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?