The day Tony Abbott became prime minister we were in Lauterbrunnen, a town in the Swiss Alps, the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. For the second night, we were eating at a restaurant run by an Australian. He was jubilant about the result. I was quiet, melancholic, and suddenly unhappy to be in his restaurant, sitting outside in the dusk. He was going on about the mess the ALP had made of things and I couldn’t possibly be sorry to see that over. I was sorry, sorry it hadn’t worked out better, sorry for the tragedy set off by Rudd’s character flaws. But the ALP wasn’t my party and I made no more than a cryptic suggestion to him that it was complicated for us; if he thought Abbott was a good idea, there was no point telling him how far left we’d voted. We went to a different restaurant the last night in Lauterbrunnen, even though his food had been good.
During the Abbott years, it felt like he was surely about to be toppled at any moment by incompetence and the horror of his policies. The best thing I could do was keep vigil by following every twist and turn. Thomas was born in July 2015 and my obsessive following of the news ratcheted up as I found myself with many hours of looking after a baby, too tired to even watch meaningful television, let alone read. ‘He cries when Abbott’s on TV,’ we liked to joke and when he was a few months old, Turnbull toppled him.
Of course, Turnbull disappointed nearly everyone and didn’t even make the conservatives he was pandering to happy. Unlike most people, I don’t care that much if we change prime ministers every few years. Stability is better; the ALP having to stick to Shorten has proven that, but it’s not a presidential system. It’s not a failure of democracy that the leader of the party changes midway through a term; it’s actually representative democracy at work. The real failure of politics in Australia in the last decade is the failure to do much about climate change. We are sleepwalking to disaster; there were bushfires in August as the latest leadership tensions broke out. And yet all we hear about is bringing electricity prices down, not electricity consumption and not emissions. And never mind that it was neoliberal madness that has pushed the prices up.
I thought the change of prime ministers might come the same day our baby daughter was born. It still might. I was cleaning the kitchen on this sunny morning, listening to the radio coverage as the second party room meeting happened. I was thinking Julie Bishop – who defended an asbestos company against its victims’ claims – was the best of the candidates. Harder to defeat at the next election, but not a quasi-fascist like Dutton, and not deceitful like Morrison.
Morrison is my least favourite politician in Australia and now he’s prime minister. Example: in the negative gearing debate, he stood up in parliament and said two thirds of negative gearers have taxable incomes of less than $80,000. It was the most deceitful thing to say – the whole idea of negative gearing is that it reduces your taxable income, but most Australians hearing that wouldn’t understand. And his coal stunt and so many other things. This is not a good man. Perhaps I react so strongly to him because he makes so much of his Christianity, and I’m a Christian too, and I find his values so alien to the Jesus I follow. What a time for my daughter to be born. I’m hoping there’ll be a 31st prime minister before she’s very old.
Saturday 10am #13