Election is done, now to focus on what matters

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Most comment on the federal election has naturally concentrated on how it was won and lost: how votes were gained here and lost there, how people were consoled or devastated by the result, and how the parties will respond in future elections.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, flanked by his wife Jenny Morrison, delivers his victory speech at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth on 18 May 2019 in Sydney. (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)It is time to return to the more important question of what matters for the future good of Australia. This is what governments and political parties are bound by tradition and by their own official rhetoric to serve. This, not electoral success or failure, should govern their actions and our response as citizens to their governance.

The most urgent claims, those by which our grandchildren will judge us, are first that we should pass on to them a habitat in which they can live without anxiety. This demands addressing climate change responsibly. It will require strong leadership endorsed by all parties and shapers of public opinion.

The second priority is to address the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few to the detriment of others and to the national welfare. This is the legacy of a destructive economic ideology that threatens the cohesion of Australian society.

To respond to these claims will not be easy. Necessary change will involve some people and groups in loss. It will also run against the strong emphasis on the competitive individual which puts under pressure the bonds between individuals and groups everywhere, whether between nations in trade and security, between business and workers, shareholders or between different minority groups. Ultimately, all is reduced to the art of the deal, based on superior power. This mindset, whether expressed in the abuse of power or in attempts to overthrow it, leads to popular mistrust in government and any appeal it might make to a larger, national good.  

Because of the strength of this attitude the third priority facing government is to commend and embody the commitment to the common good, meaning that individuals seek their own good in the good of all people. It implies that the demands of individuals and of groups, whether defined by class, age, gender, wealth, race, occupation or anything else, need to be viewed and argued for as contributing to the good of the whole society.

It implies that all that we do carries with it a social license. The license for drinking coffee in the street involves placing the cup in a bin and not throwing it on the ground. The social license for running a bank involves acting with respect to clients, to the environment and to ethical values.  The social license for governing the nation involves respect in human relationships, respect for the rule of law, avoiding conflict of interest, and placing the common good above the good of the party in making decisions.

 

"The practice in the recent election of offering huge bribes to crucial electorates and the refusal to increase the scandalously low Newstart undermined any claim to concern for the common good."

 

Social licenses are required because human beings matter: not because they are wealthy, white, liberal or right-thinking, but simply because they are human and because they depend on one another to live human lives.  For that reason the fourth priority facing government is to support the most disadvantaged and disregarded in society. In Australia these include especially Indigenous people and those who seek protection from persecution.

In a society based on competition between individuals, the death and destitution of others is of no concern. In their personal lives and attitudes most people realise that this attitude is indecent. They are compassionate. Governments must commend and embody responsibility for responding to human beings as human in all levels of society.

The difficulty of embodying a concern for the common good and respectful relationships in government and Parliament is large. But it is the more necessary because the current conduct of politicians in public debate and in private conduct, and the subjection of good governance to satisfying party political demands, has so deeply eroded confidence in government.

The practice in the recent election of offering huge bribes to crucial electorates and the refusal to increase the scandalously low Newstart undermined any claim to concern for the common good. These things may win a seat for a Party but they further diminish respect for politicians and government.

To meet large challenges always demands personal conversion. That is true of governments as well as of individuals.

 

 

Andrew HamiltonAndrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.

Main image: Prime Minister Scott Morrison, flanked by his wife Jenny Morrison, delivers his victory speech at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth on 18 May 2019 in Sydney. (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, Election 2019, Scott Morrison

 

 

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Existing comments

Surely a critical aspect of climate change to be addressed is the doomsday mentality being foisted on our young, whose relative inexperience makes them particularly susceptible to disaster narratives and their exploitation for ideological purposes - for instance, the one noted in Ross Howard's response to Jeff Sparrow's "What went wrong for Labor" (ES, 20/5)?
John RD | 22 May 2019


John RD, Well I went back and read it. Hmm. OK, one shouldn't set out to frighten the young, but one ought tell them the truth. They have the advantage of being less wrapped up in the near meaningless political dialogue we have in Australia about the 'economy' and the 'right' and 'left'. Pope Benedict and Pope Francis have told it. Francis was backed by a Council that included 21 Nobel prize winners in the hard sciences, as well as another that included top social scientists. I am well versed in science and statistics, logic and ethics and have followed many sides of the debate closely for years. I'm not frightened; I am dismayed. Humans dealt effectively with the threat of the ozone hole, but the current crisis has the 'frog in hot water problem'. Smart kids have got a bit to learn, but they can also spot adults weighed down by their own baggage. Watch adults who are freed from deep, selfish agendas by a spiritual retreat that has nothing to do with climate change but with the call of Christ. You can then see what Francis is talking about.
Paul Fyfe | 22 May 2019


However, in contrast to the John before me. I do in fact believe that the climate/ecological crises is/will become one of our greatest moral issues, and I think it is good that the young are allowed to respond, because I believe it is so imperative . But of course as Andrew righty points out, it’s intrinsically tied with all the social issues mentioned in his article. They can’t be separated really.
John | 23 May 2019


Third Industrial Revolution - Jeremy Rifkin. We are lagging way behind countries which are already phasing out the Second Industrial Revolution with its dependence on fossil fuels. As well as saving the planet it just makes sense to use free power The fossil fuels are losing their value as they desperately ramp up their haste to sell before the competing renewables make them worthless
M McGowan | 23 May 2019


Thank you. A government of and for the competitive individual is not of and for the common good. Looks like, in the handful of years to come, more of us will have the opportunity to learn this the hard way: in crisis.
Andrew McAlister | 23 May 2019


"Surely a critical aspect of climate change to be addressed is the doomsday mentality" held by many, and propagated by too many activist organisations in their attempt to get politicians, business leaders and all of us citizens, to take notice. The worst case scenario generally propagated necessarily generates climate change denial by many in government and business as a way of refusing to seriously consider the large scale work required to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. Communities in land-based industries - pastoral, agricultural, horticultural - need support to change what they produce or how they produce, as average temperatures rise (or fall in some areas), and rainfall reduces (or increases in other areas). Necessary changes are not restricted to primary producers, but will include adjustment in product transport systems, downstream processing industries, markets and general commercial logistics. For many involved, appropriate retraining will be required. Similar changes will necessary in the fishing industry as cold water fish move further south and tropical water fish increasingly migrate to sub-tropical waters. Local governments and State planning departments have already been put on notice that they have to very soon review land-use zoning in face of sea-level rise. These changes, if commenced now on a broad scale, can be spread out over a relatively comfortable timescale - gradual adaptation in line with gradual climate change. Ecologists are better placed than I am to consider action required to mitigate climate change impact on natural species, both plant and animal. Gradual adaptation, not doomsday.
Ian Fraser | 23 May 2019


Andrew Hamilton calls for more respectful political relations because our politicians are lost in political rhetoric and buying votes by handouts. Yet interestingly Andrew’s article made two clear political demands: 1. the new Government must fix climate change; 2. address ‘the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few the legacy of a destructive economic ideology that threatens the cohesion of Australian society.’ Out of 195 nations in the world, Credit Suisse 2018 Global Survey tells impressively, Australia has the fourth lowest inequality in the world. The University of Melbourne 2018 HILDA Survey tells poverty in Australia has declined for 15 years straight. 2019 Dept of Social Services stats tell us the Federal Govt spends a generous $175 Billion of social welfare which provide the primary source of income for 2.3 million Australians and consumed one-third of the Federal Budget. Despite this amount, Andrew contends ‘In a society based on competition between individuals, the death and destitution of others is of no concern.’ Could Andrew take us beyond the broadness of his two demands and high generalisations, to the evidence he proffers, and so deepen respectful discourse in the debate on these issues?
Barry | 23 May 2019


Andrew mentions a society based on competition, where there is little or no concern for the "other". It is so deeply embedded within our world that it is hard to shake free from its yoke. A place to loosen its hold may be in schools where in some competitive systems and practices foster selfishness and individualism rather than cooperative endeavors and team approaches.
Celia | 23 May 2019


Further to Ian Fraser's comment, the phenomenon of travel could be addressed. With all the advances in communication technologies, think of teleconferences for necessary meetings. Then why not some kind of tax on tourists who have little to do but take to the skies, arrive, have a look and then say to themselves, 'what do we do next' before we fly home, from Bali and other merely escapist destinations.
Noel McMaster | 23 May 2019


Paul Fyfe, I accept climate change as a scientific fact and its place in the education of the young, but I don't accept its equation with "global warming", doubting as I do that the latter is cause for alarm, and rejecting its propagation as such - especially among children. The ostracising of prominent scientists who contest the regnant "global warming" narrative serves only to further my doubts. It's good we agree on not telling lies to the young, but in the climate debate I think far from the whole truth has been told about the economic agenda of Christiana Figueres and her fellow travellers. If it is a question of economics - as Figueres would have it - as with other of its ideological aspects (e.g., the family), Marxism's record of failure speaks for itself. Its own apologists of the Frankfurt School recognised this long ago when they embarked on cultural revolution and set about the radical deconstructing of society's mainstay institutions - particularly the legal, academic, social and religious. I recommend the late Italian philosopher and political commentator Augusto del Noce's (a contemporary of Antonio Gramsci) lucid analysis of this process.
John RD | 23 May 2019


There are none so blind as those who will not see. There is 97% consensus of experts that climate change is real and that humans are causing global warming. Read the evidence here https://skepticalscience.com/ and dump the myths. There is no evidence that warming will be gradual. There is concern that melting of the arctic ice cap with global warming will accelerate global warming due to release of more carbon dioxide and the more potent methane. Read here: https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2785/unexpected-future-boost-of-methane-possible-from-arctic-permafrost/. Even if you still refuse to believe the evidence and scientific consensus, common sense would tell you that if we ignore the evidence and it is correct, we are risking catastrophic consequences for life on Earth. If we accept he evidence and work towards having less impact on the planet by reducing use of fossil fuels, then if we are wrong, we will still end up with a better environment. Even Pope Francis is urging us to better care for the environment.
Frank S. | 23 May 2019


Andrew Hamilton, the author of this article and frequent contributor to Eureka Street tells ‘the most urgent claims, those by which our grandchildren will judge us, are first that we should pass on to them a habitat in which they can live without anxiety. This demands addressing climate change responsibly.’ Paul Fyfe in a comment on this article tells he has man-made global warming nailed: ‘I am well versed in science and statistics, logic and ethics and have followed many sides of the debate closely for years.’ He suggests Pope Francis agrees with him as do the Pope’s ‘21 Nobel prize winners in the hard sciences.’ These are but two of many who tell they know global warming is occurring, and it is man-made. But virtually never do you read what scientific grounds warmists use to reach their conclusion. What say Andrew and Paul share with Eureka Street readers the three primary scientific reasons that lead them to conclude beyond all reasonable doubt, man-made global warming is occurring. This will enable the many who are agnostic or skeptical, to ponder further own calculations.
Barry | 23 May 2019


A significant political and social event evokes serious comment and reflection. So thanks, Andrew. Among your top issues may I respectfully suggest another. It is a meta matter sitting across many other issues and embedded in responses to your article. It is the matter of epistemology, logic, truth, proof, lying, say what you like and repeat it until it looks like truth. The matter could be expressed as safeguarding or reassessing or drawing up new rules about what is claimed and used to persuade. This is the nub of the social license. It is how we deal with one another. I don't know how you fix it but maybe first we need to acknowledge we are in Babel, where different languages make it impossible to relate, build or survive. The comments reflect this. So that even whether an issue is a priority is a matter of truth,credibility or ignorance not logic or values analysis. That is where the discussion went;no added suggestions, no international matters. Just what can we believe and how do we communicate that to the next generation. Seriously we have a problem with the currency we use to communicate. Just one further point. Scientists are not skilled in communicating to non scientists. T hey need to have the humility to get specialists to help them tell their story.
Michael D. Breen | 24 May 2019


“The issue is never the issue” wrote a 60s radical. Wisdom is needed to distil truth. In 1790, in “Reflections on the Revolution in France”, Edmund Burke accurately predicted bloodshed long before the September Massacres of 1792 and the Terror. Catholic popes studying socialism were able to predict it would only produce a “Harvest of Misery” (1901) Karl Marx’s beguiling promise of a Workers Paradise seduced millions. But his poetry revealed the envy, jealousy and hatred inside his heart: “Worlds I would destroy forever, Since I can create no world, since my call they notice never…Then I will be able to walk triumphantly, Like a God, through the ruins of their kingdom.” Dismiss the lofty rhetoric of Democratic Presidential candidates. But poetry that describes a thrill of deliberately running over two children, “I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head” (Beto O’Rourke), might be more revealing. Burke was well aware of the shape-shifting capacity of human perfidy: “Seldom have two ages the same fashion in their pretexts and the same modes of mischief. Wickedness is a little more inventive. Whilst you are discussing fashion, the fashion is gone by. The very same vice assumes a new body.”
Ross Howard | 25 May 2019


Two of the problems discussing current social issues, such as global warming, is that so many proponents of social change are so doctrinaire and there are vested interests involved. Safe nuclear energy is now a real alternative to renewables but I suspect many Greens would reject it out of hand. There are many investors, such as, I believe, Simon Holmes a' Court, who have an interest in the renewable sector. This is still very much a political issue and needs to be sorted out intelligently. My own belief is that the glue needed to hold our society together and move it ahead is the same glue which held together Ancient Hebrew society; Medieval Christendom; the Muslim Empires; Buddhist society and similar. There needs to be a real, deep spiritual return to base which includes atheists and agnostics as well as believers of all sorts. It needs to be a gentle revolution, not a violent one.
Edward Fido | 27 May 2019


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