On Fraser Anning

Fraser Anning is a magnet for controversy. This weekend, just passed, senator Anning attended a rally that was organised by what every major media outlet in Australia has called ‘Neo Nazi’ or ‘Fascist’ sympathisers. Senator Anning flew from his home state of Queensland to Victoria where he attended a protest march in St Kilda, the senator is thought to have hired a car to travel from Melbourne to St Kilda. Including the flights and the car hire, the taxpayer will be billed close to $3000 for senator Anning’s trip.

Fraser Anning made headlines in 2018 in his maiden parliamentary address. While commenting on the Australian federal governments woes around immigration policy, Anning mentioned the need for “a final solution” around immigration policy and his longing for a continuation of the white Australia policy. Indeed, this senator is no stranger to controversy.

All Australians have the right to express their political points of view. That is to say, Australians who hold that Australia’s boarders should be completely open to immigration or completely closed to immigration are free to express their views peacefully. However, if anyone holds an extreme political point of view, such as completely open or completely closed boarders, they must answer to any and all criticism launched at them, without becoming dogmatic and while maintaining a rational argument.

Senator Anning did not maintain a rational argument, when he explained why he attended this march. Rather, Anning chose to vilify a minority group within the Australian community – the Sudanese community. There are between 6000-10,000 Sudanese Australians living in Victoria, a state of more than 6.4 million people. Despite this remarkably small number of people, Anning insists that ‘gangs of African youths’ are bashing innocent Australians in every major city and in regional areas. This runs counter to what police have said. In fact, the police have made it clear that there are no ‘gangs of African youths’ running around as Anning claims. Rather, any crimes of this nature that have been associated with the broader African community have been committed by “a small number of offenders, who do not constitute a gang”.

The rally that senator Anning appeared at crosses a line that no rational argument can justify. Protestors at the march in St Kilda were photographed performing the Sieg Hail salute, that is the straight raised arm salute made infamous by Adolf Hitler during the 1930’s and 1940’s. I am willing to say that the fools seen making this salute are lacking in a common sense of decency and are most likely just stupid and ignorant young men, lacking any sense of purpose or direction in their lives. I doubt they know what fascism really is, I doubt they have any understanding of what a fascist society looks like. I think these young men are simply looking for attention, which they received, by making absurd gestures.

Fraser Anning claims it was a group called ANTIFA that were making the salute, not his own ‘alt-right’ group. This seems incredible, in the truest sense of the word, given ANTIFA exists as an anti-fascist group. Senator Anning should really have separated himself from the people who made this salute and owned the fact that these people attended the same march as he did. Anning could have shutdown any speculation concerning his fascist or Nazi sympathies by owning the fact that there were people among the crowd he protested with who hold some extreme political views. Yet, he didn’t.

Fraser Anning will not be remembered in Australian history. Anning will not make the footnotes of our nation’s history, nor will his speech, nor will his presence at this rally. Anning will be forgotten because he used fear to create political tension, because he has no ideological integrity, because he was not a strong Australian leader.

Australia needs political leaders who do not play on fear, politicians who do not buy into the popular narrative of identity politics. We need leaders who are going to bring the community together, who understand that a prosperous future requires innovation and compromise. We are not the only nation in the world, though we are one of the luckiest. Our politicians must remember this, when confronted with a choice of instilling the community with fear or showing genuine leadership.

Tony Abbott’s Politics

I have been thinking about this for a few weeks now. I believe Tony Abbott has pulled off one of the best political manoeuvres we have seen in Australian politics for some time. Here’s how and why.

The Division:

Abbott is an ideological power broker on the right of the Liberal Party. Today Abbott has the support of many of his colleagues within the Liberal Party, but also within the National Party. This has not always been the case. In 2015 Malcolm Turnbull seized the reigns of the Party leadership by launching a political coup against Abbott. The general feeling was that Turnbull did what was needed, and this proved to be true when the Liberal National coalition was re-elected at the 2016 federal election.

Turnbull represented the political left within the Liberal Party and for some time seemed to dictate terms. His ideological standpoints were, however, sacrificed to maintain the support of the conservative faction – controlled by Abbott – within the Liberal Party.
Turnbull gained social popularity by being a staunch climate change advocate – at least as far as one can be within the Liberal Party.

Turnbull was reasonably popular within the broader electorate. However, due to internal pressure, he relaxed his views surrounding climate change. This was unpopular and gave Abbott the opportunity to question what Turnbull stands for as the prime minister. The ideological turning point came in August this year when the government sought to release its National Energy Guarantee. The Turnbull government claimed it would reduce power prices in line with Paris Climate Agreement targets. Although Turnbull tried to maintain some sense of environmental concern, he failed to convince his party of his standpoint, prompting Peter Dutton to make two failed grabs at the prime ministership. Climate change policy has been the ideological issue that has divided the Liberal Party

Abbott had been sitting on the backbench for some time, taking shots at Turnbull since he was ousted in 2015. Abbott released a book at the beginning of 2017 making the case to relax policy surrounding climate change. Abbott became the prime minister following his success at the 2013 federal election. He campaigned on the slogan ‘repeal the carbon tax’ which he did as soon as he possibly could. Abbott made some bad decisions as prime minister which led to his diminished popularity. Turnbull then launched his coup.

The Opportunity:

When Dutton attempted his coups, Abbott took an active role in undermining Turnbull. Abbott knew that the Liberal Party may well win government at the 2019 election under Turnbull, thus he felt the need to make his move. Abbott will fancy his chances of becoming the Liberal Party leader in 2019. Abbott understood just how unpopular Dutton was so helping him become the prime minster, that would ultimately lose the 2019 election, was essential. If Dutton lost the election, a power vacuum would open, and Abbott would fill it. However, Dutton obviously failed twice, and Scott Morrison is now the prime minister. Morrison will campaign better than Dutton could have and is somewhat more likely to lead the coalition to success, but this is a mammoth task. Morrison is unlikely to win the next election due to the political carnage that has taken place within the Liberal Party this year.

Abbott will have to work hard to maintain the seat of Warringah. But, if he does win the seat, I imagine he will make an attempt at the party leadership if Morrison loses the election. Abbott is a good opposition leader in that he seeks to undermine the government, he did this well in 2013. Abbott now seems to have his party under control and all that stands in his way is the potential success of Morrison at the next federal election. In my mind, the damage has been done and Tony Abbott will become the next leader of the Liberal Party, though as an opposition leader.

 

Political Thrill n’ Spills

It is going to be a messy week in Australian politics. Yet again, the nation is being held hostage by the ebbing and flowing dynamics prevalent within political parties.

Malcolm Turnbull is Australia’s 29th Prime Minister. He seized the reigns of the nation after staging a political coup against his political rival Tony Abbott, in 2015.  Abbott won the 2013 on the back of infighting within the Labour Party – which saw Julia Gillard make a surprise attack on Kevin Rudd’s leadership in 2010, before Rudd regained his Prime Ministership for a total of 53 days before losing the 2013 election to Mr Abbott.

Since Turnbull staged his political coup, Abbott (often associated with Australia’s conservative movement) has been on the political sidelines. Over the past three years he has often been a bee in Turnbull’s bonnet, creating controversy by doing as he likes – specifically by not acting in the best interest of his government or Prime Minister’s agenda. However, Turnbull has been able to weather the Abbott storms repeatedly for two reasons: first, Turnbull has proven himself to be a more flexible and adaptive politician than Tony Abbott, who ultimately lost his Prime Ministership due to his rigid and somewhat cold leadership style. Second, Turnbull has been a stable and reasonably popular Prime Minister. I will now speak a little more broadly regarding this second point.

Malcolm Turnbull is not the best Prime Minister Australia has had. But he is probably the best person to run the country given the underwhelming selection of leaders within Parliament House. Turnbull is the longest serving Prime Minister in the last decade and his leadership has brought about a general feeling of political stability within Australia. Australia was a laughing stock following the Labour Party’s infighting and then Abbott’s downfall. With four Prime Minister’s in five years, anyone would have been forgiven for pointing at Australia and saying “that’s how not to run a country.” Nonetheless, Turnbull has provided mild stability through tumultuous times.

With such a divided political spectrum, Turnbull has provided Australia with a centrist and indeed truly liberal Prime Minster while managing those from within his party who would seek to see him fail – namely Mr Abbott. However, it would seem that his political fortunes are turning, rapidly.

This week Turnbull has shown political weakness in appeasing the conservative faction within his party by doing a 180 degree turn. His ‘NEG’ (National Energy Guarantee) appears dead in the water. There was some beauty to the NEG in that it promised to lower energy prices while keeping to Australia’s Paris Climate Agreement commitments. All appeared to be going swimmingly when Turnbull’s party internally voted in favour of legislating the NEG.

Today, Turnbull has revealed he does not have the support to pass the bill, thus, he is pulling the plug, for the time being. To make matters worse, growing support for yet another leadership spill is building momentum.

If Australia has yet another leadership spill, then it shows there are serious problems in Australia’s democracy. If Australia’s democracy were functioning to ensure stability and good leadership had at least a chance to flourish, then there would be legislation forbidding Prime Ministerial coups via means of internal party politics. Australia is at the mercy of corporatist styled parties, and democracy is not a requisite within a corporation. This is a blight on Australian politics and on the people whom our parties are supposed to be working for.

It is for the reader to imagine how much credibility political parties in Australia deserve. The two-party system in Australia is faltering. If we want to maintain a truly democratic political system we need more transparency from the major parties, though somehow I feel this will not be forthcoming.

Turnbull – The Next Election

Malcolm Turnbull cops a lot of heat. Probably more than most Australian Prime Ministers, perhaps more than he deserves. Turnbull finds himself in a very delicate position. Turnbull is one of the most left leaning politicians in the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is considered Australia’s conservative party, and rightfully so. The Liberals hold personal liberties in the highest of regard, low taxation as a foundational priority and private rather than public enterprise as a national imperative.

Turnbull’s party are leaning further and further right. This is certainly not a new trend. ‘The right’ has gained political momentum throughout much of Europe and North America, it really is only a matter of time before we feel the same wave here in Australia. It makes political sense if politicians within the conservative party listen to their electorates and begin drifting with the tide. However, this spells eventual trouble for Malcolm Turnbull.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, Clive Palmer’s ‘Palmer United Party’ as well as The Liberal Democrats and Katter’s Australian Party are becoming refuges for conservative and ‘right wing’ voters in the Australian electorate. Australia’s conservative party is moving notoriously slowly in response to this trend. Time can only tell how the Liberal Party will respond.

The next 12 months will be telling. The Australian constitution requires there to be an election on or before the 18th of May 2019. I cannot see Australia changing prime ministers before May 18th next year. If the Liberal Party seeks to maintain credibility, then there will be no challenge on Malcolm Turnbull, from within his own party. Though, only time will tell who the prime minister is at the next election.

If Turnbull makes it to the election and leads his party to a third term, then it will show that the Australian electorate is more moderate than it appears to be.

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