Editorial. Peter Whiting.

30 March 2021.

During the waning years of the Trump presidency, it became fashionable to reference the inordinate number of misleading statements made by President Trump. The Washington Post claimed that, in the four years of his presidency, Trump made 30,573 false or misleading statements. The impact of these claims is all too evident in the USA today, with the nation deeply divided over almost any issue. Just a few are the result of the presidential election, the cause of and solution to the Covid 19 pandemic, the state of the economy.

While Trump may hold some type of contemporary record for misleading information among national leaders, he is certainly not alone, as this issue of our newsletter attests all too clearly. Sadly, Australia is not free from blame in this regard.

Bevan Ramsden, a long-time peace activist, in his article boldly entitled The blood-for-oil Iraq war demands a robust public inquiry, notes that the Iraqi war was founded on baseless claims of weapons of mass destruction. Despite the largest anti-war demonstration ever conducted in Australia, then-Prime Minister John Howard committed troops to a war for which the UK Chilcott Inquiry subsequently found the threats to be overstated and the legal basis for war unsatisfactory.

Bruce Duncan, addressing the recent papal visit to Iraq, asks Pope Francis apologises for the war against Iraq, but will Australia? Francis went as a ‘penitent pilgrim’ seeking forgiveness for the sins of those who brought war upon Iraq. Francis’ prayer for reconciliation speaks true to us in Australia in so many ways: “…make us instruments of reconciliation, builders of a just and fraternal society”.

Concern about truth is the paramount consideration in the article by Harry Hobbs, entitled Victoria’s truth-telling commission: to move forward we need to answer for the legacies of colonisation. The Commission is predicated on the idea that there can be ‘no justice without truth’. This is not only about documenting history, but also about providing a bridge between past and present.

Henry Reynolds, a prominent Australian historian, believes it makes sense for the violent dispossession of the Aboriginal people to be addressed first at state-based truth-telling Commissions. In Truth and Treaties: the ongoing legacy of the Uluru statement, he states that the Uluru statement represents a direct challenge to the foundation of Australian law.

Lesley Hughes et al also believe the stark truth of climate change is being downplayed. Wake up Mr. Morrison: Australia’s slack climate effort leaves our children 10 times more work to do than us is a call for concerted action. Failure to act with urgency will have tragic outcomes.

Nicholas Rowley and James Ridge, in their article, The powerful national upside of zero emissions, see this downplaying of climate change as denying Australia the opportunity to transition most effectively. They acknowledge that Australia need not aspire to lead the world on net-zero policy this year. But, to play a constructive role on the international stage, the Prime Minister knows he must reset the debate at home and commit to net-zero.

Tim Colebatch reviews Ross Garnaut’s new book, Reset: Restoring Australia after the Pandemic Recession. As the title of his article conveys, he is strongly supportive of committing to climate change realities and investing in renewables. The article, Go hard, go early, go renewables, mirrors the basic proposal that it is possible to restore full employment by utilising renewables to transform our international competitiveness.

Hal Pawson and Bill Randolph, in Rising house prices putting at risk the economic stability of the nation, argue that rising house prices, once lauded as indicators of political and economic success, are in truth a threat to economic stability and equality.

Working from an historical context, Frances Flanagan assesses Australia has a long history of coercing people into work. There are better options than ‘dobbing in’. She argues that, in an age of decreasing equality, social fragmentation, and climate change, it is necessary to propose new ways of transitioning people into work.

These articles traverse a number of important social policy issues: just war, indigenous rights, climate change, right to work, and social equity. The authors bear out the proposition that, if we do not properly define the underlying issue(s), then we will fail to discern the best solutions. More than ever, we need to present the ‘real’ situation, not one borne of ‘alternative facts’ or spin.

This, in turn, highlights the need for a truly free and independent media, the importance of readers applying critical assessment to what they read, but perhaps most of all, it calls for courage in political life to present things as they are, rather than as political advantage would wish them to be.

Photo Grace McDunnough. flickr cc.

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