It can be hard to feel like there is any point to fighting "the good fight" in this country when so many of our politicians don't even seem bothered to hide their affiliations to special interest groups. In his film, Man of the Year, Robin Williams famously suggested that politicians should wear sponsorship badges advertising their affiliations on their suits like NASCAR drivers. I rather think his character was onto something.
I've been interested in politics for a long time, but at first, I had a wide-eyed, naive belief that a strong logical argument was sufficient to sway a reasonable politician's mind. What I've come to realise is what you actually need is deep pockets, or a loud enough voice to create enough ripples that make a PR fallout not worth the damage.
We've seen the government spruik big-business tech companies inexplicably selling RAT tests - unsurprisingly, these businesses are big political sponsors. Oh, and recipients of millions in JobKeeper funds despite record profits, with zero political backlash or robodebt-esque debt collection action taken.
Mining companies are famous for their political lobbying to approve projects, despite Native Title, cultural heritage and environmental concerns. In 2019, we even saw the Queensland state government push through an amendment to the Queensland criminal law that saw the use of attachment devices common in peaceful protests be outlawed, with a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
The Human Rights Law Centre made a submission during the brief window permitted for inquiry that argued the amendment will "unfairly and unreasonably impact on peoples' freedom to peacefully protest in Queensland", but it fell on deaf ears.
Is it possible that the billions the Queensland government expected to make in mining royalties from companies being interrupted by annoying and inconvenient climate protests was sufficient to warrant such extreme measures? Perhaps when added to the pressure applied by the mining companies, it tipped them over the edge. For pressure was most definitely added. By lobbyists who used to be in government themselves, no less.
But, nothing to see here.
Is it really any wonder that the permanent JobSeeker rate hasn't been effectively raised since the '90s? Is it surprising that, despite the continued employment stress from COVID, the COVID supplement and JobKeeper have not returned since the beginning of 2021? Is it honestly a shock that we have to fight tooth and nail for disability support, NDIS support, healthcare and accessibility to services that are actually founded in our very human rights, supposedly protected by our ratification of international human rights law? I don't think it's an accident that big business seems to be doing just fine while small businesses are struggling to pay rent and pay their workers, and everyday Australians are stretched thin trying to make ends meet.
But trickle-down economics works, right? So we'll be fine, right?
On January 25 last year, when Grace Tame was named Australian of the Year, I had no idea just how powerful her impact on our country would be. Ms Tame has been authentic and outspoken, and at times has made others feel uncomfortable with the criticism she has levied at the federal government.
But change is rarely made quietly. You can't always be conciliatory when demanding notice be taken. And when you're an "ordinary Australian" without financial backing, political connections or power, change needs a bang, not a whimper.
The rise of neoliberalism in this country saw a shift towards corporate Australia as the key shapers of the political landscape, and the use of defamation lawsuits by our political leaders against everyday Australians has shaped a frightening reality where we must choose between our personal safety and speaking out. We are living in a tightly controlled age of corporatocracy.
But I hope that the emerging pattern of independents standing for Parliament is sparking the beginning of a new movement forward for us all. A movement where government can actually be democratic: by the people, for the people.