Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck
At the end of WWII my country could make its own aircraft, radar sets, ships and tanks. By 1947 Ben Chifley our war-time prime minister had launched the Snowy Mountain scheme, and by 1958 we had built HIFAR our first nuclear reactor. In 1967 we were the fourth nation to launch a satellite into orbit, and were pioneering digital computers on the Snowy scheme. So how did a nation that did all these things not because they were easy, but because it believed they were important enough to do, end up in a situation where the dying heart of our industrial might is considered to be a few foreign-owned car manufacturing plants in Victoria?
I had in mind in particular the lack of innovation in Australian manufacturing and some other forms of Australian business, banking for example. In these, as a colonial carry over, Australia showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society.
We seem to have lost the ability to imagine a tomorrow different from today,and then to act on that imagining. Instead our future is mapped out by the great and the good as little more than a large open cut mine. Nation building? We’ll have none of that, it’s all about homo-economicus, the citizen defined as consumer and the devil take the hindmost. Energy policy? Why would we need that? We’ve got plenty of coal to burn for another two centuries. Imagination and reflection? No time in the feeding frenzy media cycle that substitutes for informed and rational debate. Nor are our so called business leaders any better, an obsession with short term gain and an unwillingness to take risks has led to our best individuals and their ideas decamping overseas.
The problem is that this century is going to be even tougher than the last and any nation that lacks imagination, courage and the tenacity to stay the course will just go under. I wish I could report that I think Australians have what it takes to weather the coming storm, but viewing the puerile partisan debates swirling around the latest casualties in a long dying half century of neglectful myopia I am less than optimistic.