It is said that nature abhors a vacuum. Perhaps the same can be said of politics. Negativity and fear can come to dominate public life when there isn't a positive vision compelling enough to crowd it out. Australia's journey over the past two years bears this out.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we faced an unprecedented challenge with a sense of purpose and optimism. We are all in this together, we were told.
At first, this seemed to be true. People sleeping rough were housed in hotels. Renters couldn't be turned out of their homes if they couldn't pay the rent. Payments to people out of work were doubled. Those in danger of losing their jobs were paid a living wage. But as time went on and support began to fall away, the pandemic exposed how our systems were designed to look after the most advantaged best.
Now, we enter the next phase of the pandemic with a sense of stasis. The creativity and possibility that first framed response is gone. It has been replaced with an expectation that we will "push on" and then "snap back" to normal.
And now, the major challenges facing the country before the pandemic remain unchanged. Hundreds of thousands of Australians are still struggling to find an affordable home. Those who are out of work are struggling to make ends meet. The very real and existential threat of climate change continues to loom over our polity.
These issues are part of the "normal" we are snapping back to. Yet in many cases, the pandemic showed that we can solve these problems quickly if we choose to - leaving many Australians hungry for leadership and ideas.
Just months away from a generation defining-election, Anglicare Australia is putting forward five big ideas for how to change Australia for the better and tackle some of the problems we are facing for good.
We need to tackle the poverty crisis. Over 3 million Australians living in poverty across the country. This problem was all but solved in 2020 when the government lifted Centrelink payments over the poverty line, before dropping them back down again. We have done it before. We can do it again, guaranteeing everyone a permanent basic income.
The government itself has made jobs a priority in the pandemic recovery. This is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity to invest in real job creation - and adopt a jobs guarantee for everyone who wants one.
Housing is a central to our vision. Everyone agrees that a home is a basic human need, and nobody doubts the scale of the affordability crisis. Yet even those working full-time are struggling to put a roof over their heads. Somehow, in spite of all of the dire predictions for the housing market, Australians are still spending record amounts on housing. We must act now to stop Australia from becoming a country where only the very wealthy can avoid housing stress.
It is difficult to be anything other than alarmed about the inability of politics to deal with climate change - but the appetite for action has never been stronger. Anglicare Australia wants to put those hardest hit by the climate crisis at the centre of the response, adapting to the warming that is already happening and doing what we can to stop it from getting worse.
Most importantly, we propose to put people at the centre of decisions about our future. We call for leadership, for long-sighted governments that govern for everyone. Our call for a people's inquiry into the COVID-19 response is not about undermining leadership but about encouraging it, and challenging our leaders to do better.
If the past two years have shown us anything, it is that people are hungry for leadership. These ideas are our attempt to fill the vacuum in leadership, and offer a vision that goes beyond our current crisis to take us towards a better future.
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