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What matters after the election is decided

  • 04 July 2016


After a plodding election race the stewards have called for a photo. But it looks more likely that Turnbull will be able to form a government. If so, he will need to address the interlocking challenges we face in order to leave our children a world of possibility.

The hope will be muted because both major parties promised little or nothing to address them. But we can take heart that there is certain to be an independently minded senate that can consequently strike down bad policies, and keep asking what kind of an Australia we want.

Most election commentary focused on the economy. But the most important challenges facing Australia are about relationships, and first of all about the way in which we act to vulnerable and disadvantaged people. This is the thermometer by which we measure the nation's health.

In particular the government must address the fractured relationships between Indigenous Australians and the descendants of those who have occupied their land. The dealings of government with Indigenous people has been top down: solutions devised in Canberra to problems identified in Canberra are handed down to people whose faces are not seen and whose voices are not heard.

This is important, not only because the plight of Indigenous people is a festering wound but because the lack of respect here will certainly characterise the government's dealings with other vulnerable people: the unemployed, poor immigrants and the homeless.

Governments cannot force respect, but they can and do embody disrespect. We have seen this disrespect most evidently in the treatment of people seeking protection. Its fruits can be seen in Britain and the United States.

The second challenge is to give high priority to the needs of the environment. To hand on to our children a world fit for human beings we need to look beyond our own immediate needs and convenience. To tolerate the development of new coal mines and coal fired electricity plants would be a sign of a government's dereliction of duty.

The wider environmental effects of agricultural, town planning and mining proposals need to have a high priority when granting approval. But above all the rhetoric of the government must consistently reflect the magnitude of the danger that threatens our descendants, inviting Australians to treat it as a national priority.


"Turnbull promised to get down to business immediately after the election. But it cannot be business as usual."


The third challenge concerns our relationship to the