Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The 'Spirit' of Australia has a story today about the Qantas shareholders throwing tanties about executive pays in light of huge drops in profit. And while the story about is about executive pays (an issue I have historically sat on the fence about) my gripe is with Qantas’ use of the slogan ‘the Spirit of Australia’. I think in many ways, Qantas does embody the real spirit of Australlia, but it is not a spirit I want to be associated with.

Remember back in the day when there was no competition in the air market in Australia when Qantas was one of only two airlines. How much did it cost to fly? It was bloody expensive. And why? Because Qantas was ripping us off blind.

In spite of lower fuel costs, lower wages and cheaper booze and food, flights were significantly more expensive back then than they are now. We were all robbed by Qantas. But now, they somehow command reverence as being ‘truly Australian’. They stand for everything Australia stands for – the spirit of Australia.

But is screwing others over really the Spirit of Australia?

I find this a hard question because we would all like to say ‘no, Australia’s spirit is one of a relaxed , easy going, generous nation’. But is that really the truth? It seems that all too often we Australians are happy to screw others over, or at least sit back and watch other do it. It is part of our culture. If, like Qantas did for decades, you can screw someone over without going outside the law, it is fine. It’s good business. Good leadership.

Take for instance the way the Government is currently treating the Tamil refugees that are now back in Indonesia. If the refugees had landed on Australian soil, the government would have to look after them. That’s what the law says. But, intercepting them before they reach land and sending them to a third party nation to sit and starve in a boat is totally fine. It’s not illegal, it’s good leadership.

Irrespective of the rebuke that the Government is currently getting in the media over the matter, a large number of Australians think that this is the right way to deal with refugees.

Is that what the ‘spirit’ of Australia has come to? Do we, want Australia to be known as a closed, greedy country - a country full of people who will screw people over whenever they can do it legally?

I would rather we be known as a ‘fair go’ country. A country that accepts people that have been persecuted in other countries – not a country that locks them up in detention. A country that cherishes its diversity – because, after all, we are almost all new to this country.

That’s the ‘Spirit of Australia’ to me.

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