An open letter to Australia’s political leaders….
I want to take this opportunity, on the eve of an election, to tell you – the political leaders of this nation – about the country that I want to be a part of. And I want to tell you about the kinds of political leaders that I want leading us into our future.
I am greatly concerned about our environment. I’m not a climate scientist, and can’t be sure either way about the reality of man-made global warming. But I do know I don’t like the idea of digging up coal and oil, and burning it to run our country and filling the air with toxic emissions. I want a government that is serious about exploring alternative, low emissions sources of energy. I want a government that will at least double our investment into solar, wind, tidal, geothermal energy research. At least double.
I want to be part of a country that takes bold decisions on every-day actions that will help protect our environment from degradation and destruction. I want plastic bags banned. Excess packaging penalised. Heavy polluters levied with fines big enough to put them out of business. I want public money put into low pollution mass public transit systems rather than freeways and car-parks.
I want to be a part of a country that thinks long term – not just chopping down trees or digging rocks out of the ground and selling parts of Australia to the highest bidder. I’m not even all that interested in making more money out of those rocks or trees through a profits or resource rent tax. I want us to be taking into consideration the Australia that will be left for our children, their children and the generations to come.
I want to be part of society that is founded on the principles of justice and compassion, principles so well encapsulated in the old Aussie slogan “a fair go”. That needs to apply most of all to those who cannot fend for themselves, the poor, the marginalised, those who seek aslyum on our shores.
I want asylum seekers cared for on our shores, with living conditions that would be acceptable to ‘the average Australian’ and with claims processed quickly and gently. I want us to double our intake of refugees, and to work hard at addressing the push factors that force so many to take to leaky boats to come here. I don’t want to be part of a country that turns around leaky boats, or tows them to offshore processing centres – in the process punishing those who have risked everything for ‘a fair go’.
I want to be part of a country that recognises its own history. Owns it honestly. Accepts it openly. And a country that works hard to find ways for indigenous Australians to have a strong voice, and a hopeful future. I don’t want to be part of a country where ‘we’ tell ‘them’ how they can join ‘us’. I want to be part of a country where we all listen to each other and work alongside one another to find ways forward for all.
I want to be part of a country that takes seriously its role as a global citizen. I want us to lead the way, even if it costs us economically. I want us to provide examples of radical, innovative approaches to global problems…even if it costs us jobs. I want us to give away the knowledge we acquire as we research renewable low emissions energy technology. I want us to be leaders in our region that care for our many small neighbours, offering them support, independence, dignity and compassion.
I want us to demonstrate our commitment to the Millenium Development Goals with action, not rhetoric. I want to be part of a country that meets its commitments, including paying aid at a minimum of 0.7% GNI. I want Australia, my country, to pay aid at that level from July 2011, not from 2012 or 2015 or 2020.
I want to be part of a country that respects its elderly citizens. That respect I want to demonstrate in my own approach to supporting elderly family members, but also through increased funding for aged care providers. I believe that the state of our aged care system is a profound indictment upon us as a community and a nation.
I want to be part of a country, a society, a community that is committed to transformation through innovation, creativity, compassion and justice. I am not interested in ‘steady as we go’ approaches, or in the triumph of economics over justice.
I am prepared to pay more tax, for better outcomes in these areas. I am prepared for government to cut funding in less important arenas to ensure that we do what is fundamental, rather than those things that are merely desirable.
I want leaders for our country. Not politicians. I want leaders who will be driven by vision, compassion, justice and not by opinion polls. I want leaders who will tell us when we, the majority, need to lift our game, raise our sights. I want leaders who believe enough in their vision, to try desperately to communicate it to us, rather than offering what the polls tell them will win the most votes.
I want leaders who believe in what Australia could be, rather than defensively protecting what we are.
I want leaders who will tell us why we should vote for them, where they want to take us, our country. I don’t want to hear leaders telling us why we shouldn’t vote for the opposition, descending to smutty, grubby, pathetic scaremongering. If you can’t tell me, sell me, convince me that where you want Australia to go is important, then you will not get my vote.
I do not want slogans.
You may consider me an idealist, my priorities unrealistic. But this is the Australia I want.
I want to be an Australian who is proud of 21st century Australia, who understands the vision for 22nd century Australia, and who is part of a nation that cares for those who cannot care for themselves, both within our borders and beyond, within our time-frame and beyond. I will pay for these things, and I will vote for them.
Will you take us there?