The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

The Government We Deserve

So, the Liberal Party is in power and Tony Abbott is our Prime Minister. We’ve made our choice and now we have to live with it. It wasn’t my choice, but obviously, I was in a minority.

Politically, I’m a centrist. I believe that the right balance of free market economics, government control and regulation and social spending, etc., does not exist on either side of Australian politics. The ideal mix, to my mind, lies somewhere between our major parties.

Because of this, I do not vote along party or ideological lines. My vote lands with whomever I think  has the best grasp of what the country needs for the future, and the best, or least culpable, track record.

On this basis I have voted for Labor under Keating, Liberal under Howard (the second time, not the first) and Labor under Rudd and Gillard and Rudd again. I won’t go into why I voted the way I did, but I will explain why I emphatically did not vote for Tony Abbott.

  1. I believe a PM should be capable of coherent speech.
  2. I believe that a prospective government should enter an election with more policies than slogans.
  3. I believe that the entire asylum boat position, in Liberal’s hands, was a toxic, irrelevant sideshow that, when actioned, will endanger the lives of our naval personnel and further confirm SE Asia’s impression of us as casually racist and completely selfish.
  4. I had no faith in the Liberal line-up’s potential for engaging effectively with our regional neighbours. They had been unable to manage the minimal relationships required of an opposition, so it was logical to surmise that they would be even more diplomatically inept as a government.

So, that’s a summary of why I did not vote Liberal. Now, let’s see if events have confirmed my beliefs. Below is a wrap up of what I have seen from this government so far.

  1. The loudest policy statement made by the Liberals (stop the boats) looks like being quietly shelved. The operation has been reclassified to prevent the reporting of boat arrivals. Let’s face it – regardless of anything else, if we stop hearing about new boats, this issue will return to its real magnitude – relative insignificance to the nation at large.
  2. The Liberal Party have made a pig’s breakfast of its position on education funding. The confused and confusing, numerous and contradictory announcements on this issue confirm my suspicion that this government does not have either a greater plan or effective procedures for communicating with the public.
  3. The PM has managed to set our relations with Indonesia back twenty years with one swipe of the foot that seems permanently to occupy his mouth.
  4. Our Foreign Minister (incidentally, the very last person I would choose as a Foreign Minister in the Asia Pacific) has similarly undone nearly a decade’s careful diplomacy with China. Why? For no reason I can see other than keeping up the Liberal Party tradition of pissing off some kind of Asian every time the Foreign Minister says words.

The Espionage Thing

Not a lot needs to be said about this because it’s basically a non-issue. If the Indonesians were surprised to learn about what the DSD routinely do, their intelligence services must be worse than their traffic. It’s a basic truth of international relations that you spy on your friends as much, if not more, than your enemies. The only people who this sort of thing seems to shock is the media, and I strongly suspect that they’re putting it on.

Because this state of affairs hasn’t really changed since the advent of complex civilisation, there has been a generally accepted and acceptable response for this kind of situation for roughly twenty three hundred years: disavow the operation, apologise, and then wait for the public to forget about it. We saw this strategy successfully applied by the USA, with reference to Germany, not two weeks before our situation with Indonesia arose.

So why did the PM respond in a manner exactly opposite to normal and accepted practice? Why did he acknowledge the operation and refuse to apologise (an approach so inappropriate it verges on the insane).

I don’t know. I’ve little hope of ever knowing. I just know that this is consistent with what I know of his behaviour. No talky talky, no votey votey.

The Disputed Island Issue

This is not an issue we needed to comment on. We needed to indicate whether we would comply with China’s new requirements, and that was all. What we didn’t need to do was jump straight back into volunteering moral and value judgements to a country that a) doesn’t give a shit about our values, and b) is culturally predisposed to get seriously annoyed by things we say. So what did our unnecessary opining achieve? Nothing.

The outcome of this dispute will effect us but, on a practical level, it’s simply none of our damn business. Yes, some of our closest allies are involved in the dispute, and yes, we have a keen interest in the balance of power in the Pacific, but that’s it. So, in reality, our involvement is really limited to ‘watch and wait’.

So, why did we weigh in? Beyond guessing that Liberal Party politicians believe that they have some sort of mandate to teach the rest of the world how to live, I just don’t know. But while this sort of behaviour is always going to be mysterious to me, what it definitely is not is surprising. Since the Howard era, it’s what I’ve come to expect. Another strike against voting for Tony (I vote in Warringah).

The Education Funding Thing

I don’t feel too strongly about this one as I never actually believed anything that was said about this issue. To be honest, I don’t even know enough about the Gonski recommendations to have an opinion either way.

What’s irritating me is how poorly the government communicated with us. They seem to have lost the ability to deliver anything longer than a three word slogan. I don’t believe this has anything to do with their having spent so long in opposition – I think it’s actually an indication of the value they place on meaningful communication with the public. They call it ‘not bothering us with details’. I call it contempt.

Why do Mr Abbott and co. have this contempt for our political understanding and engagement? I have no idea. But I know he has it, so I didn’t vote for him.

So, it looks like events have borne out my reasons for not voting liberal. I wonder, though, if the majority of us that did vote Liberal have had their reasoning so thoroughly vindicated. I suppose it’s possible, if their reasons went something like this:

  • I prefer to be deluded into thinking that delivering a budget surplus is the primary business of government (even though I can Google the concensus opinion of philosophy and political science on what the primary business of government actually is in about three seconds)*.
  • I believe it’s the right time to be distant and stand-offish with our regional neighbours and partners, and have therefore voted in a government with a proven track record in alienating and antagonising the whole of Asia.
  • I believe that the Australian nation is best represented both at home and abroad by a man who, whilst probably not the punch-drunk subhuman that he appears to be, lacks the communication skills required to come across as anything else.

If this was how we were thinking on election day, the vote we cast as a nation makes perfect sense. I doubt it though. I think our reasons were largely irrelevant to the issue at hand. I think the majority of Australians voted Liberal because:

  • They had a vague feeling that they’d like to see someone different in government, for no logical reason.
  • They were disgusted with Labor’s internal disunity and voted accordingly, without stopping to consider this issue’s relevance to the election
  • They were determined not to vote for Kevin, as he had suddenly transformed into a smarmy git because the Telegraph

These are the reasons I have personally heard from people. Seeing that they mostly don’t qualify as reasons at all, its unlikely that the Australian people have voted in the government that they really wanted.

Fortunately, however, Democracy ensures that we always, without fail, end up with the government that we deserve.

 

 

 

  1. *Safety/security of the people
  2. Education/Welfare of the people
  3. Promotion and facilitation of trade. 

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