Political blogging

When I started this blog I was very definite that I wasn’t going to blog about politics or religion. I’d seen too many flame wars, too many blogs overrun by indignant trolls. My blog, I decided, was going to be sweetness and light and avoid incendiary topics.

But then the John Howard regime finally fell and I couldn’t contain myself. And, you know, what? I’ve gotten not a single troll. The discussions generated by my political musings have been thought-provoking, fun, and, most unexpectedly, my traffic is up. Who’d’ve thunk it? I love youse all!

I now feel free to blog about whatever the hell I want to blog about. If any trolls show up I’ll just nuke ’em.

That said, I’m facing a whole series of dread evil deadlines over the next month. So my promised posts on how to rewrite1, curing insomnia, my favourite manga, manhwa and graphic novels will prolly all have to wait.

In the meantime I’ll try to keep posting but may not be as substantive as I’d like.

So here, have another quokka:


  1. which has just gotten yet another request []


Not really.

For all the papers are touting the enormity vastness hugeness snufflufflagusness of Labor’s win back home I think it’s important to remember that the gap between Labor1 and the Coalition is not that big: 41.59% of voters gave the Coalition their first preference and 43.9% gave it to Labor. Then there’s the 7.57% who voted for the Greens and the 1.97% who gave Family First the nod. In fact the only places where there was a genuine landslide for Labor was at certain polling booths in the Northern Territory. Indigenous voters gave Labour more than 90% of the vote. Hmmm. I wonder why?

But in most of Australia, there are people around you who did not vote the way you did. Who do not agree with you and are not happy right now. I kind of think it’s important to remember that. They’re feeling now what we were feeling over the last eleven-and-a-half years.

That said, here’s what I hope the new government does over the next three years:

  • Make the banking system not the most expensive in the whole entire universe
  • Not go ahead with Gunn’s pulp mill in Tasmania or any new pulp mill ever
  • Do more than just say sorry to the Stolen Generation
  • Get rid of all refugee detention centres
  • Do everything that can be done to combat global warming
  • Devote way much resources to working on the Australia-has-no-water problem
  • Fix broadband. I’m in the US of A right now which has—compared to Europe—a very crappy broadband service and it pees all over what’s on offer back home
  • Start funding the arts again. Especially the Australian film and television industry which has almost disappeared entirely. And could you spend some of that money on script development?
  • Not sell uranium to anyone. Don’t mine it either.

And lots of other stuff I can’t think of right now. Like can I have a Vivienne Westwood ballgown?

Do I think it will really happen? All of it? Prolly not. But some of it’d be good. I reckon, anyways.

  1. For those who are wondering, no, I’m not spelling it wrong. It really is the Labor-without-a-U party. It is confusing and annoying. []

Compulsory voting

In Australia voting is compulsory. Everyone is expected to do it. Basically that’s because everything back home is geared towards making voting as easy as possible. Over here in the US of A it often seems to me like everything is organised to make voting as difficult as possible. What’s up with that?

In Australia if you don’t vote you pay a fine. Some people routinely pay the fine. Others who don’t want to vote register their dissatisfaction by filling out their ballot wrong or donkey voting. Often by scrawling a message across the ballot. Usually their message is a bit on the rude side. That’s fine. They’ve done their democratic duty. They showed up. The percentage of people who donkey vote is pretty small.

Some people object that many people are too stupid or ill-informed to vote.

Sure, I respond. But who’s going to make that determination? I kind of think what you just said is stupid and ill-informed. Should you be banned from voting? I think liking certain books by certain unnamed writers is stupid and ill-informed. Should they be banned as well?

Others say that voting should only be for the people who care passionately about the issues. When voting isn’t compulsory then only those who really care vote.

The problem with that is many of the people who really care are kind of crazy. Fanatics even. Who wants to live in a country where it’s mainly the fanatics voting?

Non-compulsory voting also leads to campaigns to stop the people you think will vote against you from voting. See: Florida and Ohio. It also leads to doing everything you can to get people you might be able to persuade to vote for you to the polls. Sometimes this is done in less than honest ways.

So you USians can give us limited terms and we’ll give you compulsory voting. You might also want a spot of preferential voting1 and weekend voting. Or at least have a national holiday. Also you could probably lose the Diebold voting machines. Other than that you’re good.

  1. that way protest votes—a la Ralph Nader in 2000—are not such a big deal. []

Australia’s timid heart

It wasn’t until I’d lived outside Australia for awhile that I realised just how anti-intellectual my homeland is. One of the worst things you can be back home is a “wanker” which more times than not is used to refer to someone who thinks too much. Oh, the horror!

At most of the schools I attended it was far better to be good at sports than at schoolwork and no one ever admitted to studying hard. “Oh this? I only started it ten minutes before it was due. Don’t know what the teacher was thinking giving me such a good mark.” Roll of eyes.

I’m still not sure what we were afraid of. Well, yes, the scorn of the other students—no one wanted to be seen as a swot. But why? Why was a love of ideas and learning scorned? What’s wrong with being smart?

At the time, I never questioned it. I barely even noticed it. It was just the air I breathed. Hiding that you were smart, underplaying your intellectual achievements, that was just what you did. Or tried to do. Some of us were crap at it. We were the wankers.

During John Howard’s eleven-and-a-half-year reign the anti-intellectualism grew. When I went through school we were taught about the dispossession of the original inhabitants of Australia by the English invaders; I keep meeting people much younger than me who were not. I keep meeting Australians who cannot comprehend that admitting Australia was invaded does not wipe out the achievements of those invaders, those early settlers. You can be an invader and you can be a brave settler. At the same time.

In The Guardian Richard Flanagan, a Tasmanian novelist, reflects on the Howard legacy:

In the wake of his defeat the attacks on Howard’s legacy will turn ferocious, but at their heart will be an unease, a ritual exorcism of something deeper that Australians would perhaps rather not admit. For a decade Howard’s power had resided in his ability to speak directly and powerfully to the great negativity at the core of the Australian soul—its timidity, its conformity, its fear of other people and new ideas, its colonial desire to ape rather than lead, its shame that sometimes seems close to a terror of the uniqueness of its land and people.

Its conviction that real life is going on somewhere else.

What Flanagan says is true. And it’s also not true. The tension between the two is a lot of what it means to be Australian. I think of how proud I was when Paul Keating gave the Redfern speech so many years ago. My pride, too, in John Howard’s immediate introduction of gun control laws following the Port Arthur massacre back in 1996. The horror I felt as the babies-overboard scandal was unfolding. Not to mention Tampa. And, of course, Howard’s continuing promotion of racism and intolerance: in the last days before the election he declared that the two things he was most proud of were the undoing of political correctness in Australia and renewing Australia’s pride in its Anglo-Celtic heritage. What of those Australians who do not have an Anglo-Irish background? What of the indigenous peoples of Australia? The immigrants from all over the world? What of their extraordinary contributions to Australia?

I don’t believe that each nation has a particular character. Or that all Australians are the same. Yet I cannot deny what Flanagan says about the Australian soul (whatever that is). We are a nation deeply suspicious of education and learning, who have produced an astounding number of prominent intellectuals, scholars, scientists and writers. Who, more often than not, go elsewhere to pursue their careers and contributions to learning and knowledge.

I am extraordinarily relieved and happy that John Howard is gone. I can’t imagine that Kevin Rudd will continue Howard’s legacy of anti-intellectualism, racism and intolerance. I could be wrong though. Those things existed before Howard took up the Prime Ministership and they’ll continue to exist long after him. It remains to be seen whether the new government will be as dedicated to improving the intellectual and moral climate of Australia as Howard’s government was to destroying it. The promise to say sorry is a good start.

But governments have come in before promising much and then delivering little. We’ll see, won’t we?

No more than two terms

There’s a lot I don’t like about the US political system, but there’s one thing they have absoluately right: No head of state should be in power for more than eight years.

I think John Howard has demonstrated this truth as did Robert Menzies before him and Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair in the UK.

I agree with George Washington that any one person staying in power for too long starts to stink of monarchy.1 It leads to corruption and to the one person believing that they are more important than party or country. This is not a good thing.

I would love Australia to adopt four-year terms and also a provision that says no one can be elected to the office of Prime Minister for more than two terms.2

  1. I am with Winston Churchill who said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. And monarchy is amongst the worst. []
  2. And while we’re at could we get rid of the Queen? I want her off our money and no longer our head of state. No more Queens and Kings, no more governors-general of the country or governors of each state. And we do not need to replace them with a naff president or whatever. Isn’t the Senate a good enough check on Prime Ministerial power? []