Malcolm Turnbull : Right Man, Wrong Process

In the last election, it was with a heavy heart that I voted Liberal.

It’s not that I am fundamentally incompatible with an Australian “conservative” agenda, after all liberal is supposed to be pro-business (and I am pro-business) but I also didn’t see the appropriate level of commitment to major issues like climate change and the environment, same-sex marriage and immigration. Anyhow, my general attitude towards the role of government in business is “stay off the pitch” and Australia is a country that is remarkably successful despite decades of mediocre policy around key business drivers like taxation and economic diversification.

As such, a “pro-business” party is a bit of an oxymoron in this country, anyhow…

I never cared much for Abbott. Although not a lightweight by any stretch of the imagination, he just doesn’t epitomise what a modern Australia needs to be vibrant, successful and competitive. But he was a hell of an improvement over the K-Rudd infighting and Labor party shenanigans, and his steady, resolute demeanour at least implied the potential of a period of government stability, free of intra-party political wrangling. Of course, we don’t vote for the “man”, we vote for a government, but I think leadership truly matters. To be clear (in case you forgot) as a country we didn’t vote for the ALP because we felt that Kevin Rudd had established a toxic culture in his party. Therefore to offhandedly dismiss “leadership” and “personality” as disconnected is naïve and frankly incorrect.

I admire Malcolm Turnbull. He’s smart, he’s accomplished. He has a trait that very few senior figures in politics have these days, namely a stellar track record of doing anything other than politics (Mrs. Turnbull is no slouch either). Just about any advanced economy these days suffers from the pervasive mediocrity of the career politician, individuals that have accomplished little of note since they first took office in a student politics club at university. Well, other than perhaps foster their sense of self-importance and entitlement to rule. The formula of a modern politician is that of a nanny bureaucrat, incapable of even remotely envisaging the concept of “nation building” because he/she has never created, built, innovated or produced anything, let alone a vision of how to make a country great.

This is not Turnbull. Not by a mile.

The problem is that in carrying out the latest palace coup, the only possible message the Australian Liberal Party can send to the populace is “we are no better than Labor”. In fact, it is worse than this because it also suggests a particular contempt for voter perception of party political infighting given what we went through during the last election. This latest development just highlights a true lack of recognition in Australian politics that a government is elected to serve the Australian people, not expend its energy on petty political infighting.

So, instead of focusing on the critical issues that face our country, we will have yet another week dominated by intrigue, media attention and one-upmanship. It was always going to be a quiet week in Parliament but with such enormous issues facing our economy and the urgent need to consider Australia’s role in key international issues, this leadership change only illustrates – to Australians and the world – how insular, irrelevant and undemocratic we really are. It also means that instead of directing our resources toward things that matter, we will undoubtedly spend billions more in political machinations that add zero value.

Right man for the job. Wrong process of getting there.

My Democratic Duty Discharged

On the weekend I voted in the Australian federal elections.

In the lead up to election day, I experienced a wide range of emotions about the frankly underwhelming quality of political leadership in my beloved country. I am disgusted that our politicians seem to think that making ridiculous fiscal promises, immediately abandoned post-election, somehow implies integrity and vision. I am disappointed that we cannot seem to meaningfully tackle climate change – indeed our politicians seem to have turned their back to anything substantive on environmental policy. I am angry that we cannot welcome refugees to our country without debate as to the merits of basic human rights. I am astounded that in this age, a purported world-class leader would refer to gay marriage as a “fashion of the day.”

Even as a once diehard Labor supporter, I am glad he is where he deserves to be - behind the political equivalent of a chain-link fence...

Even as a once diehard Labor supporter, I am glad he is where he deserves to be – behind the political equivalent of a chain-link fence…

But on the day I voted, I lost my anger. Why? Because it was orderly, fair and peaceful. I queued at my local school – although surely if our medical records and banking information can be accessed online we can surely e-vote as well… but that’s not the point. The point is that green-haired, nose-pierced representatives of minor parties (there are 88) can spruik their wares as you line-up.

And I respect that.

You can get a brochure from Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks party (replete with Assange in a flannie holding an AC/DC mug), or learn about the modern and striking policies of the Australian Sex Party (I’m not joking – those nice people just want to screw, tax churches, smoke dope and be free to kill themselves if they wish to … surely not too much to ask of civil society?). There are a lot of pretty wacky ideas out there about how the country should be run – but then at the end of the day, arguably no crazier than the party that was actually elected into power.

That’s the beauty, we have these voices. They are free to speak. I can even write this blog without TOO much fear of repercussion …

I didn't vote for the WikiLeaks party, but in Julian's honour, I had a QuickiLeak at the end, after standing in a queue for an hour...

I didn’t vote for the WikiLeaks party, but in Julian’s honour, I had a QuickiLeak at the end, after standing in a queue for an hour…

May I say that there was also something delightfully 1950s about the whole affair (even though I wasn’t alive in the ’50s, it’s how I imagine it to be, all wholesome and clean). There was a bake sale. There were some enterprising members of the school selling potted plants. There was a coffee stand with a big chrome espresso machine and an old Italian man working the valves. There was a sausage sizzle and the rancid aroma of low-grade meat and onions… mmmm. Kids were running around, dogs were sniffing each other’s butts. It was a blissful scene of middle-class contentment.

There were no chemical weapons. There were no hurtled rocks or Molotov Cocktails. There were no images of abaya-clad women crouched in a devastated pose over the bloody corpse of a murdered child or bullet-riddled buildings that survived 1000ds of years … until this day.

That is why functioning democracy is beautiful. Not because it is smarter or more enlightened about the best way to live out our lives – indeed it has as much scope for stupidity and pointlessness as any other ideology. Its superiority simply comes from its peacefulness. Moreover, it is truly a right worth dying for and those who struggle every day to obtain it, fight for good cause.

Insha'Allah

Insha’Allah

Kevin Rudd, you sneaky bugger…

I’m aghast.

Three years after being ousted by the Labor Party, Kev is back. I suppose technically, having won the Labor leadership ballot 57-45, he is now – subject to the Governor General’s “blessing” – Prime Minister of Australia.

Again.

I have always been a Labor supporter but I will not vote Labor in the next election because they do not deserve my – or anyone’s – loyalty. A fundamental cornerstone of democracy is stable and functioning government that is there to serve the People, not to serve itself. The power struggles and infighting within the Party over the past three years has been nothing short of disgusting and the Government has dropped the ball on major issues as a consequence.

When Gillard came to power the Party made its bed. They should lie in it, even if the bed turns into a coffin.

But good ol’ Kevin told a different kind of “lie” many times and in different ways. He stood at the sidelines and coyly said he would not challenge leadership. He said it again and again. He said it with vehemence. He said it with a smirk on his chubby schoolboy face. He said it with convoluted and opaque sentences. He said it with crisp and staccato clarity.

How are we supposed to trust someone who flip-flops like this? Did he not know if he wanted to be PM? Was it a last-minute decision (perhaps brushing his teeth that morning)? Was he bullied into it by the ALP? Or did he just decide to mislead everyone because he thinks we are all plebeian enough to be wowed by some sort of 11th hour, white-knight-Kev-to-the-rescue charade?

If Kevin had any gravitas, if he had any sense of statesmanship, if he truly was a leader worth following – he would have not succumbed to the temptation of what will be a brief, transient and irrelevant epoch of leadership. Instead he should have declined the poll, supported Julia Gillard and been part of re-building the Labor Party post-election. But Kevin doesn’t care about his Party or his Country, he only cares about himself and this manoeuvre is nothing less than the brief ego trip of a weak man.

Australians should not vote for Kevin Rudd in August. Australians should not vote for the Labor Party in the next election. Although it pains me to say this (and my contempt for Tony Abbott is well known), we need a complete change of government and there needs to be a price to pay for this skulduggery.

Honestly, it’s enough to make you vote for Clive Palmer (joke… check out this parody). Certainly an honest day in Australian politics makes rebuilding the Titanic (a.k.a. “Clive’s Tugboat”) look like a cakewalk.

PS: I retract any nice things I have ever said about Kev in the past…