There is a federal election on, as most people will have gathered by now, and it is somewhat interesting to reflect how far politics in Australia is dominated by issues of pure accounting and economics – as if the life and culture of the nation are reducible to nothing more than statistics such as tax rates (and for whom), GDP, GNP and how far China’s demand for Western Australian iron ore will save the nation – if at all – from financial woes.
Yet, it seems decreasingly likely that many Australians really believe deep down that electing one or other of the parties decisively answers any of these questions in a long-term way. It seems as if the final result is likely to be determined – for wont of any exciting alternatives – by how far most people will lean one way or the other towards the rhetoric and arguments each of the two major parties advance as to why they are the answer we need at the moment and other factors such as whether they like the personalities of the respective leaders. In Australia, this is about as deep as it gets.
Economics is actually important because economics is about human nature and human choices, yet even this philosophical dimension is missing from politics as it is (and has been for decades) in this country.
But while political debate is endlessly dissected, analysed and canvassed over and over again by the media at a surface level – the personalities, the plots, the statistics, the latest polls, the mortgage rates – the ideas of economics and politics as existing primarily for the common good appear to be largely missing.
Whether we have a National Broadband Network and how good it is are not the most important questions of human existence in Australia but it is a measure of how shallow our culture is that these are regarded as being among the most important questions facing the nation.
What can be nominated as important?
We could nominate the disappearance of manufacturing in Australia as a matter of vital social and economic importance to the nation yet neither of the major political parties has produced any credible answer to instances such as the announced closure of Ford Australia at Broadmeadows and Geelong from 2016 and what seems almost like a prelude to the same result currently occurring with Holden’s manufacturing facility at Elizabeth in South Australia.
There, workers have been told they must accept pay freezes or lose their jobs by 2016.
Nor is there any questioning in Australian politics by the resurrected K Rudd or the leader of the Opposition Tony Abbot as to what could be wrong with a picture whereby foreign multinational companies effectively swindle billions of dollars in taxpayer funds out of federal and state governments over years before absconding – or threatening to abscond – to other places where they can pay workers far less, avoiding in the process any serious responsibility for the workers and families they have abandoned to their fate in Australia.
Meanwhile, in another vital area, there is no apparent recognition from either of our major political parties or their leaders of the primacy of the family and there is absolutely no recognition of the importance of fundamental political principles nor their possible applications to the economic and social welfare of the family.
Both parties have, in fact, presided in inaction over an ongoing degrading of the welfare of the family over decades to the point where something like a quarter of all children are now in childcare and almost no-one in the media nor in politics seems to be noticing that there might be something seriously wrong with this.
Meanwhile, families in Australia (the term ‘family’ is understood for the purposes of this editorial as normally, but not exclusively, meaning both parents and their children) are placed under increasing financial stress and pressure, deterring them from home ownership.
They are financially suffocated while both major political parties remain unwilling or indisposed towards committing to creating an openness in Australian culture, politics and economics towards families with young children.
Instead, women are relentlessly pressured to enter the workforce in their childbearing years and to stay in it for the long term, regardless of their own feelings, without space to devote themselves to their own children in the years in which such closeness in relationship is universally regarded as being of fundamental importance to everyone involved.
Mothers must work to put their children into the care of others.
While debate rages between both our major parties, the NBN cannot solve this situation, nor is it a comparatively important issue.
Our politics are therefore out of alignment with the real issues and needs of the nation.
Women and their children primarily bear the brunt of this situation in the first instance, but families also bear the burden as well; the welfare of one in the family cannot be separated from the welfare of others.
Australians seem underwhelmed by the current election and rightly so because they sense deep down that our leaders have embraced the absolute primacy of bread and circuses.
The real problem for working families in places like Elizabeth, Broadmeadows and Geelong and for families with young children is the brutal indifference of our major political parties and our major political leaders to the real issues confronting ordinary human beings. This is sad and, in some respects, almost frightening.