Recent Australian governments, whether Coalition or Labor, have been guilty
of unethical behaviour in a number of areas.
There are three very important fields where Australian governments have shown
a criminal lack of ethical standards.
- Refugees deserve to be treated humanely; there has been a sad lack of
compassion in Australian governments' treatment of refugees.
- Climate change and
ocean acidification are huge threats to
the future welfare of all the Earth's species, including Mankind; Australian
governments have failed to give them the priority they demand.
rich have been getting richer, the poor poorer, and the gap
between the two has been greatly increasing.
Recent governments have done next to nothing to produce a more equitable and just spread of wealth.
Wealth gives the wealthy power; similarly, lack of money makes the poor
One of the responsibilities of governments is to work to produce more equitable power across the wealth spectrum by limiting the power of the wealthy and increasing the power of the poor; recent Australian governments have, if anything, favoured the wealthy.
Unethical actions of governments of one or both major parties:
This ancient concept has a lot in common with the subject of this page.
Noblesse oblige is a French phrase literally meaning "nobility obliges".
It denotes the concept that nobility extends beyond mere entitlements and
requires the person who holds such status to fulfill social responsibilities,
particularly in leadership roles.
Similarly, those who have power have an ethical obligation to use that power
The Dictionnaire de l'Academie francaise defines it thus:
The Oxford English Dictionary meanwhile says that the term "suggests noble
ancestry constrains to honorable behavior; privilege entails to
- Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.
- (Figuratively) One must act in a fashion that conforms to one's position,
and with the reputation that one has earned.
- In regard to refugees:
- Governments have called them 'illegal immigrants'; there is nothing
illegal in entering Australia to seek asylum.
- Refugee camps have been run under secrecy to stop the people of Australia
from knowing what goes on in the camps.
This allows inhumane treatment of the refugees.
- The present (2016) Coalition government, with bipartisan support, has
jail terms of up to two years for health workers, welfare workers, teachers,
etcetera who speak or write about abuses that they know of in refugee camps.
(Outside of refugee camps these same people would have a legal responsibility
to report the same abuse.)
- In regard to climate change and ocean acidification:
- A fee-for-service arrangement, with political favours in exchange for
donations to campaign funds, is corrupt and unethical, but it seem to be the
only explanation for the favourable status that the coal industry is getting
from Australian governments, particularly from Coalition governments.
- Governments, whether Coalition or Labor, have maintained high levels of subsidies to the fossil fuel industries.
- Both have supported the fossil fuel industry when any interpretation of ethics indicates that we must put fossil fuels behind us.
- Coalition governments have dishonestly slandered renewable energy development.
- No Australian government has given climate change the attention that it needs and deserves.
- In regard to welfare and taxation:
- Governments of both major parties have allowed the disparity of wealth
between rich and poor to widen continually for many years; indeed, they have
participated in worsening the disparity by increasing the pay of top public
servants at a much higher rate than that of base-level public servants.
- Governments of both parties have allowed multinational companies and the
super rich to get away with paying very little tax.
- The present (2016) Coalition government has made many proposals for
decreasing welfair for the poor while proposing giving more tax breaks to
- Governments of both parties look after politicians while they are in
parliament and make sure that they are also very well taken care of once they
leave parliament; they get generous salaries, very generous pensions and they
are often given plum jobs when they retire from politics.
This is a form of nepotism; similar to ex-Prime Minister Howard's
Ethics requires that people consider the needs and wants of others; it
requires that those who have power look after those who lack power.
Governments have power, the wealthy have power.
- Refugees have very little power;
- Of those who will suffer most from climate change, today's young have
little power, future generations have no power;
- The poor have very little power.
Australian governments' refusal to take climate change seriously will
ultimately greatly increase the number of refugees.
The great river deltas are probably the world's most densely populated areas,
they are also the most vulnerable to the sea level rise that will come
with climate change.
Bangladesh, for example, has a population of about 160 million and
46% of those people live within 10m of sea level.
How many of the people from low-lying areas will be looking for refuge in
Australia in the future if climate change is not curbed?
Australia, as one of the nations with the greatest greenhouse emissions
per capita and one of the most recalcitrant in acting on reducing emissions,
is guilty of holding the world back on climate change action.
Any national government wanting an excuse to go slow on climate change action
can hold up Australia as an example: "Why should we take action on climate
change when a wealthy country like Australia has a very high greenhouse
emission rate and is doing next to nothing to reduce those emissions?"
Favouring the fossil fuel industries over the renewable energy industries is
not only unethical, it is counter-productive economically because the fossil
fuel industries are
on the way out while there is universal
recognition among all well informed people that renewable energy is the way of
A government that tries to hold on to outdated technologies that are doomed
to go, rather than embrace the new technologies that are obviously going to
spread exponentially, is foolish, irresponsible, and in relation to this
page particularly, unethical.