In Future Makers, Future Takers: Life in Australia 2050, published in 1999, Cocks states in his first chapter that Australia ‘used to have five agreed principles guiding society: white Australia, industry protection, wage arbitration, state paternalism (intervention for the common good) and imperial benevolence (belief that prosperity and security is underwritten by the Empire).’ We know that these principles have had their last breath, replaced by the principle for economic rationalism to compete globally. Since the Global Financial Crisis we know that the principle of economic rationalism is no longer relevant either. But nothing has replaced it. We just know that those people or businesses operating solely from this mode will soon become the dinosaurs of our nation.
Since the GFC several projects have assessed Australia’s Values. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) measures Australia’s Progress (2012) across social, economic, environmental and governance factors; the ANDI research project (2013) builds on the ABS’s measures to establish a full suite of progress measures across the four factors; and the Barrett Values Centre’s National Culture Assessment (2010) measures the dysfunction in society between people’s personal values, current culture and desired culture values.
The comparisons of values between these projects are mapped across the 7 level of consciousness model. They show striking similarities despite the different samples and consultation processes used in each project. Each looks positive, understands the need to meet current basic needs, cohesion and consider future generations.
What is missing in the current discussion is the notion that perhaps the values we want now may not be the values appropriate for the future. For example the ANDI found that there is less interest by Australians in foreign aid investments. And the current government has cut these investments substantially. However, as long we have a group of people who have perceived wealth and a bigger group of people who have no wealth we will experience wars, refugees, and national security issues as a continued problem. Contradictory security and peaceful were the two top qualities wanted for Australia’s progress.
Using values wanted today may lead to decisions which have a long term negative impact nationally and globally. Planning for the future is an imperative not a pipe dream. Governments’ have to make decisions according to National values and for the long term. Australian kids and grandkids deserve an earth worth living on.