post election thoughts (Australia, 2007)

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by Neil Godfrey

What a shift? Or should that be, What shift?

Of more interest to me than the Rudd Labor win (that was a huge emotional relief) were:

1. the demise of the religious right Family First Party (but dammit, they have 1 Senator who could make a lot of noise if he finds himself in a balance of power decider position), and

2. voices of true “liberalism” — J.S. Mill type stuff — being heard to squeak out here and there now that reactionary-squatter type “conservative” Howard has been given the boot. Liberal member Malcolm Turnbull actually said the Liberals should support a government apology to the aboriginals, some even said that the popular will rejecting their dismantling of the industrial system should be respected, and they all agreed to go along with the consensus of international opinion in respect to Kyoto.

But then the party darn gone went and chose Lord Brendon Nelson as its leader who promptly stifled some of those voices of philosophical liberalism. So it looks like Labor will continue to be the main bulwark of “liberal” politics for the immediate future.

And that leaves the Greens as the next in line to fill the gap of working for the bottom line issues of real worker and pensioner security, end of  involvement with war ventures, and environment. Whether that will happen will depend largely on events. Environment change and sellout policies by the major parties has increased their vote over recent years. I’d hate to think it will take more casualties in wars and real suffering on the part of workers and others losing their entitlements to bring about to further advance them to major-party status. Trouble is, those sorts of conditions can also become perfect tinder for extremists on the right to whip up fear and lead people to vote against their own interests.

Lots of work ahead for us Green supporters. We couldn’t have a more perfect candidate in the local area, Pauline Collins, to galvanize supporters into action as early as February next year to prepare for the next election.

Looking back on last weekend:It’s a bit strange how our extended personal identities can be so bound up with our nation in such a way that the leadership of the nation can directly affect our feelings of self-worth. So many decisions by the exiting government leader made me cringe with embarrassment and so often I told others I wanted to emigrate and find a new homeland. I hated having to admit to being an Australian when overseas. Our nation’s international image was so completely at odds with my personal values and understanding of the issues our PM appeared to be deliberately lying about.

But last Saturday I knew something new was on the move. I stood in the rain, wearing a poncho over my Green Party t-shirt and ready to hand out “how to vote” flyers at 8 am as voters came in their droves. In the pouring rain. As early as the very minute the polling opened. I had expected a trickle at that hour and in that weather, but not the crowds walking up the pathways to the booths. Surely most would wait for the rain to clear before bothering to come. But no, it was clear people were in a mood to deliver a message — I could not help but suspect they were finally wanting change, having seen through the sham and callousness and outright lies of a conservative nineteenth century squatter-values government.

It had been a depressing campaign between the two major parties. Nothing about our sons and brothers being killed and killing others in Afghanistan and Iraq, or our concentration camps for refugees via the wrong mode of transport (evoking atavistic images of being swamped by coloured races from overseas), or our desertion of fellow-citizens to the injustice and barbarity of torture and imprisonment without trial overseas — and their ongoing demonization once finally returned, or the widening gulf between the rich and poor, or the horrifying gap between white and indigenous conditions, or the gap our government had entrenched with our East Timorese and Pacific neighbours through shocking bullying and paternalism, certainly not a word about the clamping down on freedom of information and gagging of debate in Parliament and through PR spin-doctors working on behalf of government agencies. Those issues, it seems, were minor non-issues reserved for the “chattering classes”.

Bring on the real debate: Who would keep interest rates lower for home-buyers? Who would offer the best tax breaks?

To be fair, there was also much talk about WorkChoices and even Kyoto. But even there the differences between the parties were muted enough and it was rarely clear exactly how or to what extent Labor would do things differently.

But Howard, who wanted to take Australia back to the rule of the squatter where those who owned the money claimed absolute right to set all conditions of their workers, and who was a master of fear-mongering and stifling information and debate, has lost his seat. I will have to examine myself — I am one of the few who cannot bring himself to feel sorry for one responsible for so many ruined lives, and responsible for abandoning Australia’s infrastructure and educational future.

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Neil Godfrey

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One thought on “post election thoughts (Australia, 2007)”

  1. You are one of the many who are glad that coconut Howard is finally terminally dessicated. It’s not just interest rates though, at this time you could not win an election in Australia with a platform of restricted car usage or restricted consumer goods. Big challenges ahead. War and famine as a result of carbon overuse disorders seem inevitable long term. That’s not much of a prediction though, it is in the normal context of human history, I suppose? Gillard is impressive so far? Brendan Nelson may have been anticipating a partnership with Bob Brown by endorsing rights in same sex relationships? We will see.

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