Threats to social cohesion

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by Rizzen
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Subject:
Citizenship
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Threats to social cohesion

5.2 Threats to social cohesion

The threats that a society faces may vary in terms of significance. Some communities around the world are threatened by war and violence, others by poverty and famine. For the majority of Australians, these threats are thankfully not ones we deal with in our daily lives. The threats that Australians face are directed at our democratic freedoms and the harmony of our communities. In this section, we examine the threats to social cohesion and the dangers they pose, in particular:•organised crime•vested interests•corruption•lawlessness.

Unlike many governments around the world, Australian politics is relatively free from corruption. Forms of political corruption may include bribery,and the repression of political opponents. While these acts are not commonplace in Australian governments, they have been known to occur.From the Rum Rebellion (1808) to the Loans Affair (1975), political corruption has at times had an impact on the proper functioning of Australian governments. The Rum Rebellion led to the only successful armed revolution against an Australian government in history of this country, while the Loans Affair contributed to the sacking of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. More recently, political corruption has been rife in the New South Wales parliament. Since 2009, this suspect activity has resulted (directly or indirectly) in the resignation of two New South Wales premiers. Corruption in the New South Wales parliament has also caused Australia to slip in the corruption ratings calculated by independent assessor Transparency International. Political corruption compromises effective government and is therefore a serious threat to democracy and social cohesion in Australia.

When discussing organised crime, we must ignore stereotypes created and perpetuated by media and popular culture. While it is true that some criminal organisations have significant family connections, not all organised crime occurs in this way. According to the Australian Crime Commission, the major types of organised criminal activity can be classified into three main groups:1) Criminal Syndications2) Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs3) Professional Facilitators~Criminal syndicates are responsible for the majority of organised criminal activity in Australia. Ranging in size and influence, criminal syndicates are highly structured criminal enterprises. They can operate with structures and characteristics similar to those of regular businesses. Criminal syndicates usually involve large-scale criminal activity including the sale of illicit drugs and firearms, financial crimes, match fixing in sport and money laundering.~In recent years, there has been a crackdown on criminal activity among the various motorcycle gangs that operate in Australia. Motorcycle gangs have existed in Australia since the 1960s. Gangs such as the Bandidos and Comancheros do include legitimate motorcycle enthusiasts. However, their membership also includes known criminals and members of criminal syndicates. Some of these gangs are not only involved in criminal activity, but also frequently engage in violent behaviour while undertaking these crimes. The potential impact of outlaw motorcycle gangs on Australian communities was deemed so significant that all states have passed legislation severely restricting gang activity.~A professional facilitator is an industry professional or person with specific expertise. Such a person is employed by criminal organisations to undertake specialist criminal activity. Professional facilitators are usually involved in crimes related to finance and technology. Criminal organisations may use a facilitator because they lack the required knowledge and skills, or because they want to distance themselves from the crime being committed. Professional facilitators may engage with criminals for personal gain or they may be forced into such activity through blackmail. The use of professional facilitators is becoming increasingly prevalent in Australian organised crime.

Vested or conflicted interests can occur in a range of professions. Teachers who also act as tutors can have conflicted interests, as can a sports commentator who supports a particular team. The conflict of interest that can have the most significant impact on Australian society occurs in our political system. Before beginning their terms of office, politicians must disclose any potential conflict of interest that may interfere with their position and responsibilities. Existing investments, business relationships and personal assets are examples of potential conflicts.Consider the example of controversial businessman and politician Clive Palmer. Elected as the member for Fairfax in the 2013 federal election, Palmer has amassed a large personal fortune due to his involvement in the mining industry. Although he has disclosed his assets to parliament, his critics claim that Palmer’s opinion and eventual vote on government legislation will be influenced by his business interests. They argue that there is no more clear example of this conflicted interest than the proposed repeal of the 2011 mining tax (known as the Minerals Resource Rent Tax).Vested interests such as Palmer’s can be viewed as a threat to Australian democratic processes. Instead of representing the interests of his electorate, Palmer could be accused of merely representing his own interestsUnlike many governments around the world, Australian politics is relatively free from corruption. Forms of political corruption may include bribery,and the repression of political opponents. While these acts are not commonplace in Australian governments, they have been known to occur.From the Rum Rebellion (1808) to the Loans Affair (1975), political corruption has at times had an impact on the proper functioning of Australian governments. The Rum Rebellion led to the only successful armed revolution against an Australian government in history of this country, while the Loans Affair contributed to the sacking of former Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. More recently, political corruption has been rife in the New South Wales parliament. Since 2009, this suspect activity has resulted (directly or indirectly) in the resignation of two New South Wales premiers. Corruption in the New South Wales parliament has also caused Australia to slip in the corruption ratings calculated by independent assessor Transparency International (see figure 4). Political corruption compromises effective government and is therefore a serious threat to democracy and social cohesion in Australia.

Organised Crime

Vested Intrests

CONTEXT

Corruption

Australian society has never been truly lawless. Indeed, martial law has only been invoked once in our nation’s history — immediately after the Eureka Stockade. Contemporary Australian society largely follows the rule of law, resulting in the majority of our communities remaining safe and peaceful. There have been times, however, when Australian citizens have pushed the boundaries of civil society; times when hostile groups and individuals have threatened the safety of others.Freedom of assembly is widely enjoyed by our democratic society. Groups of people are free to congregate in support of a cause, or an ideology or event. The vast majority of protests in this country are peaceful in nature, although there have been several episodes of mob violence. The most infamous of recent episodes would have to be the 2005 Cronulla Riots. Situated on the New South Wales central coast, Cronulla is (like many suburbs in Australia) characterised by its ethnic diversity. The riots were the result of simmering tension between young Lebanese and AngloSaxon men. The violence escalated on 11 December after an earlier altercation between the two groups at a Cronulla beach. The riot and retaliations that followed were some of the most graphic examples of violent racism seen in modern Australia. Many people were injured in the bloody violence and over 100 arrests were made during the riots and the aftermathRecently there has been a strong media focus on the amount of alcohol-fuelled assaults occurring on the streets of Australian cities. Although statistics show that the frequency of such assaults is decreasing, their indiscriminate and callous nature has shocked Australian communities. Assaults including so-called ‘king hits’, now called ‘coward punches’, are particularly frightening and have led to the tragic deaths of several young Australians. State governments are working to reduce the incidence of public violence both through the enforcement of harsh new penalties and through education and awareness programs aimed at young people.

Lawlessness

1) Of the three categories of organised crime, which is the most recent?2) How can a conflict of interest stop a politician from fulfilling his or her duties?3) Compare and Contrast 2 of the threats to social cohesion, and make a chart or diagram as a poster for the classroom.

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