Williams' Word with Ray Williams | May 22

PLEASE DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’

At least two critics of the Turnbull Government’s plan to put a levy on the big banks have said it is all aimed at getting money from people who have been ‘successful’.

What they mean is people who have made lots of money.

But that would include the wealthy people who have underpaid their staff, the operators of the big banks who really fear a Royal Commission into their activities, the importers of illegal drugs, or the wealthy lady whose children are suing her for money. It would mark people like Fred Hollows as not very successful because he didn’t charge for much of his great work.

And how many of these ‘successful’ people would have been able to start their careers without the help of wealthy parents? Having a rich Dad surely helps start a money-collecting career.

On the other hand, there are lots of people who have never had much money but have a loving family, enjoy their work (most of the time), and are really good people. 

Are they not a success? Yet some of our elected politicians seem to believe that their task is to ensure that their friends who are already wealthy can become even richer. They really need to re-assess their values.

BATTLE OF THE ‘BIG THREE’

Out of the ‘big three’ hegemons, the USA, China and Russia, all wanting to become the world’s leader, which is most likely to succeed?

At this stage Russia is an ‘also ran’. Its economy is struggling and its main involvement in world affairs appears to be in trying to maintain control over the countries to its west that were once under ‘communist’ Russia, but have now opted to rely on the Western influence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Russia has also gained prominence as a host country of computer hackers who try to influence voters in  democratic countries.

So, at this stage, the competition is between the USA and China and the big difference is that while America is closing its borders to outside influences and fighting battles in the Middle East, China is spending vast amounts of its huge wealth in providing foreign aid to many other countries and promoting the construction of a rail link to take its markets, and its influence, into Eastern Europe. 

Which of these two hegemons, then, is most likely to become the dominant world power? 

One wants to keep people out, the other appears to be a clever, secretive but very sensitive world leader.

Australia is doing the right thing in indicating it is ‘friends with both but allies with one’. Is there any alternative?

BUT WHAT SORT OF DEFENCE?

In the coming year our government will spend about $50 billion on defence – just in case some other nation might decide to attack us, a worrying but very remote possibility – and, sadly, not a brass razoo to be spent on climate change which is already happening.

Here we are, one of the most remote countries in the world, without any potential enemy poised at our door but spending almost a billion dollars every week, ‘just in case’.

Although our biggest selling newspapers, our shock jocks and the politicians don’t even talk about it, the world’s climate is changing and it’s not only the climate. Man has made a big mess throughout the world with no control on population growth but the recent budget papers seemed to ignore climate change and the destruction of the world’s coral reefs or any of the other scientific studies about the future of our planet that should be a major plank in any realistic budget.

We can only assume that the reason is, simply, that there isn’t as much money to be made out of renewables as there is from the sale and use of carbon fuels, such as coal.

Why else would some of the wealthiest people in the world be financing a very effective international campaign that denies the science of climate change? They have even used the same teams as were used a generation or so back when we were told that smoking was not a health hazard.

Back to that $50 billion being spent on defence. Has there been any move by our elected decision makers to avoid the terrible blunders of the past when Australia became involved in several unnecessary, unwise and apparently illegal wars while holding on to the United States’ coattails?

Take, for example, the strange goings on in North Korea. Should Australia become directly involved in some sort of action? China should take a leadership role in bringing this militaristic country into line because of its historical ties, but why is the US involved? This should be a problem for the United Nations, not for individual countries. Realistically, it is a world problem. 

Sure, Australia needs the protection of the US but our involvement in that continuing cultural/religious war in the Middle East was never requested by the UN Security Council – and has it ever been debated in our parliament? Who made the decision that we should become involved?

The recent Federal Budget was given wide publicity but has anyone questioned why we need to spend so much on defence? Or why we ignore the threat of climate change?

If, on the other hand, we were to lead a campaign to make the UN Security Council more democratic and able to stifle the actions of that strange man in North Korea and the cruelties of the wars in the Middle East, it would surely be money well spent.

At the very least, we need to change the present system so that all the people we elect to run our country have a say in whether or not Australia should go to war. The system used in the past has been a complete failure and has achieved nothing.

  • Ray Williams has been a Post columnist since retiring from the newsroom in 1993.