Ah, it’s finally that time again: our glorious leaders have returned to the seat of government to lead this country forwards into another year.
It was Terry Pratchett in Jingo who revealed the meaning of Politics to me, and I will quote the Wikipedia definition below:
Politics (from Greek: politikos, meaning "of, for, or relating to citizens")
From observing Australian politics over the last 20 years, I’ve seen ups and downs, and what appears to have happened is much less of the “of, for or relating to citizens” and more of the “of, for or relating to parties”.
In short, Australian politics, like all western democracies, has become about left versus right, liberal versus conservatives.
Then add to this that they all seem to be moving in the same direction (for example, the escalation of sanctions against refugees and the so-called “illegal immigrants” from both parties here in Australia) and you’ve got opposing governments, for all intents and purposes, in name only.
Certainly there are different characters and personalities at work, your Kevin Rudd‘s, your Julia Gillard‘s and John Howard‘s and Tony Abbott‘s. Again though, that’s not “of, for, or relating to citizens”, that’s ego-driven).
So it is to the new Labour leader, Bill Shorten that I say this simple statement:
Stand for something.
It sounds simple, but it’s rather a complex concept. After all, the Abbott opposition stood for the overthrow of the Gillard government, and Our Kevin stood for the replacement of the Howard government. This isn’t what I mean.
I mean that to be in opposition is not merely to oppose, it is to offer constructive alternatives. To be in government is to lead and drive the country forward to a future which is amenable and acceptable to not just the current electorate but those of the future. Every government lays foundations for the next.
Standing for something can mean you stand for ethical government, you can stand for truth and honesty, you can even stand for big business.
However, what tends to happen is that policies are developed based on what newspaper polls seem to think, and are built upon prior similar policies. So, today, the Gonski education reforms which were built by the Gillard government are being opposed by new education minister Christopher Pyne; Illegal immigrant policy, which devolved into farce under Kevin Rudd’s PNG solution (which built on previous governments increasingly belligerent policies), has now entered new territory with lifeboat push-backs and deaths in detention (and subsequent quashing of inquiries).
I’m asking for the Labour leader to represent something better than has gone before, because ultimately that’s what everyone works for: a better world for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.
As a current leader of the opposition, and potential future leader of the country, I’d like to see Bill stand for something other than xenophobia, repression of low income earners, and supporter of big business. I’d like to see Australia led into an era of balanced debate on issues such as those already mentioned, of calling-out lies and outrageous exagerations (I’m looking at you Mr. Pyne). I’d like to see less dirty-backroom dealings and more of the real meaning of politics, the representation of the citizenry; less pushing your own philosophical opinions about what “the people” want and more actual leadership.
I’d like to live in a country where people are respected as human beings, rather than vilified and reduced to mere political pawns. The use of those least able to defend themselves for political gain is the work of cowardice and must stop if we are ever to progress as a nation. This has happened before with the stolen generation, and in other countries, the attacks against homosexuals, Jews and any other vulnerable and obvious group.
If we are truly to remain a lucky country, then it must be lucky for all, not just the very, very wealthy.