Australia: The Lucky Country. Or so the saying goes.
We have universal healthcare. Sure, it’s not perfect, but since its introduction in 1975, it’s evolved and grown. Our economy is large enough that we’re one of the G20. Despite our relatively low population, our links and financial situation makes us a regional power.
We have truly unique wildlife – Koalas, Emus, Kangaroos, Duck-Billed Platypuses, Tasmanian Devils, just to name a few. Our flora is uniquely adapted to the landscape and the climate; we have trees that can only spread their seeds when ablaze, and we have breathtakingly beautiful flowers you won’t see anywhere else in the world.
We have beautiful landscapes: Uluru, the sheer natural beauty of Kakadu, the Great Barrier Reef and beaches considered amongst the best in the world. Then there’s things like the Great Ocean Road and The Twelve Apostles.
To quote Douglas Adams on Australians:
Alone of all the races on earth, they seem to be free from the ‘Grass is Greener on the other side of the fence’ syndrome, and roundly proclaim that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence. They call the land “Oz”, “Godzone” (a verbal contraction of “God’s Own Country”) and “Best bloody place on earth, bar none, strewth.”
The irritating thing about this is they may be right.
It seems Australia truly is a remarkably lucky country … so long as you don’t scratch the surface.
There used to be a thin veneer of tolerance spread over racism in Australia, but the last twenty years of politics has indeed scratched away at that and let the ugly sore weep openly in public. John Howard’s government seized gleefully on the repulsive xenophobia of Pauline Hanson and made it their own.
In her maiden speech to the Australian Parliament on September 10, 1996, Pauline Hanson (previously a Liberal candidate until hastily slapped out of the party by Howard in his desperation to be elected) proclaimed:
Immigration and multiculturalism are issues that this government is trying to address, but for far too long ordinary Australians have been kept out of any debate by the major parties. I and most Australians want our immigration policy radically reviewed and that of multiculturalism abolished. I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians.
Pauline well and truly revealed the racists within Australia.
Fast forward a few years, and the Howard Government had diffused the Hanson situation, not by arguing against her appalling attitudes, but by subsuming them into the body politic of Australia, focusing on asylum seekers. This led to Howard’s infamous 2001 election speech which rang like a mirror-universe version of JFK’s famous statement about going to the moon:
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
John F. Kennedy, addressing Rice University, September 1962.
Smeared with malice and selfish vote-grubbing, Howard twisted the hopeful cadence of an inclusive future and unleashed:
We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.
John Howard, 28 October 2001.
Somewhere along the way, Australia stopped being the lucky country and started being the selfish country, something that has continued to this day.
And who can be surprised when a choice between the major two political parties seems to be a choice between the spiteful and the spineless?
Yes, both. The now hilariously inappropriately named Liberal party has become a party of spiteful little-minded people cheapened by point-scoring to the point where even John Howard, master of the cheap gesture squirmed:
John Howard has questioned the Coalition’s decision to launch two royal commissions in its first year in government, saying that the process shouldn’t be used for “narrow targeted political purposes”.
A royal commission into the home insulation scheme has already concluded, while another royal commission, into unions, is underway.
Howard told the Australian: “I’m uneasy about the idea of having royal commissions or inquiries into essentially a political decision on which the public has already delivered a verdict.
“I don’t think you should ever begin to go down the American path of using the law for narrow targeted political purposes. I think the special prosecutions in the US are appalling.”
The Guardian, John Howard questions Coalition Royal Commissions, Oliver Milman, 15 September 2014.
And the Labor party continues to proclaim itself as the progressive party, going so far as to say on their website:
Throughout our history Labor has been synonymous with fairness. Whether it’s in the workplace, at home or ensuring society’s most disadvantaged get a fair go, fairness goes to the very core of Labor’s being.
Fairness. Fair–ness. A fair go for everyone. Well, except asylum seekers, whom the ALP would gladly see rot in the mire. Julia Gillard was a paragon of hard work, with her government passing a staggering amount of legislation, and was staunchly in favour of fairness for women, but vehemently opposed fairness to gays and lesbians who might wish to marry.
Under Bill Shorten, new leader of the ALP and would-be-prime-minister, the ALP has just recently joined with the Coalition to slap down minor party senate objections and pass legislation this country should never have seen:
The Abbott government’s first national security bill, supported by both major political parties, increases the powers of agencies to gather intelligence in the internet age.
It also creates a new offence, punishable by up to 10 years in jail, for anyone who discloses or publishes information about “special intelligence operations”.
The Coalition government and the Labor opposition combined in the Senate to vote down a series of last-ditch amendments proposed by the Greens and other crossbench senators on Thursday night.
Many of the failed amendments were aimed at addressing concerns the law would criminalise public-interest journalism.
The Guardian, Secure laws pass Senate amid fears over draconian limits to press freedom, Daniel Hurst, 26 September 2014.
All for fairness, the ALP ignored the prophetic words of centuries ago:
But a constitution of Government, once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. (John Adams).
Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety. (Benjamin Franklin).
The ALP claims to have a strong sense of bipartisanship when it comes to national security and threats of terrorism. A casual observer though might rightly confuse bipartisanship with spinelessness, the hallmark of the ALP these last 15 or more decades: unwilling to fight for social justice or equality unless it looks like there’s a good sound bite or is unlikely to raise the ire of the majority of shock-jocks.
Spiteful and spineless: those who lead, and those who would lead.
The shame of it all.