We are more than individuals linked by market transactions.
Our life in the public sphere is no less necessary than our private lives. As citizens we enjoy and contribute to the public good. It is where we show and learn respect for others, particularly people who are different. It is where we abide by shared rules of civic conduct. It is where we build social capital – networks of trust. We need to behave in ways that make each of us trusted members of the community. ‘Do no harm’ is not sufficient.
Citizenship brings responsibilities – political participation, vigilance against abuse of power and paying taxes.
Areas where we fall short in citizenship include
- Our withdrawal into the private realm –there are growing gated communities, private entertainment,
- Use of private rather than public transport and resulting reluctance of influential people to support investment in public transport.
- Disregard of neighbours,
- Opting out of community through ‘vouchers’,
- Government subsidies to private health insurance and private schools discourage the coalescence of socially mixed communities around shared hospitals and public schools.
- There is a lack of respect in the language of denigration – ‘bogans’ and ‘losers’.
- NGO’s have increasingly become part of government
- People are valued as celebrities and their wealth rather than as contributing citizens
We have inherited a stock of assets or capital; environmental (forests/water), public and private physical capital (roads/ports), human capital (education), family capital (family and friendship bonds), social capital (trust), cultural capital and institutional capital (government and non-government institutions). That stock of assets must be retained and where possible enhanced.
We must use our resources as efficiently and productively as possible.
Areas where we fall short in stewardship include
- Our infrastructure, particularly urban rail is dilapidated.
- We are amongst the highest per capita carbon polluters in the world.
- We are placing a heavy strain on the planet which prejudices our future. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change we are still influenced by the sceptics who ignore the facts and cling instead to ideology.
- We waste water and degrade the land.
- We continue to log old growth forests
- We are degrading the Great Barrier Reef