Tax, tutors and the government’s lack of balls // 21 May 2012

Where are all the strong, young Aussies fighting for a better future?

I profess to knowing much about little and very little, especially, about macro-economics, federal policy and the Australian dream. But I find that I am increasingly at odds with the strangely, no, criminally backward approaches that Australia is taking when it comes to our futures. We need innovation and we need it really badly. I am itching to start protesting, but where are the protests? Where are the young people demanding more from their representatives? Where is the action, the disquiet, the voice of those who are sick of bad, council-style politicians doing stupid things? Has protest taken the shape of the gradual drain of talent we’re seeing from these shores?

Two things worry me the most. First, the cost of education. Never should it be denied and, yet, there is something deeply suspicious about the commerce and quality of education now. Apprenticeships are as important, beneficial and necessary to a fully functioning young workforce as many degrees. Finding oneself crippled by debt is not an ideal entry point into the working world. Be wary of replicating a US-style model of study, where, truly, only the richest can afford tertiary education. Being saddled with $100,000 debt is reprehensible on the part of those mushrooming American institutions – now, with steadily growing unemployment, more than ever. Education is the crux of society, but a credit-card funded degree in something as watery as, dare I say it, media studies, is not the way to go. (And if kids leave their alma maters scores of thousands in debt, at the very least, train them to use an apostrophe correctly. Solecism and Australia seem to go hand in hand.)

Second, who would join me in getting behind a movement to pressure the Australian government into addressing the need for a hardcore RSPT and a sovereign wealth fund… somehow getting around the fact that many of our resources are owned by states, not the federal govt?

We would stand around the monstrosity that is Canberra’s new Parliament House and hold GROW SOME BALLS placards and we’d feel, as we really do as young adults, that we must do this for future generations. Nobody else will: they are too busy arguing over blue suede shoes, ‘Thommo’ and budgie smugglers.

We’re giving away our resources, we aren’t channeling the funds into future growth and non-renewables technology and we’re inexplicably lacking in confidence to stand up and take action on the world stage – and, perhaps more importantly, to the ACTU. We’re blessed, for the first time, with the geographical jackpot, we’re the only country to have an economy that has grown steadily every year for the past 21 and we are having a moment in the global limelight.

Yet, quite apart from our risible politics, we do not have the vision to tax wisely and decisively. Indonesia taxes more on its oil than we do, Brazil more on its iron ore. Norway has a super tax of around 70 per cent and is never lacking business. The MRRT is no silver bullet. It is hardly a fifth grade slingshot.

I’m shouting this into gale forces of nothingness, I know. I’ve never felt so powerless, so poorly represented in my life, so let down in a young country that has everything to play for.

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