I really want to like the Rudd government.
After years of really resenting the Howard government (and, to be honest, blaming it for everything from the drought to the Wallabies playing boring rugby) I have appreciated Rudds apology to the Stolen Generations, signing the Kyoto agreement and reform to laws for same sex couples.
However, there were two aspects of Tuesdays budget that have me asking questions about Labors real commitment to a sustainable future.
Firstly, not making a significant investment in renewable energy seems to be a wasted opportunity and a mistake.
Australia is well behind the rest of the developed world in our approach to using renewable energy.
In a country with a whopping big desert in the middle and that trades on our sunshine for our huge, environmentally unfriendly tourism industry, to not be making an investment in solar and wind power seems willfully ignorant and almost churlish, especially in conjunction with a $31 million investment in unproven carbon capture and sequestration, which doesnt address the real issue of lowering demand and use of fossil-fuelled energy.
The second aspect of the budget that had me asking questions was the increase in the baby bonus.
The single biggest issue facing the world is overpopulation, so should Australia be trying to encourage more people to have children? Is offering people money to breed a morally good thing to do? By means testing and increasing the amount of the baby bonus surely it encourages young women whose other opportunities in life may be limited to look at having children as a way of earning an income.
Are we not, by offering cash for kids, setting up a breeding class?
Its not going to be well-off career-focussed women who decide an extra $5000 a year is suddenly the incentive they need to get pregnant.
Obviously with an ageing population and people living longer Australia needs to address how we approach looking after each other.
It does seem to me that, with massive natural disasters happening with increasing frequency, food shortages, riots, wars and impending ecological disasters, Australia is in a position to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
Doesnt it make more sense to open up our shores to more refugees both political and from disaster-torn countries rather than add to the problem by offering a cash incentive for a breeding program?
A few years ago a friend of mine, Rachel Roberts, wrote an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald about why she, as a healthy woman in her 20s, had made a conscious choice not to have children. The amount of hate mail she received was incredible. She was called selfish and told she was denying her biology.
Having a child is the most important decision a person can make. People shouldnt be influenced by the offer of a cash bonus; the decision needs to be based on your capacity and ability to care for and look after someone totally dependent on you. You have to earn your licence to drive a car, but theres no test involved in parenthood. People do a lot of things for money having children shouldnt be one of them.