Tony Abbott is the best thing to happen to this country’s political atmosphere in a generation.
Did a part of you just curl up and die? Of course it did. You resent him and everything he stands for, and you believe that he is universally loathed. You can’t understand how the vitriolic posts that fill your Facebook wall each day, the March in March group you clicked ‘join’ on (and meant to go to) and that bloody budget, haven’t resulted in some kind of change around here. Where’s our Aussie-Spring? Where’s our brown revolution?
But when I say that Tony Abbott is the best thing to happen to this country’s political atmosphere in a generation, while it still doesn’t feel right, you have to look closely at the bits between Tony Abbott…Best…In a generation. He’s not the best thing to happen to this country in a generation. In fact he’s such an utter shit that he’s got everyone all riled up and marching and signing petitions, which is why he’s the best thing to happen to this country’s political atmosphere in a generation. Even I, who at 26 still find myself gripped by a crippling lethargy when faced with the banality and pettiness of modern Australian politics, yes even I, am beginning to stir.
I remember sitting in a lecture hall for a journalism class six or so years ago listening to an uninspiring state LNP politician speak eloquently and pointlessly; it was a faux press conference purely for the students’ benefit, to learn the journo’s trade – which is to say; learning to mindlessly follow press releases, moving like a flock from press conference to press conference and writing stale, lifeless copy. All while getting paid like a teacher (It’s just a figure of speech, relax).
He began to talk of the political apathy of generation Y, which really struck a chord with me, since at the time I was on easy street,and was therefore about as apathetic as you could be; a 19-year old university student, stoned out of my mind and getting paid by the government to do it.
But he did say something that stuck with me;
“All great political movements are born out of crises”
And in that context, looking at the time that has elapsed between then and now, one can see that there have been a series of political crises (relatively speaking, given Australia’s history of vanilla-politics), one after the other from Petey’s Pink bats to Julia and Kevin’s tiff, culminating in our current shitty state of affairs (dare I say crisis?) which takes the form of that deplorable excuse for a statesmen, Tony Abbott. And as the veil of apathy slips away from our collective vision, a generation is waking up and taking to the streets.
I’m still not quite there yet. But my continuing apathy does not stem from laziness. Well, not entirely from laziness. Nor does it stem from my continuously dodging the fiscal bullet (the budget didn’t touch me). It comes primarily from a cynicism based on my very basic grasp of the constitution and of our Westminster parliamentary system, and the subsequent realisation that unfortunately there isn’t much we can do to get rid of a Prime Minister if he has the support of the party, which this far from an election, he is unlikely to lose. And let’s face it, it would be way too labor to axe a leader mid-term, so it’s safe to say ‘ol T-biz has support of the party, at least for now.
So what options do we have? Everyone’s banging on about a double dissolution and calling for a vote of no confidence. Well, for that to work it would require a strong majority in either the house of representatives or the senate, neither of which Labor have. Even with the unwavering support of the Greens, they will struggle to block the bills to trigger a double dissolution (read about the requirements for the Governor General to call for a double-dissolution here)
For these reasons and many more, I believe that while the general increase in political activism is a good thing, it is misguided and somewhat lacking in direction. It’s as if we know what we want but we don’t understand how to get it, like a moth bouncing against a light bulb. Fundamental reforms require fundamental changes, and so it stands to reason that the march in March/May was a waste of time; we should be marching for a Republic.
Why? Well, firstly consider the Governor General. His (or until recently, her) role is largely ceremonial, he’s picked by the Prime Minister anyway, and yet he is referenced in almost every section of the constitution as serving ‘at her majesty’s pleasure’ as our head of state. He’s nothing more than a legislative rubber stamp, one who gets paid $350K per annum to cut ribbons and smile for the camera.
If Australia were to become a republic, it would require the re-drafting of the constitution (to get rid of all the ‘her majesty’s, and the G.G. as our head of state). Imagine if, now just go with me here, in this re-drafting we were to replace the Governor General with a popularly elected head-of-state, with limited, wartime executive power and limited veto power on legislation passed through the upper and lower house.
Now some might argue that this would lead to a US style, major-party-led political campaigning overkill, which everyone can agree, no one wants. But in a country where political apathy has been the norm for a generation, and a more inclusive and enthusiastic involvement by the electorate actually needs to be legislated (see: fines for not voting), I think this argument is a weak one.
And even this could be addressed, and if there was a way to limit the influence of the major parties on the presidential candidates, and then enshrine that limitation in the constitution, all the better. But even should it turn into a US style, major party dominated two-man contest, it would at the very least allow the constitution to more accurately reflect the way our country is run. That can’t be a bad thing. It’s only the blueprint for our nation after all.
Another good reason to support republicanism; Tony Abbott is a staunch monarchist, as are a lot of his idiotic cronies (interesting to note that while almost everything else that comes out of his mouth takes the form of slow, dripping diarrhea, Christopher Pyne has said publicly that he would support revisiting the republican issue). Malcolm Turnbull, the only Liberal minister I would shake hands with, is also a vocal republican.
Now finally, consider this; under our current constitution you, an Australian citizen, can’t become our head of state. This part doesn’t bother me with my shady past and my debilitating fear of responsibility, but you, you can’t have that, can you?
No you can’t. And that is why we need to reignite the republican movement with a vigorous, youth-led, grassroots initiative. Our generation is uniquely positioned to rewrite our nation’s history and change the way our democracy works, or doesn’t work as is more often the case. For the first time in a generation, people are angry, and taking that anger onto the streets to protest. We shouldn’t let that anger and energy be wasted, but instead look for ways in which to work within our constitutional framework to bring about the changes that we want, and which Australia needs.
Viva la republique!