Both comedy and tragedy are playing out in Australia at the moment, but tragedy has the upper hand.
Comedy is obvious enough. Morrison, Abbott, Joyce and Geoffrey Rush, who with an over inflated sense of entitlement and appalling judgement has managed to shoot himself in both feet by suing The Daily Telegraph over allegations of sexual misconduct thus ensuring the other side of the story was aired by the aggrieved party and a toxic culture exposed. Contrition and perhaps an apology might have proved wiser.
Is the Sydney Light Rail in the category of comedy? Yes it is pure farce. Straight out of Catch 22, of benefit to no one except the developers who pushed for it and greased palms so that they could build ugly units in square boxes down either side. Beset by litigation, a cost overrun and the destruction of iconic works of art, the Spanish contractors join their compatriots who built our poorly engineered troop ships. La porqueria – our love affair with Spain is over.
Dutton gives us a laugh if for no other reason than he takes himself seriously. He has all the attributes of Benito Mussolini. Bombastic, racist, innumerate, poor timing and a potato head which like Benito and Trump he thrusts at us with curled lips and lies.
Australian politics is at the lowest point I can remember over the past seventy years and that is saying something as included is the war in Vietnam, Conscription and Moratorium marches, Menzies, McMahon, Morosi, Cairns, Connor, Khemlani, Kerr, Howard and Rudd.
The Australian Parliament has within it some of the dumbest people I have seen in public life. Canavan, Ciobo, Abetz, Abbott, Joyce, Morrison, Tehan, Porter, Kelly, Hunt, Taylor and Birmingham; they lie and think we believe them. They back coal in the face of climate change, and they are all from the LNP, supported by the IPA. They are Right Wing protagonists dumbed down by blind adherence to their ideology. Looking backwards is no way to map a path to the future. It is no way to manage or lead; they are headed for the high jump and know it.
Tragedy lies in the manifestation of their ideology that causes intentional harm to refugees and asylum seekers in detention, particularly children, in the name of deterrence. Dutton and Morrison are responsible for deaths, injury and the mental illness of refugees in detention. If they are let off the hook Australian democracy will be diminished.
Tragedy lies in the disempowerment of Aboriginals and the sixty women murdered this year by husbands and partners, not to mention children abused and bashed to death. It lies with organised Christianity which seeks control over compassion and with Howard’s credo of whatever it takes, which has seen greed grow; legitimised and paraded in dreadful and tasteless reality TV, corporate and sporting behaviour including grossly over inflated salary packages.
Tragedy lies in climate denial enshrined in legislation and the failure to protect and manage water in the face of science and common sense which instructs otherwise. It lies with the support and encouragement of racism; demonstrated with the backing of all LNP Senators for Harridan Hanson’s motion, ‘It’s OK to be white’. She is a comedic figure ripe for satire and scorn, but media that might provide an outlet either agree with her bile or have been emasculated.
Racism was evident in Australia’s response to the recent earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi, where 2000 people died and 65,000 homes destroyed. Australia gave a paltry $10.5 million. It could and should have done a lot more. But my Twitter account carried comment that we should not give aid to a Muslim country because by doing so we would be supporting fundamentalism and corruption. I can only presume the same line governed the thinking of our politicians; neither the Labor Party nor the media decried the response.
Perhaps because of our parsimonious response the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, was in no mood to be lenient or diplomatic when Morrison announced a by-election stunt of intent to move the Australian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in defiance of Palestinian and Arab wishes and bi-partisan policy. The announcement was widely criticised and Morrison doesn’t know now where to take it.
Cricket is a metaphor for what’s happened in Australia. Greed coupled with whatever it takes overseen by a governing body out of touch with players and fans. The Chairman and Board of Cricket Australia had a large sense of entitlement, just as members of parliament, who claimed $48 million in expenses in the first half of 2016. Fans have walked away from cricket, just as voters have walked from the major parties.
Bullying is a national pastime, which some find satisfying and amusing; such as the parliamentary bullying of the former Human Rights Commissioner and the Director of the Sydney Opera House by Alan Jones. It finds expression in the work place, the defence force, sporting clubs and associations, schools, universities, churches and refugee detention centres. It is endemic and feeds domestic violence. It is male dominated. However it will be funny when it happens to Dutton, Morrison and Abbott.
Perhaps the biggest and saddest clown is Bill Shorten, who is short on courage and ideas when he should be bursting with both. He has gone along with the government’s cruel refugee policy of deterrence, defence expenditure, which has us building submarines for between $60-$90 billion for a strategic gain yet to be explained, and a donation of $500 million to the new Canberra theme park and ADF recruiting centre, the Australian War Memorial. And has said he will keep the Home Affairs Department. Is Shortens me tooism a joke or a tragedy? I’m not laughing.
Water and Joyce is no joke, it is in fact corruption; withdrawal of funding for the CSIRO, Medicare, public education, NDIS and Centrelink is criminal.
Lack of vision translated into lack of infrastructure is what we would term in the army, a bloody joke. As climate change advances infrastructure becomes critical in deploying resources to deal quickly and adequately with flood, fire, drought and high intensity storms. As traditional food production changes high quality infrastructure becomes vital in assisting the development of new food sources and distributing produce to domestic and overseas markets.
Food production and distribution is at breaking point in many Asian and African countries. We could become a role model. Innovation with food is closely aligned with the management of water. The two go hand in hand and at the moment we are failing to deal with both.
What is driving and motivating Australia in 2018 is greed and fear, inextricably linked to the great Australian inferiority complex and guilt. White Australians whose families have been in this country for any length of time know exactly what was done to Aboriginals. They have sought to expiate their guilt by painting Aboriginals as aggressive, shiftless and uncouth drunks incapable of holding down a job.
They have guilt about stealing the water holes for stock on which large white family fortunes were built, they have guilt about the children their relatives fathered and walked away from, they have guilt about clearing land for short term profit as it is eroded and laid waste by salt. They have guilt for allowing water to be expropriated for cotton and grapes, rather than for food. Guilt is driving greed – grab what you can while you can because things are stuffed, they can’t go on like this, they say to themselves as they fall asleep on the kitchen table after the eighth stubby.
And guilt over the treatment of refugees has seen the government bulldoze all evidence of the torture and misery they inflicted at the Lombrun prison on Manus Island. When a regime knows the game is up, when they are about to fall, they attempt to hide their crimes.
For all of us the question is will the Labor Party confront these crimes and seek justice for the innocent victims, will it walk away or worse, continue with the evil practices. You see now why I believe that tragedy prevails, it need not but for that to occur greed would have to shrink and courage would have to master fear and selfishness.
But fear not, comedy stalks and thrives on righteous pomposity which Morrison, Abbott and the Sydney Dioceses have in spades .
Bruce Haigh is a retired diplomat and political commentator.