Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull high fives children at North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club in Sydney, Monday, January 1, 2018. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Australian politics is off on its annual summer holiday, using all its available strength to eat as much ice-cream as possible and tolerate its family. As it does another session of beach-side meditation and contemplates the year ahead, here is a wish list for how it should approach 2018.
1. Uncertainty over citizenship is resolved quickly. And definitively.
The fact that the great citizenship debacle is still debacling is the equivalent of wearing bell bottom trousers in the 1980s. This stuff was politically thrilling and legally gripping last year. But this year, people just want to a bit of constitutional rectitude, no?
Unfortunately, there is still some unfinished section 44 business to attend to. Labor’s Katy Gallagher and David Feeney are due to have their day in the High Court on January 19. And questions linger for between three and about eight other MPs (depending on what side of politics you’re on). May we work out who can stay and who needs to go with a minimum of mutual finger-pointing and convoluted arguments about British law in the 1940s.
2. We don’t lose any more senators
Last year, members of the upper house fell like speed skaters in an Olympic final. We had people quitting of their own accord (for “family reasons”), because they hadn’t read the constitution properly or because of some stuff with the Chinese that we won’t go into again here. All up, we’ve lost 13 senators since 2016 – meaning 17 per cent of those elected at the federal election have had to be replaced.
No matter who you go for in auspol – or even if you don’t go for anyone – there is something to the sanctity of electing people and those people then serving out the terms they were elected for. The Ancient Greeks even had a word for it: democracy.
3. LGBTI Australians get a break
Now that same-sex weddings have begun in Australia, here’s a small, non-denominational prayer that this is the last we hear of one of 2017’s biggest political heart/headaches. And that people can just go about their lives, loving and marrying who they choose, away from the glare of national debate. Ominously, the Turnbull-commissioned, Philip Ruddock-led review into religious freedoms is due to report in March. This promises to kick-up some fuss in the first quarter of the year around LGBTI Australians. Witness here the early positioning from the Catholic education sector about maintaining the right to fire gay teachers.
4. In fact, less hating on minorities in general, please
Here’s an idea: how about more tolerance in politics full stop. This would necessitate a significant drop in panicking about boys wearing dresses to school and freak-outs about migrant communities not learning English quickly enough. Peter Dutton, this also means no more unsubstantiated comments about Melburnians not wanting to eat dinner in restaurants for fear of being followed home by African gangs. And Pauline Hanson? Well, this means a lot less of a lot of what you say.
5. Malcolm Turnbull stops saying “rezolioooshun”
Yes, we are calling for peace, love and understanding in politics. But within reason! The Prime Minister’s noticeably unconventional pronunciation of “resolution” is so hoity, it makes the Queen sound like a massive bogan. Is he trolling us? It doesn’t matter. Just please stop.
6. No leadership speculation
This one might be too fanciful (given Turnbull is fast approaching that 30-loser-Newspolls-in-a-row milestone), but when was the last time we had a political year without leadership funny business? It’s like the major parties take it on a roster system. If it’s not the Labor guys tearing themselves to introspective pieces, it’s the Libs. And of course the media loves a speculation story, with its juicy elements of careers-on-the-line and people saying mean stuff about each other. But like my mum always says: if you have special things all the time, they are no longer special.
7. A climate policy that actually tackles climate change
There was significant cork popping last year when the Coalition party room finally ticked off on an energy policy. This is still to get official agreement from the states and promises to be one of the big policy issues of the year. But a larger (more existential) problem looms: according to the Environment Department’s own data, Australia’s emissions have risen in the past three years. The government insists Australia is still “on track” to meet its 2030 target of reducing emissions by 26 to 28 per cent of 2005 levels. But it remains seriously worrying that (with the exception of the Greens) this situation does not appear to be worrying anyone very much around Parliament House.
8. #Metoo comes to Canberra
The US, British and Victorian political systems have all recently been hit with serious allegations about the sexual harassment of women. And the US and Australian entertainment industries has similarly come under fire for harbouring horrible things. It follows that federal politics, with its male-dominated workforce and power imbalances aplenty, is not immune on this front. There are enough anecdotal tales about town to suggest it is not …
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