Over the last fifteen years, much effort has gone into the preparation of sustainability reports. These are reports that provide information on social and environmental as well as economic matters. This has been done in the name of improved decision making, accountability and transparency. It has also been motivated by a desire to promote ecologically sustainable development. But for all the effort, it is difficult to know exactly what has been achieved and how useful sustainability reports have been. This is worrying when you consider the amount of resources that have been dedicated to the task. To address this issue, we undertook a review of sustainability reporting in Australia.
Government and Accountability
The recent rush of activity around climate change has led some to suggest that the Federal Government has finally got the message on the perils of global warming, but history indicates such optimism is misplaced. The Government's announcements of the past month are just more of the window-dressing and stalling tactics that we have had to endure for more than a decade. The Government's strategy on climate change has been simple. Deny it and muddy the waters on the science for as long as possible, while providing large subsidies to the fossil fuel industry under the guise of greenhouse programs.
Giving free rein to the market very often leads to an erosion of moral values””the work we have done on youth and pornography and on the sexualisation of children is an illustration of that. So here's a real contradiction in the heart of conservative politicians; it astonishes me that a moral hard-liner like Tony Abbott can resolutely refuse, time after time, to reign in the market forces that exacerbate the problems he complains about.
The Government argues that encouraging people to work longer is also helping them do something for their own benefit. However, increasing the retirement age is asking people to contribute time at a life stage when time is scarce. For boomers, being compelled to work later means that individuals are giving up something - time - that they cannot retrieve. With superannuation, individuals will get it all back, and more, at a time when they feel that they will need it most. It has only been 14 years since the introduction of compulsory super. It is evident that it is transforming not just retirement incomes but the relationship between citizens and government.
Steve Irwin created a new genre of documentary called "nature nasty" which rejects attempts to portray animals in their natural environment going about their usual activities. Instead, it goes in search of the most dangerous, poisonous and bizarre and provokes animals into extreme behaviour.
Irwin's death provided a trigger for a gratuitous outpouring of hatred directed at the "elites" who found his antics embarrassing, especially when they were represented as authentically Australian. In the present political climate every event is turned by right-wing cultural warriors into an excuse to attack the imagined enemies of John Howard.
The government's industrial relations changes were always going to be controversial, but it has done itself no favours in establishing a regime that is overseen by government agencies that are politically compromised. Until the Office of Workplace Relations and other similar agencies are truly independent of government, employees are justified in suspecting that there is no longer an independent umpire overseeing the workplace.
The Federal Government's plans to repeal the cross-media ownership laws are due before Cabinet in the next few weeks. There is little doubt they will get the tick of approval and then slide through parliament - thereby ensuring greater concentration of media ownership and a loss of diversity in Australia's media. The Australian media is already heavily concentrated by OECD measures and the government proposal would only make it worse. Removing the cross-media laws would lead to a carnivorous feast until the lions of the industry have more than a lion's share.
The Howard Government's vilification of indigenous communities and their culture is another in a long line of morally repugnant diversionary tactics employed by a Government devoid of ideas and scrambling to retain the interest of the electorate. When the history of this Government is written, the events in recent times should be placed side-by-side with the shameful exploitation of refugees, the wicked fear-mongering that followed the Wik decision, the gay bashing in 2004 and the demonisation of drug-users in terms of the most unethical political strategies employed in its decade of power.
The Howard Government has made a mockery of the environment and heritage portfolio, turning it into little more than a pork-barrel buffet. But who would have thought that things would stoop to the level where the federal Environment Minister would use environment laws against the environment. This is precisely what occurred on Wednesday when the minister announced that he was using the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to block a wind-farm development at Bald Hills in Victoria's South Gippsland, supposedly on the grounds that the wind turbines would threaten the survival of the endangered orange-bellied parrot.
According to the Prime Minister, Indigenous history should be taught as part of the "whole national inheritance". He also indicated that his Government is willing to "meet the Indigenous people more than half way" on the road to reconciliation. On the basis of these statements, one would expect the Howard Government to have sought to promote the conservation and understanding of Indigenous heritage. It is part of our "national inheritance" and, as such, is surely deserving of equal billing with our colonial and post-Federation history. Apparently not.