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Australia can afford to have vision

As part of their compelling series on Australia, The Economist has examined just how stinking rich we are right now:

These statistics reflect an astonishing transformation of Australia’s fortunes,” marvels the mag. “…the terms of trade have reached new heights. As the central bank’s Mr Stevens has put it, five years ago a shipload of iron ore would have bought about 2,200 flat-screen television sets; today it buys about 22,000. That is partly because import prices have fallen, but more because export prices have risen. Neither trend can continue indefinitely, but the average terms of trade over the next two decades are likely to be higher than over the past three.”

We’ve said it before — as a nation we’ve never been better placed to tackle long term issues like health, our ageing population, transport, sustainability, communications, superannuation, climate change and the growing gap between rich and poor.

And yet we’re reluctant to cash in on this position.

Over the weekend inventor Saul Griffiths spoke at the TEDx Sydney conference. Griffiths is the founder/principal scientist at Other Lab, where he focuses on engineering solutions for energy production and energy efficiency.

Griffiths marvelled at Australia’s collective lack of imagination — not just from government: “To paraphrase the environment movement, if we try really, really hard, and make a lot of sacrifices, the future will suck a little bit less than otherwise.” Griffiths is also a Tin Tin fan:

I want to live in a future walking on zero gravity on the moon, with a fish bowl on my head and my dog is walking beside me. There is a collective failure of our imagination if we let ourselves believe that the future is going to suck. We have to inspire our children to do some awesome stuff.”

As Climate Spectator reports today, Griffith is based in the US — mainly because of the lack of resources given to the technology sector in Australia. He implored Australia to think about how we will use our money and resources.

We should be using investment this in an intelligent way. We are a very rich country, but we are not investing. We are investing in casinos and horse racing…”

So what are we consumed with talking about today? Not our collective wealth and what to do with it, but someone else’s fat wallet and whether it negates their right to have a political opinion.

Aren’t we bigger than this? We can certainly afford to be.

14
  • 1
    michael crook
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Using the resources boom for social programmes, where the hell do you think you are, Venezuela?
    The resources boom is there to enrich the already rich, very very little will trickle down to the peasants. The few jobs it will generate are dangerous to the workforce and destructive of the concept of community. The resources boom will do NOTHING to make the world a better or fairer place, and is not worth a pinch of……..

  • 2
    Meski
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Venezuelans are better off than we are, Andrew?

  • 3
    michael crook
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Venezuelans have a greater political and social awareness than we do, due to the changes that have occurred within their communities in the last 13 years. While still a very capitalist country, the Socialist Revolution that has given hope and sustenance to the poor, has engaged the population in a way that we could not possibly envisage in our fantasy world here.

  • 4
    Meski
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    And yet, Australia’s ranked number two, with Venezuela coming in at seventy-five.

    The Human Development Index (HDI) is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index

    If you ranked us by MSM, we’d be a lot worse, I suspect.

    (Had no idea we were that highly ranked)

  • 5
    CML
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    All those numbers and graphs sound/look good, but it doesn’t seem to be filtering down to the bottom 20-30% of the population. We may be “filthy rich”, but the only ones who are benefiting are the top 10% (maybe?) I keep pointing out on various Crikey posts that the income split between workers and bosses is way out of line compared with what it has been in the past. This is the reason everyone wants handouts from the government, when in fact, it is not the government at fault but the employers overall. But to be fair, the whole system in this country is cactus when you have to be a squillionaire to take advantage of the good life on offer here.

  • 6
    michael crook
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Meski, they are coming from a long way behind.
    CML, quite right, every country should be judged by how we treat the bottom 10 or 20%.
    In the case of Australia, for some strange reason we have inordinately high domestic violence and child abuse compared to the rest of the western world, not sure if this is correlated with our gambling levels or just our selfishness levels which I dont think have actually been measured.

  • 7
    Harvey Tarvydas
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    National imperative worth a conversation is this editorial, thank you Crikey for handing the people of this fortunate nation the opportunity to declare themselves either pathetic hopeless twits or smart modern human animals that know they live on a planet and not in endless Aussie heaven of no responsibility.

    That seriously lucky odd thing called Barnaby should stop sucking frozen sh*t- on-a-stick things because when he opens his mouth the stuff he says sounds and smells like crap. ‘Barnaby-Mr-Market-forces’ ideology and party doesn’t know what your super golden nugget…..
    “……five years ago a shipload of iron ore would have bought about 2,200 flat-screen television sets; today it buys about 22,000……” means.
    ‘Barnaby-Mr-Market-forces’ doesn’t understand that when the price of coal (the stuff electricity is made of – make it simple out of respect for that thing he carries around in his skull) goes up more than ten fold like the Iron Ore then three things happen
    1. Electricity price in Australia goes up heaps but the little Aussie twit thinks it’s the carbon tax which doesn’t exist until he opens his completely stupid mouth that won’t stop sucking those discussing things and then he turns his pathetic misunderstanding of everything and his stinking breath on the lovely, smart and wonderful Aussie Cate.
    2. The billionaires who dig coal out of the ground get richer because they can and its not their job to keep the price down for the struggling Aussies
    3. The struggling Aussie gets poorer Barnaby not because of Cate or the non-existent carbon tax.
    Cate knows all this but you Barnaby don’t and you are showing that off to the world. What did the Rhodes Scholar offer you, the twit of the year Gold Crown or a truck load of those things you suck? You and your friends should be deeply ashamed of your lies and stupidity.

    His pathetic political group think that beautiful, intelligent Aussie achievers like Cate and her friends should be ashamed of themselves for stating their intelligent concern that science is telling us to watch out for our planets future health but they cheer when the richest people in Australia dress in overalls and hang out on a truck begging not to have to pay anymore tax cause it will spoil their ‘whose the richest billionaire’ competition.

    A medical fact Barnaby, psychopaths don’t know shame.

    @MICHAEL CROOK — Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 5:48 pm
    Your on fire Michael, good on you.

  • 8
    Harvey Tarvydas
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    Dr Harvey M Tarvydas

    @CML — Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 4:41 pm

    You’re right and the something is a psychological theory of mine ‘the soldier – convict syndrome’ with symptoms still as we’ve (Australia) only been around for a short time (my Great Grand Father was born just before Australia was settled. What sort of syndromes or lack of syndromes would we have if the French had arrived a few days earlier?

  • 9
    drsmithy
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Venezuelans have a greater political and social awareness than we do, […]

    How are you measuring this, by what metric, and from what sources ?

  • 10
    Frank Campbell
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    as a nation we’ve never been better placed to tackle long term issues like health, our ageing population, transport, sustainability, communications, superannuation, climate change and the growing gap between rich and poor.”

    Abject failure, certainly. But why?

    Only the Left can drive reform. A healthy Left drags the unwilling Right along.

    But the Left morphed into a corporatist clique, alienating its own base.

    The bankruptcy of the Left has been confirmed in the last few years by its embrace of climate millenarianism. This shoved everything else off the agenda and/or corrupted every policy. The “greatest moral challenge” has sucked the brains out of the political class.

    Consider this: would you support a “climate” policy that (a) cannot possibly affect climate (b) subverts any real technological advance by misdirecting capital (c) is unilateral (d) increases costs for all (e) is blatantly class-discriminatory?

    Politics abhors a vacuum. The Right will fill it.

  • 11
    michael crook
    Posted Monday, 30 May 2011 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Hi Dr Smithy,

    By personal observation and conversation 1/With Venezuelans in the Barrios in Caracas and Valencia, 2/ With my fellow Australians in Brisbane.

  • 12
    Meski
    Posted Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Not a good argument. I can find socially aware Australians (no, really!) and if I went to Venezuela, could probably find some there only interested in voting bread and circuses for themselves.

  • 13
    nuytsia
    Posted Tuesday, 31 May 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    While I think that Governments at all levels and of all persuasions have a lot to answer for on this score (and by extension, so do we all, as voters), I think Griffith makes a good point about the priorities of our industry leaders. I noticed long ago that our very rich fall into one of two categories - resources beneficiaries, who use their entrepeneurial talents to market our natural resources, and gamers, who will maximise their profits without any consideration for what benefits they create (generally this is easiest through media or gambling). I can think of a few exceptions, but most of these are in domestic retail.

    Where are the Australians who got rich by innovating and creating? Either we give them no recognition so we don’t know them, or we are not capable of producing them, or they are suffocated before they can express themselves. Each of these possibilities is unacceptably tragic.

    Doubtless our very rich are just as intelligent as any, and doubtless they are merely satisfying a demand in the marketplace, but they could be so much more. I don’t inherently hate wealthy people, and I would love to be inspired by their success.

  • 14
    ldevlin30
    Posted Sunday, 12 June 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Well countries like the US - yes the US in Alaska and also the United Arab Emirates give their population a share of the resources wealth that the country has in the ground that all the citizens are entitled to. Well that certainly does not happen in Australia where the stinking rich mine owners - how did they get to own it - get rich, rich, rich while making adverts from their $$$ advertising budgets telling the population that we should be grateful for whatever the rich bastards throw our way to keep us quiet. The only trickle down is the strangely yellow warm water that showers down on the working classes and the indigenous people who were here first when the mine owners and the Liberal Party p*** all over us.

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