Continuing the alliterative series on how to reform and save ourselves. The Eight Elementary Errors got a big response, so I might develop these into something more substantial.
[We happened to witness a demonstration last Thurday, “Australia Day”, which commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet, with convicts, and so of course also marks the beginning of the dispossession of Aboriginal people. I gather pictures of our Prime Minister being dragged by a security man have gone around the world. I have sent this account to media, we’ll see if it gets a run.]
[Posted on The Drum, 30 Jan.]
The bias, hysteria and divisiveness of our public political conversation is never far from view, but this week I encountered it first hand. I watched the Aboriginal protest unfold at The Lobby restaurant. The event reported in the media and reacted to by many commentators is a lurid parody of what actually happened. Perspective and balance are hard to find.
Two major Australian institutions are in the spotlight at the moment, the Labor Party at its annual national conference, and the media in an enquiry prompted by the Murdoch press’s excesses in Britain. However the deepest problems with them are rarely acknowledged. The Labor Party has become an obstacle to good governance and to a tolerable future for Australia. The media have become more superficial, divisive, and regressive, and they are eroding our open and democratic society.
I have been well ahead of the pack on a number of important issues, political leadership among them.
Here is the opening sentence from a comment by Don Watson on political leadership, from the current issue of The Monthly.
“It is now all but universally agreed that the Australian Labor party is a near-ruin, ruled body and soul by factional bosses and opinion pollsters.”
Below is a post from my old website www.geoffdavies.com, dated 7 June 1993. You can also find more recent comments of mine here in the category “Political commentary”.
After two months abroad I find little has changed on the Australian political scene. John Howard has finally confirmed he will stay on, the obsessively one-eyed Government is still attacking the ABC for alleged bias, and the Labor Party is still clueless.
It has long been obvious, to anyone who would look, that US foreign policy is not about democracy and freedom, it is about power. The conjunction of the Middle Eastern uprisings and Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables has laid bare the fact and means of US influence over its de facto empire. That influence is exercised through loyal subordinate elites who are, in the words of Alfred W. McCoy and Brett Reilly, a motley collection of autocrats, aristocrats, and uniformed thugs.
Two lesser-known economic good news stories provide a revealing perspective on the mainstream economic paradigm, and on Australias current state.
The first economic miracle is Mauritius, brought to our notice by Joseph Stiglitz in the Guardian. Mauritius gained independence from Britain in 1968, and with few natural resources in its Indian-Ocean archipelago its economic prospects were rated as pretty dismal. Bucking the usual prescriptions of economists (sell your soul and your land to overseas investors and tourists), and despite per capita income of less than $400, Mauritius decided to invest in its one major asset – its people.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has at last begun the effort to explain her carbon price policy, but all agree she has a lot of ground to regain after scoring yet another spectacular own goal for Labor, this time by announcing a price on carbon without having any clear policy on compensating households. This while facing a Leader of the Opposition who will say and do anything for a populist scare campaign, his biggest bogey of all being a great big new tax. It is not so hard to think of how to present the issue to the public, as a journalist and a blogger demonstrate. Why cant Labor?
Labor has form, as former PM Kevin Rudd also scored a spectacular own goal last year by walking away from the greatest moral challenge of our time, global warming. Then there were the running sagas of home insulation, green loans and so on, which could and should have been explained, fixed and continued but which became such a political liability they too were abandoned. Labor has displayed staggering ineptitude.
[This article was published by the Canberra Times 14 January, p. 19, under the title “Carbon price, wealth creation are critical issues this year”.]
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has declared that 2011 will be a year of accomplishment for her Government. However many people are deeply frustrated that mainstream politics seems oblivious to new and dangerous issues, as global warming tightens its grip and the verities of old ideologies are found wanting. There is a huge chasm between politics as usual and the issues we really should be addressing.
The film Our Generation, currently being launched around Australia, gives voice to the people targeted by the Northern Territory Intervention. The Intervention, begun by Prime Minister John Howard and continued by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, has resulted in little discernible benefit to indigenous people. It is arguably doing substantial harm, it has stigmatised and demonised people on the basis of race, it is blatantly violating the human rights and dignity of the people and is deeply resented by them.
So much may be fairly widely, if vaguely, appreciated. What was less obvious to me, until I saw the film, was the pattern in the political sallies that preceeded and accompany the Intervention.