When I was a fledgling student, we baby boomers were taught that we were the generation with the opportunity to affect real change, make a difference, make the world better; we had our fish cookin’ in the right place! Then, before I knew it, after a lot of water had flowed under the metaphoric bridge, our kids became that generation’, because we had squandered our chance, we’d stuffed it up. I was a little miffed, what didn’t I do or what should I have done differently? Time to re-evaluate, where did we go wrong?
Baby boomers grew up informed by a generation of Australians, a large proportion of which had served in the Second World War and their values were pretty straight forward. We learnt from people who had essentially volunteered to risk their lives for their country. As far as they were concerned, all that mattered when considering the political and social issues of the day was that the outcome had to be good for the country. It wasn’t about patriotism. The welfare and future of your country ‘matters’ when you risk your life for it!
After years of conflict all everyone wanted was to see a way forward, to coexist in peace, perhaps with a legacy of prosperity. So in post-war multicultural Australia, people ‘got on with it’ living by basic rules like not publicly discussing religion, money or politics. Don’t get me wrong, this was a society where people harboured deeply opposing political views, dealing with the left-right divide like no other generation, but generally people outwardly extended a degree of courtesy to those with an opposing opinion.
It was perhaps a simpler time when people lived within their means. They learnt how to save and while they didn’t have much, they owned assets, not debt. It was a time when people didn’t only think ‘what’s in it for me?’; they were not a fractured ‘self-interest’ society. They cared about the country rather than running it into the depths of debt by wringing whatever they could out of the ‘lucky country’.
There just existed an awareness to engage with a greater level of respect for all sides of an argument without the prerequisite menacing outrage, nasty vitriol and spiteful abuse we witness today. They focused on what brought their communities together rather than what divided them, living by social rules that did not foster or provoke animosity and intolerance, an ethos I think we have lost. By contrast and with a small measure of irony, it is incomprehensible that now a simple online exchange quickly demonstrates the veracity of Godwin’s law.
So what have the baby boomers done with their rich inheritance and why should they apologise?
At some future point academics will assess the legacy of the baby boomer generation: social, environmental and financial. They will conclude that measured against any historical benchmark, they left a far poorer world for future generations than the one they inherited: massive national debts and unsustainable budget deficits, the consequences and realities of which are so overwhelming and unpalatable that the period may well be labelled the ‘age of denial’. We could not have our heads buried deeper in the sand.
Whatever happens, our nation will be forced to eventually live within its means: the burden of preceding generations will possibly fall on the iGeneration, who may be left, unfairly, to ‘pick up the pieces’ and endure the economic and social division of inevitable austerity measures. Someone will be held accountable for decades of self-indulgent lifestyles and unsustainable behaviour: all because baby boomers were not satisfied with the best our country could afford.
The baby boomers have acquiesced to the flawed concept of ‘growth at any cost’ which will ultimately bring the pyramid economy unstuck. Whether it’s due to the so-called Malthus Theory or the current trend where incomes are falling in real terms while costs are climbing sharply, escalating out of control. Taxes are also increasing, with the tipping point coming when interest rates eventually rise. The mounting evidence of chronic ‘debt stress’ is just another way of gauging the continual decline of our ‘standard of living’. Surely, that’s worth an apology!
So, as well as the unsustainable economy, the baby boomers also need to apologise for the state of housing affordability in this country. It was not that long ago that ownership was considered an attainable goal, however economic and recent & proposed policy changes will mean that home ownership will become ever more difficult to achieve.
We are seeing our standard of living continue to decline in Australia, while it is significantly improving in neighbouring countries in our region. As a result, more and more property will be acquired by foreign investors, driving up valuations and pushing domestic buyers out of the market. (It was recently reported that foreigners acquired 25% of newly completed supply in the State of New South Wales).
Worse still, politicians are now making it even harder for ordinary Australians to buy a home. There will be consequences as a result of legislation to reduce the incentives to ‘save’ and the new proposals to remove the incentive to diversify investments (negative gearing). As a result, the family home will become the last asset to offer a material tax concession, creating an inducement to over-invest in a single non-productive tax-free property, which is also exempt under the Government’s welfare ‘asset test’. This will have the effect of further inflating house prices.
Building even bigger homes at a time when we have already seen the ‘area under roofline’ double in the last 30 years, makes no sense particularly as the size of the average family continues to decline. We are incentivising the wrong behaviour! The baby boomers legacy will be that ‘housing affordability’ is out of reach for ordinary Australians and now we are going to make it even harder for them!
Baby boomers also need to apologise for the excessive cost of utilities in this country, power and gas. How did the Baby Boomer generation allow a country so rich in natural resources end up with electricity prices out of the reach of the average Australian? On current trends, demand will outstrip supply (which means blackouts) at which point it won’t matter how expensive electricity is. It is not a coincidence that policymakers have been indecisive on this issue for 10 years, as we witness a small number of very wealthy energy suppliers (potential political donors) being allowed to gouge millions of dollars from consumers, an outcome not too dissimilar to the Enron induced California Energy Crisis. Again, we have made it unnecessarily hard for ourselves.
What of the baby boomers legacy with health services in Australia? Like education, the availability of quality services is in decline by virtue of the fact that costs continue to outstrip funding, mainly because of misguided policies of population growth at any cost. Capital expenditure and capital works (hospitals and infrastructure) are already lagging behind by approximately 20 years, yet we continue on an unsustainable course.
However, the most appalling legacy in respect to our health policy is the failure to adequately invest in the medical experts and doctors necessary to meet our needs in Australia, even though we have some of the better Universities and hospitals in the world. Why are we happy to lend billions of dollars for more Arts Degrees but can’t fund sufficient hospital training placements to meet domestic demand?
To make up for this shortfall we effectively import a significant number of doctors from developing countries. Imperialist behaviour is hard to break! We are too indolent, lack the foresight to plan for our needs and choose not to have a conscience about the health care needs of countries less fortunate than ours. We prefer to keep the medical care standards of developing countries repressed by effectively stealing their doctors, robbing them of their intelligentsia and in doing so, impeding their ability to lift and improve their own countries’ quality of life. The baby boomers legacy is to keep these countries health services and standard of living wedged firmly in the third world.
Baby boomers also need to apologise for our legacy to Indigenous Australians. Why do we spend more than $30 billion a year to keep Indigenous Australians (2.8% of the population) hidden in isolated and remote communities, in what can only be described as squalor, with limited education, restricted opportunity, and appalling health care standards? Are there vested interests (black & white) hiding behind discrimination laws to prevents any meaningful action against the perpetrators in remote communities who freely assault, rape, sexual abuse children, and murder indigenous mothers? Are the authorities so fearful of being accused or labelled ‘racists’ that these criminals escape prosecution? (See Human Rights, 8 Commissioners & 18C’s).
Blindly throwing more money at Indigenous affairs without accountability under the Government’s strategy to reduce Indigenous disadvantage, simply does not work. The ‘Closing the Gap’ initiative is a program of ‘failure by design’ simply by virtue of bureaucratic involvement. Liars can craft their truth, but the real truth lies in the outcomes, which continue to deteriorate. The reality is that this farce does not absolve us from the immorality of unconscious genocide.
It is too convenient not to care about Indigenous Australians; the phrases ‘ignorance is bliss’ and ‘out of sight, out of mind’ are really just stand-ins for ‘denial’! Our politicians have been purposely distracting from the real issues by officiating over self-interested, superficial, obscure and irrelevant issues. Is the distant isolation of Indigenous communities from the halls of power far-flung enough that we can satisfy ourselves with soft causes because they provide a safe excuse to turn a blind eye to the real issues, the pressing problems like the deplorable situation depicted in the following visual? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkZ8_kIjmYQ
We Baby Boomers have failed future generations of Australians. How can the baby boomers and the politicians that represent them, claim equal allegiance to all Australians with this level of disparity in our communities. Look at what politicians have done to this country and in return they insist that we address them as ‘Honourable’ with delusional expectation that we pay obeisance to them?
Meanwhile Australians remain preoccupied, totally consumed and openly hostile about being given ‘the say they were promised’ on same-sex marriage, yet won’t get off their arse to demand change for an entire generation of Australians whose very existence is being threatened.
That we don’t care is painful and shameful… On behalf of the Baby Boomer generation, I offer my sincere apology!
21 August 2017
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. – Martin Luther King Jr