I will start this blog by admitting to be interested enough in politics to attend the Victorian Youth Parliament in 1995. I was trying to make sense of politics especially after seeing first hand the after effects of the 1987 coup to Fiji. It had seemed to me that the '87 coup had more to do with politics and power than the actual people. OK, the attraction of free camp was there as well.
The speech I remember most at the Youth Parliament was by the then speaker of the Legislative Assembly. It was about the opposition and the media. He said that the media loves to report the arguments that occur in the parliament as it makes the story more newsworthy; however most of parliament legislations flow through without issues. Most of the public assume that parliament is hostile but in general the parliamentarians worked together in the spirit of cooperation.
I feel that the media is worse today than it was before as the concentration of news articles are on personality and in-party fighting than policy. I also saw the irony of the media presenting Kevin Rudd's "policies" rather than personality when he resumed the role of the Prime Minister, as opposed to what Kevin was up to or what Julia was doing wrong only a week before.
The job of the opposition was not only to keep the government accountable, but also to provide feedback, including amendments if need be in order to improve Bills as they pass through parliament.
In the 43rd parliament, the Opposition went into re-election mode immediately by trying to show that the government lacked confidence and leadership. This was obvious in the number of attempted and non-attempted motions of no confidence. It is to Julia Gillard's credit that the 43rd parliament ran its course by not being defeated by a vote of no confidence, always having supply, passing major pieces of legislation and the Prime Minister always having the confidence of the House of Representatives. The critical question for the opposition is whether they exercised this strategy for the betterment of Australia or whether they did this to destabilise the government.
A stable government, even if it is less than effective is paramount in any country. A slow turning wheel is better than a wheel that does not turn at all.
This brings me to my 2nd love, poetry. I read the Dylan Thomas poem "Do Not go Gentle Into that Good Night" used in a speech by the ex Prime Minister Julia Gillard after her father passed away. It is a sublime poem about the need to fight on for what you believe in.
I believe you should fight for what you believe in. But the world is changing. What should we be fighting for? Are we correct in wanting the government to continue to provide as much services as it does now into the future? What is the government's responsibility regarding our collective future? Are secure jobs the way of the past or the future? Is Australia a quarry for the world? Where will we be in 20 years time?
Many countries in the world are experiencing large amount of protests, the citizens of the world are angrier and able to demonstrate their anger quicker than ever before. Australia has largely not experienced this. This is a good. This means we can still work together and work out better plans for the future. Policy discussions should be happening in the pubs of Australia and in every home. It is only then that the media and the Opposition will sit up and take notice.
Come on Australia, rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Here is the sublime poem, read by Anthony Hopkins:
Footnote: the article above is largely based on my understanding of the Australian Parliament. The statement by the Victorian Speaker if based on my memory of an event which took place 17 years ago now.