JIM COOMBS. Best Things In Life.

The stars belong to everyone: The best things in life are free.” Or they ought to be. The last week of Budget Hysteria, made me think, “Is money all there is to life?” That seems to be what the government and opposition believe is all we care about.

The madness of the capitalist rent-seekers to turn everything into a commodity to be sold has worked up to a point. Bow your head in shame, John Dawkins, you made education, the love of and thirst for knowledge and understanding, into a commodity ! Things which should be the right of all, clean potable water, clean air, health care when needed, time to spend with our children, are being progressively made into purchasable commodities.

You might reflect, as I have just done, on the joy that music brings to the heart, the up-lifting of the spirit singing in a choir, the sense of transcendence one has having played a tennis shot above and beyond one’s natural talent, the emotions wrought by holding one’s infant grand-child, the wonders of nature, walking through the bush. All these are worth more than the cash that comes from joining the Gadarene swine working unpaid overtime, neglecting the things that really do matter.

How do we get the “good life” ? Well, for a start it would help if the government appreciated the values I have adverted to above, instead of screaming, Clinton-like, “It’s the economy, stupid !”: The rush to the bottom of unbridled, unregulated, value free (one of their favourite falsehoods) promotion of “business” of any kind, at any cost to our better selves.

Even the pollsters, who are not too far from guilty, have asked people whether they would prefer the government to provide better services rather than a tax cut, and found to their horror that better services was the clear preference. So why do the politicians ignore the clear desires of the people. Surely they aren’t representing the interests of the rent-takers rather than those of the people they purport to represent? Indeed, polling has even shown a majority for higher taxes if that should lead to better services, protection of the poor, sick and aged, and promotion of cultural goods and abolition of nasties like on-line gambling.

Instead they attack the ABC and “commercialise” SBS. Without the ABC broadcasting would become the creature of business, with the objective of profit, not enlightenment, education or culture. The attack on the ABC is meant to stifle criticism and factual reporting, not simply parroting Rupert Murdoch or providing a platform for the Ray Hadleys of this world, those who are in it for the money.

A return to a more sane and balanced work-place would contribute to a good life. A return to the 40 hour week (remember ? our fathers fought for the right to spend time with their children and to pursue something other than the dollar). Unpaid overtime should be made illegal, as it is simply theft from the worker for the benefit of business owners. Yet the father of the Australian Way of Life, John Winston Howard did his damndest to destroy the bargaining power of labour, while throwing away (mostly to the already rich) the revenue benefits of the mining boom.

Do I hark back to better, fairer days? You betcha!

Jim Coombs is a nearly retired magistrate and economist.

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John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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