NELSON Mandela died today. There is much emotion about the place, in countries around the globe, as many regarded him as the freedom fighter’s freedom fighter.
The public tale about him is one of a man who fought to bring equality to a country which had, as its official policy, the doctrine that white was superior to black.
That much is true. But that is only part of the story.
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. – Gospel of St Matthew, Chapter 19, verse 14
NO DOUBT, this morning, two practising Christians will attend their respective churches and worship their God.
Tony Abbott, the prime minister of Australia, is a committed Catholic. Scott Morrison, his immigration minister, goes one step further – he is a committed Pentecostal born-again Christian.
Or so the pair claim.
ON SEPTEMBER 7, Australia will vote in a new government. And it is increasingly likely that it will be the current opposition that gets the chance to rule for the next three years.
The opposition, a coalition of the Liberal and National parties, is not leading in the opinions polls because it is in any way superior to the current Labor government.
On the other hand, in many respects it is worse.
AUSTRALIA is in the middle of an election campaign that will culminate in polls being held on September 7. By law after an election is called, there needs to be a minimum of 33 days before the poll itself. And the polling day has to be a Saturday.
Campaigns involve a lot of repetitious sloganeering and politicians from all sides of the spectrum promise this, that or the other. The major parties throw as much money as possible at various groups in order to literally buy their votes.
And this goes on and on and on. No-one stops to ask – do we really need such campaigns?
THE Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a government-funded entity which operates on the lines of the BBC. It provides some of the better media content in the country, but this is not surprising since the standards of the rest are abysmally low. Murdoch-owned media constitute about 70 per cent of the country’s industry – that should say it all.
Given that it lives off the taxpayer, the ABC has many rules and regulations that govern its operations. It is meant to be accountable. But, then politicians are also meant to be accountable. And both often get away with blue murder.
The ABC’s arrogance is visible on occasion, though for the most part it hides behind the weasel words that are so much a part of public life today. The following incident will illustrate the level of contempt the corporation – living off the public teat, in case one has forgotten – shows.
SO Egypt’s mild flirtation with democracy a la West is over. And it is unlikely to ever return. It’s happened on a good day too – the US celebrates its independence day and Egypt celebrates military rule. What a coincidence!!!
The problem is that the West wants its own systems imposed on other countries – in order to benefit economically. The idea that one cannot bring in a Westminster system and superimpose it on a different model does not really register with people at the US state department.
Mohammed Mursi is from the Muslim Brotherhood. He may be less extreme in his thinking than others in the same movement. But, obviously, he has never been a candidate of choice for the folk in Washington.
THE brilliant American comedian Dave Chappelle often refers to himself as a connoisseur of racism. A keen observer of the way in which people of colour are discriminated against in the US, Chappelle is quick to use his observations in his stand-up routines.
He would certainly find plenty of material in Australia. The rich vein of racism that flows through the country is for the most part unnoticed. It is considered normal, a part of everyday life. But from time to time, we are reassured that when it comes to racism, Australia is in the front ranks.
A day back, Australia’s first Muslim member of federal parliament, Ed Husic, was promoted to the front bench. He, naturally, took his oath of office on the book of his faith, the Quran. Only a rank idiot would expect him to swear on the Bible, or the Gita or the Torah, given that these texts have no significance to him.
A LITTLE over three years after she knifed Kevin Rudd in the back, Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has fallen by the wayside. She came to office by the backdoor and has been seen off with a very public blood-letting.
Rudd did not scrape through; the leadership vote, foolishly called for by Gillard a day before Parliament rose for the winter, ended 57-45 in Rudd’s favour, much more than expected. Gillard thought she would ambush Rudd by not giving him enough time to marshal forces but her gambit failed.
There’s a lot of bleating going on about the first female prime minister being knifed and so on, but everyone fails to remember that Gillard was the cause of it all. She agreed to be put in the leadership position by the faceless men of the Labor party at a time when there was no need to change leaders.
ONE hundred days from today, Australia will go to the hustings to elect a new federal government. The indications from opinion polls are that the incumbent Labor government will be reduced to a rump in parliament and that the Coalition – a grouping of the Liberal and National parties – will sweep back to power after six years in opposition.
It is not often that opinion polls are wrong these days; the most recent example of pollsters being off the mark that I can recall was in Britain in 1992 when all polls pointed to a Labor return to power. But the Conservatives, under John Major, triumphed and by a pretty big margin too.
But that cannot be counted on. For Labor, about the only thing that can reduce the margin of defeat would be a return to the leadership of Kevin Rudd, a man who is hated by most in the party. Yet polls indicate that the public likes Rudd.
But the Labor party is in suicide mode; the practical thing to do would be for the prime minister Julia Gillard to resign and for the party to elect Rudd as leader. But it appears that Labor politicians would rather lose their seats than take this option; it looks like the self-preservation instinct, that is a natural part of every human being, is not present in those individuals who represent Labor in parliament.
Labor has done a fair number of things while in power that have been good for the country but it appears unable to sell its message to the people. Gillard is not popular and her manner of speaking – strained and preachy, often patronising – does not go down well.
Why is not possible for Labor to hold their collective noses and put Rudd in charge again? After all, what is the point of being a politician who is not in power? Most Labor MPs will lose their seats and the party may be left with between 40 and 50 seats, down from 71 which it has at present.
For Gillard it is a matter of pride now and she is highly unlikely to step down. And Rudd has indicated that he will only take over if he is asked.
Hence the best thing for Australians to do is to get used to saying “Prime Minister Tony Abbott” and holding their noses thereafter.
THE Liberal-National coalition which forms the opposition in Australia has just confirmed that it is the party of xenophobes by proposing that whenever asylum-seekers are allowed to move into a neighbourhood on bridging visas, the people staying there and the police should be notified.
This is dog-whistle politics of the lowest kind, but the Coalition will do anything to get votes. A federal election is scheduled for September 14.
Should this extend to the asylum-seekers who are granted permanent residence? Or does the granting of such status suddenly make the asylum-seeker a person of good character?
The irony of this proposal is that Scott Morrison, the immigration spokesman for the Coalition, claims to be a practising Christian! Yeah, sure.
There is a streak of racism which is part of the body politic in Australia and that is very much present within the Coalition.
In the past, John Howard has displayed a kind of closet racism in his bid to stay in power. The 2001 election was shamelessly built on the arrival of asylum-seekers in a ship called the Tampa. Howard and his ministers lied their way to electoral victory on the backs of these poor souls.
And Howard continued in this vein right to the end of his political career. Ironically, he was voted out by immigrants who had grown to a pretty large number is his seat of Bennelong. Sweet revenge, indeed.
But the dog-whistle is still present in Coalition ranks. And it is blown whenever needed. As it has been today.