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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Social Good - Have We Lost the Plot or Have Society's Values Changed Forever?

If martians or other alien life forms exist and they were to visit our lovely planet or indeed our lovely corner of the planet known as Australia, what would they see and how would they view us? Lets consider the following scenarios and then reflect on where we want to be as a nation and as a people in generations to come.

This is a very wide canvas from the physical aspects of our planet, in such things as the environment and how we use the planet's resources through to the social values of its inhabitants and how Australia's inhabitants treat and value each other's presence and activities within it. So let's narrow the focus somewhat so that we can keep this to a tidy neat little article as the thesis that I am currently writing on change management does not get duplicated here on this issue. Lets home in on social justice and caring for our fellow citizens.

So what sort of things would the martians notice at this level?

Well, had they have arrived in Sydney during the beginning of February they would have noticed that the NSW government threw in excess of $430,000 out one of the large windows at Railcorp defending their anti-discrimination case that was brought by Graeme Innes, a disabled individual, who successfully brought action against that auspicious organisation for not adequately addressing the need of blind people when it comes to ensuring they are able to identify railway stations. Oh and by the way, Mr. Innes is Australia's Disability Discrimination Commissioner, but that is just by-the-by. The case had been going for two and a half years

Let me put this in context. I deal with organisations in the NSW Disability Services sector that provide very important services to the disabled community and they do this under very difficult circumstances. They work with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of families, carers and disabled people whose lives are very different to many other residents of this incredibly lucky country of ours and yet who face hardships that many of us seem to ignore. Quite a few of these organisations are of a small size, namely less than $5 million in turnover  So the NSW government throws out and wastes, without any serious consideration  nearly 10% of one of these organisations full year annual budgets. I'll let you do the maths as to how many lives that amount of money actually impacts. And by-the-way, can I ask who in Railcorp has taken responsibility or has been held accountable for this debacle? I don't think accountability is a strong point of theirs!

So far, our martian friends are slightly confused with this level of disparity. Why would the bureaucracy of its leaders be so wasteful when money is short and there is so much in peoples lives that needs to change and money can in fact assist?

Let's now go to the other end of the spectrum. They notice that there is a huge divide between those in this society who 'have it' and those that are being challenged and don't have it at all. I talk of the windfall gain of Marius Kloppers, outgoing CEO of BHP. A $75 million handshake seems like an interesting use of a public company's hard earned cash. Let me give you some quick mathematical parameters to this figure. At current bank term deposit rates of say 4% (and I doubt whether Mr. Kloppers would be investing in these) $75 million would equate to a weekly interest payment to that individual of $57,700. The martian on the left is looking at the martian on the right and wondering what does one individual do that can substantiate that sort of reward? The answer is not quite clear, either to the martians or to many others, excepting those that are shareholders in BHP - which then begs the question when is enough, enough?

Has our society lost sight of people and the comparative values that we function within? Has society lost sight of what they value and what they don't? Is Australia continuing to clear the path of equality and focusing individual priority and forgetting what may be the glue that binds us as a nation?

I am not suggesting socialism as the answer, nor am I suggesting that democratic capitalism is all that its cracked up to be. Lets consider the GFC and the advent of financial engineering as evidence of that. I am however asking the question - when is enough, enough? At what point does society say that one individual earning $57,700 per week could be excessive whilst large numbers of lives are badly lived?

After this short visit our martian friends decide to return home, having had a pleasant trip, felt the physical beauty of Australia, but deciding that as a people, there is much work that needs to be done in order to improve the lives of ALL its inhabitants. Oh well - 2 less diners at one of Obeid's restaurants at Circular Quay. Never mind Eddie - there will be other opportunities.

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