised tertiary educated to remain globally competitive. Business needs highly trained people.
The proposed changes to the cost of tertiary education may lead to lifelong debt. It will act as a deterrent to family-orientated women and the disadvantaged, reducing our resource of professionals in contrast to the needs of our changing economy.
As Luke Sulzberger recently wrote [my emphasis]; “Would it not be more logical and efficient (not to mention fair) to increase the income tax rate of the demographic earning this “75 per cent more” [the assumed benefit of tertiary education of personal income] to pay for the hike in education fees?”
This would be today’s successful professions passing on the benefits they enjoyed for all the economic perks that come come along with it for themselves (eg. employees and high quality services) as much the country.
Fair go vs. individualism
Mr. Pyne labelled tertiary student protesters a “socialist alternative“. This must have had Joe Hockey squirming uncomfortably in his seat, known to protest against increased university fees in his own youth.
It gets worst for Pyne. The protesters are not calling for a radical change from current situations, but against changes. Is Christopher Pyne suggesting that Australia currently has a socialist leaning already?
Above I’ve tried to illustrate the clear economic benefits of the systems we now have in place.
Moreover, Australian’s believe in a fair go for all. This isn’t some slippery slope to an alternative government, but the acknowledgement that a population full of healthy bodies and fit minds benefit us all and our local marketplace. The most efficient way to empower the Australian population is for us to contribute to the ‘whip round’ when we are in our prime. It all comes back.
Australian’s have always done the heavy lifting, with our working class roots, which allowed Hockey and Pyne to enjoy cheap tertiary education and free health care when they were young.
We are not ignorant, however, and can spot when our government is removing the mechanisms of general empowerment that remain fundamental to Australian culture.