Having experienced the last few decades living in Australia and overseas one can form an opinion of what some of the differences were.. One difference that sticks out is our love of staying put, resist change. Australia is many things but it will never get accused of being at forefront of progress, rearing to try out new things, seek change, make things work better. It is true that we do advance in certain areas but often behind many others having done and proven it first. We are somewhat scared of testing the water.
It doesn’t matter what is proposed, our immediate reaction are howls of protests and rejection no matter what the merit, no matter what the proposal. It is part of who we are; fear of change is deeply embedded in our national psyche, none more so than with the latest outcry and the political tsunamis over the proposal to charge for CO2 emissions.
It started with Federation, a bit before my time, when Australia would only consider a form of unity away from Britain, if independence was promised to each state. Australia today is a federation of States whereby each state still has many of its own laws and regulation differentiating from each other. Commit a crime and you still have to be extradited from the state where one has escaped to. As is still the norm today, Queensland then did not want to change too rapidly and become part of Federation, preferred to remain a British colony for a while longer. The struggle for Federation went on for a number of years. Even though Australia finally became ‘Australia’, it still took another 26 years for the Australian parliament to meet and hold its first sitting in its own Parliament building in Canberra 1927.
We now jump over the next sixty years or so to the next hurdle, the acceptance of a decimal system. My god, this was heresy. What? Change from our beloved Pound of Twenty shillings and one shilling containing 12 pennies to a foreign currency? The sixpence, the Zac and Bob, the quid, the guinea, give all that up? Even then, we could not bring ourselves to giving this new decimal currency an Australian name; (austral, merino and royal.) preferred instead the Yankee Doodle name of “Dollar.” It felt safer and the US was our protector.
Then, in the 1980’s Australia was struck down by the wider-comb sheep shearing equipment dispute. It occupied the Arbitration Commission for over four years. It was a fight to the death between the National Farmers Federation with new ideas of how Australian society should be organized and The Australian Workers Union… Shearing sheds were subject to arson, burnt to the ground amongst shouts of ‘scabs and mongrels’. Even worse was that the wider combs had been introduced by New Zealand. The indignity of it all was all too much. It was however a huge shift into modernity in its final acceptance of the wider and more economical shearing hand-piece from a traditional staid rural society. The sheep kept their calm through-out.
The next bit of progress to oppose was the containerization of our wharves. Boy oh boy, I remember it well. This was going to be the death knell of all employment on the wharves. The picket lines were stretched between Darling Harbour and Botany Bay. Stevedoring was finished, doom and gloom would spread and we would all end up queuing at soup kitchens. It didn’t matter that containerization had been effectively introduced in many countries. It did not matter what took a month to turn around in Darling Harbour took a day around the wharves in Rotterdam. By hook and by crook, this progress had to be stopped in the bud. It took many legal battles and endless compensations to the workers and their unions to finally get it accepted. Harold Holt called the whole lot ‘red commies’.
The latest revolution to jar our conscience to an extreme edginess is the proposal to introduce carbon trading or taxing. It’s on par with having similar percentages of pro and against as that old smelly herring of becoming a ‘republic’. Having our own head of state just doesn’t seem to cut it here.
The primitive fear of change is well known by savvy politicians and exploited to the maximum by all parties. The ‘children overboard’ resplendent with ’armadas and hordes’ of boat people would invade our shores, corrupt Australia with foreign gangs raping our mothers and daughters and ripping off our generous welfare to boot. It is almost daily fare in our media.
With taxing carbon polluters, fear against change is again being exploited. “We all have to pay and become poorer”. “We are being led by lying Prime ministers”. “It will cause massive unemployment”. “The climate is not changing”. “The big miners will take our resources and go overseas”.”Industry will go overseas”. Our harvests will fail. Kids will run amok.
Nothing is surer that we will finally end up with some kind of carbon trading or carbon taxing but not before we have steadfastly refusedto accept it as much and as long as possible. We’ll object, protest, linger and point finger. Our beloved motto, ‘don’t fix if it isn’t broke’ will raise its ugly head again and again. “It’s all the fault of leftist latte sippers”. Kicking and screaming we will finally get it. In the meantime the world has moved forward again. Again we will waste years, battle on and play catch-up.
This is Australia.