We have endured the first year of the Coalition Government’s 3 year term. I use the term ‘endured’ because so many have suffered. Upon reflection of the past 365 days in Federal politics, there is one pressing question which remains unanswered, ‘where are the bright ideas?’
Where are the proposals of nation building significance from our PM who wishes to be known as the “infrastructure PM?” Water would be a great place to start. Universally we must put a higher value on water. We won’t need to worry about the economy if we fail to act and secure future potable supplies and supplies for industry.
As a nation we are resource rich and we continue to pursue ways to exploit this finite bounty. In doing so, we also exploit our water assets. Water is fundamental to both exploration and production in the mining and resource sector and I lament at the lack of planning to ensure Australia has sufficient water resources to meet its needs, all of its needs, including human.
In the CSIRO publication “Water in the Resources Sector Stream” it is stated that the “resources sector uses approximately 508 gigalitres of water per year;” and “this is expected to increase reaching 1000 gigalitres by 2020”.
The Great Artesian Basin is not being replenished at a rate to support the continued drawings taken from it and our changing climate most certainly means we cannot depend on rainfall in our southern climes to keep our fragile river systems healthy. We must take the pressure off. In some regions the mining and gas sector is a significant water user compared to the agriculture sector. As mining generates a higher profit per gigalitre used, the actual consumption, or rate of consumption, is often glossed over compared to that used in the truly renewable agriculture sector.
You don’t have to search far for bright ideas in terms of water and I’d like to suggest some compelling reading for anyone who’s interested; ‘The Water Book’ would be fine place to start and you can download a copy here:
The publication aims to underpin decisions that need to be made in business and in government and responds to the challenges of water resource management. It also seeks to “provide a bridge from the peer-reviewed scientific literature to a broader audience of society, while providing the depth of science that this complex issue demands and deserves.”
Equally compelling is the literature and studies found here: http://www.csiro.au/Organisation-Structure/Flagships.aspx Through the CSIRO, the National Research Flagships Program is “delivering scientific solutions to advance Australia’s most pressing national objectives.” We really don’t have to look far for bright ideas!
Now to education, PM Abbott wants our schools to fill skills gaps, especially in science and technology yet has put the onus for education (and health funding) back on to the States.
This has left funding gaps which will in turn ensure skills gaps at every level. I say remove cross border demarcation lines in education, fund adequately, pay our educators well and entice professionals to this vocation who fundamentally inspire our children to learn.
What’s happening to our tertiary education system? It sculpts our scientific and humanities communities but fails to recognise we also need tradespeople and artisans. We should be placing an equal value and worth on tradies and yet at state and territory levels jobs are being cut in Technical and Further Education Institutions. Where are the bright ideas?
If the coalition government is so concerned with skills gaps in science and technology, then why the threat of $150m of funding cuts to CSIRO? We must allow Australian science and innovation to deliver our future. Don’t cut funding to these faculties; nurture our clever minds. We must value their insight and retain home grown. Too many of our clever minds, ideas and concepts leave our shores, never to return. This loss is not just a brain drain but is also an economic loss of monumental proportions.
How about some bright ideas around our welfare budget? The 2014‑15 Budget includes $146 billion of welfare spending, or 35 per cent of Budget expenditure. Instead of applying punitive measures to those on income support if they are facing challenges with the harsh compliance regimes, perhaps a novel approach is needed.
At best, income support for job search is only just sustaining individuals because it doesn’t recognise the huge costs associated with what underpins the ability to look for work.
Those things include affordable, stable accommodation; access to transport and one’s health (mental and physical). A novel approach may be that a job seeker provides a list, a budget if you like, for what they need to meet the requirements of the system and the system in turn recognises that and pays (to a third party if necessary) the costs of the ‘barriers’ identified.
There is a system similar to this in place already but the focus is on landing jobs not overcoming the barriers to ‘job seeking’. This Chinese proverb resonates with me: “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may understand, involve me and I will learn.” This notion could easily be adopted in the welfare system. I’ve said it before and will say it again, punitive measure do not work.
How about viewing asylum seekers as a remarkable human resource, one which can continue to help us grow and progress our country? I believe that the only way to fairly treat those fleeing persecution in foreign lands is to employ and work with a social justice system and ideal which is devoted to human rights.
Let’s ensure those seeking asylum in Australia have their human rights upheld and that those seeking asylum in our community receive the support and opportunities they need to live independently. Regional towns and communities need population growth.
If you read nothing else today read this speech delivered by His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AO at the State Ceremony at which he was sworn in as Governor of South Australia last week:
Truly inspiring and rousing words from a dignified and remarkable refugee who now calls South Australia home.
My final bright ‘spark’ of an idea for now…. I recall a Senate Candidate last year running on the primary platform of ‘tax breaks for emergency services volunteers.’ Coming into our summer and with dire warnings of extreme weather and fire events now would be a good time to consider reciprocating, by way of concessions, to those who put their lives on the line protecting life and property.
I strongly believe that this initiative is worthy of whole of government support. In order for our communities to remain vibrant, resilient and robust we must maintain and grow our emergency services volunteer base. We must place a higher value on our volunteers and reward their contribution. Tax concessions would provide a legitimate means of compensating volunteers who are increasingly ‘out of pocket’ for their incredible contribution to our communities. Anyone care to take up this cause?
We have so many challenges…
Our Nation's budget is at an impasse
We don’t truly have water, food or fuel security
Australia’s involvement in Iraq may also include “possible military involvement down the track” – Tony Abbot PM August 2014
Our government is in denial about climate change
Our unemployment rate is 6.4% (14.1% for youth)
On any given night in Australia 1 in 200 people are homeless
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are massively overrepresented in the criminal justice system of Australia - Aboriginal people represent only 3% of the total population, yet more than 28% of Australia’s prison population are Aboriginal
My generation and those to follow will be working until we drop (at least for those of us who have a job) other will be barely existing
Our superannuation savings will be eroded by delays to the increase in the superannuation guarantee levy possibly creating a new category of welfare recipients ‘underfunded self-funded retirees!’
and too many more challenges to mention
So back to my original question, 'where are the 'bright ideas?' I believe they sit with you!
There has never been a better time to share novel concepts and solutions and give our leadership a hand in realising the unlocked potential in our midst.
Let's lift a lid on the many brilliant ideas just waiting to be transformed into opportunity and reality.
No idea is too big or too small. The only limit is your imagination.