A Negative Fool Named Abbott - The AIM Network
I have just read the prologue of the book by Nick Bryant ‘’The
Rise and Fall of Australia’’ – How a Great Nation Lost its Way. It is
exquisitely written, summarising post war Australia, its growth its
prosperity, its sport, its culture, its ingrained positivity and its
Having been born in 1941 it is a period in time that I easily
identify with. A time when as a boy poverty was a word experienced, if
not understood. Where the loss of ration coupons on the way to the dairy
invited a belting and living four to a room with a single gas burner
My political philosophy was born of Irish stubbiness on my mother’s
side. Of unashamed idealism concerned about equality and the common
good, with a strong sense of social justice, the value of things, and an
appreciation of what a true democracy should be.
As a youth my home, Australia, was indeed ‘’a land downunder’’ Of
little importance to the rest of the world. But along the way, almost in
spite of ourselves, we have grown up, well almost. Certainly in spite
of leaders like arch conservatives Menzies. Howard and now Abbott.
The three have one thing in common. They all embraced the American
century but at the same time each had an instinctive yearning to re
attach the umbilical cord with mother England.
As Bryant puts it ‘’in the national conversation, the idea of proximity had not yet dislodged the longstanding sense of isolation’’
We have overcome our isolation but we are still caught in two worlds,
Europe and Asia. Events have transpired that have fed into changes that
create their own momentum. Technology have brought us closer to the
rest of the world and there is nothing any amount of conservative
opposition can do to stop it. The tyranny of distance has been resolved.
When one looks back on these post war years there is much to like.
Australians by nature are optimistic and forward-looking. It has been
that optimism that has propelled us forward. Our immigration programme
was hugely successful. ‘’She’ll be right’’ became the catchcry of the
Snowy Mountain Scheme’’ meaning we could overcome any adversity. It was a
Labor idea carried out by Menzies but either way it commenced our
expansion as a nation.
We are now the world’s 12th largest economy with a GDP larger than
Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Spain, and Indonesia. In the 2008 GFC we were the
only western nation to avoid a recession. We have experienced 23 years
of economic growth. The only country to do so and people under the age
of 30 have never experienced a recession.
So why the political negativity?
Our cities continually win ‘’The Best Place to Live’’ awards and the
OEDCs better life index of national happiness. We are top of the world’s
tourist destinations edging out the Maldives, Hawaii and France. Our
science restaurants, design, creativity and our business acumen enjoy a
We have a multi-cultural population of 22.5 million of which one
million are at any given time traveling the world. Our education system
has produced international managers of McDonalds, Ford, Pizza Hut,
British Airways and the World Bank. The Times of London even urged our
ex pats not to return home because they were considered so valuable to
the English economy.
So why the political negativity?
Despite a downturn in prices we still have the world’s largest supply
of minerals and next year we may well become the world’s largest
exporter of natural gas. We are still huge exporters of wheat and
agricultural products. In fact the overall opportunities for export
growth are enormous.
Westfield is the biggest shopping mall owner in the world.
Our international and diplomatic reputation has never been higher. We
are privy to the ear of any nation. We have, for many years enjoyed a
succession of foreign ministers, on both sides of politics who have
served us well.
The Prime Minister of the day walks easily at the side of Presidents.
Such is our world standing. Bob Hawke was instrumental in the formation
of APEC, while Paul Keating elevated it into a leader’s forum. Peter
Costello was the chief architect of the G20. We are now one of only ten
non- permanent members of the UN Security Council.
So why the negativity?
In the arts we have overcome our cultural cringe. Hollywood is alive
with Australian actors. Our authors are amongst the worlds most popular.
Our popular music is constantly in demand. The Australian ballet tours
continuously. Aboriginal art, dance and culture is recognised. Consider
the success of Tropfest which from humble beginnings has become the
world’s biggest short film festival. Our culture is now exported and in
demand without the need for validation. People like Clive James, Robert
Hughes and Germaine Greer who had to leave the country to find
recognition were trail blazers. Nowadays they can live anywhere and
retain our public esteem. Our intellectuals are no longer ostracised or
shunned. Our prosperity, our achievements and future possibilities are
reported in the world’s great publications. In short we are better known
internationally now, than we have ever been.
Lastly, in sport our reputation, despite a 10th in the London
Olympics remains untarnished. Whatever the sport you will more than
likely find an Australian on the leader board.
So why the political negativity?
Other than becoming a republic Australia in my lifetime has come of
age. There are many factors outside of politics that have contributed to
a bigger and better Australia. We have never had it better.
Prior to Whitlam we were an international backwater. His optimism
opened our eyes to a brave new world full of opportunity. There was
simply a before Whitlam and an after Whitlam. No amount of conservative
negativity about his legacy will change that fact. Hawke, Keating,
Gillard and Rudd sought to enhance his legacy and for a time positivity
trumped all. Fraser and Howard despite their longevity of office
achieved little in lasting major reforms except for Howards GST. If you
count that as a positive.
Then came along the greatest relentlessly negative conservative
spoiler, with a sad history of combative political behavior this country
has ever seen. A man who walks and talks negativity. I suspect a man
negative by nature all his life who came to power with it, only to find
that leadership requires a degree of charisma and substance?
At a time when our nation needed a leader of foresight, of the
Whitlam ilk, we elected a dud. When we needed a leader of character,
with the moral fibre to face the growing threat of climate change,
inequality in wealth and equality of opportunity in education we choose
the most negative lying politician we have ever had. A Prime Minister
whose words and actions bring into question the very essence of the word
truth. Or he has at least devalued it to the point of obsolescence.
Remarkably, even after the unfair 2014 budget, and a litany of broken
promises he has maintained with shameless effrontery that keeping
promises is a priority for his government. It’s intriguing that he would
be so cavalier with his credibility.
He is man who has spread negativity like rust through the community
not only as Opposition Leader, but by habit as Prime Minister.
A man devoid of ideas with a dour cabinet depressingly in sync. A man
with a past so incredibly negative that he now finds it impossible to be
positive about anything. And it rubs off onto those around him.
The attempt at transforming Abbott from ultra-negative Opposition
Leader to positive Prime Minister has been an unmitigated disaster. He
is out of touch with today’s young who have adapted to technological
change and the benefits it brings. Women in general see him as a
palpably grubby individual not to be trusted. A man of the past who
lacks any passion for fairness and the underprivileged.
We need a leader who can take on the gauntlet of Whitlam’s legacy and
build on it with fresh ideas. One who has the sagacity to see the
advantages of a new economy built around renewable energy. Someone who
can put aside the politic and dare to dream of a future with policies
conceived for the common good. Creative policies augmented with sound
economic rational. In short a man with a vision for our future and a
narrative to explain it.
One who can put our democracy back in order where debate is not of
necessity about winning or taking down ones opponent. But rather an
exchange of facts ideas and principles. Or in its purest form simply the
art of persuasion.
A true democracy where the voice of the individual can still be heard
over the political chatter. A democracy where policies need not of
necessity be measured against our GDP but also how they enhance the
welfare of the people. About how we react to each other in our social
equity, our work, our play, our art, our poetry and wellbeing.
We will of course, because of our individual and collective
confidence, continue to grow. Our natural optimism will create new ideas
and change will make us richer. The opportunities are only narrowed by
conservative negativity. However, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a
government who shared our gregariously positive outlook instead of this
pessimistic lot of political fools.
Whitlam as a leader was creative and positive, whereas Abbott is
Captain Negative. Whitlam was the most constructive opposition leader
Australia has known; Abbott the least constructive.
What might Bill Shorten turn out to be?
‘’If you think positively that’s what you will become and the same applies to negativity. As we think so we become”