Australians of conscience are aghast at our treatment of refugees, and they are variously confused and ashamed at the continuing impact of racism, in both policy and the wider culture. But so feeble is the state of the national conscience that those who raise their voices often seem to be shouting into the wind.
Conflict, persecution and starvation: these are the common factors that drive people from their homes. Right now, more than 60 million people across the globe have found themselves making this awful choice. And yet this is precisely the time when the Australian Government chooses to spend three years slashing $11 billion from the aid budget.
How you judge today's federal budget depends what you think a budget is for. Conventional wisdom has it that the best budgets stimulate the most growth. Conventional cynicism says the winner budgets are the ones that give enough prizes to the right voters to lock in a majority come polling day.
It would be wrong to think that we have now done all we need to do. Almost 16 million people in Syria and neighbouring countries are not having their most basic needs met. We must not turn our backs on them.
Increasingly I find my country's past easier to explain than its present. Today's Australia confusingly lacks
a coherent narrative or explanation for how we are doing things, and to what purpose. How do you describe what Australian aspiration looks like in 2015?