A message to all Australian seniors: Are we stagnating… again!? 61



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The 60s and 70s were a time of change for Australia. A sort of revolution that allowed Australia to catch up and move forward with change in line with the more progressive societies in the world at that time. Change may have seemed to be more radical in Australia because Australia was so far behind the rest of the world. Australia had been stuck in a time warp. Most of World War II had been fought in distance places. There was no need to rebuild infrastructure and society as in many other parts of the world. People were migrating to Australia for a new sedate life. So Australia stagnated.

The 60s and 70s saw Australia progress to a more fairer and equitable society. Equal pay for women, more recognition of our indigenous population, land rights, scrapping of the white Australia policy, immigration, contraception. The environment became an issue as did the role of women in all spheres of life. The war in Vietnam ended and new National Parks were created. Men, women, boys and girls walked hand in hand and demonstrated sometimes with violent outcomes to achieve change.

For a while in the 70s, the Whitlam Government was a breath of fresh air and a string of policy initiatives saw Federal involvement in education, health and housing and recognition of China. The British Honours system was abolished and replaced with an Australian system, no fault divorce was included in the new Family Law Act and Racial and other anti-discrimination legislation introduced. (Mind you his allowing of the annexation of East Timor by Indonesia so as to avoid conflict with Australia still does not sit well with me).

Unfortunately, such monumental change had costs both economically and societally. The Whitlam government was seen as economically inept and was seen to be bringing in change too fast – so they got the flick. Unfortunately, in some respects, subsequent governments have learned to be fiscally responsible as best as they can be and to move forward slowly. (Although, Kevin’s hand-out to avoid the GFC was a bit radical, don’t you think….mind you it seemed to work). It says a lot in terms of change when the best a Prime Minister can do is want to be known as the Infrastructure Prime Minister and reintroduce those archaic British honours.

While our politicians waffle on, there are a raft of issues seemingly bouncing around that are holding Australia back. Some are more pertinent than others. Gay marriage, decriminalisation of drug use, compensation for the stolen aboriginal children, creation of a republic, a new flag (without the Union Jack), age discrimination, the increase in racism and the poor funding of science (particularly the CSIRO) and the poor funding of our national broadcaster. These are just some of the issues that should be addressed. These issues are across all parties.

De-stagnation requires either leadership or a populous movement to force the issue. We get the politicians we vote for so we should not be surprised at our current lack of progress as a reflection of our stagnation. PM Turnbull wants to talk to all and sundry before he does anything at all and is having another review of the tax system. Haven’t we heard it all before? Are these ways of stalling and maintaining the status quo?

Where are the radical leaders of the 60s and 70s now or who will take their place? Are us 60+s now too complacent sitting in our armchairs watching our 50 inch TVs? Should we not be agent provocateurs (not the lingerie) and encourage the younger generation to rise up? Perhaps we should show them movies of the demos of the 60s and 70s to show them how it is done? There might be a banner in the attic somewhere they can use.

PM Turnbull is right in one respect we need to innovate to move forward. But talking about it isn’t enough. Innovation requires venture capital in not only money but the social capital to implement change. It is a truism that there is an element of risk to progress. This is true in business, science and the social issues confronting us. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Australia has the potential to lead world in many areas, but we need to stop falling behind and stagnating.

What do you think? Is it time the older generation stepped up?

Michael Whitehead

Michael Whitehead attended uni as a mature age student in his 50s, completing multiple postgraduate degrees in health science and psychology. He has a canoe, a pushbike, a bodyboard, a tennis racquet and a fishing rod. He uses them all. Michael is now enjoying retirement after a wide range of careers, most recently as Manager of a Family Support Service.

  1. We don’t need another wanker like Whitlam, who stuffed this country up good and proper

  2. Turnbull is talking but that is about all he is doing, the great leaders that inspired us are long gone. Rudd did get us through the GFC but it is catching up with us now, because of poor policy decisions by the current Government.

    5 REPLY
    • As part of its response to the financial turmoil of the Global Financial Crisis, the Rudd government announced in October 2008 that it would guarantee all bank deposits. The government initially ignored RBA advice to cap the guarantee.[5]
      Wayne Swan
      With the economy facing its biggest slowdown since the early 1990s and facing recession, the government announced an economic stimulus package worth $10.4 billion.[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudd_Government_%282007%E2%80%9310%29

    • Rudd/Gillard had the mining boom, they saved nothing & spent like drunken sailors

    • Karen they saved nothing because they couldn’t get the legislation passed to tax the mining industry on their massive profits…..and the mining fraternity spent thousands on t.v. advertisements to stop being taxed on their profits…..sheer waste of money. They also had a GFC to contend with.
      This current government are also spending like drunken sailors and doubled the deficit almost immediately. Whoever is in power has to spend money on infrastructure. If the tax system was fairer they would rake money in. However, looks like we are set to have an increase in the GST which will cripple the ordinary working man.

  3. I think the problem is often in the candidates chosen by the parties. Too often they come from the party office, like the guy who just won Joe Hockey’s old seat. Labor has had some woeful candidates, particularly in the Senate, as they reward good Union mates with a pre retirement stint in Parliament even sometimes relegating a sitting senator down the ticket. Some of the more impressive politicians are senators either independent or from minor parties. I don’t think a great leader will come along while preselection is just a big pat on the back for a party player. We need candidates with real life experience and a passion to reform and nation build, not just someone who wants a career. I suspect though any potential truly great politician will fall foul of the party machine and not make it to the top.

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    • I agree whole heartedly, I have taken a stand against the limitations that party politics reduces the country too, and have been actively promoting the voting in of independent politicians. It would remove the lobby factor considerably as they would be able to vote with their conscience, and make lobbing more difficult as they would need to convince more than just the behind the scenes leaders to influence a vote.

    • To be a candidate you have to win pre selection from party members, not always an easy thing. Candidates need funds to run election campaigns, if you are rich that is fine, you won’t need the party to help.

    • Toni too often preselection is not done by the local party members, the party picks someone over the wishes of those the candidate is supposed to represent. Amazing results can be achieved by a candidate just going out and talking and listening to people, but yes campaigning can be expensive. I live in a safe Liberal seat and none of the candidates make much of an effort to campaign.

  4. I for one am truly grateful we never found out where Whitlam, Jim Cairnes, Al Grasby and cohorts would have led us.. Under Whitlam unemployment almost tripled, the tax rate almost doubled, the deficit blowout was enormous and inflation was almost 20%. We have had much better leaders both before and certainly after him.

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    • The budget of the Whitlam government that the libs refused to pass was, as acknowledged by Fraser, one of the two best ones that he (Fraser) had ever seen. Fraser and his treasurer, John Howard then proceded to be one of the worst governments ever. Of course the Abbott government easily comes in as by far the worst.

    • Fred Davies I guess you have forgotton the Khemlani affair then Fred. Each government leaves some a footprint. Yes the national sewage scheme was excellent, but the man almost sold us out after practically bankrupting the country. That is when he wasn’t gallivanting O/S.

    • It’s funny that he goes down in history as one of the greats, Maybe your views are what you want to see.

    • Fred Davies Spin doctors, Fred. Maybe you could google Australia under the Whitlam gov’t to remind yourself of what actually happened.

  5. Thing’s have not change but voters have, as we all loose count of P.M.’s there for the $450.000 pension annually until death that has always been the draw card, because we have all played the game until now. Do not vote above the line and use your preference’s for their own agenda. Below the line your preference’s have a better chance for you idea’s not their’s

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  6. Today we have nappy rash political advisers or union faction leaders who are shanghaied in as replacement candidates for election. All with no worldly business experience, that once was the norm for both Liberal and Labor candidates. All are now with blinkered narrow minded rigid party opinions unable to see, give and or take sound reason.

    Sadly today we also have discerning opinionated voters who glean their political opinion from a two second news headline, so party policies are then all simplistically honed for election.

    Feel good talk- fests, social experimentation and snouts in pig troughs should be replaced by rolled-up- sleeves-action that tackle the issues best for all Australians, not for political parties or splinter group issues!

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  7. We need to stand up and be counted we vote them in we can vote them out

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    • But Patricia, who would we replace them with? There are no ‘true’ political leaders any more. All they do is break promises. Leading up to an election both major parties promise the earth then dont deliver. I’m also ‘over’ the continuous back stabbing and name calling that seems to be a part of every sitting. I keep thinking “just get on with the job you were paid to do”.

  8. Please don’t wish another Whitlam on us. Whitlam was responsible for some of the most visionary and controversial policies in our nation’s history. He has the unwanted notoriety of holding the most portfolios of any PM 13 in his first Ministry and the Khemlani loans affair which finally brought him undone.

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    • no chance of another Whitlam instead have a Government who had doubled the deficit and is going to borrow even more

    • A man with not only vision but passion for improving quality of life for all Australians, more tvan you can say for Abbott and Turnbull, neither have any idea, Turnbull’s interest goes no further than his wife’s desire for social status.

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