Opinions might vary about whether governance in Australia is as bad as it now is in England or America, but one thing is clear – especially to Australian baby boomers. For much of the fifties and sixties, Australia was consigned to a form of one party rule because the unelectability of one party made the election of the other party almost inevitable. The simple truth is that in a two party democracy, governance is only as good as the opposition to the government.
We suffered no great harm in the fifties or sixties because the ruling party practised a soft version of ‘liberalism’ – a benign Tory paternalism – that it combined with agrarian socialism, and the nation was on the up in a quiet phase after two world wars. The downside was that the cosiness to the Mother Country and royalty left us tugging our forelocks like far away colonials and killed off any movement toward independence.
That relative immunity is not the case now in England or America. Trump got elected because of the weakness of his opponent. Johnson may be re-elected for the same reason. And so might Trump. Each has done all he can to show that he is entirely unfit for office, but each stays in place because the alternative is so unattractive and inept. In England, minor parties are scrambling to get ‘Never Johnson – or Corbyn’, and in America, something like panic may induce a billionaire to try to buy a nomination. It reminds you of the time in the Roman Empire when they put the purple up for auction.
Our current government is hardly any better. It did all it could to deserve losing office, but it now looks clear that it is still there because the alternative was unelectable. Sections of the press still chortle over this – even though their preferred man did not get the job – but for those of us who are not tied to either major party, and who are at best cool about the whole lot of them, the result is a very sad failure of governance.
We are left with a prime minister who could be a useful Mayor of Box Hill, but who is way out of his depth in his present office. He made his name sending armed forces against unarmed refugees; he hugged coal in Parliament; he defended the indefensible in the banks; and he subscribes to one of those evangelical sects of holy rollers that are disembowelling American politics. The best that could ever be said of this man is that he is Australian mediocrity made visible. And in the name of God, we know all about mediocrity down here. It’s what we have aspired to since the English first opened their jail here at Botany Bay.
Can anyone think of a way to ‘impeach’ an opposition party? If you look around the world, democracy is in trouble everywhere, and disenchanting those coming after us. New Zealand looks OK, but even Germany and the Scandinavian nations are showing signs of stress.
Democracy, too, may hang on, again for the want of a better alternative, but it is hard to resist the impression that we are on the cusp of lasting change, and the question then becomes whether we will get it by evolution or revolution.
Perhaps because so many on the left were in some measure compromised in their attitude to communism, and the left dominates cultural production in the West, the crimes of communism go substantially unmourned and the heroes of anti-communism are never afforded heroic status.
The Weekend Australian, 9-10 November, 2019, Greg Sheridan.
It is sad in 2019 to see a man viewing the world through a sectarian prism of 1959, but Mr Sheridan gives the Pope some of the credit for the collapse of the Berlin Wall. As he does with Ronald Reagan. It is curious to see commentators of that ilk give any credit to human agents for the death of communism in Europe when they are committed by their ideology to the conclusion that communism was doomed to death by the iron laws of economics.
Can anyone think of a way to impeach the press?