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If I hear one more guest on a radio show, television show, newspaper column, YouTube video or the world wide web tell me how lucky, that’s right, lucky we are because Australians have access to public hospitals, public health, overtime payments, workplace awards, holiday pay, long service leave, sick pay, maternity leave etc, I’m going to scream! I know of no other country where people have such scant knowledge about why most, not all, Australians enjoy these privileges.

Almost every single thing we treasure or enjoy as Australians is due to the blood, sweat and tears shed by generations of Australians who struggled to ensure future generations would not have to go through what they went through. The struggle to create an egalitarian community in this country goes back a long way. Men and women went on strike occupied their workplaces, pressured their political representatives by demonstrating their anger at how they lived to win many of the gains we take for granted today.

Over the last 40 years during the deregulation, privatisation, globalisation and corporatisation revolution that has swept this country, we have seen many of the hard won rights and freedoms we take for granted stripped away. Australians do not enjoy freedoms and liberties most of the world can only dream of because we are lucky . We do not enjoy these freedoms because the state gave us what we wanted or employers said “yep, you deserve it”. The history of this country is written in the blood, sweat and tears of generations who fought and won those rights and liberties we enjoy today. To forget our history, to stop acknowledging the sacrifices past generations made for us, to forget the personal price tens of thousands of Australians paid for being involved in those struggles is an unparalleled tragedy.

A people who forget their history, a people who refuse to acknowledge the sacrifices made by past generations for us are doomed not only to repeat the mistakes of the past but to lose all the freedoms and rights that previous generations have won. All around us in 2017 we are seeing Australians stripped of their inalienable rights on the altar of Mammon. We are rapidly losing everything past generations won for us because we have lost the habit of fighting to retain and extend inalienable rights and liberties we are born with that no government or corporation can legislate away or take away.

Each and every one of us owes it to past generations to not only protect what we won in the past but to get involved in struggles to extend these gains. Whether it’s access to public hospitals, public education, public infrastructure, our ability to freely associate, join unions or form new unions, influence legislation or put public interests (the interests of the community as a whole) before corporate interests of unaccountable corporations whose major responsibility is to increase their major shareholders’ returns irrespective of the human, social, cultural, environmental and national costs. We need to remember no one gave us these rights and liberties on a platter, they were won through political, community, workplace and social struggle.

Dr. Joseph Toscano

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