Government Stuff

I wouldn’t say we left the US because of the way the Government was running it into the ground, but we weren’t happy with them, and hadn’t been for a very long time. About 7 years to be exact. Anyway, I haven’t completely figured out the Australian government yet, but I try to pay attention to what is going on and what issues are being discussed, etc. If you listen to the news, you’d assume the hot topics right now are plastic bags in grocery stores, binge drinking, and paid maternity leave. The government’s proposals on how to resolve these issues have me somewhat baffled.

We’ll start with the grocery bag thing. Someone has decided that the number of plastic bags we use at grocery stores is a HUGE environmental issue, and something has to be done. The govt. official in charge of this project wants to see plastic bags banned completely, OR see a charge per bag at the check out (10c-15c or so). I actually don’t really have a problem with either, as we make every effort to use our environmentally friendly re-usable bags every time we go shopping. My problem lies with the fact that I think there are bigger environmental fish to fry than plastic freakin’ bags.

Binge drinking…apparently its an epidemic here and the number of people assaulted/injured because of binge drinking is rising every year. The number of underage drinkers dying in car accidents is apparently also on the rise. Proposed solutions? Raise the drinking limit to 21, shorten liquor store hours of operation, close bars/clubs earlier, stop selling pre-mixed package drinks. Here are the problems with those.

If you raise the drinking limit to 21, you end up with a bunch of irresponsible 21 year olds. From my personal experience, by the time I was 18 and moved to the states, drinking was an old thing for me while other 18 year olds were getting their first experience with it and spinning out of control. Then when they turned 21, they went out and did it legally for the first time and had no sensibility about drinking.

There will ALWAYS be underage drinking, no matter what you make the age. If a 16 year old is going to drink and drive, he or she will do it whether the age limit is 18 or 21. Underage is underage. The only way this might help is if 16 year olds don’t know anyone over 21 who will buy them alcohol, but lets face it, everyone knows someone.

If you shorten hours of liquor stores, people will just go earlier and buy their alcohol. If you shorten bar/club hours, people will drink faster because they know they don’t have as much time to drink. None of these options will stop the bingers from bingeing. The only answer I can see is better education on the effects and dangers of binge drinking. That said, the stupid anti-drinking commercials on TV are not effective. There’s one on TV of a group of young people playing pool, and this guy asks “Angie” if she wants another drink, to which she stops and imagines herself winning an olympic medal, climbing mt. everest and kicking some ninja butt before responding “nah”. Then she looks at the camera and says, “Wow. That felt good.” How about you show images of car wrecks, images of people in wheelchairs, show the people who have been affected by binge drinking, send a clear message about what being intoxicated can lead to. I feel very strongly about this issue and I hate to see time and money wasted on solutions that won’t work.

Paid maternity leave is another thing I feel quite strongly about, because I’m a woman and because I’m pregnant! So right now, there is NO paid maternity leave. Companies have to give you 12 months maternity leave, meaning they have to hold your job for 12 months, but they don’t have to pay you for any of it. There is a “baby bonus” scheme in which you get a $4200 lump sum payment when you give birth. The govt. feels that younger women are getting pregnant to get the money, and that the money isn’t being used for the child, but rather to buy TVs, cars, etc. So under 18 year olds now get the payment in installments, and if you are a known gambler, alcoholic or drug user, you get vouchers instead of cash. I think that’s great. They’re talking about introducing a mandatory 14 week paid maternity leave, but I’m unsure as to who they expect to fund it – the companies or the govt. If they expect the companies to fund it, then I suspect women between the ages of 18 and 40 will have a problem getting work. There’s also talk about implementing the paid maternity leave but dropping the baby bonus. Ok, so who will pay 14 weeks maternity leave to stay-at-home mums? The government?

This weekend there was a 20/20 summit that politicians and some Aussie celebs attended. They were supposed to be discussing issues affecting Australia right now. They just said on the news they also discussed Australia becoming a republic in the next 2 years. If you call yourself a “republican” in Australia, it means a much different thing than to call yourself a republican in the US. We don’t have a republican party, we have Labor and Liberal. A “republican” is someone who wants Australia to separate from the commonwealth and the queen. If you are a US republican, then here you’d most likely support the Liberals, and if you’re a democrat, you’d most likely support the Labor party.

I hope they don’t rush into anything on these issues. So far it seems they’re just throwing stuff out there, and not thinking about every angle of the consequences. How can I get into politics?

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