I sat down this morning to write an angry blog post about politics. It’s been the week from hell on the Australian political scene. Scott Morrison has won this round of musical chairs, and he’s the current serving PM. He’s also a Pentecostal Christian. I was all fired up this morning to write about how Morrison’s actions have not lined up with the theology of the Pentecostal Church, or indeed, with the words of Jesus – but my heart wasn’t in it. I’m just so sick of the negativity of this current political atmosphere, and the last thing that I wanted to do was contribute to it.
There’s a line in The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, that says, ‘…They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together and let other people clean up the mess they had made…’ This, to me, describes the state of politics today. We’ve seen it this week. The wreckers inside the Liberal party have swung wildly, destroying their own party from the inside – and to what end? Simply to fulfil their own ego and ambitions. We see it from politicians all of the time these days. Standard operating procedure is not to talk about policy or plans, it is to poke holes in the other party, or other politicians, and talk about how bad they are. I saw a video just recently of Malcolm Turnbull being questioned by a rather irate older lady, upset that penalty rates had been cut. Turnbull’s immediate response was to blame Bill Shorten for the cuts. Look, I know that’s politics, but I think that if something has happened under your watch, you take responsibility for it. (And yes, I do understand that it was the decision of the Fair Work Commission, but the Turnbull government supported the cuts and could have stopped them.) But it’s not just the Libs that are running negative campaigns. This week, the Labor government has more or less been handed the next election victory on a platter. But my question is, what do they stand for? What are the policies that they plan to implement? How are they going to be different to the government that we have now? Look, Shorten, we are desperate to get rid of this squabbling ego-driven bunch, but what we really want is something to vote for. You need to give us something more than ‘at least we’re not them’. So far, we haven’t seen that from the Labor party.
I am by no means a conservative, but I was hopeful when Malcolm Turnbull became the PM. He was dignified, he was articulate, he seemed like a decent bloke. But he seems to have been entirely hamstrung by the wreckers in his party – those who want to stop progress – whether that progress might be doing something about the humanitarian crisis on Manus Island and Nauru, action on climate change, marriage equality. At least they didn’t succeed on that last one – thanks only to the vocal majority of Australians who wanted the change. I can’t think of anything else progressive that the Turnbull government has done. (In fact, just last week I wrote a post about the issues with Turnbull’s leadership.) Compare this with Jacinda Ardern’s run so far. She’s made very real steps towards housing affordability, dealing with children living in poverty, making tertiary education more affordable, and, significantly, addressing climate change. That’s all on top of having a baby. Australian politicians, pay attention. This is what we want. Tangible action on things that affect us. Instead, you have been raising the age that people can get the pension, making tertiary education more expensive, cutting penalty rates, dithering on climate change action, and doing nothing about the people trapped in a hellish limbo on Manus and Nauru. You are wreckers, careless people, and I, for one, am terribly sick of it.
So let’s go back to Scott Morrison for a moment. It’s being reported that he is Australia’s first PM to come from a Pentecostal tradition. In a secular society like Australia, it shouldn’t really matter what religion a politician is, as long as that does not affect their ability to represent their constituents. But I grew up in a Pentecostal church. I grew up learning that your faith should affect every part of your life. We were followers of Jesus, and we took that seriously. Here’s the thing about Jesus that I don’t think Scott Morrison realises – Jesus was not a wrecker or a careless person. He lifted up the downtrodden, fed the hungry, released those in captivity, healed the sick, and accepted those who were shunned from society. Morrison’s actions when he was Immigration Minister do not in any way reflect the principles or words of Jesus. (And don’t give me that nonsense about ‘stopping the boats’ and ‘stopping deaths at sea’. If the only way that we can possibly deal with the issue of people coming here by boat is to torture those who already have, then we are not only cruel and heartless, but also entirely lacking in intelligence and creativity.)
So this is the state of Australian politics at the moment. I know a lot of people are angry at the moment, but the spill is done, Malcolm is out, ScoMo is in. The milk is spilt and there’s no use crying over it. I think many of us are looking forward to the next election. But in the meantime, I really hope that the Australian politicians get the memo. Please, take a leaf out of Obama’s book. When they go low, we go high. Stop tearing each other down, stop being wreckers and careless people, and start to build something. We’re begging you.