Last weekend I was angry. Very angry. This weekend I was just sad.
Why am I sad?
Because the country that I love, the one that I originate from, the one that I happen to think, after a lot of careful consideration of different nations over the years, is one of the best in the world, has just voted in a misogynistic, racist, homophobic Luddite as its new Prime Minister. Yes, Tony Abbott has won the Australian Federal election. Seriously Oz, what the hell were you thinking?
To be fair, it wasn’t really Tony Abbott who won the election. It was more the Labor Party who lost the election in spectacular fashion, handing victory to him on a plate, along with cutlery, seasoning, condiments and a nice glass of Sauvingnon Blanc.
The in-fighting in the ranks of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) over the last 6 years has made Prisoner Cell Block H look like a schoolyard squabble over a skipping rope. You’ve probably heard about Kevin Rudd being elected in a landslide victory in 2007 (Kevin 07), then being ousted by his Deputy PM, Julia Gillard, in 2010 – Gillard becoming Australia’s first female Prime Minister. Then in June this year, Kevin finally got his revenge by instigating a leadership coup which sent Julia packing.
Somehow in all this kerfuffle, Tony has flown in under the radar.
When I put a comment up about my disappointment on Facebook, a friend of mine posted ‘What’s this – you’ve let the Tories in eh? Bit like here then isn’t it’. Well, yes and no. Yes, because the Liberal/National Coalition are, indeed, the Australian equivalent of the Conservative Party, but no, because this particular version of the Liberal/National Party Coalition are particularly backward – seemingly hurtling Australia back to the 1950s in the space of one dark election night.
Whilst I’m not a Tory voter, let’s be clear about that, I have been surprised by a couple (OK, one) of David Cameron’s policies – his strong support of gay marriage. The fact that the UK could put that issue on the table, and pass it, under a Conservative government is something I fear is not likely to happen for the foreseeable future in Australia, given Abbott’s view on same-sex marriage. Abbott opposes it, despite the fact that his own sister is gay. For the life of me, I don’t know how he can be so unaffected by an issue that is obviously very important to a close family member. But from the horse’s mouth, here’s how Tony Abbott feels about homosexuality (when asked in an interview): “I’d probably say I feel a bit threatened.. as do many people”. Master of tact, don’t you think?
And while we’re on the subject, here’s a quote from when he appeared on the ABC TV show, Q&A, on March 19th 2009. He was speaking to a Catholic priest and was asked about how he would deal with homosexuals in the Catholic church: “Father, if you’d asked me for advice I would have said to adopt a sort of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy about [them].” Certainly not a loud and proud brother, by any means.
Here are some other corkers. I’m just going to list them, grouped in themes, so you can see for yourself what a forward-thinking grand statesman Mr Abbott is.
Tony on gender equality:
“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.” 1979, Four Corners.
“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do their ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up.” February 8th, 2010, Sydney Morning Herald.
“While I think men and women are equal, they are also different and I think it’s inevitable and I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all that we always have, say, more women doing things like physiotherapy and an enormous number of women simply doing housework.” 1979 radio interview.
Tony on women’s health:
“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.” November 9th, 2006, The Australian.
“The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.” March 17th 2004, tonyabbott.com.au
“Abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.” March 17th, 2004, tonyabbott.com.au
Tony on immigration:
“Jesus knew that there was a place for everything and it’s not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia.” April 5th, 2010, Q&A, ABC TV.
Tony on workplace rights:
“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.” 2nd July 2002, ABC Radio.
Tony on the environment:
“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.” 2nd February, 2010, 7.30 Report, ABC TV.
Tony on rough sleepers:
“We just can’t stop people from being homeless if that’s their choice.” February 11th, 2010, Sydney Morning Herald.
Tony on the economy:
“Mates help each other; they do not tax each other.” 23rd February, 2011, Australian Parliament: Hansard.
Tony on euthanasia:
“We have to get this straight: euthanasia is not about the right to die; it is about the right to kill.” 16th October, 1995, Australian Parliament: Hansard.
Tony on indigenous Australia:
“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.” 5th April 2010, Q&A, ABC TV.
“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.” 30th June, 2010, The Age.
I don’t know what to say really. I feel these quotes speak for themselves. I’m embarrassed that someone with these outdated views has been given a green light to lead the nation of Australia in the second decade of the 21st century. It makes me think that I must live in a tiny little bubble and the majority of my compatriots aren’t like me at all.
But the furore that followed on Facebook and Twitter after an election victory was called for the Lib/Nats shows that can’t be the case – my feeds on both were full of depressed Aussies. People obviously care.
Maybe it’s just that Abbott supporters don’t use the internet. I wouldn’t be surprised, given the fact that Labor’s visionary Australia-wide fibre broadband network (the NBN) is now dead in the water and Abbott has put an inferior myopic plan into place using Telstra’s existing copper wire network which has been described as building ‘the broadband equivalent of a Sydney Harbour Bridge with only one lane’. It’s those isolated in remote Australia that will really feel the pinch on this one. But it’s not like faster broadband will make a difference to people’s lives in the bush. Oh no. It’s not as if being able to talk to family and friends without Skype freezing or dropping out is a biggy. Or being able to access video-based health services would be beneficial to their isolation. Or being physically able to work from home without their internet constantly bombing, just like their city cousins. For the self-confessed ‘non-tech head’ Abbott, why would you want to “invest $50 billion of hard earned taxpayers money in what is essentially a video entertainment system?” (Press conference, 20th December 2010). Why? Because it’s called The Future, Tony.
In this past week since the not-very-liberal Liberals’ election win, I know the country hasn’t imploded – the world is still turning and Australia hasn’t been sucked down into the fires of Mordor like many predicted would happen. But I do feel that this is just the first week in three long years where Australia is distancing itself little by little from the rest of the world. Progressive countries like those in Scandinavia will be actively striving to improve quality of life for their citizens while I’m afraid that women in my beloved home nation may have to take to the streets to fight for abortion rights. Who knows?
But as I sit here all sullen and morose, the one thing that brings me hope is an article I read by Andrew P Street. To paraphrase, he basically says not to feel glum, but instead to think of what Australia was like ten years back. Or twenty. Or thirty. Gay rights, environmental issues and indigenous affairs were barely on the national agenda. Look how much things have changed. We may find it frustrating that the issues we care about are not moving forward fast enough in our minds, but they will move forward. Eventually. When you stop looking at the micro and take a look at the big picture, it’s what always happens. It does, because it’s innate. And it’s innate because it’s called human progress.
So onwards and upwards, hey Australia? But probably not without a bit of fisty cuffs and placard waving first.
Advance Australia Fair. Hell yeah.