Time for a change of government

The Australian federal election is tomorrow. I’ve deliberately not commented greatly about it – aside from this piece about the possibility of a Labor government supporting a US-strike on Iran and the occasional article about the major parties’ slavish attention to Israel – so a few words are in order.

The nearly 12 years of the Howard government has caused the country to lose its moral compass – a position I share with former Prime Minister Paul Keating, though it’s sickening to read a man who cozied up to former Indonesian dictator Suharto talk about ethics – through the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the treatment of refugees as cannon fodder, gross exaggeration of the terror threat to ram through draconian legislation and blind support for the rogue, Jewish state. Some of these issues resonate with voters, and many do not. These are my personal feelings.

It’s hard to be inspired with the likely win of Kevin Rudd when he talks about being tough against boat people. Rudd seems to me to be a dull technocrat who acts like a robot when appearing in public. No passion or true conviction, though he surely has both. Robert Manne, a leading critic of the Howard years, is right when he argues today that the current government has been a master at wedge politics, causing fear in the community and highlighting divisions along racial lines. This should be reason alone to change government.

For much of the last decade, I’ve regularly been ashamed to call myself an Australian, especially when travelling the world and being asked why our government has walked so closely with the Bush administration on a host of issues, from war to climate change. Sadly, Australian leaders have rarely been able to say “no” when Washington comes knocking.

As a fierce critic of Howard for many years, I’ve rarely been inspired by the Labor opposition. On many issues, they are little different to the Liberals, though with perhaps softer edges on some issues, like industrial relations. In terms of foreign affairs, I fear that Rudd would be as pathetically in thrall to America and its priorities. As a middle-ranking power, joining illegal wars for the “sake of the alliance” is a bogus reason and fundamentally short-sighted. Iraq was such a war. Iran could be.

Many of my friends support the Labor party and believe it will bring change in the social fabric of the country. Perhaps, but I doubt it. They see a party how they wish it was, rather than how it truly is.

I desperately want a change of government tomorrow, and I guess that therefore means a Rudd win. I will not be voting for him, however. I will, as I have done now for many years, support the Greens, a party not without its faults, but one that generally believes in principle over pragmatism. Morality does matter in public life, especially when we see how it can be so corrupted. Much of the mainstream media is supporting a Rudd government, but I can’t help but think this is more about wanting to back a winner, rather than truly believing Labor has a better team. The Murdoch broadsheet especially regularly talks about ideology but this is always a cover for maintaining power at any cost. Hence its endorsement of Rudd today.

The role of journalists should be to challenge and counter establishment power, not endorse it. There are notable exceptions. It is for this reason that we can only hope that a change of government, if it happens, brings a modicum of decency back to Australian political life.

The media elite are probably too far gone for true reform.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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