Saturday, May 21, 2016

Whinging Poms

I'm living in Melbourne, Australia, with my beautiful wife, and loving the time I'm having here. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, have been an Australian citizen since 2007, and intend to grow old here and die here. I'm as happy with my life as I could be, and more content than I was living in England. Saying that, not all is perfect in paradise, though to say such can land you in hot water!

We have an election coming up here in Australia, and a friend posted a thread on Facebook about the merits of the various major parties, and which should be voted for. My wife had the temerity to suggest that it doesn't really matter which party is voted for, neither are good and in the bigger scheme of things it hardly matters nationally or internationally who takes charge as policy won't change significantly, and our economy and foreign policy is hardly determined by ourselves, but more to be in line with our superpower trading partners. It was said it a flippant way (we are talking Facebook here), but the crux of the argument is pretty well founded. Not really that surprising seeing my wife has an BA (Hons) in political and social science.

But her criticism of the 2 party system (yes, I know we are nominally a PR system, but lets get real about what is actually happening here!) was greeted by harsh words, and even the typical call for her "to go back to where she came from if you don't like it here, you whinging pom" comments. It's bizarre! In England, before we moved to Australia, we moved to a village and always felt like outsiders and not a part of the community, and it was really the same sort of attitude that came across here. The lack of belonging was one of the driving forces that made us emigrate to Australia, or rather to emigrate away from the UK. To be honest, we haven't really experienced that sort of thing before, so it was a bit of a surprise, especially seeing anyone that knows Caroline, especially on Facebook, knows how much she loves the country and city she lives in.

But just to get things straight, the Liberal and Labour parties in Australia both have a lot to answer for, to my mind. At the moment, the 2 party rivalry in Australia resembles the situation in the UK in the 1990's where 2 centrist parties stood against each other and it was difficult to choose between the 2. I admittedly wouldn't have voted Conservative on principal, but I had no love for Blairite New Labour either. Well, things are similar here now. It's embarrassing to think that as a nation we voted in Tony Abbott at the last General Election. Anyone laughing at the US election campaign and finding Donald Trump an embarrassment shouldn't be pointing too hard yet. I mean, he's a bigot, and racist and supports extreme immigration protectionist policy, like our good old Tony. But the American's haven't voted him in yet, not like we did! In fact, his own Liberal party found Tony so embarrassing that they axed him and we now have the classic situation of having a leader of the country who wasn't elected as such. I wonder how many rednecks are happy to see their Tony replaced by a double speaking lawyer? And much like the situation in the UK, we see an opposition leader, Bill Shorten, with no personality (possibly rivalling John Major in that respect), and no real strong opposition to the incumbent party.

Anyway, after being told she was a whinging pom, the thread became a bit of breast thumping mantra of 'politicians may be crap , in fact are crap, but Australia is the best country in the World!' I wouldn't disagree with this. For me, it is as good as it gets. But then again, I'm white, English is my first language, I'm male, I'm heterosexual, I'm healthy, and I have an income. To be honest, I'm not sure which of these I'm most glad about, because being non-white, or female, or homo/bisexual, being ill or poor would leave me in a very bad spot. I'm not necessarily saying that these things would be better in other Western Democracies, or other countries, but that doesn't make it right here. I'm particularly concerned about the situation for asylum seekers in offshore detention centres. The United Nations Refugees Agency (UNHCR) has criticised our refugee policy as being "return-orientated" and others have called the centres "a chain of Human Rights violations". Read this report from Human Right's Watch, to see how proud we should be of our country's record on preserving Human Rights recently. Neither of our 2 main parties have said they would close offshore detention centres, so as I see it, the Labour party are as bad as the Liberals here.

Of course, if the politicians are crap, and their parties, and we accept that although Australia is a good place to live, it does have problems, then there is always the final platitude. At least we're in a country where we're free to express our complaints without violent recourse. Well, yes, I guess we aren't in a dictatorship, or a militarily run junta. We can say what we want about things without getting thrown in prison, or disappearing mysteriously. And that has to be a good thing. Except when freedom of expression isn't allowed, like for instance in the case of doctor's who go to the offshore detention centres to treat patients, and then aren't allowed to say about anything they did or saw. Strange really. I mean what has a doctor got to hide? Shouldn't we know if children are suffering because they are being detained? Shouldn't we know if sexual abuse, or physical abuse is happening in these places, if traumatic episodes are causing mental instability with self harm or suicidal tendencies being displayed? If overcrowding and/or malnourishment are causing illnesses? I guess not. Why should I care, I'm a happy, healthy, White, middle class Anglo-hetero male living in the best country in the World where if I want to criticise things I can.

But then again, I don't think I will criticise things or I'll just get called a whinging pom, and to fuck off back to where I come from if I don't like the way things are here.

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