Deng Xiao Ping
told the Chinese “To be rich is glorious”. So reports Hugh Morgan
in a stimulating discussion of Australia’s geopolitical future:”Can
Australia Survive the 21st Century?” The occasion was the first Wilfred Brookes
Memorial Lecture, presented on 26 April 2006.

Morgan continues
with a most important additional point. “In our strategic situation we should
paraphrase that injunction ‘To be rich is essential’. Poor nations are always
dependent upon others for their security.”

He calls for the
simple word “rich” to be respectable. “It is important to realise that the
riches, or the wealth, that we speak of, is private wealth. Not wealth embodied
in tax revenues and government expenditures on monuments of one kind or another,
but wealth in private hands. It is this wealth which sustains what we call civil
society; and which in the US is manifest, for example, in
hundreds of private universities and in a tradition of philanthropic activity
which is central to American life. It is private wealth which sustains economic
enterprise, fosters innovation, promotes diversity in science and the arts,
keeps our churches going, and enables unfashionable opinions to survive against
the scorn and derision of our nearly mono-cultural

“All Australian
governments are, in a general way, committed to economic growth, and when it
happens, they are happy to talk about it. But as the current debate on tax
reform demonstrates so clearly, other ambitions often get in the way. No one
says, in this debate, that we want a tax regime which will enable Australians to
become rich and which will encourage energetic and ambitious people to come to
Australia to seek their opportunity.
We are not in the position where being half way up or down the OECD ladder is
OK. We need a tax regime which is famous throughout the world for its support of
wealth creating activity. We should not forget that it was the gold rushes of
the 1850s which peopled this continent, and the people who came here came
because they had the opportunity to become rich. And having come here, they
stayed to create a nation.”

And towards the
end of a fascinating lecture, Hugh Morgan concludes: “Having posed the question
– Will Australia survive for another century? – a question which we cannot
answer – we are inexorably drawn to the centrality of the culture as the
determinant of survival. We have focussed on the culture wars. Given the
occasion this has been appropriate. This should not detract from the validity of
Paul Johnson’s observation about Australia,’one of the most advanced
and prosperous societies on earth. It is an achievement with few parallels in
the history of human adventure.'”

“The celebration
of Anzac Day yesterday, the distinction with which our armed forces serve the
nation, the vigour and pride with which we engage in our sporting life, the
international competitiveness of our major industries, the high quality of our
music and art, our scientific achievements, are manifestations of our
resilience, our energy, and our capacity to compete. So the foundations on which
these things have been built are still secure. But, we must always be watchful
for the integrity of those foundations.”

Henry Thornton.

Peter Fray

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