Australian Politics: Labor Spillapalooza, 2010

by Shaker NapalmNacey

Something huge is afoot in the state of Australia. As far as politics go, this is as big as it gets here on our little continent. Australian politics can be a little confusing for those not of the Commonwealth nor used to our arse-backwards party names. Just to start you all off, there are two major parties. Labor, which is the supposed left-wing party, and Liberal, which is not liberal at all but actually right-wing. There are a couple of major player smaller parties: Nationals, which represent farming interests and the country folk for the most part, and the Greens, which, like their name suggests, represents the environmentalists, the queers and those that really hate the three other parties. (For the sake of full disclosure, I vote for the Greens. Jostick burning, queer, tree-hugging feminist, right here!).

For the past two years, Kevin Rudd has been our Prime Minister. Kevin got in with unheard of numbers in the polls. People loved him. Really, really loved him and everyone thought he was the dog's bollocks. It looked like Labor could do no wrong. They delivered on their promise to say "Sorry" to the Indigenous Australians for all the shit white settlers rained down upon them, which is a huge improvement on Howard's policy for that, which was basically to turn to the Indigenous Australians and say "Fuck you, it's our country now."

He went to Copenhagen to kick arse for the sake of the environment! Things were awesome! Then, things were not so awesome. He came home, frustrated, and after some months, Labor gave up on the whole Emissions Trading Scheme idea. Their idea was to deal with it after the election. People were Not Happy, Jan.

Liberals realised that nobody wanted to vote for them, even the right-wing douchenozzles that voted them in the last time. Their answer – kick out Malcolm Turnbull (an actually reasonable opposition leader, in that he once upon a time said he supported gay rights) and put in Tony Abbott.

Let me describe Tony Abbott to you. As I explained to Liss in an email, Tony Abbott is like John Howard v2.0: This Time It's Ludicrous. He's even MORE religious than John Howard, he's vocally against abortion, he doesn't "believe" in climate change and he rubs elbows with The Exclusive Brethren. That's sort of like Bush having regular meetings with Fred Phelps. Maybe if Fred Phelps had The Family behind him, so there's added evil. Tony Abbott also wants to bring back WorkChoices (under a new name, of course). WorkChoices is a hugely unpopular scheme that was discarded by the new Labor Government. It gave far too much power to the employers, leaving the employees vulnerable to exploitation. He also thinks that there are a lot of lazy shits on the Disability Pension that need to go get a damned jorb.

Once you expose the rabbit hole of Abbott's policies, it's impossible for you to put your jaw back in place, he is that terrible. It's hard for me to gather the words. As a possible leader for this country, he terrifies the ever-loving fuck out of me. Probably not unlike McCain scared the pants off of those of you in the US. And the current PM now, for those of you in the UK.

Things have been going from bad to worse with Labor, with the Mining Sector up in arms over Rudd's idea to tax their shit. It's fair enough, as a country, we let all sorts of foreign investors in to do what they like with the desert bits with all the minerals (oh, and the nice coasty bits with the pristine reefs and animals, cause they had the temerity to live on top of a rich source of natural gas). And they come here by the buttload because the taxing is so low. Heaven forbid the PM think, "Hey, we need money for hospitals and schools and shit."

Mining companies tend to have heaps of money, and friends in high places. So for three months now, Labor has been dogged by the mainstream media. The only thing keeping the boat at a reasonably even keel is the fact that Tony Abbott keeps opening his mouth and saying fucked up shit.

The problem with Kevin Rudd is that, while his ideas are generally pretty sound, he's terrible at communicating them to the voters. It also doesn't help that a few of his ministers are total buttheads. I'm looking at you, Stephen Conroy. And you, Nicola Roxon.

Now, I'm not huge on the specifics of what went on today. I'm not a political reporter. I just like watching the politicians shout at each other during Question Time and see if I can spot any of them picking their noses or falling asleep. Basically, it's crunch time, and the movers and shakers in the Labor party said, "Okay, enough of this shiz, it's time to get real with Kevin."

Our deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, met with Kevin Rudd today and requested that he "spill the leadership". That's just putting the leadership of the Labor Party under the vote of the rest of the party. Tomorrow, Australia might very well have its first woman PM.

Before this sounds too awesome, this is the thing that really makes me uncomfortable and nervous about the whole mess. Julia Gillard has done this to retain the support of the more right-wing members of the party. Kevin Rudd has been vocal about not leaning any more to the right on the issues of the environment nor asylum seekers. I respect him for that stand, and I wonder what it means to get in bed with the more right-wing party members? Will this be an echo of the watering down of progressive policies that has been seen with the Obama Administration?

To put it in more familiar terms for those more familiar with US politics, this'd be like Obama putting his foot down on, say, abortion. And border security. Then taxing the oil companies. Then everyone freaking the hell out and then Hillary Clinton comes in and takes the fucking presidency by being a little more right-wing than Obama. She'd never do that, and the opposite is kind of happening to you guys, but that's how big it is here.

(One note of further context: Apparently, Rudd had questioned Gillard's loyalty, which totally pissed her off. Which I can understand, as she'd said to the country, "No, I'm not going to contest the leadership". Then he goes and gets a lackey to snoop behind her back. This is seriously thorny!)

A part of me is super friggin' excited about getting our first woman PM. I just wish it wasn't like this. It's well known that Julia Gillard is very left-leaning as a politician. Will she have that shiny, new, hopey-changey appeal to knock Liberal out at the next election? I don't know.

All I know is that Australian politics has been really stressing me the hell out lately and I need a hobby that's kinder to my adrenal glands. Like knitting.

(Related: This has a lot of very clever things to say about the current situation. Not entirely unlike what I said, just with a whole less swearing.)


NB: It should be noted that I am not a political blogger outside of the personally political. So my knowledge of the intricacies of Australian politics is patchy at best. I'm aware some Aussies here might be able to correct me on stuff and by all means, I welcome them to.

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