Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Strange Day in Australian Politics

For the last few weeks now I've been tuning out the news cycle, or, perhaps better, managing my access to it. I'd pretty much stopped watching TV news as the ABC seemed to do no more than channel the Murdoch feed and I've cut back seriously on my radio listening, again to mostly screen out the news updates (although I'm also really appreciating the silence - I might write about that at some stage).

What we've had now for a while is an intense media blitzkrieg against the federal Labor government, constant harping, distortions and outright lies. On one level I wasn't surprised. A fact of life about Australian is that a Coalition gov't is perceived by the powers that be as the natural order of things, whereas Labor is a fluke, a mistake, a temporary necessity, whatever. I saw it before in the days of Whitlam back in the 70s and I also saw the Hawke-Keating governments cop their own fair hiding too. The first two to three years of Hawke I remember being very nervous because of the way the media was going out for him. This time round I wasn't surprised but this time, as I said, I'd decided to screen it out. There's nothing I can do about it, it's mostly lies fuelled now by the mining sector's determination to scuttle the new resource tax that the gov't wanted to implement.

So I was quite surprised this morning to see on my flatmate's blog that there was a leadership challenge being mooted against the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. Later this morning I found a Crikey update in my email saying that Julia Gillard was now PM. At the Caucus meeting this morning Rudd hadn't put himself forward for the leadership and Julia got the job unopposed.

So right now I feel quite strange. I must admit to liking Julia Gillard, much more than I ever did Rudd himself and even though I disagree with her on some of her policies. Well, maybe they weren't her policies as such but the government's policies which she as Education minister was responsible for implementing. So I've looked forward to the day when she would become Prime Minister of the country, our first female PM.

But at the same time I'm alarmed. Rudd was toppled towards the end of the first term of the Labor government. An election is due and must be held in the next few months (I think by no later than April next year). The Opposition really are a talentless rabble and they are led by the so-called Captain Catholic, Tony Abbott, a really nasty piece of work, who I must say gives me the willies. The thought of them getting back into government really scares the shit out of me. They're nasty and clueless, dominated by climate change denialists and with an ugly penchant to play racism and xenophobia with asylum seekers and a particularly nasty tendency to play vicious class war politics against the poor and unemployed, especially if they're young. Is it a particular feature of Anglo-Saxon politics, this beating up the poor that's been around since the poor laws of the Tudor monarchy in the 16th century and is a recurring part of British, Australian and US politics (I can't speak for Aotearoa/NZ or Canada) or do other nations likewise make beating up the poor a key part of their conservative politics?

I have to say that, apart from perhaps the Apology, nothing so became Rudd as his going. You can watch his final press conference here. I can only say, Kevin why didn't you speak like this before? Superb stuff! In fact you've laid out the Government's re-election platform summing up the achievements of the first term magnificently. I'm also intrigued that Rudd isn't leaving politics at the next election (although Lindsay Tanner is which is most unfortunate) and may even have a role in Julia Gillard's Cabinet. If that happens then we will have a most interesting political situation, which could even be healthy for the body politic. I hope so.

And, Julia, remember why Kevin seemed to get into trouble over the last couple of months. It was because he had been perceived by many as abandoning key principles, not being prepared to take the fight up to the Opposition, not just the Lib-Nats, but the serious Opposition of the wealthy and powerful vested interests such as the mining companies, the Murdoch press and the big end of town. Perhaps why I'm so uneasy is that I have a horrible feeling that I've just witnessed a coup orchestrated by those very same vested interests through their commentariat lackeys of the press.

When I heard the news of our new PM, I said a prayer for her and for the Government and I also said one for Kevin too. While I might be critical of a lot what they and he have done, at the same time this country has been so much the better for their time in office and I hope for all our sakes that they will remain in office for quite a few years to come. The alternative is the stuff of nightmares.


  1. I've been meaning for some time now -- but haven't yet remembered -- to get myself informed about all this. (I live, you understand, in Africa, where the antipodean cognoscenti are in short supply.) Would I be correct to guess from the above that the Australian Right is not unlike the boggier factions of its American equivalent? Which is to ask, to what extent does it suffer Christian fundamentalism?

    Yours aye,

    PS: Enjoyed Sodomy almost as much as sodomy.

  2. Hi Rodney, I'm glad you enjoyed my book. The Australian Right tends to be more secular than the US Right because this country is itself more secular. There are religious groupings in the Liberal party, NSW especially, where there's a very conservative Catholic group with a lot of power. That's a fairly new sort of development in Australian politics as Labor was traditionally the home of the Catholic vote and still is for large numbers of Catholics.

    Tony Abbott federal Lib Leader is a right wing Catholic of English background so he has not come up through the usual Labor-Catholic connections. He's been referred to as Captain Catholic, I think that might even have been his own term for himself

    The curious ting the last three years is that the Liberal parry has had two Catholic leaders at a federal level. Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. Turnbull is much further to the left of the Liberal party than Abbott, who rolled him. Once clear distinction between the two is that Turnbull accepts the reality of climate change while Abbott is aligned with the sceptics.

    Julia Gillard, our new PM, is an atheist and living in a de facto relationship with her partner but those are unlikely to be election issues and religious Labor voters would still vote for her and Labor