Saturday, February 23, 2013

The silver linings of an Abbott Government ... desperate thoughts in difficult times

Warning: may irritate some ALP voters I like on Twitter. Hopefully not, but possibly.

So it's come to this.

When the soothingly thoughtful and intelligent Waleed Aly becomes the focus of criticism from ALP apologists it's time to check the blinkers.

Remember the good old days of protesting bad government
policy without fear of giving the opposition a free kick?

Aly wrote what was, in my opinion, a fantastic piece (and to be fair, it seems there was far more praise than criticism) discussing the real problems Labor face - you know, those that actually underlie the bad polls and infighting. It wasn't the policy analysis we need, but it was a broad look at ALP policy and ideology and, despite the usually measured Bernard Keane attacking him, summarising it as "Waleed Aly joining Fairfax's new 'all leadership speculation, all the time' format," the 'L' word was only used once and to actually make a point of stating that the issues he was addressing were "not about incompetent leadership".

Yet the reaction from many people on Twitter was an elbow-jerk finger pointing at the Coalition, or to take up Aly's overarching theme of narrative, which some are now pushing as a dismissive running joke, to avoid what he was really talking about.

The defensiveness was cringeworthy as rusted on some rusted on ALP voters could not even for a minute take a moment to accept this may be a legitimate arguement and that perhaps there is something wrong with the party.

Apparently it's all about mainstream media hatred of Julia Gillard and the ALP. Reality check - The ALP stink. Just not quite as bad as the other lot. But that's no reason to defend them.

The progressive party we need, or the one we deserve?

They deserve to, and must, be called on it if they are going to be the progressive party we actually deserve. Or maybe they are the progressive party we deserve, but they are not the one we need right now - though I hate to compare my beloved Batman with them, they're more like Two-Face at the moment.

We need a major progressive party that treats asylum seekers with dignity, affords them basic human rights and doesn't use them as a political football. One that listens to Indigenous communities rather than continuing oppressive Howard-era policies that aren't working. One that keeps its commitment to stand up to the gaming industry and deliver real reform, like they did the tobacco industry. One that doesn't dance along to the conservative tune of 'surplus, surplus, surplus whatever it takes', because we know that's not a healthy or realistic attitude (and, jeebus, why not use reality against the Coalition??). One that treats all people equally, especially when it's what the majority of the people and that party want.

Yes, they have done some very good things in the past three years and performed quite well in some difficult circumstances, and no person or party or government is perfect, but there is so much to abhore about this lot right now, in their policy and how the conduct themselves. Even one of the Prime Minister's most memorable moments, that misogyny speech, came while the government cut welfare to single parents (many being women).

Warranted as some of it has been, much of the angry criticism of the mainstream media's trivial obsession with polls and leadership over policy seems to have itself become a trivial obsession with being the victim and taking a 'whatever it takes' approach to beating Tony Abbott rather than thinking broadly about policy.

Which leads me to my other moment of utter disillusionment with the media, politicians and punters who pretend to want to discuss issues over party politics. On Tuesday it was (minimally) reported that children in detention - in the care of our government - as young as nine years old have been self-harming.

A nine-year old overdosed on painkillers, saying he was "going crazy", a ten year old cut his forearms, a 17 year old tried to hang himself. And 23 other cases between August 2010 and November 2011.

This is outrageous and surely a perfect opportunity for a biased media to sink the boot in? Yet there was much silence from the mainstream media and party aligned tweeters alike. Perhaps because both sides are culpable and the media has played a major role in perpetrating disgraceful myths and perceptions. But it is the government that is ultimately responsible for their wellbeing. And all the while, some people who have been most vocally banging on about #Ashbygate and the media's silence and unfair treatment, themselves had nothing to say about children self-harming in detention. Didn't suit the politics.

In the end many calls of bias from all sides aren't calls for better quality journalism or neutrality, but demands for a their team to be given a "fairer run". Like using the free kick count in an AFL match to judge the quality of umpiring, it wholly dismisses the reality of events, and the actions, values and discipline of either side.

And now with bickering between the ALP and the Greens and everything turning to shit I begin to wonder ... is an ALP loss- even a little whalloping - perhaps what we need? I find myself starting to think of the benefits of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, perhaps out of sheer necessity. Maybe a term - just one if possible - of Prime Minister Abbott would actually be good for us in the long-run. Maybe?

Silver linings of ... PM Abbott  (*shudder*)

I've only in the past week resigned myself to the fact the Coalition will likely win. And I'm not comfortable with it. But there are opportunities there, friends! We progressives could properly rally around a common enemy and do what we do best without feeling the need to defend a less-than-perfect government - protest! Yes there would be bad outcomes, but maybe it would offer an opportunity to refocus on drawing attention to our issues like our appalling human rights record of the last decade without holding back for fear of handing the opposition a free point (because they are so much better, right?!) and really, truly, deeply talk about issues again. Wasn't it more fun when we all hated Prime Minister Howard??

I desperately want the ALP to be better than what it is. I want to want to vote for them - well preference them, Adam Bandt will likely get my primary vote - not just put them down as the least bad option. My sense of Aly's piece was that he feels the same. I wasn't a kicking for the sake of it, it was an plea for better progressive representatives. I think he, like me, wants to be able to choose a party to govern that inspires, not the lesser evil. Not that I can speak on his behalf.

Frankly, the ALP deserve to be beaten in the election. They are not a party I want running my country. The problem we have, of course, is that the alternative is fundamentally evil. For the first time I understand people who don't wish to vote. "If you don't vote you can't complain about the elected government," they say. Well sure you can if you think both options suck. (This is not an argument against our system of compulsory attendance, which I love).

Waleed Aly hit many nails on their heads. I don't want to see Prime Minister Abbott; I could live with Prime Minister Turnbull if the party reflected his views rather than vice-versa, but that won't happen;but I don't particularly want to see this government limp on into another term the way it's going and with policies I can't accept. Perhaps we'll be better off in the long run if they cop a harsh lesson and come out a better party. I'm sure it will just lead to more infighting, recriminations, speculations, deals and revenge though.

If the Coalition win without control of the Senate hopefully Abbott's inane blood pledge to repeal the price on carbon will begin his unraveling  from day one. It's the kind of easy story the media love, the public don't hate it anymore and I can't see a Double Dissolution helping him in any way in such circumstances.

What we need is to get back to be able to talk about ideas and issues in a way that is not constrained by which party you support. It's just as important to hold the party you support to account publicly.

But if you treat this like sport - as many of us constantly criticise the media for doing - and merely fight the 'other team', if you're response to any criticism of your side of politics is "but what about them?!", you're missing the point and holding back the progressive cause.

Some ALP voters need to take a cold shower, focus less on crying out for critique of Tony Abbott - it will come - and realise that the ALP really do need to be much better as a party and progressives. And hey, that might just turn things around.

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