IF you are a politician, what do you do when your bad judgement – or worse – has been dramatically called out for all to see? That’s the question which has faced the government as […]
“LIVING in interesting times” is the phrase that comes to mind while reflecting on the politics of 2017. Across local, national and international, the achievements of this year are likely to be lost in the fog of confusion, amateurish behaviour, laziness and by even more public disillusionment.
When all but four members of the House of Representatives voted in favour of marriage equality, it felt like Australia had come of age. Tolerance, understanding, respect and democratic process had finally come good to celebrate diversity. It is only 20 years since Tasmania became the final Australian jurisdiction to repeal its “anti-homosexuality” laws on May 1, 1997, passing the Tasmanian Legislative Council by just one vote. It was a very bumpy road, but perhaps the air is finally clearing.
Since becoming prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull has been under intense criticism for failure to stand up for his own ideals. His once strident stance on climate change melted away. His failure to stand up to the conservative elements in his party again and again haa been part of the political landscape. On marriage equality, he finally took leadership and the vast majority of his troops fell into line.
Perhaps he learnt from the experience. He recently took the opportunity to attack Senator Sam Dastyari and raised concerns about the influence of the Chinese Communist Party in domestic politics. Despite complaints from China, Turnbull stood firm.
“There has been foreign interference in Australian politics” and added in an oblique reference to the 1949 Chinese Communists’ assertion of sovereignty “the Australian people stand up”.
Internationally, 2017 was government based on media advantage. Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem was simply a red rag to a bull in the rest of the Middle East. Apparently there was no forethought regarding the eruption of dismay, dissent and demonstrations in the Muslim world. Unless it was simply to distract from the tweeting mess he had to deal with in Washington.
Claiming in a tweet that he had fired Michael Flynn because of his relationship with Russians, he opened a possible impeachment for interfering with an FBI investigation. In attempting to save the President from the offence his lawyer, John Dowd, then opened a can of worms by claiming authorship of the tweet.
Either the President is lying (which is pretty unacceptable) or his method of governing through tweets has been exposed as a “fake” with others tweeting. Interesting times when the US is governed in this manner. However, the Jerusalem move did provide distraction regarding both the FBI issue and his tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy that passed through the Congress and the Senate.
The ACT was also in interesting times. Last year’s election saw overwhelming favour of an Independent Integrity Commission. Accusations of sleazy and inappropriate deals – especially in land development – drove the commitment. However, this year it seems that delay is the order of the day. In October a select committee finally tabled a report of more than 300 pages but establishment of the commission will apparently take another year.
The Canberra Liberals seem to be growing even more conservative. Senator Zed Seselja’s argument about respecting the outcome that he had demanded on marriage equality simply melted. He could not bring himself to deliver and was absent from the vote. Just too conservative.
Meanwhile, ACT senator Katy Gallagher and the Labor Party were simply not careful enough with her citizenship papers. There is an outside chance that the High Court might treat her as leniently as Senator Matt Canavan. However, it must be considered sloppy or careless to fall foul of Section 44 of the Constitution since the late 1990s when Heather Hill, from Queensland, lost her position as Senator for One Nation due to her dual citizenship.
“May you live in interesting times” is considered an old Chinese curse that only faintly covers up its own sarcasm. Interesting times are great for political columnists. They’re just not so good for the community!