It’s the poor sods in government who have to decide. Why? Because there isn’t an unlimited supply of our money, yet there often seems to be an unlimited supply of demands to spend it. So priorities have to be set and tough decisions made.
Too often we hear people complaining government refused to fund this or that. Rarely do we hear someone accepting that taxpayers’ money was being used for other things.
It’s the concept of “the government” being a group of outsiders.
When we are required to vote the process is portrayed as a fight to the death. Sure there is a winner, the party with the majority gets to form government. The others don’t go home and come back for another shot in three years. They are there, in Parliament, voting yay or nay on government proposals, amending them and sharing their views.
The person who thinks voting is an imposition is perhaps trying to separate themselves from the rest of us, to go it alone. But you can’t. You are a part of society whether you like it or not. The idea that you can vote, pay your taxes follow the rules and then go it alone is corrosive.
When you send your kid to school, go to the doctor, drive on the road you are using the fruits of your neighbour’s labour. There’s no escape from it, we are in this together.
The more we acknowledge it the better society we will be. We owe each other a lot more than paying our taxes. We could start with giving each other something that’s free. Respect. We see too little of it. The person born into impecunious circumstances may well assume most well-off people are lazy cheats and crooks. The well-off person may see someone in daggy clothes and a hoodie and assume they are about to be robbed. There’s hundreds of variations on the theme of pre-judging others in a negative way.
It isn’t hard to understand that every adult, irrespective of their background and current situation, experiences many of the same things we do. Personal heartache, family tensions, lost loved ones. The same pleasures of good friends, shared endeavours and more are experienced across whatever lines we draw.
Recognising what we have in common as humans and as the lucky ones who call Australia home is a simple thing. The more we do it, the better and stronger we will be.
Of course, there are differences. They can’t and shouldn’t be papered over. We’re not looking for equality of outcome but the much prized equality of opportunity is elusive, even out of reach, for many fellow Australians. That will not be fixed by finger-pointing and yelling across the town square. As I used to remind a fellow parliamentary colleague, “You don’t build yourself up by putting others down”. Sneering and mocking others for their views is all too common. It does nothing to build us up. It’s just another way of weakening society.
Tomorrow is Australia Day. The date itself is not particularly important to me. Governor Phillip arrived. Big deal. It wasn’t much of an invasion. What followed over time and in other places certainly had a dramatic and in large part negative impact on Indigenous Australians. It seems we are old enough and wise enough to recognise that. But that’s not the whole story.
On our national day we should focus on what’s been achieved, together.
Amanda Vanstone is a former Howard government minister and a regular columnist.
Amanda Vanstone is a former Howard government minister, and regular columnist.