Imagine a flying saucer lands in your back yard and an alien (drooling or not) alights.
“Take me to your leader,” it telepathically commands, as it is from an advanced civilisation, intent upon savings ours.
“Aw yeah, mate.” (pointing). “That’s our leader over there, the one in the striped designer shirt, mingling with the homeless folk.”
If you dig around on the Internet long enough you’ll find lists of world leaders people would rather not introduce to their granny, never mind to an alien. The lists are usually described as ‘the 10 or 20 worst world leaders’ and include despots like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir.
Alas Malcolm Turnbull, PM of Australia; the only list I found him on was the ‘hottest heads of state’ leader ladder, languishing in 12th place behind total spunks like Canada’s Justin Trudeau, New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, France’s Emmanuel Macron or Haiti’s Jovenal Moise.
One ought not to touch on politics when striking up conversations at Christmas parties. At one such event, I ventured that the Australian Federal Government was having an ‘Annus Horribilis’ and seemed incapable of making firm and sensible decisions.
I had voiced what I thought was a commonly-held theory, but soon found out what I should have known; on average, at least one-third of people voted for that motley group of indecisive dual citizens who went to work on just 64 days in 2017.
“So what do you think about Turnbull’s piss-weak energy policy?” I began at another Xmas do, when I probably should have said, “Strange weather for this time of year, don’t you think?”
That person moved away, but left me a clean run at the cheese platter.
From my point of view, the LNP in Canberra blundered from one disaster to another in 2017, momentarily making itself look good by introducing marriage equality laws, which in truth should have been enshrined in 1980-something. The poll was estimated to cost the taxpayer $122 million and then we endured weeks of angst while the same-sex marriage law was debated, after 61.6% of the 79.5% of people who voted had told them that’s what they wanted in the first place.
The great shame, or should I say sham, is that the Turnbull government, deliberately or not, distracted the people from more serious issues (climate change, the Adani coal mine, Manus Island), by turning the same-sex marriage debate into an expensive, non-binding referendum-style exercise. They could have used one of those 64 sitting days to have a free vote. We’d have achieved the same result and deployed the $122 million to more laudable outcomes (like finding emergency accommodation for the 6,000 or so Australians who sleep rough each night).
We’ve seen from recent State elections and Federal by-elections that the people are not happy with the mainstream parties. The drift towards the Greens on one side and One Nation on the other mimics the rise of populism the world over.
Political commentator Michelle Grattan, speaking at the launch of The Conversation Yearbook in Brisbane, said so many people in Australia are disgusted with politics they are ‘‘tuning out”
“People think (politicians) are behaving badly, because they are behaving badly. They (politicians) alienate the public – they are aware of it, but it’s beyond them to regain the people’s trust.”
Grattan said focus groups in north Queensland, ahead of the State elections, saw through Malcolm Turnbull’s ploy to cancel a week’s parliamentary sittings. This was ostensibly to allow the House and the Senate to resolve the citizenship issue and to work through the same sex marriage debate.
But here’s the thing: the NQ focus groups didn’t much like Malcolm Turnbull, but neither did they warm to Bill Shorten as an alternative leader.
The Queensland election continued a national, if not international trend: voters are fed up with mainstream parties and are casting their votes elsewhere.
In Queensland, 30.9% of first preference votes went to minority parties, while the informal vote was higher than average, at 4.58%. In the Bennelong Federal by-election, 10 minor parties grabbed 19.15% of the first preference primary vote, although that did not stop the LNP’s John Alexander (45.05%) taking the seat.
So what else happened in 2017?
While it wasn’t a party political issue, the rise of the social media hashtag #MeToo movement had its high point when Time Magazine chose #MeToo as its influential “Person of the Year”.
If you had been living under a rock, #MeToo is a movement where women who have been harassed, assaulted, bullied and otherwise vilified (primarily by men), came out and stood with their sisters.
The movement started with casting-couch revelations about Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein and flushed out similarly bad behaviour all over the world. The Australia media chimed in, outing former TV gardening host Don Burke for a series of alleged indiscretions. Sydney’s Telegraph made an allegation about Australian actor Geoffrey Rush, who responded with a writ for defamation.
On a more positive note, 2017 turned up an unlikely winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The prize went to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The organization received the award for drawing attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons.
There were other examples of positive news in 2017, amid the political scandals, terrorist attacks, humanitarian crises and natural disasters.
A December 19 report by Katrina Sichlau, News Corp Australia Network, found that renewable energy employed 10 million people worldwide.
(Aside – that makes the Queensland Premier’s contested claim that the proposed Adani coal mine would employ 10,000 people look rather sad).
The same article said France and Britain had launched a Clean Air Plan which will make sense to people who have visited either country this year or last. In a year when Queensland’s land-clearing reached Brazil-like proportions, Pakistan planted one billion trees.
If I may add to this optimistic list, New Zealand elected a woman in her 30s as Prime Minister (Jacinda Ardern), largely at the whim of (Queen)-maker Winston Peters, a veteran politician who saw sense in forming an alliance with the savvy young Labour leader.
Probably the less we say about Donald Trump the better, as he seems to thrive on publicity, be it good or bad. Trump continues to use Twitter like a flame-thrower, this year setting diplomatic fires in North Korea, Israel, and Germany and within the US itself.
Trump reportedly plans to go ahead with a visit to the UK in 2018, despite the recent twitter row with UK PM Theresa May. If you’ll recall, Trump retweeted videos posted by radical right group Britain First, inaccurately blaming Muslims in the UK for terrorist attacks.
There has been much misreporting about Trump’s ‘working’ visit to the UK. The White House at one point thanked the Queen for her “gracious invitation” to meet with President Trump at Buckingham Palace. The Guardian Weekly reported on December 15 that a formal state visit was not envisaged. “The Queen is likely to be preoccupied with preparations for a Commonwealth summit.”
As myth-buster Snopes points out, there is a long standing tradition that the Queen does not intervene in political disputes.
We wish you all an ‘annus mirabilis’ in 2018.