Downs Under #10

April 23, 2015

by Alec Downs

Hi there!  Apologies for the gap between articles, I’ve been busy. Yes…for nine years. I’m still pretty busy – busier than ever, in fact – but hopefully I’ll be able to churn out more than one piece between now and 2024. Probably as a result of me living here so long, but I’m afraid to say a few Aussie colloquialisms will undoubtedly pepper my writing. I’ve spent so long wearing thongs (flip-flops) that this column likely won’t be the most formal or sombre affair. Still, here we are. I’ll focus on current affairs, but I suppose a quick précis is in order before moving on.

How to summarise the last near-decade in Australian politics? ‘Briefly!’ cry the wags in the audience. Okay, let’s cut a long story *extremely* short.

Since my last post (2006?!), Australia has changed governments a couple of times; in 2007, Labor’s Kevin Rudd defeated Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister, John Howard of the Liberal-National coalition, Australia’s ‘small c’ conservatives.  Rudd was then usurped by his Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who challenged him for the leadership of the party in 2010 in an internal party spill. Rudd did not contest the challenge, and overnight Gillard became Australia’s first female Prime Minister. Also the first Welsh-born PM.  Rumours that Bill Bailey caused Rudd’s downfall from his quip on 2010’s ‘Dandelion Mind’ that you can’t have a world leader called Kevin, are probably without substance.

In June 2013, Rudd re-emerged from the back benches and, in a Game of Thrones- or House of Cards-esque manoeuvre, challenged Gillard for the leadership as she had done to him three years previously.   He defeated Gillard and won back the leadership. Rudd called an election in September of the same year, but Labor was resoundingly defeated by the Liberal-Nation coalition, hungry for blood after six years in strident opposition. Rudd resigned in November 2013 and now lives in the US. Gillard also retired from politics, choosing not to contest her seat. I really am leaving out an awful lot of detail here, but it would take far more time than I, or you (the three people reading this) to go over everything that has happened over the years.

In 2013 the Liberal-National coalition once more took power, under the leadership of one Anthony John “Tony” Abbott. He is very much right wing and old school. A retrograde dinosaur, leading a cabal of science-decrying, climate change-denying, women- and minority-oppressing, big business-supporting buffoons who seem desperate to return Australia to the 1950s. Abbott was a rabid dog in opposition, hounding Rudd and especially Gillard with obstructionist manoeuvres and a contradictory mindset. He and the Liberal-National Party (forevermore here abbreviated to LNP) remind me very much of the Republican party in the US, whose main policy after the 2008 election was to prevent Obama from doing anything constructive.

The LNP have few policies of substance; after 18 months in government they are still in electioneering mode – blaming Labor for perceived failings, espousing slogans over detailed policy, and not even paying lip service to the idea of compromise for the good of the country. Safe to say, I’m not a fan. Neither is anyone I talk to, which leaves me slightly baffled as to how they got into power. Labor certainly had their failings – the factionalism and in-fighting that plagued the party in recent years, combined with some poorly-executed policies and a dogged opposition no doubt contributed to their defeat. The less said about the mainstream media in this country, dominated as it is by Murdoch companies, the better (although I may well talk about that in future posts).  The next election will likely be in 2016, and the feeling among my cohorts is that the LNP will be defeated.  It’s an interesting time for Australian politics, and there is a lot to talk about. I’ll write about those issues most of interest to me, and hopefully more regularly that once per decade!