Over the Australia Day long weekend, I heard lots of patriotic tropes and clichés like “Australia is the greatest country in the world” or “If you don’t like it leave.”
I’m all for being patriotic, I’m a proud Australian and I believe we are a great country.
But we are not the greatest country in the world, although we used to be.
We used to stand up for what was right.
We waged war on poverty, not poor people.
We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbours.
We built great big things, we made amazing technological advances and we invented stuff.
We cured diseases; we had some of the world’s greatest minds, artists and musicians.
We had a health care and social security system that was the envy of the world.
We aspired to be intelligent, we didn’t belittle it, and it didn’t make us feel inferior.
Australia is not the greatest country in the world anymore, but it can be
(Apologies and credit to Jeff Daniels in Newsroom for my version of his speech)
These days our politicians run on fear and focus groups.
In the past we had Mabo and we gave Indigenous Australians the right to vote; now we have politicians stuck on Uluru because they can’t get down while pulling a media stunt.
We used to take care of people who couldn’t take of themselves, now ask anyone who has dealt with Centrelink or the NDIS how hard it is, with some people literally dying before they get help.
We used to know our neighbours by name, now we are more willing to take them to court because their dog is barking or if we are hurt by what they said.
Once upon a time, Australia was famous for building big things, like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Snowy Mountains Hydro scheme and the Coolgardie pipeline.
Now we can’t even get a road fixed between Mareeba and Cairns. Have a look at the debacle that is the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane and the trams in Sydney.
I remember when INXS, Men at Work, Midnight oil were selling out stadiums across the globe, now we celebrate people sitting on a couch watching TV, criticising other people on TV.
We had the world’s greatest scientists; we invented the bionic ear, the black box and the Gardasil and Cervarix cancer vaccines. Now we have people shouting down our scientists because they don’t like what they’re telling us about vaccines, the climate and energy.
We used to have a thriving dairy and meat industry, now our dairy farmers are going broke, and the cows are starving.
We used to be the place where you got a fair go, now it’s “if you don’t love it leave”
Australia is not the greatest country in the world anymore, but it can be.