ADELAIDE - While I think Phil Fitzpatrick is over-egging the pudding in Australia – Not that Great a Country, I believe it is true to say that Australia is not a 'great' country.
Phil referred to many of its faults, which is fair comment I suppose, but there are some virtues.
In relation to climate change, every one of Australia’s eight states and territories has now committed to being carbon neutral by 2050.
The charge to do this is being led by New South Wales and South Australia, which both having conservative governments.
The federal Liberal National Party government has left itself in the pitiful and embarrassing position of refusing to commit to an internationally agreed target.
Australia ranked dead last of 57 countries on a recent climate change performance index, scoring the lowest possible rating of 0.0.
“In Australia you can’t tell where the coal industry ends and the federal government begins,” said Canadian author and filmmaker Naomi Klein.
The Morrison government deserves derision and contempt for its pathetic abrogation of leadership on the most significant strategic issue of our time, an existential issue.
However, a genuine success story is Australia's record on successfully absorbing immigrants from about 190 countries – more than 7.6 million people born overseas live in Australia, 30% of our population.
This is something for which we can be grateful and proud, and the contrast with many xenophobic European countries is striking.
We can also be grateful that our people, taken as a whole, are industrious and hard working.
As a consequence, we are a prosperous people with an efficient economy where public and private sectors match or exceed comparable countries’ productivity.
Unfortunately, it’s also is true that we are not especially good at monetising our inventions.
Our business corporations and banks are quite timid about investing in developing innovations, preferring to sell designs and patents overseas rather than take the risk of establishing a home-grown enterprise and making much more money.
Amongst our other virtues are a very productive agricultural sector, high quality education and health systems, a flourishing small to medium business sector, wonderful leisure facilities and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, competent if usually uninspiring governments.
Australians as individuals are also prolific volunteers, almost one-third of us participate in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation or group. And we are particularly known for our willingness to get our hands dirty and be generous with donations during a crisis.
This is one of our less recognised but most admirable traits. Most of our rural fire services, emergency services and coast guards are operated by volunteers.
So, while I agree that Australia is not a 'great' country in the way the term is commonly understood, I’m confident in arguing it has many virtues. And very few Australians would want to live somewhere else.
Even our cousins across the ditch (Tasman Sea) in New Zealand, beautiful as their country is and admirable as they are as a people, are fond of migrating here, mostly to Sydney – and that part of Sydney closest to New Zealand.
Australians fall short of perfection, perhaps well short, and we are aware of our limitations.
We’re largely unmoved by nationalistic rhetoric (except in relation to sport and Anzac Day), regarding such sentiments when expressed by politicians or overblown local officials with undisguised suspicion.
We mostly love our wide brown land, but prefer to express it in an understated way. We see no need to incessantly wave our flag or constantly proclaim our virtues to the world at large.
We back each other when push comes to shove, and are mostly kind to one another.
In short, we’re not too bad mate.