In Australia we do not vote for the Prime Minister, we vote for a local member, who is usually a member of a political party. In simple terms, when all the votes are counted the party with the greatest number of members becomes the government, and the assembled members have already decided, or they will very quickly decide, who is to be their leader. This person is then deemed to be the Prime Minister.
As John Howard once stated, the Prime Ministership is “the unique gift of the party room”. So, again, we did not vote for you to be the Prime Minister. When you came back from your holiday to Hawaii you seemed to style yourself as a ‘father of the country’, come to give us comfort, in a time of trouble. No-one wanted you to be a comforter, some sort of ‘dad figure’, riding in to pretend that you will fix everything, to steady the ship because we couldn’t. We wanted you to do what your predecessors did in other times; to be available, to lead, to encourage the volunteers, and to earn your extravagant pay packet.
We expected you to share the discomfort and the anxiety of another terrible summer, knowing that there are at least two months of bushfire season still to play out, with unknown, but probably dire, consequences. We also note that you just had to go on holiday outside Australia. I guess that is because you couldn’t find anywhere in Australia that wasn’t either on fire, or smoke affected.
We don’t need you to explain that you don’t actually hold a hose, we already know that. We don’t need you to claim that the responsibility rests with the states. We expect total commitment from the Commonwealth, because we are all in this together, and no-one likes any official ducking responsibility with weasel words.
No-one liked your fatuous comment that the volunteer fire-fighters did not want compensation for lost wages and benefits, because they “wanted to be there”. No-one wanted you to behave as if you, and you alone, will decide whether they will receive that compensation. No-one wants Australia to be run by one person, making all the decisions, and not listening to your employers, the people. We vote for a government, not a dictatorship.
You are the Prime Minister because your colleagues believe that you are some sort of political genius. I have seen enough of your performance to know that the only reason you are in the position you are is because of bucket-loads of luck. Luck that Bill Shorten was so inept at selling his message, luck that enough voters believed the lies before and during the campaign, luck that Malcolm Turnbull did not protect his back from you, and luck that no-one actually knew who you were, and so had not formed an opinion of your character.
The news came through today that you would graciously ‘allow’ NSW firefighters to receive compensation. Again the ‘father of the country’ is deciding, by himself, to give what the vast majority of this country’s citizens have already decided should be done.
Again the decision is too little, too late, and does not include firefighters from other states. But I would almost bet that decision will be broadened to include other firefighters, but grudgingly, and in a manner designed to save face for you, and reinforce that ‘father of the country’ trope.
Finally, Climate Change is hugely implicated in this drought, and in the fires resulting from increased temperatures and dry fuel. No-one wants Craig Kelly and his group of fellow deniers to further damage the country, by holding you hostage over the matter. We remember that Kelly was on his way out of the parliament, rejected by his own party for views too extreme for the community to swallow. But you inexplicably saved him before the election, and he continues to hold the country back.
Try and remember that it is not your money. It is money collected from our taxes. You should spend it as we direct you. Your Government is letting us all down. Your meanness is noted, and your self-satisfaction. We are all getting to know you now, and weasel words will not save you from the judgement of your fellow citizens. You need to step up, and get over yourself. You are, at the end of the day, a mere politician.
Mark Buckley is a Melbourne writer with an interest in politics, history and ethics. His blog can be found at www.askbucko.com