MELBOURNE, Australia – Before the 2016 US election, I visited Australia from Los Angeles, where I was living at the time. I stayed with my father at his house in north New South Wales, and like many older Australians, he watched the television news almost continuously.
I remember I jokingly appreciated how benign the political news was here: The main stories of the day often included a dull minister standing in front of a boring building saying something boring – and rather trifling – about health care or education.
Compared to the dire situation unfolding in America, the aggressive politics and penchant for bland photo opportunities seem almost innocent. But perhaps I am naive, not used to the downside of focusing on petty quarrels and ignoring the big problems facing Australia. In particular, this week has shown how ill-equipped Australia’s current political ecosystem is in the face of disaster.
Australia’s aged care system is in dire straits: Covid infections and deaths have skyrocketed (some put The current figure is more than 30,000 infections in aged care facilities alone) plus massive worker shortages led to dire conditions and a system on the brink of collapse. After years of lockdowns and sacrifices to keep Australia’s Covid numbers low, we are now faced with dozens of deaths daily. Some The country’s most vulnerable remote communities are being enveloped by new Covid.
What are our politicians doing? This morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison walks into a hair salon and washes a customer’s hair.
At the beginning of the week, the speech was dominated by a moment of “gotcha” over Morrison could not answer a question about the price of breadand what should Text messages calling out the names of politicians in his party.
Everyone I talk to, on both sides of the political spectrum, is distrustful. The general frustration, confusion, and despair at the lack of any form of leadership were major themes in those conversations. It’s not about an individual politician or party – the entire political (and media) ecosystem seems set up to focus on trivial distractions rather than serious policy.
There are issues that need proposed solutions, including health care, inequality, education, immigration and climate change. Where is the proposal? Where is the debate?
Of course, maybe it’s us too. Perhaps the darkness of my recent discussions says as much about my social circle in Melbourne as it does about Australia’s political class. Perhaps we are all too tired of our lack of control over a pandemic that only declines quietly into the night. Maybe we’re used to seeing the worst around us.
Obviously, not everyone feels the same way. Richard Glover, famous radio host, Wrote a column This week noted that while the pandemic “has trained us in frustration,” most people have learned to adapt and keep going.
“We straightened our shoulders, turned our gaze to the next horizon and endured what the world sent our way,” he wrote, adding: “That is the big picture. Not just Australians, but all of humanity. A terrible plague has come upon us and – most of us, most of the time – have tried to make the best of everything.”
I’m not sure I agree. But even if the Australian public is resilient, can our government say the same thing?
Where is the leadership? Where is the opposition? Why doesn’t anyone seem to do a lot of qualitative things? What seemed like a seductive relief to me a few years ago now seems like a dangerous disconnect from reality.
How do you feel about the Australian political situation, with our current problems? Let us know at email@example.com.
Now for this week’s stories:
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/04/world/australia/trivial-politics-covid.html Why I’ve Learned to Love Australia’s Mediocre Politics