and then a step to the right

Thunk on or about 2nd November 2004

Well, Australia (or at any rate, just over half of it) has elected to do the Time Warp again. Or more precisely, elected "Honest" John Howard back to government. I was afraid this might happen but what has really stunned me is that he has been given an increased majority in the lower house and control of the Senate. Actually, it not only stuns me, it frightens me. Pourquoi?

It's astounding

Reasons for Howard losing votes:

  1. you can't trust him to do what he says (GST? Never, Ever)
  2. you can't trust him to do what he says (we kept our core promises)
  3. he sets up ministerial codes of conduct then decides they don't apply to anyone in his party
  4. he embarasses us internationally the way he sucks up the the US Administration (vote for George)
  5. he antagonises Indonesia (we'll invade if we have to; the missiles are purely defensive)
  6. he dragged us into the Iraq war in defiance of international law
  7. he has managed thereby to set us up as a prime target for terrorism
  8. he locks up children in refugee camps
  9. he seems determined to take away all our gains in higher education and research
  10. and so forth

Time is fleeting

Reasons why most people don't care about the above:

  1. you can't trust politicians anyway so what difference does it make?
  2. as above
  3. as above
  4. no he doesn't
  5. you can't trust those Indonesians and anyway, who cares?
  6. international law? who cares what those cheese-eating surrender monkeys think?
  7. I'm all right - I've still got my fridge magnet
  8. you're right, this is bad; he should send them home straight away
  9. who cares what a bunch of intellectuals think? what do they know about anything?
  10. and so forth

Madness takes its toll

So, where does the fear come in? Well, it is in two parts - a fear for what we are becoming and a fear of what we may do to ourselves.

Australia seems to be becoming more insular, more inward looking. The attitude is applying both within Australia as well as in our international relations. People seem more engaged with their immediate condition with little thought for broader issues in society. At the same time, there is a growing cynicsm which shrugs its shoulders when the rule of law is flouted. People don't seem to care much anymore.

This is distressing for whining, left-wing liberals like myself but far more serious is the fact that the government now has control of the senate. During its previous term, it tried to push through "security" laws which, among other things, allowed people (including children) to be locked up without trial. The Opposition parties knocked this back but there doesn't seem to be any obstacle now.

I guess everyone believes that it is only the ratbags and communists - oops sorry, terrorists - who will be locked up. And serve them right.

Let's do the time-warp again

A friend of mine sees Howard's victory as a failure of education. I'm not sure he's right but it's a possibility. I think the electoral system is in need of reform. In Australia, and also in the current US presidential election, campaigning was largely centered on a few marginal seats. In order to get elected, politicians basically have to do (or promise to do) what the few swinging voters in these seats want, thereby disenfranchising most of the voting population. I don't know the answer to this but some form of proportional representation might be better. A subject for a future thinks.

Meanwhile, it's back to the fifties for Australia. It would be nice to think that there's a new sixties waiting just around the corner but I'm not holding my breath.


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