If I were Prime Minister Dr Alfred Vincent

first_img Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagram Neos Kosmos is reaching out to stakeholders in the Greek Australian community and citizens at large ahead of the 18 May Australian elections. We are posing questions as to what they would do in the top job.Dr Alfred Vincent may not be Greek, but he is definitely an honorary Greek, having taught generations of Greek students Modern Greek at the University of Sydney. He has given lectures and seminars at institutions around the world and has been actively involved in organisations of interest to the Greek Community.What would you do on your first day on the job?On election night, once victory was assured for my party (or, as might just conceivably be the case, the group of independents led by me), I would make a brief statement emphasising that this is the start of a totally new era for our country. This new Australia would offer a fair deal and support where necessary for all its people, while acting responsibly and with humanity on the world stage. I would stress that the new Australia would actually be based on what we take to be the best in Australian values: mutual support and friendship (aka “mateship”, but extended to everyone, not just our group), inclusiveness, egalitarianism, tolerance, resourcefulness, realism, and a direct and practical approach to problems.I would then go off for a well-deserved beer (or three) with co-workers and supporters.On the following day, I would make a further statement, expanding a little on the first. There would be no need for much policy detail, since obviously our policies would be well known from the campaign, and would have led to this electoral victory. See my answer to the next question. What are the issues you feel need to be addressed?(i) Australia needs to embark on a thorough-going, radical programme addressing issues of climate change and the environment in general. There would be NO new approvals for coal mines or coal-fired power stations. Instead, there would be a focus on renewable energy, which would bring thousands of jobs. With increased efficiency, volume and spread of sustainable energy production, energy prices would fall progressively. Throughout the industrial and agricultural sectors, government support would be withdrawn from unsustainable and polluting enterprises, and would be channeled towards sustainable forms of production. Without such action the future for humanity will be extremely grim, to say the least. It will have absolute priority.(ii) My government would urgently address problems of inequality and disadvantage, including indigenous and gender issues, affordable housing, and aged care. Among other things we would seek ways of enhancing the quality of life in rural and regional Australia, and in disadvantaged areas of our cities. In a wealthy country like ours, the present degree of inequality is unacceptable.(iii) My government would end Australia’s shameful treatment of asylum seekers and refugees. We would abandon the macho posturing of denying access to Australia permanently to unauthorised arrivals. We would abolish offshore processing, and would accelerate processing at onshore centres. We believe this could be achieved without endangering security. We would also enter serious talks with the countries of transition from which asylum seekers set out for our shores, to see if a better outcome could be achieved than at present. Dealing humanely with these issues is a moral obligation, and essential if we want to be taken seriously as a country with a conscience.(iv) We would initiate an overall review of education and training, taking into account the best practice observable overseas. There would be particular emphasis on the quality of education offered to all Australians. This would probably involve less funding for elite private schools, and more spending on teacher education.The cultural component of our national curriculum would include elements from indigenous and eastern cultures as well as from the western canon. We would recommend the removal of single-faith religious instruction entirely from government schools. Instead, we would support ethics and perhaps comparative religion as a core part of the school curriculum.(v) In order to achieve (i) and (ii), we would initiate a programme of sustainable infrastructure funding, with emphasis on public transport. This would include high-speed rail linking Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide, and improved rail and light rail services in the cities.(vi) We would increase the total amount of foreign aid, while carefully monitoring its use.How would these policies be funded? Partly by clamping down on tax evasion, and also by demanding a greater tax contribution from the wealthy. We would also try to encourage large-scale philanthropy by the wealthy in sectors such as education and medical research. We would avoid expensive showcase projects which bring little real public benefit. We would carefully monitor how funding is used, to make sure that taxpayer dollars actually benefit taxpayers.Our policies are costly in the short term, though several would bring enormous long-term gains. We would emphasise that our aim is not to be able to boast of a short-term budget surplus, but to invest in the future — a sustainable future.READ MORE: If I were Prime Minister | Bo SvoronosWhat are some of the urgent issues for the Greek Australian community?I imagine all the above would be important for the Greek Australian community, as for everyone else. Greek Australians would be among the voters who brought us into government.But if asked to name a specific, urgent issue, I would point to the disastrous reduction in the teaching of Modern Greek language and culture at different levels of our education system. The problem is not specific to Greek. Language education in Australia has become hopelessly marginalised, and the situation of Modern Greek needs to be examined in this context.So my government would start from first principles, with systematic research, in which representatives of the Greek and other communities would hopefully participate. What is the present situation: what languages are being taught, where, to whom, and at what levels? What should be our objectives in language education, both for international and regional languages (which may also be community languages, as with Chinese and Spanish) and those whose role is more specifically that of community and heritage languages in Australia? By what means could these objectives be achieved, bearing in mind the need for quality in language education? Why are there not more students choosing language courses at school and university? Where and how should government funding be directed to support quality language education, and how can language communities be encouraged to commit more of their own resources to it?A related topic, of course, is that of cultural diversity. My party would be emphasising that we regard diversity as strength. We would be making serious efforts to include people from many backgrounds in parliament and other public bodies, and to provide generous funding for non-English-based cultural initiatives. .READ MORE: If I were Prime Minister | Niki SperouWhat is your campaign wish list?I am not sure what is meant by this. The main concerns of my party or group are made clear above. We would not have expected a lot of support from the biggest big business — although many in the big end of town are aware they too will benefit from drastic environmental action, and from the eradication of social disadvantage. Primarily, though, I suppose, we would have aimed our campaign at the less privileged and the middle socio-economic groups in society.As for a campaign slogan, we would have avoided anything about making Australia “great” or even “united” or its synonyms. Not that greatness or unity are bad in themselves, but they have undesirable associations. I would have been toying with slogans such as “A Fair Australia” or “Advance Australia”. Clichés, yes, but with their multiple meanings they do express our party’s objectives.READ MORE: If I were Prime Minister | Christos FifisSee you at the post-election party!HAVE YOUR SAY! What would you do as Prime Minister? Share your views on the key issues of the 18 May election campaign by answering the above four questions and sending your responses to [email protected] views should be accompanied by an email address and telephone number.  last_img read more