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One can only marvel at the spectacle that is the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott. As an Australian living in Argentina since February, the stories I hear of old Tony reverberate around the walls of my Facebook feed: through opinionated statuses and links to sophisticated works of journalism at the Daily Tele, or SMH. Of little or no surprise, the two most popular print papers in Sydney still maintain their pre-election alliances. The Daily Tele is still scratching the balls of old Tony as he casts any public services reforms down the drain (damn the helpless! The American dream is still ripe!).
While the good old Herald pretends to be the voice of equality, it continues to self-censor any articles that could upset the current PM, including coverage of protest and demonstrations ‘March in March’ (and April and May…)
With such allegiances of the DT and SMH, one wonders what is really happening over there. But alas! The (online) Guardian exists. Ah, The Guardian, what a breath of fresh air you are. Absurd though it is one must rely on the division of a UK paper to read what I feel like is real news, it is painfully clear that the international community thinks Abbott is as much of an idiot as I do. Though he must be credited however, for successfully portraying himself as one of the dumbest leaders in politics at the moment. Few Prime Ministers have gained as much international recognition as he, to become the butt of many jokes in the U.S. (think John Oliver). Even President Obama has indirectly likened his ignorance of climate change to a JFK era moon & cheese joke.
Furthermore, a vast array of NGO’s question his politics on immigration and refugee status (United Nations Human Rights Commission), the environment, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Tasmanian Forest (UNESCO), and foreign aid (OXFAM & CARE). There must be a constant dull thumping in Tony’s ears as he hears the constant shouts and cries of his opposition.
The cuts to education, healthcare and welfare services erase years of equality reform, and contradict the struggle of Western Governments to support the underprivileged. You can feel the wistful eyes of Republican politicians in the States gazing lustfully in Tony’s direction as he fights the fight for the everyman, quashing the hopes of environmentalists, students, healthcare workers, immigrants, the disabled, the elderly, trade specialists, teachers, and public service workers. But hey ho! At least big business is booming, and Australia still hasn’t felt the ripples of the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) circa 2008. After all, it isn’t the role of the Government ‘to achieve equality outcomes’ – as Joe Hockey reminds us ‘some governments try, but they always fail.’
Such idiotic cuts to the budget are questionable, furthermore so when one examines what Abbott aspires to achieve with the money in his shiny new wallet. The $245m chaplaincy scheme by the coalition echoes the plight of the ‘Forgotten Australians,’ and ‘Stolen Generations’ who as children were victims of state supported ‘mission work’, and a $1m grant to the ballerinas of Australia for ‘boarding accommodation’ must have thrilled the homeless. If as opinion polls suggest, the majority of Australians do not support him, and as his Federal Budget 2014 suggests, he does not support the majority of Australians, then what the fuck is he still doing there?
There is a constant energy in Argentina that reeks of disdain for the government. Strikes, protests, demonstrations and road closures, are literally everyday life. As a result there is a definite culture of unpunctuality, and it is not uncommon to use ‘there was a strike on 9. De Julio’ or ‘my bus decided it would not visit my stop today’, as legitimate excuses and reasons for being late to university. As a student on exchange, so frequently do the lecturers show up more than half an hour late, one regularly questions whether the two-hour return journey is worth it.
I’m not annoyed, though. Rather, I kind of enjoy it. It tells the tale of a population that is supremely active in its politics, and though I don’t deem all of the activity to be worth the fuss – think ‘Las Malvinas’ (The Falkland Islands) – at least they give a shit. At ‘La Universidad de Buenos Aires’ (The University of Buenos Aires), so common is it that students interrupt lectures to fight for their cause, an American student I met claims that of a three hour lecture, only one and a half hours of that was dedicated to learning course content. The remainder was used to read the many leaflets distributed during the lecture. While I don’t agree with a ‘shove it down your throat’ approach to political opinion, I appreciate the interest and am fascinated by the way it is so prevalent in Argentinian society.
Perhaps it is the result of an oppressive past and the success of demonstrations (Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo), that so many Argentinians young and old are willing to express themselves so publicly. Whatever the reason- no one is stopping them, and not least the government. In a controversial move this year the state government of Victoria passed an Anti-protest law. A policy that rings true to the past and present string of dictatorship governments in South America. Sitting on the other side of the South Pacific I can’t help but wonder if Australia is actually going backwards. I mean it is, there is no doubt about that, but how, and why? Have we adopted the 20th century manifesto of the United States? Where a man can only be what he makes himself, and any help is the sign of a weak character. Yet 16% of the population lives under the poverty line in one of the most developed countries in the world. President Obama is actually trying to achieve in his term as president, what Tony Abbott is trying to take away. While the U.S is moving forward (slowly, very slowly, but surely), Abbott is taking Australia back in time.
One would have expected time travel to be more exciting…
Alex Kelly, an Australian in Argentina