Last week I read an article in one of my local newspapers about Australia’s recent action (or lack thereof) on world issues. It was interesting and it raised a series of points that I hadn’t thought of before.
At the G20, US President Barack Obama addressed young Australians on climate change and why it is something we all need to take very seriously. However, for years now, Australia’s stance – no matter what government has been in power – has been very “toe in the water” and we haven’t been prepared to dive right in.
If the government knew it was something the Australian people were prepared to fight for and was something that we (myself included) were happy to sacrifice other things for – they would do something about it. But, we stand here holding on to the financial support, the healthcare, the subsidies and the education so tightly and quite frankly we aren’t all prepared to make the modest changes necessary to let the government commit to this matter and spend the money they need to.
Then, we look at the Ebola crisis that is still ravaging African countries and is still causing deaths and scares in developed countries too. The Australian government gave small financial aid but did not offer up Australian people to assist in controlling the disease or treating sufferers. Why? Because we didn’t push for it. If healthcare workers and people with skills of assistance wanted to support the cause, we would have created a movement and the government would have happily responded.
But we didn’t want to go and help, because our time and finances are too valuable to us. In August, after a Starts at 60 team member received their tax return, we ran an article calling for you to tell us how you would like to see the Australian government spending our tax money. 22.1 per cent of you said you believe Foreign Affairs and Economic Aid should receive less funding and conversely, 0 per cent of you said you would like to see the same cause receive more funding. This is why we were hesitant in joining the fight against Ebola.
I have never thought of myself as a selfish person – in fact I have always considered myself generous. I am happy to take friends to lunch, give people a helping hand on the weekend and volunteer time to help at the local school. But when I think about the bigger picture and my “generosity”, I am only willing to give when I have the financial and social means to.
The reason that our government hesitates to do things that make a big scale difference isn’t actually because they are being disruptive. It is because each government wants to get in power – and the only way to do that is to please people like you or me.
If we found out that the social services budget was being cut and people were receiving 10% less government funding and support in favour of supporting climate change or foreign aid – we would be up in arms.
If we found out that Medicare was going to cut the available benefits for Australians and instead use that money to support climate change or the Ebola fight, we’d feel like we’ve been given the raw end of a deal.
When it comes down to it, I am a selfish Australian.
I am happy to admit that because quite frankly, it is the truth. And I think that if we think about it most of us are too.
Tell us today… Do you agree? Are you happy (or unhappy) to admit that you’re a selfish Australian too?