Monday, July 16, 2012

Back into the wilderness from whence you came

I would have been around 12 years old when the Howard government was elected to power in this country in 1996.

I didn't really have a grasp of politics then. While it was spoken of in my family, it was always from the view of the left, and the election win of John Howard was seen as something that would damn us for all eternity.

All I remember was that Howard provided some great fodder for parody on TV and radio comedy sketches - which I would dare say sparked my interest in politics in the first place.

I still think today that there isn't enough healthy parody and piss-taking of our politicians, and indeed, it's strictly against the law to use any recording of Question Time for any sort of light-hearted fun at their expense.

Perhaps if we had a healthy-enough democracy where we could employ parody in political commentary more widely, they wouldn't take themselves so seriously, and they wouldn't be so mysterious to the average Joe.

Television shows such as The Chaser are now virtually non-existent, and it seems a Liberal government was only right for parody.

When I was first able to vote at age 18, Mark Latham was leader of the Australian Labor Party, an era that most in Labor would like to forget, or even deny it ever occurred.

I was so ardently against John Howard and his government, that I was bursting to vote for Labor and Mark Latham, and I told everyone I knew who wasn't clued in to do so - and so from then on, I identified with Labor.

Of course Latham lost and was cast off into political exile and treated fairly poorly by Labor following that election, but the party then was still in better spirits and knew more of what it was about than now.

In hindsight, I'm not sure why I identified with Labor and unionism. I grew up in a single parent public housing household, with no income beyond what the government provided, so why should I have identified with sticking up for Working Families?

As the likes of Paul Howes, and other new faces of unionism note, they aren'y interested in any other sector of the community except what fits the blue collar backbone of the country.

That imparts itself onto Labor, especially since coming to power.

The unemployed for instance hold no political capital at all.

And fair enough, I suppose, if there's a large enough base deserving of political attention, the rest can go to hell, and probably don't even know how to vote, am I right?

Under the Howard government I was able to have access to a Catholic high school education (which in however you frame your view, may or may not have been a good thing), and I was also able to complete a journalism degree, which may or may not  have been the best choice.

Especially now given that print media is on life support, but each to their own.

I'm not looking back at the Howard years with any sort of fondness, and at times I thoroughly despised the close relationship between he and George W. Bush, the treatment of Mohamad Haneef, Children Overboard, and Work Choices.

Although, it probably would have been easier for a journalism graduate with little work experience to find a job under Work Choices - who is to know?

My point being, things such as the Education Revolution of Labor aren't exclusive policies or goals of one particular government, and I, from a non-working family, was able to obtain an education.

I don't know what the education policy currently is of the Coalition now under Tony Abbott is, but then again, no one really knows what, if any single piece of workable policy Abbott's Coalition does have.

This past month has seen asylum seeker policy dominate Parliament, and dominate the political discussion.

Labor has found itself at the beck and call of the Greens, who oppose offshore processing, and at the mercy of the Coalition, who can have the likes of Joe Hockey stand and cry crocodile tears about sending children to Malaysia.

All in all, it was a rather theatrical last week of sitting before this long winter break.

But what came out of it? Any other discussion of policy, such as education?

How was the revolution going?

It's completely off the radar. The agenda was dominated by the introduction of the carbon tax, and by what we are to do with the huddled masses risking their lives on leaky boats yearning to breathe free.

And better yet, what's Labor publicly talking about during the break?


Yes folks, there is no more of a pressing issue than the party that allowed them to form minority government in the first place; no talk of education, no talk of the threat of an Abbott-led government and the possible re-animation of Work Choices, no talk of housing shortages, no talk of big miners ripping off Australians at large, and no talk of the dire state of lack of political awareness in the country as a whole.

In fact, talk is also getting up again of who Labor will have as their leader at the next election if the faceless men choose to shaft Julia Gillard.

I didn't mean to single out Labor in this blog recently, but do they even realise they are supposed to be governing the country?

It's not good enough to use the fear of an Abbott government to vote Labor, just as it wasn't good enough to use the fear of a Howard government to vote for Labor and Mark Latham when I was 18.

We all become a little wiser with age.

Politics is always billed as the choice of two evils, but I would like to think that perhaps the machine could move on from that way of thinking; if it can't, then a single party system would be more efficient, without all the elaborate theatrics of democracy.

And although I bemoaned John Howard and the Liberals, I still held a constant and certain level of respect for the office of Prime Minister.

That respect has been trashed by Labor.

While some may not look forward to the prospect a government led by Tony Abbott, at least it will be interesting to observe Labor as they return to the wilderness.

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