Tag Archives: ALP

Australia: a country of vengeful malcontents

24 Jan

 

wall-of-hate

In this piece titled “Manus Island: what will it take to shock us?” Julian Burnside, barrister and refugee advocate, gives a powerful synopsis of the cruelty the Australian public is prepared to tolerate its governments inflicting on asylum seekers, in the crazed collective desire to “stop the boats” and protect the country’s “sovereign borders.”

The answer to Mr Burnside’s question is, of course, that the only thing that will shock anyone at this point is a government that is prepared to cease and desist from using asylum seekers as human fodder in election campaigns. We have reached the stage in this matter where the only possibility for provoking shock is decent behaviour.

The contempt in which the Australian public holds asylum seekers who arrive here by boat is sickening. As has been noted on other occasions, we treat people who are far more threatening to us individually and collectively much better than we treat unarmed people seeking sanctuary who travel here by boat. The unexamined hatred, prejudice, loathing and contempt directed towards asylum seekers, chillingly orchestrated by political leaders of both major parties, is mind numbing, and it has numbed the minds of the Australian public in general to the degree that many believe we aren’t harsh enough. 60% of Australians, according to a poll conducted in September 2014, (see link) believe we are not treating waterborne asylum seekers badly enough.

From a psychological perspective, this leads me to believe that we are a nation of desperately unhappy, dissatisfied people who for many reasons, some of them undeniably sound, live with a sense of profound grievance that has to negatively express itself towards somebody and something. I draw this conclusion because people who are living lives in which they find satisfaction and enjoyment at least some of the time, are not inclined to desire the persecution of others, let alone bay for blood like rabid wolves because a few thousand stateless persons have turned up looking for sanctuary.

Regrettably, it would seem that these miserably vengeful Australians are in the majority, and one has to ask, why is this so? What has gone so awry in this lucky country that so many of us need to take out our apparently endemic discontent on the helpless and the vulnerable? Because it is not only asylum seekers towards whom this loathing is directed, although they are the extreme example of its concrete manifestation at this moment in time. In reality, any individual and group that can be defined as less than what the miserable majority  consider the “norm” are targeted for persecution in some way, and our politicians lead the ranting, bloodthirsty, vengeful pack.

“Fair go” is a principle inherent in the Australian “character?” My arse it is. My arse it ever has been. If it was, we would not have politicians who seek election and re-election on the backs of the most vulnerable in the first place, because it wouldn’t win them votes.

What will it take for us to be shocked? Common sense and decency in our political leaders. That’s what it will take to shock us. Don’t hold your breath. Neither of those things is coming to a marketplace near you anytime soon.

This blog on The Monthly on conditions on Manus as reported by workers there is well worth a read. Thanks to Robyn here for the link.

 

 

Tony Abbott, horses mid stream and musical chairs

23 Jan

Changing horses mid stream

 

I’m most interested to see what the LNP do with Prime Minister Tony Abbott come the next federal election. He’s been conspicuously absent in recent state election campaigns, presumably because nobody thinks he can do them any kind of good with his presence. So what on earth will his party do with its leader when we troop off to vote for our country’s next government?

Abbott subjected himself to some self-harm yesterday as he argued his case for the dangers involved in changing leaders during a government’s first term. Citing the epic game of musical chairs played by the ALP government during the Julia Gillard – Kevin Rudd leadership saga, Abbott expressed the opinion that it’s certain death to switch horses mid-stream. His party has the sense to know this, he believes, and so his leadership is secure. The country can go to the dogs and the less well-off can struggle and starve, but hey, I’m secure in my job, folks.

I know I’ve mixed metaphors, but I sort of like the image of chairs, music, dogs, streams and horses in the middle of them. It makes as much sense as anything else in our politics.

It’s hard to imagine that changing leaders could do the LNP government any more harm than staying with the one they’ve got. I suspect many people would be hugely relieved and congratulate them on their common sense if they took that step.

The dangers of succumbing to the idée fixe that because it was so damaging for the ALP to change leaders it will be equally damaging for the LNP, are many. They include an ignorance of the significance of context: the two situations are quite different in the broad perspective, the  perspective that is most apparent to voters. Rudd was an extremely popular leader who was to all appearances ousted unjustly and in a manner that outraged much of the electorate. Practically everyone has some grievance against Abbott, and many just hate him because he is.

There may be similarities in the in-house view, the view apparent to political tragics rather than more broadly, of party discontent with a leader who is perceived as out of touch and chaotic, and perhaps even a tad despotic, if leaks of discontent are anything to go by. There’s an enlightening piece on these matters by Paula Matthewson here.

What we see at the moment is a leader who appears increasingly weakened by strife, both endogenous and exogenous. Tony Abbott never seems less than strained. As we used to say when we lived on Bougainville Island, we have two seasons, wet and wetter and so it is with Abbott, he is strained and more strained, but I don’t believe I’ve seen the man comfortable with himself since his days in opposition when he raged across the table at the Labor government.

For mine, they should let him keep his job. The ALP needs all the help it can get, and Tony Abbott has to be one of the opposition’s best helpers.

If Abbott gave a stuff about anyone other than himself, he’d step down, citing ill -health or some other face-saving gibberish, and give his party a better chance at a second term. Otherwise, come the next election campaign they’re going to have to lock him in a cellar till it’s over, because the man mostly nauseates everyone, as far as I can tell.

 

 

And now Morrison (yes him again) denies us our history

5 Jan

Woomera Detention Centre Riot SMH

 

Author Peter FitzSimons recently completed a documentary on the history of race riots in Australia. The first episode of “The Great Australian Race Riot” aired on SBS on January 4th.

FitzSimons wanted to include the 2001 riot at the Woomera Detention Centre. However, then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Scott Morrison (yes, him again) refused FitzSimons access to the long-closed facility, and demanded the crew not film within 150 metres of the site.

“That furiously annoyed me,” says FitzSimons. “We couldn’t shoot in Woomera itself, which staggered us. We were attempting to take a serious look at a sometimes difficult multicultural society.”

This is a deliberate attempt by the Abbott government to control a historical record of racial unrest in Australia.

The 2001 Woomera riot took place on the Howard LNP government watch. It is a period steeped in turmoil over asylum seekers arriving here by boat. It was at this time the notorious Tampa stand-off took place,causing an international incident between Australia and Norway as well as profound domestic political unrest as then Prime Minister John Howard made his infamous declaration: “We will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come.”

Howard exploited populist xenophobic fears incited by Pauline Hanson, then leader of right-wing One Nation, a conservative, anti multicultural political party. Co-opting Hanson’s xenophobic policies, Howard attracted her voter base and went on to win the 2001 federal election.

Woomera Detention Centre was central to the combination of circumstances that elevated the exploitation and incitement of xenophobia and racism to the central platform they remain for both the LNP and the ALP to this day. That period began what has become an increasingly isolationist and inhumane Australian response to the global problem of stateless persons.

The treatment of asylum seekers imprisoned in the Woomera and Baxter detention centres marked the beginning of increasing public acceptance of the state’s dehumanisation of those fleeing persecution, and laid the ground for popular acceptance of Morrison’s narrative of border protection. Morrison’s alleged “war” against waterborne asylum seekers has been used to justify the ludicrous and sinister secrecy in which the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is now irrevocably steeped.

It is astounding that the Abbott government has in this instance successfully engineered the recording of Australian history to exclude any reference to the Woomera riot. Fortunately many records of these events exist. Morrison and Abbott are fighting a losing battle if they believe the voices of this period of our history can be silenced. Indeed, their attempts to control information appear increasingly desperate and naive, as they consistently fail to recognise that what one attempts to omit from the narrative eventually becomes the narrative, and all they are left with are increasingly sullied reputations drenched to the bone in lies, secrets and guilty silence. History eventually will judge Morrison and Abbott, and the Australian Labor Party, and find them all excruciatingly wanting.

 

Woomera Riots Two

 

 

Abbott: Labor made me do it.

15 Dec

article-5898-hero Independent Australia

Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised this prior to gaining office :

…and the commitment that I’ve been giving to the Australian people is that there’ll be no surprises and no excuses under a Coalition government.

Source: May 21, 2013 – Joint Doorstop Interview, Bundamba, Queensland

It was, of course, a ludicrous promise to make. There is nothing as constant as change, and any credible adult government must deal with change that may at times cause decisions to be reviewed, and commitments to be re-assessed. The Abbott government has spectacularly failed to demonstrate this fundamental adult coping skill, not least in Abbott’s fantastical undertaking to protect us from the inevitable surprises of inevitable change in the first place.

No surprises

While on the one hand using that refuge of scoundrels the old “situations change” line to excuse broken promises and commitments he never intended to keep, Abbott continues to cling to his no surprises and no excuses mantra. He can’t have it both ways. If he wants unexpected situational change (surprise) to explain his backflips, he can’t have a commitment to no surprises as well. Hell, he needs surprises to explain his changes, because nothing else credibly achieves that.

Promising citizens there will be no surprises is elephant excrement, unless we’re all about to die, in which case we can reasonably expect there likely won’t be anymore surprises, not in this world anyway.

Annabel Crabb noted that in the first three months of Abbott taking office his party could well be renamed “The Surprise Party.” The broken promises and unexpected decisions just keep on keeping on.

No excuses

If he wants to continue to claim that his is a “no excuses” government, Abbott is going to have to stop blaming the ALP for every difficulty the LNP encounters. They’ve been in office for over twelve months now. No government can blame its predecessor indefinitely, otherwise political rhetoric will come to consist entirely of what they did made us do what we did, or some infantile variation on that tiresome theme. Anyone involved in the management of children knows the old he/she started it is a path to hellish infinity that endears the instigator to nobody.

“The ALP made me do it” is no way to run a country. If you are making changes because a situation has altered since you took office, how is that the responsibility of the previous government? If these changes are genuine, why not clearly explain them? Any other approach is an excuse that insults the intelligence of all thinking people.

LNP narrative consists almost entirely of unpleasant surprises and excuses for them, or really only one excuse: the ALP made us do it.  Did this government know nothing before it was elected? Was it so naive, so ill-informed, so out of touch that it took office as if newly born into political life? Doesn’t it know every government has to deal with the decisions of its predecessor and that we don’t actually care about that, it’s part of their job description and we expect them to stop whining and get on with it?

This government urgently needs to grow up and understand the serious responsibility they have towards the  citizens of this country. We need a government that has at least achieved tertiary standards of development, and not one that is still toilet training in day care.

Pyne’s advertising campaign is long-term LNP propaganda

9 Dec

anti_public_education_propaganda_by_8manderz8-d5xz1cjOnly days after the education reform bill was defeated in the Senate, the government has launched what it describes as an “information” campaign, funded by tax payers, that claims to educate the public about the failed proposed reforms to higher education.

The campaign to promote understanding of the failed bill is funded by taxpayers. The Abbott government justifies this by claiming the campaign meets all necessary guide-lines to qualify not as political advertising, but as information that is in the public interest. Obviously, the campaign was prepared in anticipation of a Senate defeat.

Shadow Education Minister Kim Carr claimed this morning on ABC Radio National’s early AM program that the advertising is deliberately misleading, and falsely claims that the government will pay “around half of your undergraduate degree.” Carr has fact checked this claim with universities in Western Australia and Queensland and depending on the discipline, students will pay between 57% and 88% of the costs of their degrees.

This is a job for the ABC’s Fact Check unit, if it still exists.

The government’s goal is to create a narrative in which the LNP is struggling to introduce reforms that are positive for students financially (good) and is being thwarted in its efforts by an uncooperative opposition and minor parties (bad). In other words, the Abbott government is striving to gives us what’s best for us against a relentless opposition that doesn’t care about us.

Their goal, I imagine, is to ignite resentment and discontent in the electorate towards an obstructionist ALP and minor parties, a narrative we can expect to see strengthen in the next two years as we approach the next election.

The fact that this is a dud reform quite rightly prevented from realisation is irrelevant. There is also no mention of proposed cuts to universities in the campaign.

Tony Abbott, his ministers and backbenchers take every opportunity to persuade us that all their troubles are the responsibility of the previous Labor government. There is only so long a government can use this tactic to distract from its own incompetence. I’d suggest the Abbott government has long since passed that time limit.

The government is engaged in an ongoing election battle that began years ago when Abbott became LOTO. This most recent taxpayer-funded “information campaign” is yet another sign that Abbott is not so much concerned with good governance as he is with winning the next election. The education reform bill advertising is long-game propaganda, and contributes to Abbott’s over-arching narrative of governmental good intentions thwarted both by Labor’s legacy, and its alleged ongoing obstruction.

 

 

Getting rid of dysfunctional Prime Ministers

30 Nov

 

Tony Abbott Announces Leadership Team

 

Former Liberal Premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett this morning dumped big time on the federal LNP, claiming that dislike for Prime Minister Tony Abbott is a major factor in the Victorian election result that yesterday brought a resounding victory to the ALP, ousting the Liberal government in its first term.

Kennett claims the Abbott government is a “shambles,” and Ministers in the Napthine Government said there was “no question’’ that the unpopularity of Tony Abbott in Victoria was a factor in their defeat.

The government is in a bind about Tony. If they get rid of him in his first term they risk being seen as unstable and disloyal, allegations they levelled unrelentingly while in opposition at the ALP for its ongoing leadership woes with Kevin Rudd.

An aside on that matter. Now we have a good deal more information about that debacle, wouldn’t it have been so much better if Gillard had informed the electorate about the difficulties the government was having with Rudd, rather than leaving us to wake up one morning and discover we no longer had the extremely popular Prime Minister who’d led the Labor party to victory? Pole-axing an electorate in such a fashion and then going on to be excessively secretive as to the reasons for such drastic action would seem to be a most unwise strategy, and indeed, that’s what it proved to be.

The situation with Abbott is very different: while Rudd was still popular but behind the scenes, dysfunctional, Abbott is openly dysfunctional and unpopular to boot, so the electorate won’t go into nearly as much shock and awe if he’s chucked out of the top job in his first term.

Personally, I’d like to see Abbott stay on as leader as he’s the ALP’s best asset.

The federal government is like a dysfunctional family with a rogue father at its head. Everyone closes ranks and publicly supports the patriarch even though he’s bringing ruination down on their collective heads, because that’s what families do. They stick together in the face of adversity, and in so doing, enable the maintenance of the dysfunction. This eventually damages every family member, and the price for such misguided unity is death, of one kind or another.

There’s little more difficult than dealing with a dysfunctional leader, be it in politics or the family, and we saw how the ALP crumbled under the pressure of their Rudd woes.

The precedent for getting rid of first term Prime Ministers has been set, and there are few among us who would find it shocking the second time around. However, the LNP are likely far too spooked by the Rudd saga to risk ousting their dysfunctional leader in his first term. This could well be their downfall.

 

Everything is politics. Discuss.

20 Oct

In this piece on The Drum today titled “Labor misreads the politics of Ebola,” Paula Matthewson argues that the Opposition has misjudged its stance on the Abbott government’s response to the current Ebola health crisis. There was a momentary lament on Twitter about the term “the politics of Ebola” to which Matthewson responded “Everything is politics.” To which I responded “And that is the biggest problem we will ever have to face.”

Everything has a “politics” to be sure, but not everything is solely politics. Good governance, of the kind we have yet to see from the Abbott government, doesn’t reduce every situation to its politics, unless that governance is entirely dedicated to self-interest in which case it isn’t good, or even adequate. Yes, there is a political dimension to the Ebola crisis, and there is a humanitarian dimension, and an economic dimension as well. Privileging the political is of benefit to politicians and their extended entourage, but rarely does it benefit the broader community to have any issue reduced to only one of its dimensions.

This isn’t to criticise Matthewson’s piece, she’s clear about the dimension she’s focusing on. However, some of us nursed a secret hope that the Opposition’s critique of Abbott’s hardline position in refusing to supply boots on the ground in West Africa indicated its humanitarian leanings, rather than being merely the assumption of a conveniently contrary political position, but so bereft are we of trust in politicians we can’t be sure of any of their motives. Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten delivers his set lines with all the conviction of a wombat brought down by a tranquilliser dart, and while the Prime Minister performed superbly in opposition as the world’s best bovver boy, his affectless promises to shirtfront Putin at the G20 are a bad fit with his current manifestation as our country’s leading statesman. As my grandmother liked to say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear, more’s the pity as the political landscape is currently littered with pigs’ ears, with barely a silk purse in sight.

It’s probably sadly true that every issue has become distilled to its politics, to the exclusion of any other consideration. So we treat asylum seekers abominably, break our necks in our urgency to become involved in distant wars, refuse to send medical personnel to assist with globally threatening diseases, and the rest, all because of political expediency. It has got to the point where to even raise humanitarian concerns will likely lead to a tsunami of mockery. Matthewson may well be right: everything is politics, and if that’s the case, that is indeed the biggest problem we’ll ever have to face.

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