If I was looking for a metaphor for Australia this Australia Day long-weekend, I’d choose the barbecue. A place where lamb chops can sit alongside teriyaki chicken skewers and greek-style calamari, and where diners can enjoy the benefits of diversity.

Let's retain some of that good cheer throughout the year, eh? Pic: Tim Marsden

In my lifetime, this country has blossomed from a slightly gawky adolescent still unsure of its place in the world, to an independent nation. With little fuss we have built a peaceful and prosperous nation made up of people from across the globe without compromising the values of fairness and opportunity that has made us a beacon to migrants.

We are part of a young nation whose story is still being written. The issues that always pop up at this time of year: the flag, the republic, whether January 26th is the right day to celebrate our nationhood, are signs of healthy debate about our future.

The Australia Day weekend marks the end of the long Australian summer holidays, which give us a chance to relax, recharge and take stock of where we are.

This weekend is a chance for Australians to reflect how lucky they are and remember that most countries would swap problems with us in a flash.

If you look at the turmoil in Europe, the high rate of unemployment and the unresolved debate over the debt ceiling in the USA, you realise that Australia has, through a mix of luck, hard work and good planning, become an example to the world.

About 17,000 people will become Australians today at citizenship ceremonies across the nation. For many of them it is the achievement of a dream that began in a refugee camp or a crowded city slum. Letting them add their pages to the national story is what modern Australia is about.

I believe that the average Australian is smart enough to appreciate the things that make us special and retain a sense of perspective about our first-world problems.

So why have we been living through the sourest political climate in decades? A time where personal attacks and abuse are not just part of politics, but seem to be politics itself? The 2010 election was widely seen as the most dispiriting in years, but this year’s is shaping up to be even worse.

Politics and media seem to be locked in a damaging relationship that brings out the worst in each party. There is not much to inspire the average non-committed voter.

The “character wars” in Parliament, the abuse of the court process to attack Peter Slipper, the misogyny debate that generated more heat than light, and the grudging and adversarial nature of politics are feeding cynicism and apathy.

Media on both the left and the right have become more partisan, less open to diversity of views, more focused on surfaces, and more of an echo chamber.

New forms of social media have huge promise to create communities, allow people to discuss ideas in more depth, and to organise and agitate, but this promise is still yet to be fulfilled.

As a society we are still working out how to ensure that the newly expanded space created by social media has its own standards that allow for a civil debate which is a genuine exchange of ideas rather than just repeating fixed points of view.

Both mainstream and social media would rather inflame shallow controversies, and attention seeking mundanities than debate real issues.

Even the debate about an important issue like the Federal Budget became reduced to whether the Government could deliver a surplus. Budget debates should be about more than this year’s budget bottom line, and the size of the tax cut or handouts that are delivered.

Budget debates should be debates about Australia’s future. How do we best build essential infrastructure? How we pay for the disability insurance scheme that everyone agrees is long overdue? Can we afford the current level of subsidy for private health indefinitely, or do we need to focus on public hospitals?

How do we balance the needs of an ageing population against the duty to give our children the best possible education to compete in the 21st century? Is having two-fifths of our population in insecure forms of work good for society in the long-term? How do we help manufacturing and other industries adjust to the high dollar?

These are issues that will not disappear at the end of a 24-hour media cycle, but will stay around to shape the lives of future generations.

There is a dissonance between political leadership and views of ordinary people. Every day Australians retain their willingness to listen to other ideas, to compromise and to admit when something is not working, to try and understand other points of view.

They retain a belief in fairness, reward for effort and the duty of a society to help those who are victims of bad luck.

I hope our politicians and influential media figures have taken the time to talk to them over Christmas break, and try and make this year a little better than the one we’ve just had.

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87 comments

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    • Super D says:

      04:55am | 28/01/13

      This year will be a lot better than the last. There will be an election and the Gillard government will be consigned to history. That warm glow around the nation isn’t global warming, it’s anticipation. When Gillard is gone we’re ginna be partying like its 1999.

    • christian Real says:

      07:40am | 28/01/13

      Super D
      drowing your sorrows is more like it,those who vot for Abbott and his conservative party will rue ever doing so should they get elected

    • acotrel says:

      07:45am | 28/01/13

      So do you believe that Tony Abbott has a grasp of the concept of continual improvement or his he still an ideologue focussed on helping the top end of town and his own career, and leaving the dirty unwashed to rot ? It is not 1999, it is post October 2007.

    • ZSRenn says:

      08:05am | 28/01/13

      Dear oh dear I just read a nonpartisan article here and thought “great piece without one sentence of Abbott bashing.” Enter stage left Bill and Bob to spoil my day and to do exactly what Ged had just been saying needs to be taken out of the politics debate in Australia.

      Did you even read the article boys or did you just start bashing?

    • Nick says:

      08:06am | 28/01/13

      acotrel..come out of the 50’s mate .The dirty unwashed are the new middle class with aspirations for gaining wealth.Abbott can do no worse than the worst government and 2PM’s this country has ever witnessed.
      The sooner the better!

    • acotrel says:

      08:40am | 28/01/13

      ’ the abuse of the court process to attack Peter Slipper,

      Where did this come from ? And it is still unresolved, except that your boy says we should ‘get over it and move on’.

    • acotrel says:

      09:07am | 28/01/13

      ‘Abbott can do no worse than the worst government and 2PM’s this country has ever witnessed.’

      Is this a prophesy ?  I suggest you should take a rational look at the likelihood of that being the truth. On this forum, I said the other day that I like Dick Smith.  I know comparisons are odious, but I invite you to make the comparison between him and Abbott.

    • Mickey T says:

      10:23am | 28/01/13

      Mr Abbott’s mini election campaign launch on the weekend was wonderful, it was just so…so American, it reminded me of a mini tea party gathering. I’m also looking forward to his speech to the press club on Thursday, should be enthralling, because he is such a good speaker, can’t wait. Even better news, Mr Hockey has promised budget surpluses for the entire life of their new government. Good times ahead for all…ho ho ho.

    • Number Cruncher says:

      10:30am | 28/01/13

      @ ZSRenn, did you even read the article? Couldn’t be more partisan if it tried!

    • acotrel says:

      10:38am | 28/01/13

      Abbott is to speak at the Press Club next Thursday ?  I will mark my calendar.  Should be almost as good as watching an old episode of ‘I Dream of Jeannie’.

    • Rose says:

      12:28pm | 28/01/13

      Number Cruncher, can you please point out the explicitly partisan bits, I seemed to have missed them?
      This is actually a well written piece that asks some very important and relevant questions. I just wonder how long Australians will tolerate the bottom of the barrel leaders that we are currently stuck with…on all sides!!

    • Number Cruncher says:

      12:49pm | 28/01/13

      - references to character wars and abuse of court process to attack peter slipper..this is labor’s view of the issue
      - misogyny debate - what debate was that again? The outright baseless character assassination of Abbott debate? The debate where labor showed its true, hypocritical, double standard nature while attacking Abbott for something he is not while defending slipper for the same?
      - reducing debate over budget to whether labor would deliver a surplus? Again this was Labor’s fault for claiming they would deliver a surplus in an environment where everyone else but Labor could see it was impossible.

      Need I continue…?

    • Super D says:

      04:33pm | 28/01/13

      @ Number Cruncher - well said. Ged is a highly skilled propagandist.  Actually whoever writes these pieces for her is.  Presenting a highly partisan view as an uncontested statement of fact is propaganda 101.

    • nihonin says:

      05:47am | 28/01/13

      Imagine Ged, you are standing in front of a two way mirror, we the voters are standing in front of it as well, only difference is, you are standing on the wrong side of it.

    • nihonin says:

      06:58am | 28/01/13

      ‘we the voters’ the unaligned,

      Is how it should have read.

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      06:35am | 28/01/13

      We are citizens of a truly lucky country. Australia is a paradise on Earth and we can lose it if we not wake up to the fact that we live in the most dangerous neighbourhood in the World.

      The World outside Australia is really nasty and we watch with sadness what is happening in the civil war in Syria and Mali. But these cruel and bitter contemporary conflicts conflicts are very small events in history. Hitler caused more than 50 million dead. The Japanese army caused up to 30 million dead in China in the period 1937 to 1945. I know some people from a region in China where the Japanese army practiced biological warfare by creating plagues which they hoped would spread up the Yangtze River.

      As citizens we all need to do our little part to defend Australia.

      Here I am saddened by the Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young. These few days she is off again trying to confuse the issue of boatpeople with refugees. As a Greens she should know the Mother of All Environmental Problems, the continued global population growth and the looming threats to the survival of Australia as a nation. She should clearly be branded as pro-boatpeople and as an ANTI-REFUGEES Senator. If we are talking about desperate refugees we should do whatever we can to help the truly desperate refugees in Syria, Mali and the Rohingyas of Myanmar. We must not allow the boatpeople to hijack our humane refugees program. The ALP Govt has even stolen about 350m dollars from our foreign aid to fund the boatpeople.

    • cowl says:

      07:20am | 28/01/13

      +1 for the last paragraph, Dr B S Goh. 

      This best describes the Trendy Refugee groups which claim to represent refugees.

    • Mik says:

      07:35am | 28/01/13

      Indeed Russia and China through the UN could have done much to influence Syria so another lot of refugees were not made. Asylum seekers for refugee status and refugees are by definition people who did not want to leave their homes and countries but were forced to. What they want is their own countries to be safe enough to live in. These countries are still liveable if safe.
      . What the whole world must plan for is those migratory groups which must move because of the issues overpopulation will bring - they will move because their countries are not liveable because there is nothing to sustain existance even at its most basic.
      These are different from theof the presson will bring

    • acotrel says:

      07:50am | 28/01/13

      DrB S Goh
      Again with the paranoia ?

      ‘These few days she is off again trying to confuse the issue of boatpeople with refugees. ‘

      A minute ago the conservatives’ semantics were about the ‘carbon tax’ and the price on carbon.

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      08:15am | 28/01/13

      @ acotrel. I am not a conservative. I had in fact handed out how to vote cards for the Greens Party and some of my best political friends were ALP leaders. I was in fact nominated by a Labor State Govt to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters in Canberra and I did so for two years.

      I had at great risk to my own life personally helped thousands of very hungry refugees in an Asian country. As a community leader in Australia I had helped many of the boatpeople from Vietnam and Cambodia. The boatpeople from Indochina were very different from the current crop of boatpeople. They sought refuge in an Asian country and lived in UN refugee camps some for many years and then they were selected to come to Australia.

      The current crop of boatpeople went to safe countries before boarding boats to gate crash into Australia.

      We are a high cost country and we should not set up expensive UN camps for refugees in Australia. We are spending billions of dollars a year on these boatpeople. The UN is asking for just $41 million to help the really desperate refugees the Rohingyas and that is where we should spend our limited money. Read how desperate the Rohingyas are at: http://edition.cnn.com/2012/11/25/world/asia/myanmar-rohingya-violence-rivers/index.html?hpt=hp_c3

      Please do a little maths on our money which we can spare and use it wisely to help the really desperate refugees in the world.

    • acotrel says:

      08:46am | 28/01/13

      DR B S Goh
      ‘We are spending billions of dollars a year on these boatpeople. ‘

      How much of that money is paid to local businesses, and stays in the economy providing useful work helping unfortunates in need, and in the process helping to build a useful population base in an almost empty country ? What you are worrying about is not worth worrying about.

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      09:02am | 28/01/13

      @ acotrel. You are entitled to your opinion on the boatpeople creating business in Australia and I respect them.

      My task is to convince the majority of Australians that we must stop totally the boatpeople hijacking our humane refugees program. This has come about because of the entrenched belief in Asia that Australia welcomes boatpeople, thanks in part to people like Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

      To destroy this entrenched and widespread belief in Asia that Australia welcomes boatpeople Australia must learn from our big brother the USA which has since 1996 has a policy that no boatpeople is accepted in the USA. This USA policy works and so we should follow it and there is no need to try to re-invent the wheel.

      People like Senator Sarah Hanson-Young must take some direct responsibility if people die trying to come to Australia as boatpeople.

    • acotrel says:

      09:11am | 28/01/13

      Dr B S Goh
      ‘My task is to convince the majority of Australians that we must stop totally the boatpeople hijacking our humane refugees program.’

      Fear mongering doesn’t convince me, would you please present a rational argument.

    • acotrel says:

      09:17am | 28/01/13

      ‘The ALP Govt has even stolen about 350m dollars from our foreign aid to fund the boatpeople. ‘

      Dr B S Goh
      Diversion of foreign aid funds to solve a problem in Australia which has originated overseas sounds sensible to me.  Are you trying to say that foreign aid should be focussed on propping up corrupt regimes in the countries where most of the refugees come from, and not directed towards smoothing relations with our near neighbours ?

    • Steve Putnam says:

      09:29am | 28/01/13

      So you arrogantly and callously dismiss people like the Hazaras of Afghanistan, fleeing the gratuitous sadism of the Taliban, as “boatpeople”. Why are they not deserving of our aid? How dare you presume to know the reasons behind them giving up their life savings for passage in an over-crowded, un-seaworthy boat to Australia?
      What do refugees have to do with problems of over-population?

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      09:31am | 28/01/13

      @ acotrel. In any rational decision making one must clearly define the objectives, the desired outcomes, the dynamics of the problem and the control variables which are available.

      Thus I set out from the noble objectives of the majority of Australians to help the really desperate refugees in the World. Currently these really desperate refugees are in countries around Syria about 600,000 and heading to a million by the end of the year, see latest report today at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/world/middleeast/refugee-crisis-grows-as-violence-flares-across-syria.html?hp&_r=0&gwh=56721BBBE7ED88511ED157FEDF6AE8A4. Similar needs and cry for help for refugees of the Mali conflicts and the Rohingyas.

      Australia can spare a few billions a year to help refugees. So rationally where should spend them? On 20,000 boatpeople hijacking our humane refugee program or on the hundreds of thousands of refugees in Syria, Mali and the Rohingyas whose lives are in immediate danger.

      If you do not call this a rational calculated proposal I do not understand rational decision making.

    • acotrel says:

      09:52am | 28/01/13

      Dr B S Goh
      ‘Australia can spare a few billions a year to help refugees. So rationally where should spend them?’

      In Australia promoting growth and economic wellness by helping the refugees to become citizens, rather than into the pockets of the exploiters and criminals in countries outside of our control.

    • acotrel says:

      09:58am | 28/01/13

      Dr B S Goh
      When you give money to third world countries so that people can eat, without improving their education, all you do is perpetuate and exacerbate the over population problem.  Those that come here by boat are the survivors of an environmental stress, so are more worth helping.

    • Dr B S Goh, Australian in Asia says:

      10:08am | 28/01/13

      @ Steve Putnam. I feel a lot of sadness for the Hazaras of Afghanistan, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazara_people. They are victims of the conflicts in Afghanistan and and there are hundreds of thousand of Hazara refugees in Iran and Pakistan.

      Question Australia should answer is: Do we help a couple of thousand Hazaras into Australia or with the same amount of money we can help a few hundred thousands living desperate lives in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan.

    • Ted says:

      10:27am | 28/01/13

      @acotrel
      DR B S Goh
      ‘We are spending billions of dollars a year on these boatpeople.

      This is what is happening when “voting” means signing a blank cheque to the mob.

    • paul says:

      10:31am | 28/01/13

      @Goh. I hope you don’t dont believe Qatar and Saudi Arabia rode in on white horses and handed screaming villagers a gun to protect there family. From Go Qatar and Saudi (Saudi Arabians have the proud statistic of being the number 1 suicide bomber in Iraq, Naughty shiites running the country). Heavily funded anyone who would pick up a gun It was made easier by the new comrades in Libya, and as reported Jihadis brought through Egypt.
      Do you understand how popular Assad was to still be here after 2 and half years. As reported by pro Rebel Kotsev in Atimes Rebel commanders are complaining they are frequently battling Sunnis fighting with Assad and 1/3 of all sunnis still support him,. A number far higher before Assad tactically withdrew from the country side.
      Funny how the last few spheres of resistance to America all dying. Iraq, Libya, Syria, (wild guess lebanonon meaning Hezbollah, and iran might just follow).
      Refugees are coming big time buddy, and its gunna be way to much. America isn’t stupid they know exactly the fire there creating funding Jihadis. You realise the Islamists in Mali have been using High tech UN weapons shipped straight from Libya.

    • Stan says:

      10:41am | 28/01/13

      What about that article “Refugees missing more than passports”

      Silence is gold.

    • OverIt says:

      10:44am | 28/01/13

      Dr Goh, to me it couldn’t be clearer.  Why spend the money on those who have already reached a place of safety prior to coming to Australia, when that same money could help many, many more people whose immediate suffering is far greater than that of the boat people who are wealthy enough to be able to afford to pay people smugglers.

      Life savings?  On an annual wage of less than $1,000 per annum they have more than 10 times that amount in savings, after paying their daily living expenses?  That’s like that average Australian having $700,000 in ‘life savings’ after paying their daily living expenses out of an average wage.  Oh, and that’s by the age of early 20s too.  No, these boat arrivals, regardless of what the circumstances of their departure kay or may not have been, are very wealthy by comparison to the many, many more refugees sitting helplessly in refugee camps.

      What Dr Goh says makes sound humane and economic sense.  I do not understand why Acotrel takes the extremely callous view that the relatively wealthy, who can afford to pay people smugglers, are more deserving of Australia’s limited funds than those who can’t.

      In spite of Acotrel referring to anybody who doesn’t share his views as a ‘Liberal supporter’, the worst possible insult in his eyes, it seems to me that his own views supporting the relatively wealthy are more in line with those of Liberal supporter.

    • acotrel says:

      11:06am | 28/01/13

      ‘In spite of Acotrel referring to anybody who doesn’t share his views as a ‘Liberal supporter’, the worst possible insult in his eyes, it seems to me that his own views supporting the relatively wealthy are more in line with those of Liberal supporter’

      I don’t like ideologues who believe bullshit.  I know a few multimillionaires, and I believe our future depends on them, unfortunately they don’t step up to the plate and lead.  It is why I like Dick Smith, he might be a dick, but his ideas are often pretty good, and he sticks his head up to get shot at.

    • Dr B S Goh Australian in Asia says:

      11:10am | 28/01/13

      @ paul. Yes what you say confirms the fact that the world outside Australia is really nasty. The conflicts between Shiites and Sunnis is something that we best keep our distance by a mile.

      This is happening even in our most important neighbour, Indonesia, seehttp://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/01/17/sampang-shiites-still-face-pressure-convert-amnesty-int-l.html

    • acotrel says:

      11:14am | 28/01/13

      ‘What Dr Goh says makes sound humane and economic sense.  I do not understand why Acotrel takes the extremely callous view that the relatively wealthy, who can afford to pay people smugglers, are more deserving of Australia’s limited funds than those who can’t. ‘

      I think it might be because they’ve taken the risk of getting onto a leaky boat with the intention of achieving an ambition, rather than sitting rotting in a refugee camp. It is the same sort of thing as subsidising wealthy business owners because they have potential.

    • Dr B S Goh Australian in Asia says:

      11:18am | 28/01/13

      @acotrel. I am glad we both agree on one thing. We both admire and respect Dick Smith with his straight talking and no bullshit. Please read what he says about overpopulation in the world at http://dicksmithpopulation.com/

    • OverIt says:

      12:23pm | 28/01/13

      @Acotrel
      ” think it might be because they’ve taken the risk of getting onto a leaky boat with the intention of achieving an ambition, rather than sitting rotting in a refugee camp. It is the same sort of thing as subsidising wealthy business owners because they have potential. “

      Whether deliberately or otherwise, you are completely missing the point.  You cannot seriously think that anybody who had the means to do otherwise would choose to “sit rotting in a refugee camp”?  Which is Dr Goh’s point, that why should we spend billions rewarding the already relatively wealthy, rather than assist many more in greater need.  Who, by the way, may have as much or more ambition than any of the boat arrivals, just less money.

    • ZSRenn says:

      06:50am | 28/01/13

      MMM I don’t believe I am going to say this but ah cough, splutter, “Good article Ged”

    • Ben says:

      08:02am | 28/01/13

      >There is a dissonance between political leadership and views of ordinary people.

      I agree with you, Ged. I will also say there is a dissonance between union executives and the views of ordinary people.

      Not too long ago someone claimed on Punch that union delegates “work not for personal reward”. She also claimed that “corruption is of course not tolerated by the union movement.”

      A dissonance? You betcha.

      http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/unions-are-out-there-fighting-for-ordinary-aussies-everyday/

    • acotrel says:

      09:47am | 28/01/13

      Talking about unions and business excellence, would you rather own a German car or a Chinese one ? Just because the relationship between employers and unions in Australia takes a certain format, it doesn’t mean it always has to be that way.  If the LNP politicians believe they can change things by coercion they are being overly stupid.

    • Ben says:

      10:00am | 28/01/13

      Could someone please help me. I cut and paste Alcotrel’s response to my post through Google Translation to no avail.

    • acotrel says:

      10:15am | 28/01/13

      @Ben
      In Germany their industry is highly unionised yet they still manage to produce the best products, and justify the high wages of their workers. It is about culture and mindset. ‘Authoritarianism stifles creativity’.  I suggest that in Germany as in Japan the controls are internalised and not applied by coercion, but by motivating and leading. If Australia tries to compete with China and India making crap product in crap conditions, we must lose. The answer is to move up-market by copying Germany.

    • Ben says:

      11:14am | 28/01/13

      @acotrel

      Yep. As a former member of the Builders & Labourers’ Federation, I know all about culture and mindset.

    • ramases says:

      08:05am | 28/01/13

      The article itself was not to bad, but and a big but, there are some parts that made me laugh, cry or both. “Is having two-fifths of our population in insecure forms of work good for society in the long-term? How do we help manufacturing and other industries adjust to the high dollar?” Its not enough to have Manufacturing adjust to the higher dollar but adjust to the ever increasing demands for more money for less work. The reason so many people are in as you call it “insecure forms of work” is that employers know that if they employ full time staff they are hamstrung if they turn out to be duds because of the Labor governments supposed Fair Work regulations that are almost 100% on the side of the worker and 100% against the employer.
        You state that “Even the debate about an important issue like the Federal Budget became reduced to whether the Government could deliver a surplus” but this was spurred along by the repeated and emphatic assurances from the PM and the Treasurer that there would be a Surplus this year and lo and behold a major back flip when those two realised what the majority of people already knew so don’t blame Social media for the faults of those in charge.
        One of the main impediments to a united Australia is that a section of the population still clings to the view that this day should be called Invasion Day because of moments in history that happened well before you or I were born and all those clinging to this idea that their country was taken away from them.
        Yes it happened and its happened to countries since time began and will I suppose continue to happen but living in the past is only doing themselves harm and keeping this country divided because of a point in history which to tell the truth not many people really care about except that is the day the majority of Australians choose to celebrate the birth of this country and its major achievements.

    • ZSRenn says:

      08:16am | 28/01/13

      To be fair this is not the first time Ged has raised the issue of people being in insecure work, within the pages of The Punch. She has been discussing or trying to bring to light the high underemployment rate in Australian political debate for some time.

    • Mick says:

      08:43am | 28/01/13

      Under employment is a consequence of Union demands and regulations that lean too far in favor of the worker.Many business people would rather employ 3 or 4 workers to do the same job as one as it gives them more flexibility and control over their business.It is now virtually impossible to sack a staff member for whatever reason without having to front up to some court or tribunal and end up paying go away money.Small business can not afford this and reducing the hours of non performers is a get around that employers need to take.
      The unions constant push for more and more rights and money for less and less work has already ruined our manufacturers.The next to go will be small business and then you will reap what you sow.

    • ramases says:

      08:52am | 28/01/13

      I agree entirely Mick but its the Unions that have to come to the realisation that they are the ones who are really destroying the manufacturing industry and not the high Australian dollar. That excuse has been used time and time again but we all know that Union demands for more and more for less and less have pushed not inly the manufacturing Industry to the wall but many small businesses who now cannot afford to open on public holidays because of this antiquated rule that people who work on these days should be paid more. The new chant of the Unions should now be “TheWorkers United will wreck Australian businesses”.

    • acotrel says:

      09:01am | 28/01/13

      I has never been impossible to sack people.  Even before Workchoices, all that needed to be done was to offer an employee a month’s wages and suggest they might like to look for another job.  They almost invariably accepted the payment and thus stymied any claims they might have about unfair dismissal.  The Fair Work Act obviously now has changes in it that I am not aware of, however it was a reaction to Workchoices, so the conservatives did it to themselves if the unfair dismissal changes are unsatisfactory. Workchoices was counter productive LNP bullshit.  What is need is motivation, NOT coercion.  The biggest thing that sends businesses offshore, is the opportunity for businesses to be GRUBS and profit from appalling workplace conditions.  There are no OHS provisions written into the free trade agreements , only ISO9000 quality requirements.  So in Australia the law requires certain standards to apply to operations. In other countries it is open slather.

    • Kipling says:

      01:15pm | 28/01/13

      Um, under employment is not solely the fault of the union movement - sorry to burst that little misleading bubble.

      To be sure, the union movement (at least what the modern and often disconneceted union movement has become) is partly responsible.

      Extremely poor employment practices have also lead to this. That’s right. The employer absolutely must bare the brunt of some responsibility here. The point already made that you can’t get rid of someone if they turn out to be a dud highlights this. If your recruitment practices are thorough, efficient, effective and professionally based then you immediatley minimise the chances of getting a “dud”.

      Please note before leaping to key board to lambast me (or the point if you are going to be a realistic debator) I DO NOT say you will totally avoid the dud factore, there are those who present well on paper and interview very well and then just cannot do the actual work for a range of reasons.

      I am in the rather odd position of having employed and managed people and also been on the shop floor as a union delegate. In short, I have seen very clearly both sides of the “mirror”....

      Just as within the union movement there are those who are self obsessed, dishonest, ineffective and unhelpful, there are equally employers who can and do tick all of those boxes.

      To simply sit back and finger point lumping blame all in one corner is unhelfpful and to some degree either ignorant of reality (mayhap even disconnected) or deliberately dishonest and ideologically based. Seeing things as they are, albeit can be very challenging, but that is the most effcient way to then seek realistic solutions.

      Management and business can, if willing too, work well with unions. Yes that also takes union representation that is willing as well, but it can and does work out very well particularly in the longer term.

      Underemployement is in fact extremely bad for the country long term. Ged is right to try to make this a significant public debate. Being underemployed is not far from being unemployed in all reality. Yet, statistically this is not the case. That is, to my mind at least, very dishonest and not representative of the reality we all live with. Sadly, it is business and government who are the most complicit in maintaining this lie - for the main part, the union movement would have that issue addressed.

    • ramases says:

      03:41pm | 28/01/13

      Kipling, read your post with interest and thought to myself, here is someone who should be listened to but then at the last moment all the good intentions went out the door on the last sentence “Sadly, it is business and government who are the most complicit in maintaining this lie - for the main part, the union movement would have that issue addressed. “
        Oh dear, here we have a devote Unionist trying to sound as though they agree but in actual fact white anting in an most extreme way.
        I have also worked on the factory floor, I have worked as a foreman and I have had my own business and in all those times I have seen the worst of Unionism without any benefits for the employer. I have also seem Unionist who have lost their jobs come back as Contractors and miraculously turn out more work at a better quality and make at least twice the amount they made as just workers. This alone speaks volumes for the practices of the Unions and its members who get into a job and then know that they are so protected that they really don’t need to raise a sweat as it is impossible or almost impossible to sack them. I have seen first hand people who look good on paper, come in and work like Trojans until their 3 months probation period is up and then when assured of the job become such lazy bastards that they are in no way resemble the person who applied for the job.

    • Nick says:

      08:24am | 28/01/13

      I see the biggest problem in our politics today of today as being the wedge that continually driven by those who want to keep Australians divided and not united.It is in Labor’s (UNION’s) interest to keep that wedge firmly placed as it is the “us versus them” mentality that keeps them alive.
      Class envy and gender wars are part of the political agenda and when you really think about it it is so sad that a politically party would rather divide its people than unite them in order to regain power.

    • acotrel says:

      10:26am | 28/01/13

      What is the role of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the other equivalent state employer union bodies ? Perhaps you should tell it like it is rather than as the propaganda paints it ?

    • IJ says:

      08:33am | 28/01/13

      Insecure employment, as a long time employer why would I want to try and increase my business now with the extra load of Fairwork Australia, for a worker who is not going too well, once it was RSI which has now disappeared in favour of “stress”. Why would I bother.

    • Reacher says:

      08:50am | 28/01/13

      Still happy with the extra work load the GST imposed?

    • acotrel says:

      09:31am | 28/01/13

      In our town there is a dentist who originally came from Asia.  When Workchoices came along. he had a single woman who had three kids, working for him.  He employed an extra person, and split the job between the two people.  The single mother asked him why he split the hours and the pay, because she need her full wage .  His answer was ‘because I can’.  At a later date the dentist needed some equipment to be taken to another town 60Km away, and his employee asked me to carry it for him - I refused.
      ‘What goes around comes around’, especially in a country t own.

    • Achmed says:

      08:48am | 28/01/13

      A great non-partisan article.  This is journalism.  Certainly we see to many partisan articles from so-called journalists who in fact bring their brand of politics, Liberal/Labor, to slant their reporting to suit.
      It should be about reporting the facts with at best a summary that reflects their partisan view or the partisan view should remain in their own website

    • acotrel says:

      09:36am | 28/01/13

      Ged is so objective and non-partisan she almost sounds as though she was trained at the ABC.

    • TrueOz says:

      09:18am | 28/01/13

      “The Australia Day weekend marks the end of the long Australian summer holidays, which give us a chance to relax, recharge and take stock of where we are.”

      Damn Jed! Where’s your mention for the low-paid, temporary workers who keep the doors of Australian business open during this time when lucky, full-time workers go on holidays. You can’t have a good Commie rant without that - or have you changed over the break? No - it can’t be - Jed becoming like a normal Australian? That long summer break really is a miracle worker!

    • Bitten says:

      09:37am | 28/01/13

      Mmmmmm, I love the smell of rank hypocrisy in the morning…

      Ged, complaining about bias in the media? Presumably only The Australian is on your radar Ged, Auntie and every other paper clearly do God’s work promoting the ALP, irrespective of cock-up after cock-up and lie after lie.

      Ged, complaining about character attacks in politics? Presumably it’s only a problem when an ALP pollie is subjected to question. Attacking the leader of the Opposition on every aspect of his personal life (which is pretty hard when you think about it, father of three daughters, successful longterm marriage, volunteer firefighter - yep, just awful personal qualities in a politician Ged) is again, God’s work for the ALP and it’s union-cronies.

      And Australia Day marks the end of the holidays? For whom, Ged? For fat union-trough guzzlers? The employers of this world and the employees of the private sector have just been working Ged. There’s an economic downturn on and consumer confidence is in the crapper, so we just have to hold on and weather it. Small business owners don’t get holidays Ged, haven’t you heard?

      Tw*t.

    • acotrel says:

      10:06am | 28/01/13

      It is rather interesting that the ABC gives each side of politics approximately equal stick, however it is usually only the LNP acolytes who complain.

    • Ben says:

      10:14am | 28/01/13

      @acotrel

      “It is rather interesting that the ABC gives each side of politics approximately equal stick….”

      ...from a left wing perspective.

    • acotrel says:

      10:32am | 28/01/13

      Ben,
      I suggest that the LNP cannot stand rational and objective assessment of its political actions.  For example, the Brough/Asby v Slipper use of one homosexual to undermine another was beyond the pale in anyone’s language.

    • Ben says:

      03:00pm | 28/01/13

      @acotrel

      You may have a point about the LNP not accepting rational and objective of its political actions. I’ll never forgive Prime Minister Abbott for denouncing the “hate media” and setting up the Finkelstein review after The Australian revealed the Liberal’s Government’s disastrous “pink batts” scheme, its wasteful NBN debacle, and the so-called Building the Education Revolution.

    • Andrew says:

      04:50pm | 28/01/13

      Come on Ben everyone knows acotrel’s right, the ABC does give equal time. They spent 50% of there time criticising and ridiculing Abbott, and the other 50% sucking up to and praising Gillard. What could be fairer then that.

    • jeff says:

      09:43am | 28/01/13

      What holidays?

    • Al says:

      09:48am | 28/01/13

      My Ged you are well preserved for someone over 100 years old, as for the entire duration of my considerably shorter life I have been told our “gawky adolescence” was lost on the beaches and cliff tops of ANZAC Cove 98 years ago.

      You clearly aren’t living in Australia either as more and more compromises are made in our society to pander to the wants of the radical clerics and minority groups and any attempt at questioning their motives or position is getting shut down with chants of racism.

      Lucky? Lucky to have incredibly large untapped mineral resources that continually bails out ineffective governments.
      Lucky to have a government that sells our land out from under our feet so that foreign governments with greater foresight than our own can protect their own agricultural and mineral requirements.
      Lucky that the ACCC that was set up to protect the population from racketeering corporations has been seen to be an abject failure.
      Lucky that we prostitute ourselves to a foreign nation so they can build their own empire in the vain hope that we will be defended at a later date. 
      Lucky that our manufacturing industry has been flushed down the toilet to support “free trade” agreements that have rendered much of the work force unemployed and created generations of welfare dependant recipients.
      Lucky our political system is so short sighted it is incapable of building national infrastructure, preferring to seek popular policies that will see them re-elected.  Lucky the current government is actively increasing the welfare dependant to support its own voter base and further burden the tax payer.
      Lucky the freedoms so costly paid for in blood over the last 100 years are freely given up by the governing minority so that they can grand stand on the world stage.

      Lucky, yeah, we were once - now we are over governed, over regulated and over taxed.

      Lucky, yeah, lucky the government doesn’t face another Eureka or Kalgoorlie

      As to being free, yeah right, we are now guilty until proven innocent, we only get a fair trial if we can afford the legal representation, there are more bylaws enacted to restrict our freedoms without debate yet referendums are called for fluffy distractions that will have no bearing on the status quo. Then there is the repressive legislation called Workplace Health and Safety that has gone way past its initial remit and intent of providing a safer workplace all in the vain hope of protecting the stupid from themselves.

      Oh, BTW our internet is censored – except they call it filtering to prevent us seeing things that might cause concern and question what is really happening.

      Crikey Mate, wake up, she won’t be right if you keep mouthing platitudes and spouting propaganda.

    • ramases says:

      10:09am | 28/01/13

      One of the better retorts I have ever read and so true. The way this Lucky country is going there wont be anything left for us to do, either because we don’t have the jobs or its been legislated against. I am really glad that I am entering the twilight of my years as I watch this once great nation become a nation of gimme’s and where every minority has more rights than those who have lived here all there lives and have fought for the rights to be treated this way, what a joke this country is becoming..

    • Pants on fire says:

      10:33am | 28/01/13

      No worries Al , Tony & Joe will sort it all out later this year.

    • acotrel says:

      10:46am | 28/01/13

      ‘Lucky? Lucky to have incredibly large untapped mineral resources that continually bails out ineffective governments. ‘

      If John Howard ran an effective government, what did he use the money for - what are his monuments ?

    • acotrel says:

      10:59am | 28/01/13

      @Al
      ‘Then there is the repressive legislation called Workplace Health and Safety that has gone way past its initial remit and intent of providing a safer workplace all in the vain hope of protecting the stupid from themselves.’

      What is repressive about performing simple risk assessments prior to commencing work, and using Australian Standards to solve operational problems ? Are you saying that the standards don’t promote ‘best practice’ ? It is difficult to show a productivity improvement because incidents never happened, but surely your company must benefit when your employees ‘do it right first time’ ?

    • Al says:

      11:19am | 28/01/13

      acotrel: a surplus that was squandered.

      Pants on fire: unlikely, the problem is systemic and ingrained.

      ramases: cheers.

      If there isn’t a dramatic improvement soon we will be just like Nauru and Greece. All those that have money and the drive to earn it will leave and live somewhere else.

    • Achmed says:

      11:54am | 28/01/13

      @Al
      Squandered??  While Europe, Britain and the USA are still trying sort out the GFC with budget deficits anywhere from 75% to over 100% of GDP Australia sits on around 7%.  That did not happen by accident.

      We are burdened with the ever increasing cost of the “middle-class” (sic) welfare that was introduced by Howard.  Think about the infrastructure that money could have added to this country.  We are still trying to get our health system back into some sort of shape after Ministers like Abbott had prefered to add money from the health budget to that surplus rather than look after the health of Aussies.
      The billions spent on two wars and the resulting loss of the lives of our servicemen.  One based on the WMD lie.

      Yeah, it was all great stuff…........mmm

    • Al says:

      01:10pm | 28/01/13

      Achmed read my post again, may be then you will see this:

      “Lucky to have incredibly large untapped mineral resources that continually bails out ineffective governments.”

      and this

      “Lucky our political system is so short sighted it is incapable of building national infrastructure, preferring to seek popular policies that will see them re-elected.”
       
      and this

      “Lucky that we prostitute ourselves to a foreign nation so they can build their own empire in the vain hope that we will be defended at a later date.” 

      as to your comment:

      “We are burdened with the ever increasing cost of the “middle-class” (sic) welfare that was introduced by Howard.”

      No it wasn’t, it all started with the Button Plan under the Hawk Keating governments that killed our manufacturing base. The coup de grâce was administered by free trade agreements.

    • LC says:

      04:34pm | 28/01/13

      “Oh, BTW our internet is censored – except they call it filtering to prevent us seeing things that might cause concern and question what is really happening.”

      This is true.

      The internet filter “win” we got a few months ago was no win at all. Instead of Conroy’s blacklist that contained a wide variety of content, they have gone via the backdoor, and they’ve implemented the Interpol one that is supposedly only limited to child porn using a section of an old law to oblige ISPs to filter the content. So we’re not getting internet filtering, but we are getting an internet filter?

      The systems to allow it block content of any kind, all that has to happen first is for some public servant to find a way of adding that content to the blacklist without getting caught. Therefore, the “There will be no internet filtering of any content other than child porn” promise to be just as valid as:
      - “There will be pokies reform and pre-commitment schemes under the Government I lead, Mr. Wilkie.
      - “There will be a budget surplus this financial year.
      And who could forget this gem?:
      - “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.” (Do I really need to give you a link for one?)

      Don’t get me started on the whole internet surveillance scheme.

    • LC says:

      04:57pm | 28/01/13

      “We are burdened with the ever increasing cost of the “middle-class” (sic) welfare that was introduced by Howard.”

      I agree.

      It’s unnecessary and needs to be scrapped, but naturally this will have to be done gradually so they can acclimatise.
      Say, phase it out at a rate of 6.67% a year over the course of 15 years should do it. This will allow plenty of time for the economy to adjust to suit, and the people receiving it to pay ff debts and adjust their spending habits (not spending beyond your means is key).

      However, any political party who introduces such a scheme will have to be content with being a one-term government.

    • stephen says:

      10:44am | 28/01/13

      Well then Ms. Kearney, with the rise of casual workers and with it the loss of entitlements such as holiday pay, sick leave, loadings and so forth, and considering that the Unions got all those things eons ago for ‘proper’ workers, shouldn’t you then be offering an apology to all those casuals who now are subsidizing those perks ?

      I know casuals - and professional workers, too - who are under no award.
      Come holiday time they do not get paid.
      If they want to go to the dentist, not only do they have to beg and crawl to the employer to get time off, it is unpaid when they do.

      So then, what may I ask is the Union Movement doing to redress this aspect of trashy labour laws which unscrupulous employers have been winding around their fingers for the last 15 years ?

    • JA says:

      11:49am | 28/01/13

      Ged it is good you argue for the right to maintain a diversity of views in public. The Labour Party are trying their hardest as we speak to close down public discussion on a range of important public policy issues. The big one being immigration. Interestingly you point to 17,000 new immigrants taken up citizenship. Slightly less than the 17,700 illegal immigrants that paid between 10,000 and 20,000 dollars to get here by boat. Add to this the massive increase in immigration through 3rd world students and 3rd world low skilled non English speaking workers coming here. I see big problems with this. GED time to take off rose coloured glasses.

    • Achmed says:

      01:17pm | 28/01/13

      @JA - massive increases in migration?

      Net permanent migration
      2000-01 60,800 - arrival same year 107,400
      2005-06 68,000 - arrival same year 131,600

      2009-19 54,300 - arrivals same year 140,610
      2010-11 39,000 - arrivals same year 127,460

      While the number of “arrivals” has increased the Net Permanent Migration has reduced.
      Figures from the Dept of Immigration website.

    • Sir Viv says:

      11:58am | 28/01/13

      “Australia has, through a mix of luck, hard work and good planning, become an example to the world.”

      Planning!!! Australia has never planned anything it its history. Even the campaigns of its frigging troops are planned by others.

      Australia is an example to the world in one area only: The creation, marketing and acceptance of duopolies.

      We make nothing, we don’t innovate, we hate new ideas, we hate change, we are anti-education, our infrastructure is non-existent,  our laws are backwards and our tax system punishes work and rewards gambling.

      Amazingly we are so delusional and shielded from reality that when it all starts to go wrong we expect the govt to bail us out or give us more money to buy a house.

      When the fall comes, Australia is going to a house of pain on a scale rarely seen. There’s only so long you can get away with being useless and being proud of it.

    • marley says:

      02:51pm | 28/01/13

      @Sir Viv - we don’t plan?  Hmm.  One of the reasons we escaped the worst of the GFC was that we, and a few other countries, had the foresight to implement tighter banking regulations and controls.  The Americans and the EU didn’t, and they’re paying the price.

      As for not “making” anything, what do the UK or Switzerland or for that matter much of Europe, excluding maybe Germany, actually “make” these days?  Most of the EU relies on tourism, providing financial services, and engaging in over-protected hobby farming.  Debt levels are astronomical relative to ours, and in most of Europe, the standards of education are no better, and in places like the UK and France, notably lower, than here.  As for infrastructure, when you have countries like the UK and France,  with populations almost three times ours, occupying areas less than a 20th (UK) or 10th (France) of ours, it’s hardly surprising our infrastructure isn’t exactly comparable.  We don’t have the tax base.  Have a look at Russia or Canada if you want a more realistic comparison.  And our laws are nowhere near as backwards, as counter-productive as some of those EU regulations we hear so much about.  Nor are we nearly as dependent on the “welfare state” as some of the European countries, not to mention their entire agricultural system, are. 

      As for the US, its economy is in worse shape, its government is even more dysfunctional, than Europe’s never mind ours.

      We may be due for a fall, though I doubt it will be anything like as hard as you seem to be gleefully anticipating.  I certainly wouldn’t expect the kind of pain some of our European brethren are likely to go through.

    • NSS says:

      12:29pm | 28/01/13

      Ged, that was one of the better reads I’ve had on The Punch.  Your faith in the average Aussie and our country are clear and your elucidation of why many are disillusioned with politics at present is very perceptive.

      I also like your long-sighted focus on some of the major issues facing this country into the future. Partisan myopia is a foul disease which only hinders us.

      I would take issue somewhat with this statement, however viz “New forms of social media have huge promise to create communities, allow people to discuss ideas in more depth, and to organise and agitate, but this promise is still yet to be fulfilled.” I believe it is already happening. Many groups find outlets on the much- maligned (in this forum, especially) Twitter and Facebook, where they organise and link to sites which cater for more in depth analysis and planning. It has a splintering effect in one sense, but the ability to find the like -minded has never been greater. People who assume that social media is only about “selfies”  (ie narcissism) and gossip could not be more wrong.

      I truly hope your wish for a better 2013 politically is fulfilled.

    • JAs says:

      03:28pm | 28/01/13

      Achmed,

      Let me correct you from both DIAC and the ABS website.

      I notice you conveniently leave out 2007 -2008 net overseas migration was a massive 315,700.

      Most of these where students from 3rd world countries that where able to use the policy vacuum at the time: jumping from student visa to permanent residency.

      In 2008 NOM amounted to 70% of Australia’s total population growth. The highest NOM on record while at the same overtaking Natural population increases for the first time.

      In 1992-93 NOM was 25,000 started on a steady increase jumping to a MASSIVE 315,700 in 2007-2008.

      Anyone can hand pick stats.

    • DIAC guy says:

      03:59pm | 28/01/13

      Just like you just have. The fact is your figures are disingenuous and bs. Funny I work for the dept and this sounds wrong and guess what? It is! DIAC website says net migration was 149000. Typical lib tactic to make up your own facts.

    • Ben says:

      04:26pm | 28/01/13

      @DIAC guy

      >>Typical lib tactic to make up your own facts.

      Well DIAC, right or wrong, clearly you have dispensed with that principle of the APS Values and Code of Conduct which mandates that the APS must be apolitical.

    • LC says:

      04:42pm | 28/01/13

      We are going to be a lucky country this year, alright. It’s an election year.

 

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