At this time of year, perhaps more than any other, it is easy to see why Australia is the envy of the world in so many ways. The long, lazy summer party reaches its apex in the wonderful Australia Day weekend; the barbies sizzle, the stubbies crackle on ice, the air resounds with the whack of tennis rackets, cricket balls and flattened mozzies, whilst our kids hurl themselves in and out of the water, sharks notwithstanding.
Yet it is hard to deny that, hanging in the air in 2015 along with the citronella and the Aerogard, there is a disturbing sense of unease. For the first time since Bali, Australians have felt the malignant force of Islamism in their daily lives, mainly courtesy of the Sydney Siege, but also in the headlines of the increased threat level to our servicemen and women and police, along with the recent events in Paris, Belgium and elsewhere. Worse, the depravity of the Islamist threat seems to grow ever weirder and uglier, as if those behind the terror are a bunch of Hollywoood scriptwriters attempting to outdo their previous horror flicks. How does a parent explain to a young Aussie kid the picture, pixillated or otherwise, of a boy who could be a classmate casually holding aloft a decapitated head, or attempt to rationally explain to young girls the abduction and rapes of whole classrooms? With difficulty.
The Australian love of life will prevail, and will intensify in the face of such challenges. And despite the freakish sequence of last year’s airline disasters, young and old Australians will eagerly travel to Asia and throughout the world in search of adventure, fun and to further their education or careers.
At home, there are also numerous irritations buzzing in our collective ears. Regardless of political affiliation, most Australians recognise their future prosperity is less certain than in the past. Clunky though aspects of our democracy are, particularly with the newfound enthusiasm for independents in the upper house, average Australians are confident our politicians will muddle through to a sensible middle course on a raft of issues. Although last year’s choice of Adam Goodes as Australian of the Year was at best a missed opportunity, there is no denying that the majority of Australians are also keen to see genuine advances in indigenous prosperity and opportunity, devoid hopefully of excessively symbolic gestures, or indeed, of over-egging new ‘rights’ in any attempt to change the Constitution.
Welfare, education and health are the three battlegrounds where the sunny optimism of the past will be exposed and put to the test over the coming twelve months.
Australia Day is a celebration of the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into making this country great. The Senate and opposition need to get serious about economic reform, to give our children and grandchildren a January 26 that in future years will equally be worth celebrating.
Our sympathies go to federal treasurer Joe Hockey, who yet again managed to have an irrelevant but intriguing soundbite overwhelm his important fiscal message. What is now clear is that Mr Hockey is a magpie for unusual snippets and sparkling facts, which presumably capture his attention during endless and tedious Treasury debriefings. How else to explain his revelation that somewhere someplace in the world right now a person is being born who will live to the ripe (but economically-challenging) old age of 150? As a nugget of information, it would probably earn Joe a few nods of approval at the Rag & Famish Pub Quiz Night, in much the same way that his acute demographic knowledge of certain people’s driving habits and mileage statistics might have done last August. But sadly, despite the generosity Mr Hockey displays to his media hosts in sharing these tantalizing tidbits of trivia, they are, and have proven to be, a deadly trap.
Mr Hockey’s opponents are armed with one simple but devastatingly effective political strategy: to mock and ridicule the need for serious cuts to spending. Despite Chris Bowen’s recent comments, he and his colleagues love to paint a rosy fiscal picture of the future, where growth magically occurs by itself. Mr Hockey has a solid story to tell. He is right to be selling it hard. Alas, spouting oddball futuristic facts is not the best way to persuade people of actions needed in the here and now.
Unless of course you’re discussing ‘catastrophic’ climate change, in which case the more ludicrous and far-fetched your predictions the better.
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