Here in Melbourne it is grey. The skies are grey. The ground is grey. The politics is incredibly grey (but developing a greenish tinge). In Canberra the guinea pigs go around and around on their treadmills making incoherent squeaking noises, and we don’t seem to get any closer to intelligent, sustainable, compassionate governance.
I am by nature optimistic, but this winter, with its combination of gutter politics and grey skies has totally done me in. It has been so cold that the climate sceptics are holding little victory dances in the streets (in between the hailstorms). Notwithstanding the catastrophic floods, disintegrating ice sheets and devastating droughts elsewhere in the world.
“Pah!” they say. “Global Warming??? What about this, then? Coldest winter we’ve had in years. World’s getting colder, y’know.” I would like to beat them about the head with facts, but their minds are generally locked tighter than a safety deposit box at the bottom of a crevasse. Even when the glacier melts, you know that box will get washed away. There’ll be no getting inside it.
We have a ghastly, grey, gloomy government. We stand on the brink of something that can be so much more, or so much less, but today’s stark absence of sunshine seems to cast an impenetrable pall over any positive outcome. Rob Oakeshott proposes a unity cabinet and is treated as an amusing sideshow – faintly disturbing, not something you should expose the kiddies to, but nothing to take particularly seriously.
Yet the major parties have little in the way of a policy divide these days – so what makes it so ludicrous? Malcolm Turnbull wants action on climate change, so ill-fitting with his party’s official stance. Petro Georgiou wanted compassion for refugees, which neither party seems to give a rodent’s rump about. Kevin Rudd is an economic conservative. Both parties want whatever the polls tell them to want, which suggests they want nothing so much as the power to jerk on the end of those media strings.
Never mind the faceless men, the party factions and the spin machines (makers of a strange sort of metaphysical fairy floss?), it’s the media who control public opinion. You can complain all you like about Gillard, Arbib and Shorten and their involvement in the removal of Kevin Rudd from office, but it was the media reports in the days leading up to it, screaming for Rudd’s demise, that scared the willies out of me. Media screams for PM’s head. Days later, PM is gone. Doesn’t anyone else find that a little spooky?
I have just finished reading my uncle, David Penington’s, autobiography – a slightly surreal, but fascinating experience – but there is one comment in it that keeps echoing around my head. David says the best political advice he ever received was this: politicians won’t do anything that might affect them badly in the polls. If you want to get a politician to do anything, you have to mobilise public opinion first.
The current style of Australian politics relies on the compliant silence of the apathetic majority. Silence is taken as agreement. It is the vocal (and often cashed up) minority that rules politics – simply because they can shout the loudest. The squeakiest wheel gets the grease, as the mining industry so effectively proved.
So that’s your answer, right there. Care about climate change? Care about compassionate treatment of refugees? Care about anything at all? Squeak about it! Never mind the incoherently squeaking guinea pigs in Canberra – let’s give them coherent squeaking. Letters to politicians (amazingly enough, some of them actually answer them). Letters to the independents whose decision (and demands) will shape the next 3 years. Letters to papers. Talking to friends. Make more noise! There is no better time than the present.
Don’t wait to see what sort of government we actually get – let’s demand the government that we want!