I can hardly believe what a weird and woeful week it’s been in Australian politics. Last Thursday Australians, or at least most of us, were mourning the death of Bob Hawke, the much-loved Labor Party Prime Minister of the the nation from 1983 to 1991.
Though a frail 89 years of age when he died, those of us who were privileged to be around when he was at the height of his powers will remember him for not only for the virtually countless contributions he made to Australia’s advancement, but also if not more so for the rare combination of vision, intelligence, industry, determination, charisma, charm and larger-than-life larrikinism that enabled him to achieve these herculean tasks.
But far too many Australians apparently don’t recall or never realised in the first place what enormous progress this nation made under his leadership of three successive Labor governments, as just days after the death of this political giant a majority have rejected a Labor party as potentially progressive as Hawke’s and instead re-elected a shamelessly regressive conservative regime composed of comparative political pygmies.
Or, if you prefer, of pigs and me, me, meees; the former group composed of such nasty swine as Peter Dutton, Barnaby Joyce, Michaelia Cash, Melissa Price and their ilk, or rather oink; and the latter their tirelessly lying leader Scott Morrison, who’s sole mini-message to the electorate was to ‘vote for me, me, me the dependable money-manager, not the untrustworthy, high-taxing Bill Shorten.
And enough blithering idiots fell for Morrison’s con in favour of the static status quo as to deprive themselves and all their fellow Australians of the golden opportunity to make as many advances under Shorten and his clearly immensely superior Labor team as our nation did back in Hawke’s time.
It was Bob Hawke, remember, who changed our nation’s national anthem from the sycophantic neo-colonial dirge “God save the Queen” to to that at least somewhat more rousing and mercifully less religious call for action, “Advance Australia Fair”.
And it was Bob Hawke and his Labor team that then proceeded to advance Australia by radically reforming the nation’s economy, terms of trade and tax system; introducing our first-ever fair, affordable and universal health-insurance scheme, Medicare; fundamentally changing and improving relations between workers and employers; protecting the environment from indiscriminate damming of rivers, logging of forests and mining; and outlawing gender discrimination in workplaces.
Since then a series of conservative governments have done nothing to further any of these or the many other advances achieved by Bob Hawke, and in fact have made strenuous attempts to reverse most of them, and to to rig the tax system increasingly unfairly in favour of the prosperous and outright rich at the expense of the rest.
All of which rot the contemporary Labour party led by Bill Shorten was determined to stop, and instead to build further on Hawke-era achievements in advancing Australia more fairly for all.
Plus, of course, to take meaningful, indeed massive steps in the struggle against global warming/climate change, that ever-increasingly potentially catastrophic threat that a series of conservative Australian governments have either deliberately neglected to take seriously or outright dismissed as a myth.
There were also promising signs that a Shorten Labor government would be more open to immigration and more caring of refugees and asylum-seekers in the the tradition of Bob Hawke-led Labor.
A thought that evokes the memory of what was to me the finest moment of Bob Hawke’s prime ministership – his tearful public response to news of the tragic June 4, 1989 massacre of pro-democratic protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, and his generous and compassionate granting of permanent visas to all of the 42,000 Chinese students who happened to be in Australia at the time.
Despite this and so many other shining examples of Bob Hawke’s advancing Australia in fairness and virtually every other possible sense, however, and Bill Shorten’s clear determination to follow Hawke’s lead and build on his record, a majority of Australians have elected to settle for far less, or in fact next to nothing.
And, to judge by how gigantically disappointed the rest of us have been by the dearth of genuine progress or true fairness we can expect from the political pygmies in ‘con’ as in ‘conservative’ governments like that of Morrison/Morriscon, next to nothing or even worse, less than nothing, is what they’ll deservedly get for at least the next three miserable years.