The past year has been by far the most rousing year for political debate and interest in my 25 years on this planet. From the shock of Brexit to the ridiculousness of the US election that culminated in Donald Trump winning the presidency. He went from having his own show to having his own global superpower. Wow.
It seems that recently a political discussion is never too far around the corner – unless you’re talking to an Australian. Now, this is probably a gross exaggeration based on the very limited time that I have been in this country, but it seems as though Australian people are primarily concerned with what is going on in their political system, and that’s fair enough. Either that or how good Married At First Sight is this year.
It wasn’t until Trump got elected and subsequently had an argument with the Australian PM Malcom Turnbull that I even realised there was a political discussion to be had out here. The fallout caused a bit of a stir in the media and there was a sense of rigor and excitement around Australian politics – albeit for about 2 days. From the outside looking in, unless you’re an Australian, there’s not really anything of any real interest going on. My general feeling about that matter was that it was probably a good thing – but I’m no expert.
There is no widely acknowledged political figure that the whole world is aware of, no obviously contentious political stances to cause concern, and your elections don’t seem to be important news outside of Australia. From what I could tell, nobody really gave a damn about the most recent election over here anyway.
In order to gain some more perspective on the matter, I went to see Julian Assange live via video link in Melbourne. The founder of the notorious cable leaking platform Wikileaks is widely condemned by governments and loved by liberals. Titled ‘No More Secrets, No More Lies’ – a slightly confusing choice of words for a man who exposes secrets every day – I was curious to hear his unfiltered truths on the Australian political system
“Completely Useless” was his immediate response, when asked if the Australian Government had been of any use to him. “Australia doesn’t really exist as a state. It doesn’t have its own race, it doesn’t have its own language, it doesn’t have its own foreign policy.”
That’s a pretty damning indictment of the Australian government, although it is not necessarily from the most objective of sources. You can understand why Assange holds a certain level of contempt for a government that he feels has betrayed him. As someone who hails from Australia, it is perfectly viable for him to think that he should be allowed asylum and freedom in the place that he was born. However, the World doesn’t work like that. Australia would be under immense pressure if they were to allow such a thing
Assange cited the ‘wiping out’ of the aboriginal culture that inhabited this land as one of the primary reasons that Australia has no set cultural or political ideology, labelling it a “schizophrenic” that “doesn’t know what’s in its own head”. The main gripe he seems to have is Australia’s lack of presence in world politics, asserting “the way that Australia has managed itself to the world is to effectively subordinate itself”
An argument that Australia is too passive in its engagement with the rest of the world is certainly a valid point, and in the current climate of world politics it might be considered weak. However, there is an argument to say that such passive, anti-interventionism is an admirable part of the Australian political system. Imagine America choosing not to intervene in Syria. The world is starting to wake up and see that the reasoning for a military presence in certain countries may be ambiguous, to say the least; There is a hell of a lot of oil in Afghanistan, and was there really evidence that Iraq was harbouring nuclear weapons?
There has been some recent chatter that current Australian Prime minister Malcom Turnbull might be given an opportunity to address US congress. This would be an honour only bestowed to four other Australian Presidents in history, such as Bob Hawke and John Howard. Due to the recent fallout between Australia and the United States, it could be a chance to restore some integrity to the relationship and to Australia’s political standing amongst the global powerhouses.
Whatever the future holds for Australian politics, it is clear that the government seeks to look after its own country first and foremost, and won’t do anything that could potentially compromise the liberty of the Australian people.
Although it could be perceived as a weakness, Australia’s habit of rarely stepping out of line politically makes it a great place to live. The wages are high, the sun always shines, and you have stubby coolers to keep the beers cold after work. Australia; the guy who sits on the front porch with a beer, watching the rest of the world fights it out on the streets.