In 2007, Australia started a trajectory which would change its political history. John Howard was voted out as member for Bennelong, becoming only the second Australian Prime Minister to suffer this fate. Simultaneously, several other liberal MPs were facing the same situation. The Liberal Party lost power in the parliament and a period of backstabbing, lying, selfish politics and poor governance began. The most recent symptom of which has been the replacing of Tony Abbott by Australia’s current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.
Since this 2007 federal election, good governance in Australia has been on the decline. The relationship between the citizens of Australia and its politicians is worsening – as politicians treat their electors as petulant, ignorant children and people don’t trust their elected representatives. This culminated in the recent expenses scandal just a few weeks ago and, more recently, the ousting of yet another Prime Minister. Now, as Australia faces one of the toughest immigration decisions it’s faced in decades, it has become clear that this government features few brave leaders and far more selfish politicians.
Like him or hate him, John Howard was a brave leader. The decisions to introduce GST and restrict gun laws so early on in his first term of government are a far cry from the sheepish “win the news cycle” politics seen by today’s government. In order to pass both these laws, Howard had to battle most of his own party as well as the rest of the parliament, but successfully negotiated these policies through both houses of parliament. Throughout his governance, Australia paid back in full, its $96 billion inherited Commonwealth debt, halved unemployment rates to almost 4% and generally strengthened Australia’s economy dramatically. His loss in 2007 entered Australia into an era of political darkness.
Since Howard, poor decisions and behaviour by both governments has meant that neither party is able to confidently govern for even a term. Backstabbing within both parties resulted in Australians’ relationships with their politicians being continually soured. The exclusion of back benchers from partaking in key party decisions leaves voters with little confidence that they are being appropriately represented if their representative is not a front bench minister.
So what does Australia need to pull itself from the ashes and ruins of a previously strong parliament?
We need brave politicians.
Australia is in dire need of a John Howard type figure, who addresses real problems with real solutions and who isn’t part of the problem but part of the solution. He saw Australia had national debt and introduced ways to pay off this debt. After the Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people lost their lives, Howard decisively responded with stringent gun ownership laws. He recognized Australia had a very real problem with gun crime and acted, the effect still felt today as there have been no similar gun massacres in Australia since the introduction of these laws.
All these decisions took bravery. Bravery Australia’s politicians now lack. Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey failed to pass their budget and were forced to change it to the extent that instead of reducing, it increased Australia’s deficit. The Labor party has lacked solid leadership for years now. Whilst the years of infighting between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard may now be over, they leave dark stains on the party’s history. Stains the current Australian Labor Leader Bill Shorten, another leader not judged to be confident or trustworthy, has not managed to get rid of. Now, after the Australia’s public has made incredibly clear what it thinks of Prime Minister’s being replaced mid-term, Malcolm Turnbull has through a liberal party vote replaced Tony Abbott as Australia’s leader.
Australia needs a Prime Minister who will stabilize his or her party, bring the budget into the green, reduce unemployment and most importantly, help Australians (and indeed, non-citizens) to live in a better country and world. No plan has been proposed to even think about resettling large scores of immigrants. They’ve simply been waived away by a poor government unwilling to make a brave or innovative decision. Even with the current Syrian refugee crisis, Australia has failed to motivate itself, relying purely on following the lead of European countries. There is no innovation, no bright ideas. The lack of conversation regarding same-sex marriage, climate change and genuine indigenous recognition also show a government that is living in the past and afraid to move forward. It is not standing up for the rights of its people, it is waving them away as being irrelevant and insignificant, and making sure they are silenced.
The question of course becomes, after what many Australians characterise as a terrible Abbott government, will Malcolm Turnbull be able to provide Australia with the political leadership it so clearly requires and deserve? Then what will happen to the government following the election sometime next year? Hopefull, Australia can have some confidence that the election will bring a parliament for the people, not solely for themselves, and one that has a purpose. Hopefully, Australia will get the brave politicians it deserves.
Sources & Further Reading:
The Sydney Morning Herald on Abbott and Indigenous Recognition
The Australian states John Howard was the best Australian Prime Minister
The Sydney Morning Herald on Bronwyn Bishop’s expense scandal
An Essential Research report on polling the confidence Australians have in their politicians
The Conversation on the repercussions of a lack of trust with Australian government and business