The Good Society is an informal network of people who believe that our society is made rich by the social networks, common resources and relationships that we share. Increasingly it seems that the role of citizen has been recast as consumers, breeding our distrust of the political motivations of elected representatives and in the broader value of inclusive democracies.
This is a platform for you to share and distribute your ideas about how we can build a fair and just society, that meets our social needs as well as our economic ones. It is also a space for you to educate, debate and listen to the lived experiences of others to enhance how we think about policy making.
Our objective is to offer voters a range of credible, well developed policy ideas for consideration by government that reflect that we live in a society, not an economy. We need to transform the debate to understand how the economy can service our social goals, as opposed to how we can limit our social aspirations to meet the relentless expansion of the market economy.
Restoration of ‘public’ services. Examine the role of privatisation of public utilities and community services in eroding public trust in government, through the transformation of citizens into consumers. Explore the feasibility of reclaiming control over these enterprises to reassure citizens that public funds (pooled taxes) are committed to the provision of essential services. these need to be seen as affordable, environmentally responsible and reliable (including electricity, roads, public transport).
Reinstate social planning mechanisms. Reintroduce planning models to determine the location of aged, disability, children’s and educational services based on community need. Limit ‘for profit’ services to co-exist, where needed, but at controlled costs and locations.
Measure unpaid activity. Establish a new criteria for measuring progress and wellbeing that challenge politicised assumptions e.g. GDP that value is only derived through material, tradable goods and services . These new measures should include the full range of unpaid contributions that provides the uncounted infrastructure of society such as; caring, social, creative, innovative, traditional and cultural activities.
Support new patterns of paid and unpaid work. Current and future demands for paid workers are not likely to offer enough secure, well- paid options. We need to challenge the assumptions of the 20th century models: long working hours (shorter hours usually lead to greater productivity), remove the distinction between full-time and part-time (which is increasingly obsolete), and recognise the gender bias of work patterns associated with care of family members. These changes need to include other many and various ways people contribute to wellbeing beyond paid work and recognised them in policy settings and debates.
Welfare system transformation. A fundamental review of Australia’s over-complex, draconian and controlling welfare system is essential. The current welfare payments system fails to appreciate the realities of lives of people who access it, and is consequently flawed. The compounded excess of government control in the requiring the working age population, regardless of circumstance, to seek paid work and the litany of means-testing conditions and compliance demands has resulted in systemic unfairness and stigmatisation. Income management and similar coercive regimes label and infantilise recipients and should be banned or severely limited. We need to look at the benefits and possibilities of establishing a paid social dividend (universal basic income) as an alternative to welfare. It’s possible introduction should be fully explored and design issues debated.
Fair allocation of funds to education. Provide advice to governments on the fair allocation of public funds to all types of education (pre-schools, schools, technical education, universities), with the aim of sustaining an education system that promotes equity of outcomes as well as opportunities. Publicly funded education should be non-profit, culturally sensitive, relevant and accessible.
Review of funding of community services. Review funding arrangements for childcare, aged care and other community services including those addressing domestic violence and the NDIS. Look at restoring the funding of Not-for-profit local services as those with some community input and control are best positioned to meet the users’ needs. So, community services should be community based and controlled, funded adequately, culturally appropriate and delivered by organisations that reflect user needs.
Start the above by reversing the parental fee relief based funding model of Child Care services which leaves provision to market forces. This means currently 70% of care is being operated by for-profit organisations and are subject to market forces in relation to fees and location. We need to restore direct government funding or contracts with childcare services, to ensure that they respond to local and user needs and engagement and are affordable.
A fairer health system. Develop ideas that contribute to a fairer, more equitable health care system. Medicare is being eroded by increased gap payments and inequities in many areas such dental health and Aboriginal health outcomes. Private Health insurance is also in trouble. Unintended consequences of funding regimes and competitive tendering impact heavily in less affluent and rural areas.
A social environment to support climate change and sustainability. Government infighting and (in)action on the environment is a major cause of voter cynicism and distrust in Australia capacity to tackle difficult issues. This is a classic example of where change is needed that goes beyond short term political policies, the private/public divide, generational conflict and a narrow economic view of Australia’s interests. The ecological crises have the potential to offer a pathway for a radical re-thinking of the ways we organise society and provide innovative, effective solutions.
Humanitarian refugee and immigration policies. Develop a humane refugee and immigration position that includes the closure of programs on Manus Island and Nauru. Engage with the region to provide adequate alternative locations for existing refugees (e.g. in New Zealand, Australia and other like countries), and develop protocols of cooperation with the Asia Pacific. Importantly, the immigration status of those on temporary visas in Australia should be immediately processed and clarified.
Give voice and legitimacy to Indigenous viewpoints. Restart public discussions on the Uluru Statement, treaties and on ways to include Indigenous voices in public policy, as part of wider changes to government funding and constitutional reform. Introduce self-determination criteria into all Indigenous funding and consult widely on how to achieve this.
Encourage ethical behaviour in corporations. Develop conditions and standards of ethical behaviour, including fair tax contributions, for corporations. Government inaction on misbehaviour by the private sector, including but not limited to the banks, is central to growing distrust.
Review gendered socialisation practices and education. Evidence from #metoo and the number of domestic violence incidences prove unequivocally that gender-power relations in Australia need to be addressed. We should look closely at how we socialise girls and boys to fix gendered inequities, for example we need appropriate education programs that develop girls’ agency and allow boys read a diversity of emotions. The aim here is long-term behavioural change for future generations that address the toxic bases of gendered behaviours and diminish social aspects of violence as self-assertion.
Australia has a trust deficit and it seems to be getting worse. Some early media stories signal that this election is not very welcome, because fewer see the political system as able to fix the problems we are facing.
There was a 1970s badge that declared:
Women who want equality with men lack ambition.
This statement neatly sums up the broad intentions of second-wave feminists to create radical shifts of gender power. On International Women’s Day 2016, looking back, I suggest we failed to pursue that agenda and settled for much less. We achieved formal legal equality over the subsequent decade, but moving past that into wider social equity changes seems definitely to have stalled.
Our forum is coming soon.