Thursday, November 29, 2007

Farewell to the Great Leader

John Howard made an embarrassingly desperate plea in the last week of the election campaign:

"I'm focused on spending my waking hours and my energy over the next three days in saying … if you think that Howard hasn't done a bad job, if you think the economy's good and national security is being looked after but you're flirting with change just for the sake of change, remember that you can't have a changeless change of government. There's always a risk in changing government and Australia will not be the same if we elect a (different) government. It's not like a Christmas present you didn't want and you can take it back at the Boxing Day sale, it's not like that. It's much harder than that. And the country will change. Every country changes when it changes its government...blah, blah, blah"

Well John, as you now know, it was change we wanted. You know John, we wanted a 'fair go'. So thanks for the encouragement, but it wasn't required. Come Sunday morning the teflon-coated Kevin Rudd was laughing all the way to Kirribily (via church). Yes that's right, despite their political differences, John and Kev were kindred spirits the morning after the election as they paid homage to their maker. I don't suppose John was asking for forgiveness, or even saying sorry, but I bet Kev was praying for a miracle: maybe he could do it again in a few years time. He might have to delay it for a year though - Kevin 11, maybe, but Kevin 10 just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Maybe in three years time Rudd's government will have survived the impending U.S recession, the inevitable interest rate hikes, the disintegration of our manufacturing industry and the pain of far too many 'short and jocular' conversations with his environment minister Peter Garrett. Time will tell.

There was one Minister who was way too busy to make it to church on Sunday morning. The man responsible for driving the Howard Government's land grab in the NT, Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough, was down at Flight Centre booking a one-way ticket out of Canberra. Brough's approach to problems in Indigenous communities epitomised the narrow, ignorant, short-sighted and reactionary approach of Howard's ultra-right government and he paid for it with his parliamentary seat.

It was almost too good to be true, and it got better later that day. After years as understudy to the PM, Peter Costello decided he'd add to our celebration by deserting the sunken ship, or so it seems. I have a bad feeling we'll be seeing him again, but for the time being we can celebrate the implosion of a political Party that probably saw itself as unbeatable twelve months ago. It just goes to show: there's only so much the workers will put up with before they start to fight back.

The WorkChoices legislation was clearly the backbreaker for the Liberal Party. They lost power through blatant greed and disrespect for the working people of Australia. It's a shame it took something so obviously anti-worker in it's make up to get the people to wake up, but at least they did.

Later on Sunday I was standing in a department store, stocking up on bling before the big financial crash - the one that Howard seems sure the ALP will preside over. I had to pinch myself, I asked my partner to pinch me, the perfume girl even had a go. I didn't care because it was real, it had finally happened. It took eleven long, painful, depressing years but the Howard rein had finally come to an end. Relief swept over me as I handed over my credit card, an action that too many Australian's have embraced during Howard's term in office. The cash register still went ding (or was it bling?).

Some people say the economy has got stronger over the last eleven years: interest rates are low, yes, but thanks to an artificially inflated real estate market most young people can't afford a deposit on a home. More people have large screen TV's and fancy cars, but credit card debt is at an all-time high. The digital revolution has swept the world, but it hasn't helped alleviate hunger, disease and poverty. "Perhaps things will get better under Labor" I heard someone say in the office today. It wouldn't be hard, but it's not all that likely.

The Rudd Labor Government will probably start out by honouring some of their pre-election promises - they've already ratified the Kyoto Agreement for instance. They will give the impression that they are somehow inherently different to the nationalist, reactionary regime that was John Howard’s government.

The ALP is essentially a right-wing political Party committed to capitalism and it's for this reason that our work has only just begun. We will need to continue the struggle for a better society and we will do it with the knowledge that the Australian people can be roused into action and that the enemy can be beaten.