Saturday, 1 June 2013

Tony Abbott's Pet Hamster


 #WARNING# This post contains political opinion which may be disagreeable to some readers.

 Most of the informed political opinion in this country today is, that barring Tony Abbott being caught in a compromising position with his pet hamster, the former university thug, trainee priest, pugilist and Rhodes Scholar will be Prime Minister of Australia come the evening of September 14 2013. It is impossible to disagree with this position. The incumbent Labour government which broke upon us like a new day dawning in November 2007 under the leadership of Kevin Rudd, will likely meet it's demise on election day when the current Prime Minister, Julia Gillard is finally called to account for the incompetence the opposition party accuses her of. It won't be a pretty evening for those of us predisposed to leaning to the left.

 Who would have thought that a political head-kicker like Abbott, a man bereft of any vision and a fellow derided for his economic ignorance by no less a figure than former Liberal government Treasurer Peter Costello, could have his fingertips so close to the major prize? It perhaps displays the torpor currently infecting Australian politics when a man as eminently unsuitable for the highest office in the land as Abbott is, appears to be a shoe in at the next election.

 Of course, my opinion appears to be the minority view. To each his own I say.

 I do believe the election of an Abbott government will be an anomaly of history, similar to the rise of Malcolm Fraser to the Prime Ministership after the tawdry episode of "The Dismissal" in 1975. And Australia will be the poorer for it.

 For 23 years, from it's election in 1948 until it was finally voted out of office in 1972, the Liberal and Country Party coalition, the centre right faction of national politics, held power in Australia. For most of this time Sir Robert Menzies was Prime Minister.

 Menzies, a consumate politician, manipulated post war prosperity, mixing it with perceived threats from Communism, both domestic and international, and profited from destabilising rifts in the Labour movement to keep an iron grip on power.

 After his retirement, men of lesser skill and temperament took the reigns and the Liberal Party soon began it's slide into mediocrity and Labour, under the charismatic Gough Whitlam, was restructured into an election winning machine. In 1972 change finally came and Australia had it's first Labour Prime Minister since Ben Chifley.

 Anyone who knows the story of the tumultuous years of the Whitlam government won't need me to recap it here, but needless to say, after many sorely needed social reforms were implemented, the government, blighted by economic mismanagement and reeling from scandal to scandal, was dismissed from office by the Governor-General Sir John Kerr who used his emergency powers for the first and so far only time in Australian history. His extreme action still provokes passionate debate today.

 Malcolm Fraser, who's role in the subterfuge which lead to the dismissal of a legally elected Australian government has never been made clear, took the reigns as caretaker and won a landslide in the ensuing election, decimating Labour, sending it back to the political wilderness from whence it had come, and restoring to power  the centre right government which had been defeated in 1972, dead wood and all. This was an anomaly of history.

 Surely, under normal circumstances, a newly elected government with a comfortable majority could expect 6 to 10 years in power, depending on economic ebbs and flows as the nation is buffeted by international forces largely beyond it's control. Occasionally, a charismatic leader such as Bob Hawke can put together a series of election victories or a skilled politician such as John Howard can take advantage of divisiveness in the opposition and forge a long Prime Ministership and keep his party in power for well over a decade and create a legacy.

 A lengthy time in opposition, when confronted by such formidable men can be daunting for any political party trying to recover from successive defeats, but it does have an upside. New blood is brought in and generational change occurs and a party is regenerated and eventually finds itself at length in a position to challenge for national political ascendency again. This did not happen to the Liberals during the Whitlam years and the mediocrity of the ensuing Fraser government is there in the history books for all to see. It has happened again during the Rudd and Gillard years.

 Many who were part of the last Howard government are poised to return to the ministerial benches. Unfortunately, many of these folk are dead wood, miserable relics dredged up from the previous right wing government. Dullards like Abbott, Hockey, Pyne and Bishop who should have been assigned to the political scrap heap will once again project their odious plans onto an Australian public who, curiously, seem to be a very conservative minded bunch at the moment. The clock will be turned back to 2007. It will be a long journey out of the darkness.

 Of course, the Labour party will have to do their best to take advantage of this anomaly of history. A regeneration needs to occur, it's own dead wood chopped off and left behind, and, of those talented ones who remain, a new belief must be formed in order to win over an Australian public who seem not to trust anything they say at the moment. It will be a long road for them.

 With small growth in the US economy, a languishing Europe and a slowing China, the future for Australia may not be as bright as it once seemed. Any government taking the reigns now is in for a rocky ride and restraint and respect for the the constituency is paramount. I fear the current form of the Liberal Party is ill equipped for the task. I think Tony Abbot's legacy will languish in the doldrums with Fraser when the final cards are eventually played. And the poor workers will just have to make do the best they can in order to ride out the storm.

 The country will survive. No government in this land is ever too radical to destroy it. They would not last long should that be the case. But, as insufferable as I find Tony Abbott, he will be the next Prime Minister of Australia and I will respect the decision of the electorate. Unless he has an unfortunate run in with that hamster!

 Have a nice day.

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