I came here a little over 40 years ago and have witnessed many changes in Australia. I can see two sides, positives and negatives, that have evolved since then. On the positive side we are today a much more tolerant and multicultural society with a much more integrated Indigenous population. Materially, we are not much better off when I consider wages today and back then and what you can buy with the money you earn. Housing and food take a much bigger chunk of our wage today, while technology and services have become relatively cheaper. Employment in the service industry of today is much more pleasant work than on the assembly lines of manufacturing. We have become much more service-orientated, though still a long way behind Asia. The interconnectedness of our economy with the world has meant no wars, and that is my biggest fear today: this trend to become self-reliant again will lead to isolation from where it’s much easier to engage in war. The US especially worries me, the fear-mongering against China seems often irrational and over the top, and there may be an agenda for another war. And we know who benefits most from war – the big corporations and the banks! The population suffers.
On the negative side, I have seen Australia become more materialistic and less caring. More than ever our politics follow the lead of the US. In my opinion, we are backing the wrong horse here. We should engage with our Asian neighbours instead and take a more independent stand in the world. As an island continent, we are ideally situated to be a neutral country and a voice for justice and reason in the world. Unfortunately, after the Whitlam sacking, both sides of politics have learnt that you can’t take on the power of the US. It would take a true leader to achieve a level of Australian independence in today’s world, also becoming a republic in the process.
Another problem I see today is our stand on the environment. As long as both sides of politics are beholden to the polluting mining industries that fund them, we will not realise our true potential. We have unlimited solar energy potential here; one example is the project near Katharine which will export power to Singapore. Yet the government insists on opening up more coal mines and destroying our agricultural land by fracking and gas extraction. We are destroying ourselves in the process, going against nature. The same applies with increased land clearing and the resulting drying up of the climate, and the annual bushfires.
What changes have you seen in Australia over your lifetime?
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