What sort of Australia do we want?

When a country is at the crossroads in deciding its future path, policy makers should be putting this question to us: What sort of Australia do we want?

To frame it better, it might help to think of it as: How would we like to be seen when we retire? One way to measure this, in a qualified way would be to ask the young what they think of our life’s work, our choices, our legacy?

If you ask an elderly Australian this same question about their life, in most cases you will get some pretty impressive responses. Be it building huge projects, fighting wars, hardship and sacrifice- these themes are common and deserve praise.

What exactly would be impressive to our future citizens about what we are doing in this country now? Let us cut to the chase, Australia is barely more than a huge quarry. We dig dirt, chop down trees and send it to overseas, mostly to Asia. Then, using largely slave labour, they convert into houses and infrastructure for their use, for building unnecessary consumer goods to export and to fuel industrialisation (inseparably coupled with emissions growth).

Australia’s largest investments are all in extracting minerals, gasses and oils as fast as possible in fuelling the world’s unsustainable appetite. Simultaneously, ensuring our future citizens will not have access to these materials AND will have to deal with another 13 Million locals, hotter average temperatures, more bush fires, less water, less arable land for food production.

We are on the path that ensures the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and the Murray-Darling basin, probably other key treasures that our grandchildren will see crumble before their eyes- and for what? our greed? We need to have good answers if we are committed to allowing it to happen…

Politicians justify our path as ensuring jobs, growth and prosperity. Hard to blame them when they only care about being re-elected and their coffers are filled by companies with investments in these big industries, which need government backing and shareholders to lie to.

Our leaders are programmed to deliver one-dimensional policy that is benchmarked only by the budget balance sheet and the polls. Our morale compass is ignored, our leaders claim it is not their role to provide that, it is up to our own “free, democratic choices” to determine our lives. Politicians believe they just need to defend our right to buy stuff (including education- no longer an entitlement) and have emergency services.

Our out-dated mantra is that growth is good- it is our only measure of success for western politicians. What are we? Unfunny Ferengi?

I would like to know when I am much older that I am not embarrassed to the core in what the young have to say about my life and my generation.

I do not believe it is a good enough response to say that I lived only to make my life more comfortable and buy more things or take more happy snaps to try and convince everyone else how good I am. I accept my views goes against current convention where we are expected to “live our lives to the fullest, in our own way, our own goals” and other libertarian themes.

Those themes are no longer justifiable when our footprint is so large, yet our overall mental, physical and psychological health so poor.

What Australia do we want? Not the one with 35 million of Kevin Rudd’s consumers… no thanks.

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