Happy Australia Day!
Now, we’re not blind to the reality that the date of Australia Day is contentious.
We know that January 26 is a painful day for many Indigenous Australians. And while a day of celebration for many, we know it’s a day of mourning for others.
And we’re glad that there’s a debate about the right date for Australia Day.
But while that debate happens, January 26 is the nominated day, so we’re taking the opportunity to recognise and celebrate all that’s great about Australia.
Not because we don’t have problems, including the ongoing disagreement about our national day.
But precisely because, despite those problems, we’re bloody lucky.
And because if we can celebrate the positive, while simultaneously addressing the problems, we’ll become even better as a nation.
So below, lightly edited, is something I wrote a couple of years ago, that I hope captures a little of what I think we can be proud of… and aspire to.
No, not in a jingoistic way, and not arrogantly — you don’t have to believe everything is perfect to believe that Australia is a great place to live, work and, yes, invest.
Here are some of the wonderful things about the country we’ve been lucky enough to be born in, or have decided to make our home:
We have democratic rule of law.
We have a functioning system of redistributive capitalism that rewards effort, but also looks after the vulnerable and the unlucky.
We have a largely stable, functioning political system. Yes, we’ve had more Prime Ministers in recent years than the men’s cricket team has had batsmen, but those changes haven’t required coups or led to violent recrimination.
We have the ability to speak and be heard, largely free of censorship or legal restriction. Here at The Motley Fool, we’ve been vocally critical of both major parties, knowing that, while they might not like it, it’s physically and commercially safe for us to do so.
We have a sometimes harsh, sometimes generous, but always beautiful, landscape and climate. Yes, we have droughts, flooding rains and more, but that also brings out the best of us — our emergency services, volunteers, fundraisers and community spirit.
We have well-functioning institutions. And when those institutions don’t get it completely right, we have the opportunity for Royal Commissions, in public, to fix the problems.
We have a stock market that is largely free of corruption, insider trading and functions well, allowing free access to information and cheap access to trading.
Speaking of our stock market, our Director of Research, Kevin Gandiya, recorded an Australia Day message which, I think, will help with some of the volatility we’ve been experiencing lately!
We have a globally very high level of economic prosperity for most people. Even given the relative inequality between the richest and poorest, most of us have enough, and the proportion of us living in poverty is much lower than at almost any time in our history.
We have one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world.
We have the right to vote. To protest. To imagine a better way. To stand for election.
We have a largely stable geology that means we avoid the worst of the tsunamis, earthquakes, cyclones and hurricanes. And functioning emergency services and recovery infrastructure when the occasional natural disaster hits.
We have, in Aboriginal culture, one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world, and one from which many of us could and should learn.
We are generous. Honest. Funny. We’ll call a spade a bloody shovel. And we’ll have a drink with anyone who does the same.
We want the best for our kids. Our friends. Our country. We know that things aren’t perfect, but that doesn’t mean they’re not great.
Here’s my hope for our country: that we continue to challenge ourselves to be better, but in a spirit of optimism, rather than despair. That we see ourselves as people who are ‘for’ things, not ‘against’ things.
I hope we don’t fall victim to cynicism and negativity. I hope, instead, we celebrate the best, and we aim to be better.
A pipe dream? I don’t think so. Some of the most successful, and happiest, Australians I know are those people.
After all, how many entrepreneurs would succeed if they were pessimists? How many scientists would bother with research? How many politicians would stand for election?
How many of us would invest, if we didn’t believe the future is bright? It would defy logic to be negative about the future, but then put our nest eggs into investments that — by their very nature — require growth to give us a return?
Yes, America is home to some of the greatest businesses of our time, but we do a pretty bloody good job of pulling our weight – and maybe punching above it.
Think about our world-beating mining companies.
Medical marvels like CSL, Cochlear, ResMed and Nanosonics.
The stability of our banks is the envy of the world. And investment bank, Macquarie, is a standout on the global stage.
And when you raise a glass later today, it might well be one of the global suite of products that’s part of Treasury Wine Estates’ (I own shares) local and international portfolio. If you pick up a paper, watch a movie or flick on the business news, there’s a decent chance you’re engaging with the News Corp empire, born from a single newspaper in Adelaide.
And, even despite some recent share price wobbles, we have some wonderful tech innovators. Think WiseTech, Altium, Atlassian and Xero (technically a Kiwi company, but it’s listed here, so we’ll claim it alongside Phar Lap and pavlova).
Australian ingenuity and drive continues.
We don’t need to get into a debate about whether Australia is the best country in the world.
Sure, we’d like to think we might be, but so would plenty of other nations.
Instead, how about we focus on being the best we can be. And let’s celebrate success.
And recommit ourselves to becoming an even better nation. Prouder. Freer. More tolerant. More generous. More supportive. More egalitarian. Let’s bring back more of the Fair Go. Let’s see mateship in action.
(Want a tangible way to help other Australians? As long as it’s COVID safe, take a road trip. Spend a few bucks on the coast or in the Outback, both still reeling from the COVID crunch, and bushfires before, and floods more recently. Our family will be doing both, again, this year.)
From all of us here at The Motley Fool, Happy Australia Day.
Here’s to us — to where we’ve come from, who we are, and where we’re going. Let’s embrace our strengths, address our problems, and become the best we can be.
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Motley Fool contributor Scott Phillips owns Treasury Wine Estates Limited. The Motley Fool Australia’s parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. owns and has recommended Altium, Atlassian, CSL Ltd., Cochlear Ltd., Nanosonics Limited, WiseTech Global, and Xero. The Motley Fool Australia owns and has recommended Nanosonics Limited, WiseTech Global, and Xero. The Motley Fool Australia has recommended Cochlear Ltd., Macquarie Group Limited, ResMed Inc., and Treasury Wine Estates Limited. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.
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