Let’s start with the big announcement – Cate Speaks now has its own web address! I have registered www.catespeaks.com as a domain, and have also bought a WordPress Plan which should make the ads on this website disappear. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and it has been made possible by your support through my Ko-fi.com account, so thank you for that. You might want to update your bookmarks, but don’t worry too much if you don’t remember to do so – the domain maps from the WordPress site, so going to the old site should bring you straight here.
I’ll be making one other change to this website, and that is to start adding book reviews, mostly retrospectively, but you can expect to hear a lot from me on this score in the months leading up to the Hugo Awards. The reason for this addition is that I’ve been reviewing books in a number of different locations for a while, and felt like it would be a good idea to consolidate everything in the one spot. (Nobody needs five separate blogs, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and a Goodreads account. It’s ridiculous.) You might get a bit more silly poetry around here, too. I seem to be in that sort of mood. I’ll keep tagging everything as appropriate, so if you are just here for the politics, you can easily avoid the frivolity and lowbrow literary choices.
And that’s enough of that – let’s take a look at 2018.
Or… maybe let’s not, because I honestly have no idea how to write a wrap up post for Australian politics in 2018. It’s been one of those years where I’ve wound up with dozens of partially written posts, each of which got superseded by the next bout of idiocy, cruelty, hypocrisy, or just plain sordid nastiness before I could finish it.
(At some point, I’m going to finish up my post on antidisestablishmentarianism, at least. Assuming Morrison lasts long enough for it to still be slightly relevant…)
And I mean, this is very much a part-time hobby for me, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that I couldn’t keep up – except that I’ve read similar complaints from actual professional journalists, so I think that Australian politics really has been an unusually fast race into farce this year. And speaking of farce… I also suspect I’m not the only one who has read something purporting to be about Australian politics online, laughed or winced at the satire, and then discovered hours later that no, actually, it wasn’t satire at all.
(Seriously, did anyone think those screen shots of Andrew Broad’s truly cringeworthy pickup attempts were for real the first time they saw them? Or am I just very naive?)
I feel like 2018 was the year when Australian politics descended to new depths of pettiness and partisanship. There was the leadership spill, followed by the (entertaining, but not very edifying) parade of former ministers taking their revenge via media when their complaints weren’t listened to internally; there was the neverending parade of scandals around sexual harrassment, adultery, misogynist bullying (seriously, who would be a woman in politics?); there was the decision to move our Israeli embassy against the advice of basically everyone on an electoral whim, followed by the attempt to walk this back without actually looking like we were changing our minds (which mostly had the result of offending everyone equally); there was the almost unfathomable decision to have only 8 sitting days in the first half of next year (and how is that even permitted, for heavens’ sake?), clearly an attempt to avoid a no-confidence vote; and, most disgustingly of all, there was the deliberate obstruction of a bill aimed at saving the lives of critically ill asylum seekers by using parliamentary rules to get around the fact that the government no longer has a majority on this matter (because no matter how petty and stupid and scandal-ridden our government may be, it always has time to hurt people).
And that’s just the big stuff – there seem to be new examples of petty point scoring every day. My favourite this week was Morrison blaming a lack of Christmas spending on the Australian public’s fear of a Labor government rolling back negative gearing. (Surely if we were so afraid of a Labor government we could just… not vote for one?)
It’s pretty embarrassing, frankly. (Also rage-inducing, depressing, and occasionally bitterly hilarious.)
But there have been glimmers of hope. The election of Kerryn Phelps was definitely a positive sign, and it has been encouraging to see the slowly-growing alliance of Independent women in Parliament. The overwhelming victory of Labor in Victoria in November was a victory of positive policy over fearmongering, and is a harbinger, I hope, of a similar victory when we finally go to the Federal polls next year. The fact that there *is* now a will in Parliament to help at least the sickest and most vulnerable of our asylum seekers is truly heartening – while I have no doubt our government will do their best to delay any help for these people for as long as they can, it is clear now that they can only delay, and not prevent, legislation from passing that will give sick people access to proper medical care. That is huge.
Even the fact that so many women are feeling able and empowered to come forward and talk about the misogyny and bullying and harrassment that is so pervasive in our Parliament is positive in its way. Strangely, the Liberal Party’s bizarre decision not to elect Bishop as their leader may have helped with this – it was the final proof, if any was needed, that no matter how nicely you are willing to play along with sexist behaviour, you are never going to achieve the top job in the Liberal Party if you don’t have a Y chromosome.
(Or at least, not yet. I feel that the odds of Bishop being the only senior Liberal Party member left in Parliament after the next election are actually pretty strong, so she may win the position by default…)
I’d like to think that Australian politics hit rock bottom in 2018. We may scrabble around in the mud for a few more months in 2019, but the government has already lost its majority, and the election can’t be put off forever. Barring some terrible negative miracle (and I can think of all too many hideous possibilities), I think we will see ourselves climbing out of this rather sordid pit in the new year. I’m hoping the Shorten team will approach the election with positive, evidence-based policies. This is not, I think, too much to ask. I’m hoping that the Australian public will show their distaste for the sort of rubbish we’ve been dealing with at the ballot, and elect a government which will actually govern with brain and heart – or failing that, at least some sort of sense of pragmatism and professionalism.
And I do actually think these hopes are reasonable. Quite apart from anything else, the Coalition is currently its own worst enemy, and I can’t see Morrison managing to unify them before the election. I’ve seen a few people speculating that what we are seeing at the moment might be analogous to when the DLP split off from the ALP back in the 1950s – there just doesn’t seem to be any common ground left between the right-wing ultra-conservatives and the more moderate fiscal conservatives in the Liberal Party, and it must be becoming increasingly clear to the Nationals that there isn’t much in this Coalition for them. It will be interesting to see if the Coalition survives the next year intact, in fact.
But mostly, I say, bring on the election. Give us a chance to vote these clowns out, and the sooner the better.
(Just… please not on May 18! The biggest part of my job is grantwriting, and there are two NHMRC funding rounds that close in early May so I am going to be working ridiculous hours, which is going to make it almost impossible to do my usual political party commentaries. And, more importantly still, May 18 is the Eurovision Song Contest Final, and if you imagine that I find political parties more enticing than costume reveals, dubious song lyrics and over the top dancing and special effects, you could not be more wrong.)
(And here is my election promise: if the election is on May 18, I *will* nominate a Eurovision theme song for every political party. And I will expect you to listen to them.)
Wishing you all a happy, healthy and hopeful 2019.
(I know. Morrison is totally going to put the election on May 18. He’s just that sort of person. But I really do mean it about Eurovision. There *will* be Eurovision songs. I am already making notes.)