by Shaker Ceredwyn Ealanta
[Content Note: Racism, sexism, rape apologia]
On 7 September 2013, Australia went to the polls to elect our next Prime Minister. Due to the way our electoral system works, minor parties can be accorded enough preferences to win a seat in the senate, so my ballot in particular was so long it could cover the width of my voting booth three times. If I had wanted to, I could have easily folded it into a charming hat or wallpapered an upmarket flat in Saint Kilda.
At the time of writing this, we know that all 150 seats in the Australian House of Representatives have been decided, and 40 (of the 76) seats in the Australian Senate.
Voting in Australia is compulsory (for now), and we generally know who will be Prime Minister the evening of every election, though due to rampant speculation, we usually think we know who will be the country's leader roughly three months before any election as well. While our system defangs some of the utter two party division seen in other countries, our new leader is generally Labor (centre, though there is an argument as to whether they are centre left or centre right) or Liberal-Coalition (historically centre-right, gradually becoming hard-right).
Australia has lost its Labor leadership under the office of Kevin Rudd, and has gained the highly conservative leader Tony Abbott. The Senate has ended up a chaotic mix of various parties, including the Australian Sports Party, the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, Family First, Country Liberal Party and so forth. Emotions have been high, with the left-wing voters in Australia simultaneously glad that we managed not to give a seat to the Australia First Party (their white-power leader best known for organising a shotgun attack on an ANC representative and yet still being permitted to run), and appalled that we now have several years of leadership from Mr Abbott.
In the House of Representatives, we get to enjoy the spectacle of watching the Liberals court the Palmer United Party - run by a multi-millionaire mining magnate who is irking Rupert Murdoch by claiming that his former wife is a Chinese Spy - and Katter's Australian Party, a group that appears to exist to ensure that everyone is equally confused by their policies and that the requisite proportion of cattle hats and crocodile wrestling remains in Australian politics.
Tony Abbott remains our leader however, and he has a history of denigrating the rights of women and indigenous people, and is the current focus of our shameful position on refugee policy.
Mr Abbott has historically voted against women's sexual health services and equated the use of abortion with the actions of Nazi Germany. In addition to this, he is quite comfortable pontificating on the value of his daughters as being primarily as virgins:
"I would say to my daughters if they were to ask me this question... [their virginity] is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don't give it to someone lightly, that's what I would say." (Tony Abbott, January 27th 2010)
"I won't be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated [for cervical cancer], maybe that's because I'm a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won't be." (Tony Abbott, November 9th 2006)
All of this aside, his quote in what is affectionately known as qanda (a talk panel called Q & A) gave cause for many women in Australia to wonder whether he had managed to build a time machine:
"I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman's right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man's right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak." (Tony Abbott, March 19, 2009)
In addition to his charming views on women, which are honestly likely supported by many on his side of Australian politics, he is anti-science:
"The climate change argument is absolute crap, however the politics are tough for us because 80 per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger." (Tony Abbott, February 2nd 2010.
He minimises the effect of bullying and violence on victims:
"If we're honest, most of us would accept that a bad boss is a little bit like a bad father or a bad husband. Not withstanding all his or her faults, you find that he tends to do more good than harm. He might be a bad boss but at least he's employing someone while he is in fact a boss." (Tony Abbott July 2nd 2002)
Not yet content with this, he has declared himself 'Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs', something which must surely come as a shock to the white population, let alone the indigenous population. As reported on the ABC website, the swing against the Coalition in some identifiably aboriginal booths climbed as high as 40 percent, and averaged around 12 percent. That's more than three times the national average (a 3.51 percent swing to the Coalition). This response has to have been in itself unsurprising given such quotes as:
"There may not be a great job for [Aboriginal people] but whatever there is, they just have to do it, and if it's picking up rubbish around the community, it just has to be done." (Tony Abbott, June 30th 2010)
"Now, I know that there are some Aboriginal people who aren't happy with Australia Day. For them it remains Invasion Day. I think a better view is the view of Noel Pearson, who has said that Aboriginal people have much to celebrate in this country's British Heritage." (Tony Abbott, April 5th 2010)
The main beneficiaries of this style of leadership are our political comedians, who now find themselves drowning in an excess of material. As has been observed by some economists at the time, Australia, having come out astonishingly well in a world wide economic downturn, having beautiful countryside and multiple world heritage listed sites, has apparently decided that change was necessary.
Much of this eclipses something unprecedented that did occur, and that is Nova Peris, an Olympian indigenous woman elected to senate, and our first indigenous female senator. Notably, Ms Peris' photo was not splashed across every major newspaper in the land, despite the ground breaking nature of her appointment. The disillusionment Australians face over major news has only been worsened by the active involvement of Rupert Murdoch in our politics. The ex-Australian national ran anti-Labor ads on the front pages of the major papers, using his position as a non-government member and his privilege as an indescribably rich and powerful man to do so.
Mr Murdoch complained publically about lazy public servants sucking the life out of the economy, presumably with their lazy statistics gathering for evidence-based policy, lazy bushfire prevention research, lazy road maintenance and lazy regulation of health care provision and compulsory food labelling. He should not fear - Mr Abbott has been promoting the ideas of a conservative think tank which seeks to cut all the horribly expensive 'green' tape in Australia, removing such things as plain packaging on cigarettes, abolishing the Clean Energy Fund, introducing voluntary voting, ending mandatory disclosures on political donations, defunding Harmony Day, and closing the Office of Youth.
And lastly we come to the refugee situation. Australia is currently the focus of certain refugee attempts, which due to its island nature, come with a perilous crossing. Drownings are common, people smugglers make money off the suffering of others, and treatment of refugees here has been compared to compulsory gulag lockup. While some parties, notably the Greens, ran on a humanitarian platform, promising to help eradicate this great shame through adherence to UN Council refugee recommendations, the new government sees no point in pandering to criminals such as six year old children, same sex people who want to marry without being killed, and people who watched their families murdered by totalitarian regimes.
Abbott proposes forcing all boat arrivals onto three-year temporary visas and a welfare-for-work program, without any family reunion, appeal, legal rights or chance of permanent settlement in Australia. Most of our refugees are seeking work, but work with no legal rights has another name for it entirely.
The Coalition, being a primarily conservative group, has strong connections with organised religion and Tony Abbott declares himself to be Catholic. However, in this regard, leaders from the Catholic Church to the Salvation Army have been pleading directly for human treatment for the refugees with no serious response apart from offhand comments about how Jesus would understand not everyone can come to Australia.
Eventually, by aiming for our fear of the other, and by being supported by constant comments about our doomed economy, despite our current prosperity, we have elected the party we deserve to have in power. Australia is not a predominantly highly religious country, Hillsong members notwithstanding, and many Aussies thought they were voting for more jobs, and more money, and 'less welfare recipients'. Labor were dismissed as wasteful. Greens as unserious. Democrats as infighters. Only the Liberal Coalition could deliver the taxation system we needed to survive. And they would be fair, right? The little people would be okay, and those big people in power, they were going to take care of us by keeping each other in check.
What's that Mr Abbott?
"Mates help each other; they do not tax each other." (February 23rd 2011)
Oh, there you go.