We’ve lost our way Australia

I’ve been living back in Australia for almost two months now, after living abroad for the last five years (thankfully I was physically absent for the entire Abbott era). Every time I return for a Christmas visit, I’ve always left again thinking to myself “This isn’t the Australia I know or remember.” Maybe it’s because I’m not present for the gradual changes, like seeing an ex who has let themselves go after finding the love of their life; or maybe it is because under the current government we have been taken back on decades of progress; or maybe it is because as a people we have been fed so much horseshit that we have forgotten the values of truly being Australian.

I remember growing up in Australia in the late 80s, 90s and early 2000s and what better day than Australia Day to remind us all.

Life. Be in it.

Life. Be in it. advertising on TV in the 90s reminded us all to be more active. However now we contrast that with ridiculous bicycle laws and lack of infrastructure for bikes. What would Norm think about this? He’d probably stay sitting on the couch for fear of his own safety or being fined $319.

It seems our biggest projects now are more toll roads, when we no longer have an automotive industry. We should be investing much more in bicycle infrastructure and public transport (which here in Victoria, isn’t public at all). More bikes means more exercise which leads to a healthier population and less strain on the health care system. Toll roads are privately owned roads for those who can afford them, it’s usually one person per vehicle which greatly adds to emissions. We are the biggest polluter per capita.

Neighborhood Safety House.

The house I grew up in was a Neighbourhood Safe House. Like many houses around the area we had the yellow triangle on the letterbox, so if any children ever felt in danger they could come in for safety. It also catered for victims of domestic violence, or anyone that felt in danger or threatened.

It was quite common to be a Safety House, or know of one near by. Yet, we are quite happy to turn a blind eye to our treatment of Asylum seekers, both adults and children, and lock them away in horrific conditions which even North Korea has criticised. We have moved from Safety Houses for children to torturing children in less than 20 years, where to next Australia? Does anyone give a shit anymore?

Around a decade ago, everybody knew us internationally as laid-back Aussies, who were always up for a drink, always good for a laugh, and always had great stories to share about where they had been naked. We were the life of the party, we kept everyone involved and people loved being around us. “Easy going” was our stereotype and we were pretty happy with it. Evidently we have become too laid-back.

The Great Barrier Reef

In 2014 an American asked me about the dredging of The Great Barrier Reef, which was an issue close to my heart, so I was able to converse with her about it. “Why can’t you guys stop it?” she asked, I had no answers to that.

In 2015, around the same time the Border Force Act passed, a German engaged me in a political discussion and had brought up our detention centres and human rights. “Imagine telling my grandfathers, who fought in WW2, this”, I thought to myself, “a German asking about Australia’s detention centres.” Meanwhile, back home, an indigenous footballer has the very unwanted racism spotlight, most of the country is focussed on that internal issue, and they will be for weeks to come.

In 2001 in my home town of Yarrawonga, the entire community and surrounding towns came together to march across the bridge in protest against the Federal Government’s proposal to import propellant and close the local factory ADI, which at the time, employed 380 people. The protest worked, the factory stayed and so did 380 families. The community stayed together.

After the East West Link controversy in 2014 Anti-Protest Laws were put in place here in Victoria. If you think something is worth fighting for, don’t. Want your voice to be heard? It won’t be. Where is the Aussie spirit in that?

I attended a protest against the TTIP in Berlin last year, there were an estimated 250,000 people there. I asked some friends back in Melbourne what was happening against TPP (the similar agreement that Australia is involved in)… Most of them hadn’t heard of it.

Photograph: Axel Schmidt/Getty Images

The TPP is an agreement that allows multinational corporations to sue governments and people for basically anything that affects their profits, increasing international surveillance, higher medication costs and many other things, none of which are good. This week there has been protests against the TPP in Chile, Peru and Argentina (who aren’t directly involved). Meanwhile in Australia, a footballer is in the spotlight for a 2012 medal he may lose, it is January 2016 (3 months until AFL season starts).

Support the locals, Dick Smith taught us. Why eat at a fast food chain when you can have a pie made by your next door neighbour at the local bakery? It was ingrained in our lifestyle that instead of buying from the Woolies and Coles duopoly that has been screwing Australian farmers for decades, buy from the local grocer for locally grown produce. The 90s were full of Australian Made, Australian Grown, Australian Owned labels.

Most Australians know the 1997 movie The Castle, where Darryl Kerrigan has to fight a court battle to save his working-class family home. It pulls the heartstrings of every Aussie, Darryl sticks it up the big guys, the underdog wins, all Australians love an underdog story. But yet, we are sitting back and letting property speculators buy subdivisions upon subdivisions of housing, keep it unoccupied only to increase value. Making us the first generation in Australian history, that most likely will not own a home.

On top of this instead of implementing a universal land tax to tax these property speculators, which in turn balances out the property values for first home owners and renters, we will most likely raise the GST to 15% later this year. Just in case you were having trouble keeping a good quality of life, more tax on things you need working-class!

We are currently paying 12 bucks for a pint of beer.

12 bucks.

No Room For Racism.

“For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share.” This line from our national anthem still stands true, we do have boundless plains to share, but we won’t. Enter: Reclaim Australia. How a bunch of men yelling at an empty block of land in Bendigo got so much media attention is beyond me. This country was built on immigration, by far the worst people to move over were the white ones.

It’s never been yours to reclaim.

During a recent visit to Cape Otway in Victoria, I learnt that we started Australian Telegraph links in 1853, by 1877 all major cities in Australia were linked and we were finally connected with the rest of the world. I thought it was an astounding achievement, a wire that ran from Darwin to Adelaide in 1872, The Overland Telegraph Line. Nearly 140 years later and our communication network is being held back by one company’s monopoly and an old dude who doesn’t want to lose profit on an outdated subscription service. We are still arguing about the internet that the rest of the developed world had in 2009. We won’t be catching up any time soon. When our children can’t access quality information in a timely manner we fall behind, and we will keep falling behind. Innovation you ask Mr. Turnbull? How? Tin cans and string?

The Snowy Mountains Scheme was started in 1949 that now provides 3.77 Gigawatts of hydropower, indeed our biggest green energy feat still to date. That was almost 70 years ago, long before anyone had heard of global warming. Now after it has been scientifically proven time and time again, the rest of the world is moving as quick as possible to become renewable, our leader are telling us renewable energy is “utterly offensive” and running marketing campaigns about coal.

These projects were completed with hard work and determination over many years to benefit not only those building them, but the generations and generations to come. More roads anyone?

Imagine where we could be if we can embrace even a little bit of the prosperous country we have come from. If instead of being afraid of people coming to us from abroad we are brave like the diggers and the immigration that followed them home. If instead of profiting big business only, we can invest in smart projects that save our land and help the generations to follow us get the education they need to innovate to keep us on the fore-front. If instead of driving the cost of living higher than it already is we can concentrate on people and their needs first.

That’s the Australia I imagined we would be. Let’s find our way again.

Happy Australia Day.

Note: A shout out to my father Des O’Meara on his Order of Australia Medal today. We are all very proud of you Dad.