PERHAPS my greatest disappointment of the last 10-15 years in public life has been the way our political leaders, of all persuasions, have played short-term politics with the challenge of climate change, the most significant moral, economic, social, and political challenge of this century.
Not only have we ended up as embarrassing laggards in the global response to this challenge, but we have squandered very significant business and other opportunities that could have essentially redefined our industrial base, and society, delivering significant economic growth, and a host of new industries, and new jobs, at a time when our governments are struggling to spell out, yet alone facilitate, just how our society is to make the transition from one based on a resources boom, to whatever.
The challenge of climate change calls for "technology" to step up, as fundamental to an effective solution. An effective solution should be defined by a technological revolution, in alternative energy and fuel, in renewables, in energy and fuel efficiencies, and in a host of ancillary industries, as we decarbonise to make a transition from a concentration of carbon-exposed industries to a low carbon society.
A smart government would recognise the inevitability of these trends and seek to capitalise on them, rather then slip into skepticism and denial, attempting to defend the indefensible.
Our present Government tells us that we can't leave our children, and their children, with the legacy of debt and deficits. That we can't leave them with the expectation of an "age of entitlement". But, it is quite OK, to leave them with a legacy of carbon emissions that threatens their standard of living, and maybe the future of our planet.
But, of course it is not just about climate change, and the opportunities that it presents. This is just the most recent of the opportunities that have come before us as a nation that have been missed or squandered.
How many governments have tried to convince us that we are "the clever country", that we have a clear competitive advantage in education, in technology and design, and in scientific and medical research, and so on, and yet conspicuously fail to embrace attitudes and deliver policies that would suggest that they genuinely understand what they should be doing to make this happen.
As the most recent example, the Abbott Government has clearly made a mess of its "reform" of higher education, simply announcing university fees and changes to HECs without an overarching education policy within which such measures could be understood.
Worse, the Minister, Pyne, seems to struggle to rise beyond "university politics" in the way he has sought to gain support for his initiatives, both in the Senate, and in the broader community.
At the same time, they have made significant cuts to CSIRO, and vocational training. They didn't even have a science minister until forced to do so in the last ministerial reshuffle.
More broadly, our capital/financial markets don't back innovation, new ideas and start up, technology based businesses. Our now globally significant superannuation funds mostly hug global stock market and property indices, presently sitting quite exposed to a market "correction" as the US Fed moves to raise interest rates.
Finally, I long for the day that our media, and community discussions, focus on science, technology and innovation (and indeed the arts, literature, etc) to the extent that they do sport, and Hollywood and political gossip.
Our political leaders should be challenged, and punished electorally if they don't, rise to the opportunity that is ours, to seize the moment of a technology revolution to restructure and position our society for the future.
How much of this did you read in the recent Intergenerational Report that claims to think strategically 40 years ahead? Disturbingly, none!