Saturday, August 25, 2018

Weird politics downunder

Americans can be forgiven for thinking that they have the most f-ed up politics in the entire world, in part because, well, they do. But that doesn’t mean that other countries don’t have their own Bizarro World politics. In fact, both New Zealand and Australia have exactly that right now.

Last week, someone leaked to the media that New Zealand's Leader of the Opposition, the National Party’s Simon Bridges, had spend around $114,000 of taxpayers' money on a “getting to know me” roadshow around New Zealand between April and June. It was embarrassing to Bridges (who was criticised for having a trip to introduce himself, rather than to listen to people around the country…), and he demanded an inquiry. He asserted that the leak could not have come from the National Party caucus, which leaves the office the Speaker. A couple days later the Speaker announced an enquiry.

A lot of grandstanding, and an expense to taxpayers, but maybe not a big deal—UNTIL this week when things got seriously weird: “A person claiming to be the National Party leaker has sent an anonymous text to Opposition leader Simon Bridges pleading for the inquiry to be called off, RNZ has learned.” What made this weirder is that “The author of the text warned they suffered from mental health problems in the past and said being exposed publicly could push them over the edge and put their life at risk.”

The text was sent to both Bridges and Speaker Trevor Mallard, who at first ignored it. When it became public, Bridges at first reiterated that it could not be someone from National, and then protested when the Speaker cancelled the enquiry, the only rational thing to do: The leak clearly came from within National, as everyone knew all along, and Bridges grandstanding or denial notwithstanding, that fact has remained unchallenged ever since.

Chalk this up as yet another disastrous period for the Bridges. Prediction: He won’t last another year before he’s rolled.

As weird as all that was, Australia takes the crown for batshit craziness: They have yet another Prime Minister!

Yesterday, Scott Morrison, who had been Treasurer, was selected as Australia’s sixth Prime Minister in 11 years, and the fifth in five years. No Prime Minister has lasted a full term since Prime Minister John Howard’s rightwing government was defeated for re-election in 2007. Howard was Australia’s second-longest serving prime minister, being in office from 1996-2007. Australia has had nothing but revolving doors since 2007.

Morrison has an anti-LGBT+ record, though it was a toss-up whether he or runner up Peter Dutton was worse.

Both are also racists. A glimpse of Dutton’s nationalist arrogance can be seen in the report I shared last month, and was a hardliner demanding harsh treatment of New Zealanders. Morrison exploited the issue of asylum seekers during the Australian Labor Party governments, and once in government he was even harsher.

Morrison has spent a lot of time in New Zealand, and it is hoped that he will be much better than the pretty vile Dutton would have been. Maybe. The conservative New Zealand Herald editorialised that it’s time for Australia’s Liberal Party (which is the current party leading government) to become more liberal (lower case “L”). Sensible people agree: The troglodyte politics of Dutton and his mentor, the ex-Prime Minister and all around jerk, Tony Abbott, are WAY out of step with ordinary Australians. Australia will almost certainly face an early election, which, on current polling Labor should win. Maybe: Small and fringe parties are gaining ground.

In any case, it’s unlikely that either Morrison or Bridges will ever win an election. Morrison will be Prime Minister until the next election, but Bridges never will be. Both will be good results.


rogerogreen said...

Our politicians are way worse than anything you down under folks can muster. Every member of this regime is either evil or corrupt. A few actually are both. "Sensible people agree." I spent the week with my in-laws, and well, I wish that were true

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

The USA's politicians are inarguably MUCH worse than NZ's or even Australia's. Part of that is precisely because sensible people can agree on things here, including opposing extremism. New Zealand is better at resisting nativism than Australia is, in part because NZ has a treaty between the Crown and the indigenous people of the country, and both treaty partners take that VERY seriously. It's more complicated than just that, of course, but the point is, we start out at a better place than most of the USA does, sadly.