#Twenty years has not been long enough for #Australia to resolve the unrelenting problems of aged care, #Indigenous reconciliation or emissions trading.
#Previously secret federal cabinet papers from 2000 show #John #Howard’s government faced questions over the quality of the aged care sector in the wake of the kerosene baths scandal in #Melbourne.
#Vision of family members shaking in shock and weeping outside the #Riverside nursing home, as news broke of residents being subjected to kerosene baths to cure an outbreak of scabies, was broadcast across the nation in early 2000.
#Fast forward to 2020, and the #Federal #Government is waiting for the final report from its royal commission into the aged care sector, called in the wake of sickening allegations of poor treatment of vulnerable elderly #Australians in nursing homes, exposed through the media and the bravery of whistleblowers.
The interim report of the inquiry — titled ‘#Neglect’ — made for sobering reading, and has fuelled one of the most passionate debates in #Australian politics in 2020.
#As the nation grappled with how to care for its elderly, hundreds of thousands of people also called for reconciliation with #Indigenous #Australians.
#Most spectacularly, a march across the #Sydney #Harbour #Bridge was a powerful statement before the #Sydney #Olympics.
#Twenty years on, the #Closing the #Gap targets show there is limited progress in addressing inequality, and enshrining an #Indigenous voice in the constitution is stuck and disputed.
#Emissions trading scheme flagged in 2000
The papers released by the #National #Archives also showed the cabinet had early support for an emissions trading scheme (ETS) as a way to meet international climate targets.
#In a sign of what was to come, the papers showed hints from the industry portfolio that such a scheme could hit business hard.
#But reading those 20-year-old papers does not reveal that two decades of poisonous bickering was to come over the best way to tackle carbon emissions.
#It has left #Australia’s political landscape littered with the remains of political careers from across the ideological spectrum.
#You may be forgiven for wondering why on #Earth these matters have not been resolved two decades down the track.
#What does it say about the nation and its leaders that such vital issues remain unsettled?
#Cabinet historian #Associate #Professor #Chris #Wallace suggests it has something to do with tone in the corridors of power, and how that echoes across the country.
“I think the big thing that has been lost from national politics in the intervening period are politicians who understand the difference between strategy and tactics,” she said.
“#So a generation ago, we still had in government leaders and a cabinet that understood strategic policymaking.
“I would say, now, we have degenerated into a purely tactical policy-making phase, and the reason is lack of historical perspective, an inability of politicians to see strategically what’s necessary for the long term, and make the tactical moves required to get us there.”
#Hardly a glowing endorsement.
#Former deputy prime minister and #Nationals leader #John #Anderson — while not willing to stick the boot in to the current bunch of legislators to the same extent — agreed with #Dr #Wallace that the last proper policy debate in #Australia came as the nation considered the GST.
#He saw a fear that was only going to get worse, through polarising discussion on matters such as #Brexit and the #Trump presidency overseas, and the febrile and vitriolic debate that occurs in forums such as social media.
“#We’ve got to be careful and understand that what is really happening, I think, is that we are being fractured, particularly by the extremes at either end of the political spectrum,” he said.
“The great majority of wonderful #Australians in the middle are watching this terrible warfare going on over their heads thinking, ‘hang on, what about us? #What about the national interest?’
“There seem to be some big challenges out there? #Can you people stop point scoring?'”
#Unfortunately, for students of history, it seems unless things change, everything will stay the same.
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