Tony Abbott is the Ctrl-Z of Australian Politics

I’m sure you’re all familiar with Ctrl-Z, the “Undo” command on most computers. I use it ever day when I do something I didn’t mean to do.

Tony Abbott has moved into the Prime Minister’s office and has basically been going “Undo undo undo” on everything that the last government did. The new coalition is entirely devoid of new or constructive ideas, all they can do is remove things they’ve decided they don’t like. Or, more likely, that their corporate donors have decided they don’t like. Rupert Murdoch apparently hates the NBN, it being a threat to his Foxtel business. Undo undo undo. The big miners don’t like the mining tax – or the mineral resources tax to give it it’s full title. Undo undo. Some percentage of the ordinary Australian population have been persuaded that Climate Change, or to give it the name that they don’t like to use, Global Warming, is not real. So a big Undo on the Carbon Emissions Pricing scheme, otherwise known as the carbon tax. I wonder how they then explain that the Arctic will soon be free of ice in the summer for the first time ever? Perhaps we should pop Tony on an iceberg and see how long that lasts.

And they’ve decided to do away with the school kids bonus – an undo that will eat up whatever savings are passed on to families via repealing the carbon tax.

And then there was the charming tightening of eligibility for disaster relief for those affected by the unprecedented bushfires around Sydney in October. Rules that were changed while the fires were burning. Undo undo undo indeed. They then went through the farce of saying that climate change wasn’t a contributor to the fire, despite the Department of Environment website saying as much. Here’s a tip folks, Ctrl-H is the command for “find and replace”.

Christopher Pyne is still bitter about his days as a student politician, so the Student Unions are going to become voluntary again. He also had the genius idea of privatizing HECS debts – which will put us back into the early 1970’s in terms of paying for University. Undo undo undo.

Financing energy efficiency through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is apparently a bad idea, even though it could be argued this fits into their “policy” of direct action on climate change. Undo. And while we’re on the subject, they clearly don’t need independent advice on the subject, so no more funding for the Climate Commission. They had the last laugh, however, resurrecting themselves as a non-profit that I have donated to.

And then of course there was the budget crisis, a pile of lies they created themselves. That vanished within seconds of them gaining office. I bet they’d like to to a big fat Ctrl-Z on the last three years of statements by the people in their economic portfolios. This suffered the same fate as the debt crisis, another of their inventions. What did they do? Raise the debt ceiling by an unprecedented 33%.

Then they gutted the CSIRO. One can only assume they have no need for science, which would explain why they didn’t appoint a science minister. Clearly they can find out what they need from the Wikipedia.

Undo undo.

Oh, and who can forget the repealing of those parts of the Racial Discrimination Act that caught out Andrew Bolt a few years ago. Undo! Clearly political correctness has gone too far. By the way, anyone who starts a statement with “Political correctness has gone too far…” is about to make a racist, misogynist or otherwise discriminatory statement. If you’re lucky it’ll be racist, misogynist and homophobic all at the same time. This is the worst undo of all, because it serves absolutely no useful purpose. Of all the things they could have been concerning themselves with in the two or so months since they were elected, they chose to go after a small part of one act that protects peoples rights. A very mean undo.

I have yet to hear them articulate one new idea of any kind, not one proposal that isn’t a reaction to something the stinking lefty Labor government has done.

The shitty thing is a lot of this stuff took years and years to put into place. It took loads of hard work by dedicated people, and genuinely bold decisions by successive governments to get them going. And now will have to start over, which may take a decade or more. Here we are, once again, looking like a large coal mine masquerading as a nation. A banana republic, a weenie nation of no importance on the bottom of the world. We have an ignorant fool as our prime minister, we now have an image we project to the world – pedaling backwards at the behest of Tony’s rich mates.

An Ungrateful Nation

I’m watching the election count. Waiting for the various speeches to me made, although I’m liable to throw things at the television when that grinning Abbott’s face is on it.

I hoped up till today that there would be a minor miracle – it only needed to be a minor one – and the ALP would get back in. Or, in fact, any other outcome that prevented Abbott becoming prime minister, however unlikely.

With gritted teeth I voted today, I voted for David Feeney, a man I dislike, a man who won the preselection for Batman against not one but two feisty local female candidates. I gritted my teeth, ate my election day sausage, and put a 1 next to his name. Then I did the same with the senate form, putting at 1 against the ALP – eschewing my usual policy of filling in every box below the line. My sausage was getting cold, there were ninety seven boxes, and my seven month old son was getting restless. I thought long and hard these last few weeks about how to vote, despite being a card-carrying member of the ALP. And decided in the end to vote in the way that made a Liberal victory the least likely.

(At the time of writing, the ALP has held this here seat of Batman by a healthy margin.)

I’ve been following politics since, I’m told, I was four years old and quite angry about the dismissal. So I’ve seen many a government, state and federal, come and go. Some governments deserve to lose, some governments have the stink of death about them. Joan Kirner, a lovely lady who I’ve met, lead at dead-man-walking state Labor government which lost to Kennett back in… was it 1992? The state was a shambles, the budget was a mess, you could see clearly why they lost. The same goes for when Howard lost in 2007. The last nail in that government’s coffin was Work Choices. People had clearly had enough of them. Then there was the Nationals in Queensland when they were finally swept from power after the Bjelke-Petersen years.

And so I puzzle at this loss. What terrible thing is it that this federal ALP has done during the last six years? They steered us safely through the global financial crisis, which has ruined the economies of many other nations. They presided over an economy which is the envy of the world. They brought in excellent legislation like the National Disability Insurance Scheme and won us a seat on the UN Security Council. They wound back the awful Work Choices legislation. And started building the National Broadband Network, a world leading piece of infrastructure. Then there was the apology to the stolen generation… Look, here’s a good long list of things they’ve done.

So what happened? This was one government who are terrible at selling their successes – as I’ve said before, legislation must not only be done it must be seen to be done. An excellent example is the Carbon “Tax”. It was never a tax, the legislation actually talks about an emissions trading scheme. It is a carbon price, not a tax. But the federal ALP did such a terrible job of introducing it that the opposition were able to name it and label it as something else entirely. They still got the legislation up, and remarkably it seems to have worked. The whole two terms where like this, a hard working government, later a minority government, undermining themselves.

Then there was the extraordinary piles of bullshit that emanated from the opposition. Lines like “The government has lost control of Australia’s borders” and other such lies. Helped along by a compliant press, largely owned by Murdoch…

So here we are, Australia, you ungrateful nation. You get the government you deserve, a petty narrow administration, whose sole motivation is to tear up the good things Labor has done. A racist and elitist group of white men, a leader who has stated openly that he will use his position to impose his Catholic morality on the nation. A climate change denier who doesn’t believe in science. A government full of the ghosts of the Howard administration.

And if you listen carefully you can hear the Australian Christian Lobby salivating with excitement, ready for the chance to make life hard for the filthy queers. Those few hundred thousand swing voters, largely poorly educated men, who probably think that Abbott is a “top bloke”, have delivered us this pack of incompetents. Who will make life harder for the poorly paid workers who have voted for them. I see an Abbott-led recession in our future, I see a mean and petty nation, a trivial little country at the bottom of the world, not a world leader, not a respected neighbour, not a friendly land of the lucky. We are no longer a progressive nation, we are now a timid nation with a revolting leader. I am not looking forward to the next three years.

This Election Makes My Skin Crawl

I’ve been trying to start this entry ever since I heard the election had finally been called. But… I’ve been so consumed with apoplectic rage, I haven’t been able to construct a sentence.

Regular readers will know I am in fact a card carrying member of the Australian Labor Party. This is largely meaningless until there’s an election and they need bodies to hand out fliers or scrutineer, or very very occasionally when there’s a preselection for a seat. In my nearly twenty years of membership, I’ve voted in maybe two, at most three preselections, always for the losing candidate.

I watched the almost crushingly inevitable dumping of Julia Gillard. I hate reading opinion polls, but after that they became the only thing about federal politics I watched intently. “This had better bloody work, you back-stabbing bastards” I thought, this had better win this government another term or you look even more like bloody-minded fools.

Which is not to say I support this federal government wholeheartedly. There is a list of grand things they’ve done, the NBN for example, but they’ve besmirched themselves or worse with their “solution” to the “illegal” boat “problem”, and then gutting foreign aid to pay for it. Which will, as has been pointed out, kill people – you stop funding clean water programs in the third world, you condemn some of the locals to death. And then taking a huge chunk out of university funding. Because we after all are just a country that makes money by digging stuff up. A banana republic if you will.

I have no special liking for Kevin Rudd. He is an ego-maniacal, power hungry, amoral career political arsehole. However, the other ego-maniacal, power hungry, amoral career politician leading the other party, Tony Abbott, is noticeably worse. Rudd at least isn’t a misogynist – his highly successful millionaire wife would kick him out the door if he was. Rudd at least doesn’t plan to use his prime ministership to impose a narrow Catholic world view on the nation. Rudd at least pretends to be socially progressive, when it suits him.

I know we don’t just vote for the prime minister. Which gives me some hope given the good ministers in the ALP (although my favourite, Lindsay Tanner, is long departed). And scares the hell out of me when it comes to the Liberals. The shadow ministry includes such charming and rational individuals as Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop and Barnaby Joyce. The only member of the liberals I would piss on if he was on fire is Malcolm Turnbull, and only because he used to head the republican movement. Which is not to say the ALP isn’t full of deadwood, Darren Cheeseman being a fine example.

So where does this leave me? I have to chose the lesser of the two evils. In fact it’s not a choice for me – I would never ever in a million years think of voting for the Liberal party. There’s that skin crawling sensation again…

Why, I hear you ask, don’t I vote for the Greens? Simply because the Greens will never be in a position to form government, even in coalition. They will never be anything other than a protest party which might, at best, hold the balance of power like the Democrats once did. The Greens can have all sorts of wonderful progressive policies because they will never have to make them work in practice. They can’t introduce legislation and have it enacted, they can’t follow through on their plans, at best they will be able to point out the more obscene consequences of the legislation that passes through the parliament.

And it hurts me to say this about that party. I broadly support their social justice and environmental ideas. Just today I visited an awesome wind farm in Gippsland, and wished the whole landscape was covered with windmills. But at best they might win a few lower house seats, the new members can then sit with Adam Bandt and watch the governing of the nation happening without them.

It’s more than just voting for me, I could help even in small way with the election campaign for the party I am a member of. But… I live in the federal seat of Batman, where I got to watch not one but two feisty local women, one of them a personal friend of mine, passed over for a faceless man. There’s that skin crawling sensation yet again. If David Feeney’s campaign wants my help, I’m going to tell them to fuck off – in those exact words. I could pick another nearby seat to help out in, but the nearest marginal to me is Melbourne, which would mean campaigning against the greens – which might well cause my wife to leave me!

I have a new baby. I could spend my spare time helping out an election campaign for a party that is corrupt and hurts my brain, or I could stay at home playing with my six month old son. Whatever I do, I’m going to be seething with impotent rage, confined to ranting here and on twitter.

This is a grotesque state of affairs we find ourselves in. When our choices are between a party that makes pretenses at social progressiveness, when in fact they’re not capable to standing up to that undercurrent of racism that John Howard discovered and exploited, and then passed on to Tony Abbott. When we people who really care about things like unions, wages, the environment and education have to vote for a party which happily sends desperate people to one of the worst countries in the world. And happily cut funding to the tertiary sector when they claim to be a “smart” party. When the opposition, which is supposed to present themselves as a credible alternative, can do nothing but rage pathetically about the same handful of meaningless issues, because this plays well to all the press that Rupert Murdoch owns. When our choices for prime minister are two middle aged white men, one of whom was dumped by his party for being an autocratic tyrant, but who was then restored when it turned out the country liked him better than that upstart red head. And on the other hand we have a shallow, incompetent maniac who has been told by God that he will be prime minister, and will let nothing get in his way… These are the charming people we the citizens of this lucky country have to chose between. Enjoy.

For the record, I really like Julia Gillard

What can be said about the events of the last few weeks?

Our good old friends, the “faceless men”, have been at it again. Looking down the barrel of an electoral tsunami, a pioneering woman was dumped from the top job in the land.

I was planning to write a long rant about misogyny, but that topic has finally come to everyone’s attention and been done to death. Now she is not longer prime minister, of course it becomes apparent to everyone that Julia Gillard was subjected appalling treatment by the press, the parliament, the magazines, everyone. Now it can be revealed, like this was some huge secret. Here’s a tip people, it was the elephant in the room all along. A big ugly elephant with the voice of some shock jock frothing at the mouth about a woman who wasn’t chained to the sink.

Rant mode off.

For the record, history will judge Julia as a good prime minister. I’m getting in early – I really liked her. She is tough as nails, to have endured the tough job of running a minority government whilst being subjected to the aforementioned misogynist shitstorm. By some measures, for example, the amount of legislation passed, hers was the most productive Australian government ever. And progressive legislation it was, for the most part. Aside from the weeping sore of “illegal” boat arrivals and the bizarre and degrading solution they came up with.

If I turn my cognitive dissonance up to eleven and concentrate, I find much to approve of. Apologising to the victims of forced adoptions. The National Disability Insurance Scheme. Imposing a carbon price, getting us a seat on the UN security council, legislation protecting whistle blowers, the list is long.

Gillard was amazing in parliament. She gave as good as she got to the opposition, and the vile members thereof. I loved listening to her during question time, she was fiery, she was pointed, she fired barbs. And I will always admire this speech, as much for the way it was delivered as it content:

“Oh he’s looking at his watch because a woman has been talking for too long.”

I never understood why she was held in such low esteem. The government lost its way now and then, and they did a terrible job of communicating what they had achieved. To bolderize a famous quote, legislation must not only be enacted, it must be seen to be enacted.

I know that my circle of friends – largely inner city lefties – are not a representative sample. And I consume a very selective set of media, I never ever watch the commercial television news, I listen only to News Radio on the AM band, who at least attempt to be a raw source. And I read only certain news web sites. So in some ways I’m like the inverse Fox news watcher, my world view is shaped by the media I consume and I chose that very carefully to… support my world view.

So I haven’t been witness to how Gillard was portrayed by Rupert Murdoch’s “news” outlets, or the kind of TV news that only shows a story if they’ve got good vision. Hence my puzzlement at the hatred she received.

She is a loss to the Australian parliament. I hope she finds something worthy to do in public life. I’m glad we have an ex-prime minister who is moving back to her rather utilitarian brick house in Altona. The ALP loves its old stalwarts – witness the way Bob Hawke is wheeled out for big occasions – I hope she joins that clan, like Gough and Keating, to be honoured by the party she once led.

Good luck, Julia.