Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Afghanistan - and 10 other debates Australia needs to have

Afghanistan - and 10 other debates Australia needs to have

Although no vote is expected at the end and the government's military policy will not be determined by the outcome of the MPs' speeches, it is still a chance for the issue to be debated and the mood of the nation to be guaged.
But if this is the start of the "new politics" in Australia - what other major issues or problems should we demand our politicians debate, and maybe even solve?
Here's a starter list of things that we think the Parliament could be discussing as a priority this week. Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section:
1 - Closing the gap
For too long confined to the too-hard bin by both major parties, the living standards of Indigenous people in Australia has never been anything to be proud of. Currently, our Indigenous people can expect to die 17 years before their non-Indigenous counterparts.
2 - Suicide rates
Take the amount of Australian soldiers that have died in Afghanistan, multiply it by 100 and you have the amount of people who die in suicide every year in Australia.
3 - Housing affordability
Australia has some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and with construction of new homes lagging well behind what's required to accommodate the combined factors of baby boom, "Big Australia" and immigration, it's not going to get any easier without the Government stepping in to get the market under control.
4 - National Broadband Network
Australians "enjoy" broadband speeds that are well below virtually all of the rest of the Westernised world. As of late 2009, we chug in at #15 on the world broadband map, with speeds 12 times slower than leader Japan and almost 20 times more expensive. But is it worth spending $43bn on speeding it up?
5 - The dollar
The strong Aussie dollar may make shopping online or going overseas cheaper but it isn’t all good news. Exporters will find it harder to compete as the relatively cost of our goods become more expensive and our local travel industry will take a drubbing as the Aussie dollar deters visitors from coming down under.
6 - Cost of living
Grocery prices, power, water - the list of services and basic needs that seem to be getting more expensive at a rate outstripping our wages grows daily. Or does it? Is it all in our minds?
7 - Obesity
Australia consistently ranks as one of the fattest nations in the world. This has potentially catastrophic consequences for the national health system. Are we doing enough to shape up?
8 - Alcohol-related violence
Anyone who has been out on a weekend night in an Australian city will have borne witness to this problem. The Australian Institute of Criminology says a conservative estimate is $1.7 billion in terms of the economic cost of alcohol-related violence; the social cost is estimated $187 million. The real cost is probably many multiples higher in terms of lost productivity and healthcare.
9 - Transport
It seems to take us longer to get to work every year. In NSW, the Keneally Government scrapped a 10-year, $50 billion CBD Metro project. Melburnians are swearing at the new Myki system. In Brisbane, the $3bn Clem7 tunnel is looming as a financial disaster. Who is responsible for crippling our commute and where are the long-term visions?
10 - Environment and climate change
Last, but by no means least, is how we deal with climate change in Australia. The country that once "rode on the sheep's back" is facing the double hit of extreme weather and having to pay increased taxes to fix the problem. Our mining industry claims being forced to pay an unreasonable share of the cost will put thousands of Australians out of work. How can we balance looking after the environment with looking out for Australian families?

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