A non-automotive post. Attempt #4. Yes, I’ve been trying to write this one for a while.
I am a bleeding heart lefty.
I didn’t grow up political at all. I first noticed my political interest around the turn of the century, at 30 years of age, while observing the campaign for the 2000 US Presidential election. We’ve always had plenty of US news here in Australia, even before the internet age. I grew up in the 1980’s with Reagan and Gorby arguing over nukes. I largely ignored the first Bush Presidency, had fun with Slick Willie but was ultimately disturbed in 2000 when the US elected a President that preferred to mosey rather than walk.
I watched this President take a truly sad occasion in 9/11, make a fully justifiable decision to chase the perpetrators in Afghanistan and then make a totally unjustifiable decision to follow that with a conflict in Iraq that wasted nearly criminal amounts of time, money and lives. That was my first real exposure to the conservative ‘hawk’ view of defence and I thought it was irrational.
Four years before George W. Bush was elected, Australia chose to end the era of possibly the greatest Prime Minister of my lifetime, Paul Keating (if you don’t admire him for his reform work, at least admit he was the most entertaining PM we’ve had). They replaced him with a conservative Prime Minister, John Howard, who wasn’t universally liked on a personal level but who did more than just one or two things that were worthy of commendation (gun laws, Bali bombing response, GST implementation).
On the bad side, however, he also noticed the raw nerve touched by Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party and (after he’d eradicated her) capitalised on it by starting the modern hard-line policy on immigration that still divides Australia today. Moreover, he used some questionable tactics (Tampa, and Children Overboard) to try and push his case and create fear in the community. The legacy is ongoing.
The Howard era also saw a lot of government owned assets and businesses sold off to private enterprise. Some of those asset sales were fair. Others became businesses that IMHO provide worse service than what they did when they didn’t have a shareholder profit motive.
Gifted with a majority in both houses in his final term, he went after worker’s rights in a big way with a labour package called Workchoices, which started the three-year decline that eventually saw him kicked out of power.
It’s those last few points that really irk me and perhaps gave best impetus to my own individual stance.
I come from a working class family that managed to work its way up to the middle class by virtue of both my parents working full-time in an era when having a full-time working mother was unusual. We never felt deprived of anything and my parents worked hard enough to send me to a private school for my secondary education. But from the kids I met there, I knew we weren’t rich.
One of my generation, an older cousin, was the first person in our family ever to attend university. Prior to that, it was simply never thought of as a realistic career path for us. My parents’ generation within my family were all manual workers and/or tradespeople. Their friends, their siblings and their kids – my cousins – were nearly all workers. Few worked for themselves. Most worked for someone else, therefore having to take the wages and conditions that were offered to them.
I applaud people who can start their own business. I applaud them for having the drive to establish the business, the people skills to befriend and serve their customers and the smarts to build it in such away as to make it profitable.
That’s not everyone, though. The world’s full of all sorts of people.
Some people have amazing skills in a certain area but no promotional skills to market them. They don’t have the ‘connections’ because they didn’t go to the right school, or they have awkward social skills and find it hard to build those connections.
Some people have little, or no, access to capital.
Some people don’t have any particular skills but are willing and capable workers.
Some people don’t have any particular skill except congeniality (and maybe an inheritance to go with it). They seem to make it regardless of their lack of skills simply because they have connections, and they know how to get along.
And yes, some people are slack arses and do little to help themselves.
When you come from a working class background, those roots tend to stay with you regardless of any success you’ve had in your own life. I was fortunate enough that my working class parents sent me to a private school. I eventually went to university and then got a post-grad qualification in my field. I worked a few different jobs before starting with my current employer, where I’ve had a few promotions and a near-doubling of my salary over my 10 years with them.
I’ve never felt secure in my employment, however, despite doing a good job working for what is supposedly the most secure employer in Tasmania. I still feel that same vulnerability that I’m sure other members of my family have felt during their lifetime. My job is a prime candidate for outsourcing. I know from having done this job in both private enterprise and public service that outsourcing my position won’t lead to a quality result for the clients I service. And yet I know that outsourcing is a real possibility purely out of political philosophy and the perceived need to improve a budget bottom line (which will be a false improvement because the outsourcing will still cost a lot and the service will be a lot worse as a result).
People tend to do a much better job, they tend to be much more productive, when good work is recognised and not threatened by what amounts to nothing more than pure ideology.
I believe that we’re stronger as a country if the weakest amongst us have a safety net that provides them with a position to launch from. I believe in competition and the basic tenets of the capitalist economic system, but I don’t believe in a dog-eat-dog competitive society.
I believe in hard work and reward for those who can do great things. I believe in incentive. I also believe in support and society agreeing on the right base-level start that we can give kids through education so that they can build the skills they need to do great things.
I believe parents should take responsibility for their kids. I get frustrated when I see that the fastest growing area of a school is its breakfast program.
I believe in strong state institutions – where appropriate – where the people have a collective say over the preservation of the commons. My approach as a car enthusiast who buys and sells a bit is that we never really own a car. We simply buy the right to enjoy it and preserve it for the next owner. We should take the same approach with the planet we live on because we have to hand it over to someone else, someone that we supposedly love. It should be in the best condition possible.
I don’t believe in privatising everything. Sometimes the market doesn’t get it right. We should preserve public enterprises that provide essential services (and sometimes even goods) to more remote areas. We should be wary of building mega-cities simply in order to preserve market viability. That might support a few fat bank accounts, but it doesn’t necessarily support people’s lives.
I believe that tax isn’t the bad thing that many people make it out to be. I think the misuse of tax is a bad thing. I believe that those who are crazy rich can bear a bigger proportional burden without losing their incentive to work – as long as taxes are used wisely.
I believe we need a proper, no-holds barred conversation about taxation. Hopefully someone will have the political courage to advance that in the next few years.
I believe in the enriching, healing, community-building power of the arts.
I believe in climate change and man’s contribution to it. I believe that first-world countries should play a major role in tackling it and that a market mechanism is the best way to do this. We should have a price on carbon. In my opinion, our current government’s non-stance on this issue is best summed up here – it’s shameful, it’s selfish, it’s impractical and if it’s promoted around the world then it’s going to make the world a much tougher place for future generations.
I agree that we need to stop people trying to take dangerous journeys by sea to get to Australia and seek asylum. I don’t have a solution, but I don’t believe that we’re handling it properly at the moment.
I believe in the benefits of a multi-cultural society and I think we should increase our migrant intake with the dual goal of accepting more skilled migrants, as well as assisting more people in hardship to improve their lives (eg. those asylum seekers).
I believe that employees should have the right to organise and bargain collectively for their pay and conditions. I firmly believe that the union movement shouldn’t shoot it’s people in the foot by making outrageous claims or abusing its position, but the victories won by the union movement are a big part of why societies and economies even have a middle class to fire the engines up in the first place.
I believe that our future lies with Asia, not with the US, despite our friendship and cultural similarities. All relationships are important, so don’t shit on the ones that will count the most in the future. I don’t think we should bug the governments of tiny nations in order to cheat them on resource deals and I don’t think we should break into the offices of their lawyers and steal their confidential documents.
I believe in transparent, accountable government. Our current government’s silence on some issues and armour-plated spin on others is not only a broken promise, it’s also anti-democratic.
I love the ABC, our government-funded, non-commercial broadcaster. The ABC enriches the lives of all Australians from kids to their parents and grandparents. It provides fearless, honest coverage including news and opinion on events both here and abroad. The ABC is not and should not be a cheerleader for anyone.
I’ve written before about our Mushroom Democracy and the media has a large part to play in this. The ABC is more important now than ever because of the dominance of Rupert Murdoch’s news outlets in this country, and Murdoch’s single-minded agenda to support the conservative line on every single issue. Murdoch’s news assets, both in print and on digital platforms, have succeeded in turning a large part of the Australian population into goldfish when it comes to matters of social importance. The shorter our attention span, the better. The more hysterical the confected outrage, the better.
I’m happy to support the ABC with my taxes, I support Fairfax Media with a digital subscription and I’m pleased as punch that the Guardian has an Australian service now, too. If the only place you look for news is in your capital city’s NewsCorp paper, please continue to read that (I read Rupert’s The Australian, too, because I believe in balance), but please also lift your eyes beyond those pages and expand your reading to other places.
Our current federal government, elected late in 2013, spent several years in opposition building a very successful obsession over debt and deficit. They screamed at the top of their lungs about governments producing an economic surplus (right up to the point when they won the election and were given responsibility for delivering one).
What got lost in the screaming match – and the Labor party (the left) can blame themselves for this one – is that there are times when it’s economically irresponsible to pursue a surplus. Maintaining balance over the long term is, indeed, very important. But “living within your means” in times of economic crisis doesn’t necessarily mean revenue > expenditure for the current fiscal year. It means living within your capacity to repay debt as and when it falls due. If you can improve the economic outcome for your country by borrowing within your capacity to repay, then it’s irresponsible to forego this in pursuit of a surplus at any cost. Sadly, because of that goldfish mentality we’re developing, more people tend to respond to the shock headline over borrowing instead of considering the real, long term position.
I’m a big fan of team sport. I’d rather watch a game of football than a game of golf or tennis – any day of the week. I value individual skill and marvel at what some individuals can do, but I’ve always thought that the best achievements are those achieved by teams (and let’s face it, even supremely talented individual athletes in the modern age need a team of coaches and doctors around them in order to succeed).
I place the highest value on individual freedom, on freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom to enjoy one’s own religion (or lack thereof), sexuality, etc. I place the highest possible value on the principles of democracy, even though sometimes I think the majority get it wrong.
But I believe we’re all better off when those individuals are capable of coming together and achieving something as a team. I think more people care about team achievements than individual achievements and I’m quite sure that they celebrate them harder. I think people support each other better in teams. They care about each other more. They care about being successful together.
There’s room for stars within teams and those stars should be recognised and rewarded accordingly. But even those stars will know that they couldn’t do everything on their own. For every Michael Jordan, there’s a Scotty Pippen and a John Paxson. For every LeBron James there’s a Chris Bosh, a Dwayne Wade and a Shane Battier.
Doing more by doing things together isn’t communism. It’s common sense. It doesn’t impinge on anyone’s freedom because people are free to join the team or to toil on their own. I just think we’re better off if we have a team mentality and for me, the values of the left provide that mentality.
I’m a bleeding heart lefty. That might irk some of my friends and family members, but I’m OK with that. There’s a good chance I think you’re an idiot, too 🙂
I still love you, though.