By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Fair Share: Country and City in Australia
By Judith Brett (Quarterly Essay/Black Inc., $19.95, softcover, 91 pages)
Political commentator and author Judith Brett looks at the fate of Australia in an era of user-pays, water cutbacks, climate change, droughts and flooding rains.
It’s about the broken promise between city and country Australia.
According to Judith Brett, regional Australia has been relegated to the stuff of legend, but as a sunburnt country that was built on the sheep’s back, haven’t we always looked to the bush for our identity, our food and our exports?
The focus shifted to Australia’s cities decades ago, with the vast countryside feeling left out of the national picture. The professor of politics at La Trobe University argues that federation was built on the idea of a fair share, no matter where you lived.
“...The problems of the country were seen as unfortunate for those affected but not likely to have much impact on the rest of Australia. The agents of neoliberalism cut the country loose from the city and left it to fend for itself.”
Brett says it was a change in perception that breaks a fundamental promise between urban and regional Australia.
When “economic rationalism” became the new creed in the 1980s, the country had felt abandoned, its contribution to the nation dismissed, its historic purpose forgotten.
Brett makes some good arguments about our federation being built on the idea of a big country and a fair share, no matter where one lives.
However, there is a great need to rebalance debate and to focus on the country’s strengths and potential.
There is the commitment of citizenship, to bridge the gap with indigenous Australians and to maintain the equality of essential services for the 30 per cent living in rural and regional areas.
There are also legitimate responsibilities of nationhood to “rediscover the sense of obligation possessed by our federation forebears”.
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.