If, for the purposes of some sick and twisted thought experiment, you were to design policies that would ensure the long-term failure of a wealthy, developed nation, you wouldn’t have to look farther than Australia’s current recipe for future disaster. I’m not trying to be provocative, but the warning signs are too bold and flashy to ignore. Let’s just run through some of the main ones:
1. As the lambasted and thoroughly flawed 2015 Intergenerational Report clearly demonstrates, our current government has no idea about the future threats of climate change. Dragged kicking and screaming into only a symbolic recognition of some ‘distant and currently irrelevant problem’, the Abbott-oir and his intergenerational criminals are well known for killing the carbon-pricing scheme, dismantling the Department of Climate Change, pulling out of major international talks on climate-change mitigation and installing a half-arsed, ineffective policy that will do nothing to stem our emissions. Combine that with comments like “coal is good for humanity“, and it’s easy to see how our current leaders have little idea about the future mess they’re creating.
2. Not content just to kick the shit out of any meaningful climate action, our government has also turned its back on any renewable energy target, and facilitated the fossil-fuel barons to dig more coal out of the ground. While South Australia’s Royal Commission on the nuclear fuel cycle is a welcome candle in the climate change-mitigation darkness here, it is far from becoming a national priority any time soon.
3. As has been well documented, the Abbott-oir ship of fools has also done whatever it can to turn back decades of environmental protections in less than six months of taking office. Everything from opening up national parks for exploitation, failing to protect marine sanctuaries, limiting environmental checks to promoting logging in World Heritage Areas, there is little room for hope that our crumbling environmental system will improve at all in the near to long term.
4. Australia’s manufacturing capacity is infamous for becoming almost non-existent; instead, Australia’s commodities rely on the being one giant farm and mine. In essence, we do our damnedest to sell our dirt overseas so that other nations can make things out of it and sell it back to us at many times the original price. It’s as though we’re trying our hardest to become a third-world country.
5. More and more of our land is being opened up to foreign ownership. Just check out this disturbing map produced by Crikey. Not only are we happy to sell our raw resources for a tuppence, we’re happy to sell the land out from under our feet as well.
6. In our best efforts to ape the Americans, we are becoming more and more of a plutocracy. From corrupt politicians accepting bribes from industry, to massive party contributions, it’s safe to say that we now live in one of the best democracies money can buy. In other words, we don’t have a democracy. Why don’t we have a national-level independent commission against corruption?
7. Australia has an appalling and worsening educational system that is ill-prepared to produce citizens that can solve the problems of the future. As the current government tries to divest as much as possible from education, science and technology, we risk having future populations that are unable to address huge future challenges.
8. Australia is already over-populated (and not underpopulated, as some luddites claim). Our population has nearly doubled since 1970, and we’re on track to double again within the next 30 years (assuming the same rate of immigration that we’ve seen over the last decade). We live one of the driest, least-productive continents on the planet, and so our carrying capacity is severely limited by our inability to provide even for ourselves. One only has to look at the ubiquity of overseas products on our shelves, and the increasing penetration of foods from overseas (sometimes with horrendous health consequences), to notice that there is a problem. I challenge anyone in Australia to go even one month without buying something made in China.
It is quickly turning in the perfect storm of bad policies, short-termism and inevitable long-term failure. If we can’t change things soon, our fate will be sealed, and it won’t be a pretty one. I suppose the only silver lining here is that once the shit truly does hit the fan, we might be motivated enough to lift ourselves out of apathy and do something right for a change. I just hope it won’t be too late.