Sunday, 16 June 2013
Governor Bligh, Gough Whitlam, Pauline Hanson and Julia Gillard.
The most shameful things that have occurred in Australian politics.
I am not counting the eternal squabbles, minor cheats of travel allowance, and drunken MPs. These are the big things - the four most shameful events that have happened in Australian politics since 1778.
1. 1808, way back when the colony was young. Corruption was rife, the New South Wales Army Corps were making themselves rich, and the currency was rum. Governor William Bligh tried to bring order, but instead there was what came to be known as the 'Rum Rebellion.' Bligh was deposed and taken as a prisoner, leaving the army officers in control, to continue to make themselves rich at the expense of everyone else. The Army Corps was under the command of Major George Johnston, working closely with John Macarthur. History remembers Macarthur as a great man rather than a troublesome bully who did everything he could to undermine fair government.
2. 1975. Labor was in government with a hostile Senate, who blocked supply (of money that is.) The Governor-General, John Kerr, dismissed Gough Whitlam's Labor Government and put an unelected Liberal government in its place. Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister. Australian citizens had not even realised that he had that power - he was viewed as just a figurehead - a remnant of the time that Australia was a colony rather than a democracy.
The 'Dismissal' as it was called, would not have been so shameful if the governor had merely called an election. But putting an unelected government in power - that was unforgivable.
Many, many years later, Fraser admitted that he was surprised that it had worked. He said that if he'd been in power and the positions reversed, he would simply have refused to listen to Kerr.
3. 2003. Pauline Hanson - Australia's second political prisoner. (William Bligh was the first and the only other one that I know of.) Hanson started an immensely popular 'Australia Party.' Members of the self-named 'Intelligentsia' called her ignorant and racist. She was taken before the Race Tribunal at one point, but they had to concede that saying that Aboriginals should be treated in the same way as anyone else was not racist.
The major parties opposed this upstart with everything they had. Her policies were ridiculed, (even though some were later adopted) and she was mocked for her speech, and because she ran a fish and chip shop (betraying some inherent snobbery of politicians.) After her first unexpected success, when elections came again, all the major parties conspired to put her last on the preference list, (preferences are very important in Australian voting.) The result was that it was almost impossible for her to get enough votes to win a seat.
BUT the most shameful thing is that her Australian Party was deemed to be somehow illegal, and she was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. It was in Queensland, which apparently had some very poor judges at the time. The conviction was later overturned, but not before Hanson suffered the enormous indignity of some months in prison.
2013: And now, the repeated and personal vilification of Julia Gillard, our first (and last?) female Prime Minister. Tony Abbot (leader of the Opposition) 'happened' to be standing in front of a placard which labelled her 'bitch.' She has been criticised for having no children. Vicious 'jokes' are spread by email, Facebook and Twitter. It has become fashionable to hate her. Even those I'd previously regarded as having a lot of sense have joined the bandwagon. There is a facebook page - 'Australia's
Worst Prime Minister' which appears to be dedicated to personal attacks against her. A radio 'shock-jock' asked her whether her partner was gay because he was a hair-dresser. The question was condemned on all sides, but probably the Opposition was pleased - now the seed has been planted and the ranks of the homophobic can be added to her detractors.
There are certainly things she has done that I disagree with, but nothing she has done warrants this vitriol.
It is an absolute disgrace that the woman is being treated like this, and I honour her for the dignity and courage with which she has borne it.
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