PS: Next Monday I’ll be writing about the Tour de France bike race, which you can watch in Australia on SBS. The first night was awesome – pretty scenery, complicated team dynamics, and the Australian team’s bus got stuck under the finish line JUST before the end of the race. Oh, LOL!
For those playing along in countries outside of Australia, here’s a quick rundown on recent Australian politics (I’ll expect corrections in the comments!):
1. The Liberal government under John Howard was in power for, like, ages (oddly enough, in Australia, the Liberals are the conservatives. Stay with me).
2. Labor took over under Kevin Rudd at around the same time as Obama & co took over in the USA and with a similarly hopeful rush of public feeling (soon to be dashed, predictably, as reality set in).
3. Three years ago, Kevin Rudd was VERY suddenly ousted – by his own party. The two main reasons were, firstly: pressure from mining corporations frantically resisting a mining tax (mining is where lots of Australian money comes from, and the wealthiest people in the country were not happy about someone telling them to share their hard-earned but enormous piles of money); and secondly, the fact that he might possibly literally be the worst boss ever (if you’re in his office and don’t work 12-hour days, he’ll apparently go all Gordon Ramsey on you, but with less tact).
Voila! We still had a Labor government (ie the not-so-conservative ones) but under Julia Gillard – our first female Prime Minister. I recall saying at the time that I was disappointed Rudd hadn’t done more for the environment, and now we had another chance.
Incidentally, Rudd’s resignation speech is utterly excruciating to watch – much too long, much too desperate, and much too sad. He became foreign minister, which actually suited him brilliantly.
4. Julia Gillard scraped through the next election by cooperating with the Greens (one of our minor parties; the most lefty one, as the name suggests) and did some stuff – most notably getting a watered-down mining tax passed; passing a much-hated carbon tax (apparently I was right about environmental hopes – but no-one likes to actually PAY for the world to be better); and a really useful National Disability Scheme. Throughout her time as PM, Rudd lurked in the background – sometimes voicing unconditional support, and sometimes challenging for the leadership.
Gillard’s gender was constantly a factor in personal attacks against her (and in a rather sweet ABC TV show), and at one point she gave a particularly good verbal smackdown to Liberal leader Tony Abbott (well known for not being great with women) when he brought up the treatment of women by the (definitively douchy) Peter Slipper. When she tried to use the gender card against Tony Abbott about a month ago, however, it sounded whiny.
Her worst moment as PM was her attempt to semi-legally foist our refugees onto other countries including Malaysia (at the same time as there was a massive outcry over Malaysia’s inhumane treatment of. . . wait for it. . . cows). Australia’s attitude to refugees (especially the tiny group who travel by boat – supposedly because they’re too LAZY to fill out paperwork….because storms and pirates and death and losing one’s life savings are so easy that everyone’s doing it just because they look good in a bikini and want to try Australian beaches) is appalling. It is our greatest modern shame.
5. Boom! A few days ago, Australians rolled their eyes at yet another leadership challenge within the Labor Party….but this time, Rudd won. And voila! He’s PM again.
I think he’s emotionally damaged from the betrayal several years ago; I think the Labor Party’s infighting is an international embarrassment as well as being undemocratic; I think Gillard never got a fair go at being PM (but still did a pretty good job) BUT Rudd is known for his international diplomacy so I’m hoping that he might just make Australia a slightly less irresponsible and hateful country when it comes to refugees. On his first day, he increased my hopes by being the first PM to criticise their political opposition as internationally irresponsible (for wanting to get rid of refugees) rather than the usual line – “We can get rid of refugees more efficiently than those morons.” Will something decent come out of all this backstabbing? I hope so.
I’m also hopeful that this latest leadership spill will, like the first one, give Labor an election win. I’m a Labor voter anyway (being rather interested in human rights – even for poor people or *gasp* foreigners) but I’m particularly motivated to vote for them this year because they’re upgrading the broadband infrastructure for the entire country…..ME WANT INTERNET MORE GOOD! Also (here’s an even more selfish reason), it’s traditional with every change in government for masses of public servants to be fired (and then largely re-hired 18 months later, because apparently they WERE doing some kind of useful thing after all), and right now CJ is looking to switch jobs from one public service branch to another. He wouldn’t get fired (his current position is permanent and safe), but the job market would dry up, and that would suck for us, especially as we’d like the job switch to happen before we start trying for another baby next year. (Right now he spends two or more hours each day travelling to and from work while I’m alone with Louisette.)
So! Goodbye Gillard. I can’t really say you deserved better, because Rudd only did to you what you did to him – but I hope that when things settle down you can know and be known as a very decent national leader. And I hope that our next female PM is seen as less of a novelty and more of a. . . . well, a Prime Minister.
Hello again, Rudd. While you’re here, please do something good for the world. Australians might not like it, but how about you do it anyway?