mercoledì, febbraio 22, 2012

The Australian version of excitement

We are having interesting politics in Australia these days. The system by its nature is interesting, given that it's parliamentary, proportional representation, all those good things, but in a social and media context that is downright presidential. Rupert Murdoch had to give up his Australian citizenship when he went to take over the USA but he certainly didn't give up the stupidicization of the Australian media landscape, which is far more ingrained here than it is in the US, where you have enough dissenting voices all over the spectrum for alternative viewpoints to be economically viable. Anyways, it's got to the point where people really reckon that the personality of the prime minister is dreadfully important, and that forming a coalition government is the political equivalent of being shot in the head. It makes for drama.

To make a longish story shortish, Kevin Rudd, who was serving as the foreign minister after being tossed out of the prime ministership by his own party in 2010 after pushing for a mining tax the mining companies reckoned was too high, has just quit the cabinet and seems to be mounting a challenge to the prime ministership, which is held by the woman who replaced him in 2010, Julia Gillard, who is polling abysmally. That's pretty much it.

In principle I reckon it'd be nice if his challenge worked. The transparency of the motives behind his ouster - the replacement mining tax proposed immediately after his departure, which is being implemented in July, is significanly gentler, something I don't think is at all appropriate in terms of the fiscal treatment of companies whose purely extractive business destroys the other industries operating in its vicinity and gives people long term health problems that the state will be on the hook for paying for - are a little glaring, and obviously contrarying to my pinko sensibilities.

But more dominant in terms of my feelings on the subject are my own notions of a presidential-style, republican sort of leadership, which I got infected with by watching too much American TV, no doubt. You see, when we were still living in Belgium, preparing to move here, I was actually quite keen on the personalities leading the dominant political parties - Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, and Bob Brown. They all seemed to be enormously bright and have platforms, and things. Ideas sort of people, rather than professional politicians. How nice, I thought, that we'll be living in a country with such apparently substantive politics, after the technocracy and political impossibility of Belgium. How nice that even me, as a grumpy socialist, would be able to at least have intellectual and even ideological respect for the leader of the right-wing opposition. Yay. And then, by the time we get here, Julia Gillard has taken office, cutting the mining tax to less than what, say, a supermarket company pays (a flat 30% on profits), and Tony Abbott, who won my game of "Australian or Mildly Retarded" years ago, is the leader of the opposition. I felt gypped.

All that should have warned me, I guess. Oh well. Here I am, paying taxes as absurdly low as the mining companies, so I'm not going anywhere until the house is paid off. And just watching Australians get excited about all this, and not fully understanding it myself.

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