the lucky country

A worrying misconception that many people have about Australia is that our governmental system is free of corruption. When people think of corruption, they often think of authoritarian regimes and poverty stricken nations where most of the population struggles to eat while the privileged few horde all the wealth. Yet there is corruption here and most of it is legal. The insidiousness of corruption in this country is what makes it so concerning. Few notice it, and those who do are usually sidelined as crazy socialists.

Corruption is a part of our everyday. It takes the form of cosy relationships between big business and government. It shows up when the bottom line matters more than our health and wellbeing. It hurts us when our rights are legislated over so that we lose control over the land that supports our livelihoods. It barrages in front of us when policies are implemented that the majority of us disagree with.

We live in a nation where psychoactive drugs and statins are widely prescribed with little evidence as to their effectiveness and an overwhelming list of side-effects, some of them life threatening. We are a society that is watching cancer diagnoses soar and instead of reassessing our use of pesticides, cosmetics, household products and synthetic hormone therapies, we are looking to inherited genes for clues. We have a medical system that prefers to treat chronic illness with pills rather than vegetables.

We work longer hours and more decades than ever before and are told by the wealthy and powerful to stop being lazy, the age of entitlement has ended. If we work off the land, we scrape by for a living, have hundreds of thousands in debt but are forced to sit with our hands tied if companies move in to take gas and coal, no matter what the cost to production, the fertility of the land or our access to water. If we are young we face the real possibility of never getting the chance to slave over a mortgage- rising land values make entering the property market a distant dream.

We are overwhelmingly in support of clean, renewable energy sources because we’re smart enough to know we need to make a shift before it’s too late for our environment. But the fossils of the fuel industry have managed to convince the government into thinking that they, not us, represent the majority of Australians.

We are getting fatter and sicker and our life expectancy is on the decline. We’re told that calories in, calories out is an equivalence equation and we should get off our butts and exercise. Meanwhile the evidence is mounting that sugar is addictive and it, along with our out-of-whack hormones and toxic build up in our bodies, may be responsible for the hard to shift weight. And yet our nutritional bodies are funded by big sugar, the Heart Foundation is still telling us to eat margarine and to choose low fat (high sugar) products and all manner of endocrine disrupting chemicals are freely sprayed on our foods, deemed ‘safe’ by the powers that be.

If you peel back the layers, powerful corporate interests drive many of the perverse systems that are in place today. This is not to say that corporations are inherently bad. However we must understand that corporations are legally bound to make decisions that will give the best returns to shareholders. When we realise this, we are better placed to be cautious when accepting the advice of an institution that has motives other than our health, safety and wellbeing. When we realise this, we understand that corporations shouldn’t have the ear of our government. When we realise this, we know that privatising science is unlikely to lead to objective results.

Allowing corporations to dictate medical and dietary advice, control the energy sector, form environmental policies and pick up the tab on education fees is like leaving a five year old in charge of the household. You expect a five year old to demand ice cream for dinner and to watch whatever television they like. It is normal for a five year to be reluctant to share their toys and to refuse to have a bath or clean their teeth. That is why you, the parent, are in charge. Kids test boundaries, you set them. Kids see what is happening now, you see future consequences.

So, what do you think? Shall we gently remove the reigns from the corporate children and reinstate them to the grown-ups? I think it is about time we did.