It wasn’t that long ago that Australia was being praised around the world. Remember when we had an intelligent, articulate, diplomatic leader with a vision for the future?
We survived the GFC with Wayne Swan being awarded the world’s best Treasurer by the magazine Euromoney “for his careful stewardship of Australia’s finances and economic performance, both during and since the global financial crisis”.
Julia Gillard led the way in action on climate change by introducing a price on carbon prompting praise from around the world.
“Australia will create tens of thousands of clean jobs in the coming years. You will save billions by eliminating wasteful energy usage, money that can be directed to other pressing social and infrastructure demands.
Australia will be helping lead the world out of this crisis, sending a powerful message that, yes, it can be done. Despite all the barriers, despite all the bitter, misleading opposition, Australia is leading the world toward a brighter, more sustainable future.”
In April last year, Julia Gillard also displayed her diplomatic skills in China.
“TEN foreign leaders visited China this week but only Julia Gillard scored what could turn out to be the deal of the decade. The Prime Minister’s coup in striking a “strategic partnership” and securing annual talks with China’s leaders will be her foreign policy legacy. It guarantees Australia access to the growing superpower at the highest levels and is being hailed by some as one of the most significant breakthroughs since Gough Whitlam’s courageous step 40 years ago to establish diplomatic links with China.
The China deal locks in formal annual talks between Australia’s PM and the Chinese Premier, as well as meetings for Australia’s foreign affairs minister, treasurer and trade minister with their counterparts.”
I could go on listing the previous government’s achievements – introducing our first paid parental leave scheme, environmental protections with water trigger and Murray-Darling buyback and marine parks, the NDIS, the NBN, education funding – the list is long and visionary.
But for some unfathomable reason, the majority of Australians were convinced that Abbott could do a better job. We could blame the media (and I do) but in reality, it is us who are to blame for our unquestioning acceptance of the lies we were being told. It is our own fault that we have moved from a position of world admiration for a responsible egalitarian society to one where we are being lampooned internationally and well and truly screwed domestically.
The Coalition began by stating we didn’t need Indonesia’s permission for our asylum seeker policy, a statement which infuriated them. We then had the odious Mark Textor suggesting that Indonesia’s foreign minister looked like a 70’s porn star, and the revelation that we spied on the President’s wife – something for which Abbott was incapable of saying sorry. We also violated their sovereign waters because apparently our Navy can’t tell where they are. We have been vilified for setting people adrift in life rafts, and censured for presumptuous plans to collect intelligence in Indonesian villages and to buy their fishing fleet.
We insulted the Prime Minister of PNG by suggesting he had lied, and then confiscated documents from the lawyer representing Timor l’Este in the International Court where we stand accused of bugging their Parliament to gain trade advantages for private firms. Abbott also had to “offer an act of contrition” to Malaysia for his previous comments about their human rights record.
Abbott offended war veterans and their families by praising the “honour” of the Japanese who attacked us, while Julie Bishop infuriated China by calling in their ambassador to berate him for the dispute over islands in the East China Sea prompting this response in the Chinese version of the Global Times:
“China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs doesn’t even have the tools to deal with this kind of ‘complete fool’ of a foreign minister.”
When Tony Abbott rushed to condemn the Russians in the hours after the downing of the plane in the Ukraine, he incurred the wrath of both China and Russia.
The official Xinhua news agency said in an English-language commentary that officials from the United States, Australia and other Western countries had jumped to conclusions in pointing their fingers at the rebels in eastern Ukraine and for blaming Russia for the escalating violence.
“The accusation was apparently rash when the officials acknowledged they did not know for the time being who is responsible for the attack, while condemning Russia’s military intervention,” Xinhua said.
“Without bothering himself about evidence and operating only on speculation, Mr T. Abbott assigned guilt,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. “Abbott’s statements are unacceptable” going on to say “Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has gone farther than others in making irresponsible innuendoes against our country even though one would think that her position presupposes building bridges between countries, not destroying them.”
In another inexplicable brain fart that even the US was quick to distance itself from, our Attorney General decided to inflame tensions by deciding that East Jerusalem would no longer be referred to as Occupied Territory. In the process, Australia was hailed by Israel’s government, scolded by a group of 57 Muslim-majority countries, and had multibillion-dollar export trades put under threat.
Along with defending the rights of bigots and then linking the backtrack in the repeal of the Racial Discrimination laws to ramped up anti-terrorist laws, Brandis and Abbott have alienated the Australian Muslim community.
And one can only wonder as to why Abbott has chosen to instruct the Scottish people on how they should vote in their upcoming referendum on independence. Their response:
“Mr Abbott’s comments are hypocritical because independence does not seem to have done Australia any harm. They are foolish, actually, because of the way he said it. To say the people of Scotland who supported independence weren’t friends of freedom or justice, I mean, the independence process is about freedom and justice.”
The first minister said Scotland’s referendum on independence was a “model of democratic conduct” and Mr Abbott’s comments were “offensive to the Scottish people”.
Whilst alienating Russia, China, Indonesia, Palestine, Scotland, Malaysia, East Timor, PNG, the Muslim community, and veterans, we have also earned ourselves the title of Colossal Fossil for our refusal to take part in global action on climate change.
Domestically the picture is even more ridiculous. We reinstate knights and dames, we defend the rights of bigots, poor people don’t drive cars, breast cancer is linked to abortion, we are “unprepared for global cooling”, and can someone please explain to Brandis and Abbott what metadata is?
The Australia Institute, in a scathing review of the Commission of Audit, asked the following questions:
As one of the richest countries in the world Australian people have the potential, when working together, to do anything they want. But, we cannot do everything we want. Australia will need to make choices and it is our choice whether we want to:
- have the world’s best education and health systems or the world’s lowest taxes
- continue to outspend our neighbours on defence or underspend on tackling climate change
- increase the incomes of the elderly and the sick or to cut the taxes of our wealthiest residents.
Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday