Dear Mum, they say we are ‘living in the age of entitlement'...
Guest blogger Caroline’s letter to her mother expresses the feelings of many.
In my mind’s eye, I see you here, walking along the Pittwater shore. The bay is grey today, but the sun is beginning to reach through the clouds to brighten the water and the wind is soughing through the Casuarinas. I have come to that finger of land near the school and to my surprise the anti-tank pyramid is still here, marking the war you fought.
I used to sit in this spot and wonder how your generals must have thought the West Head gun battery would not hold, hence these defences down the bay. In my childish way, I imagined myself a coast watcher, reporting on enemy movements and decoding signals when the next war came along.
Then when a flyer came in my letterbox about coal seam gas mining in the water catchment I realised that an invader of a different kind was attacking our way of life. It’s really beautiful down the coast where I live now, but the mining corporations want to drill in the Woronora Dam area. This dam and four others all along the escarpment supply water to Wollongong, Sydney and the Southern Highlands. They know that any drilling activity in the catchment could poison the water, yet it seems our parliament and courts, our water board won’t protect the dams any more.
Things are getting worse by the day. The government is so extreme and they are trying to implement a budget which benefits large corporations, yet will utterly diminish the lives of hundreds-of-thousands of people. They say we are ‘living in the age of entitlement’ because we expect our taxes to pay to support us through difficulties like unemployment and sickness and pay for education and retirement. Only people who worked their whole life in an office could think it is OK to stop people from retiring until they’re 70. And all the while the corporate tax rate is being reduced.
Sadly Mona Vale Hospital is under threat. Your community on the peninsula is still fighting to save it, but it looks grim. The government want to sell the hospital off to developers, and spend the revenue on a private hospital at Frenchs Forest. I remember how important the hospital was to you. You told me the story of how just after the war the community started to mobilise to build the hospital, and the big parade we went to through Mona Vale on opening day. It must have been such a relief knowing it was there, bringing up young children in the funnel-web capital of the world.
They started blaming your generation for the high cost of health care years ago, and now your children – the baby boomers – are described as “unaffordable” as we start to hit 60. I don’t understand this. In 1946 when our troops were home there were thousands of young men in need of health care for debilitating war conditions, as well as a boom in births. The government didn’t talk about not being able to afford the care of the disabled and mentally ill servicemen, or tell pregnant women to fund their own care. They just opened rehabilitation hospitals, built maternity wards and opened schools. After six years of war, yet they still managed to find the resources needed. Because that was part of the social contract the government had with the people.
But here we are now, the Treasurer, Hockey crying about a ‘budget emergency’ when since 1964 our economy has grown by a factor of 320% (and that’s after adjusting for population and inflation). Over three times better off, but they tell us there is no money for health care for the very generations who grew this wealth.
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