The festive season can be a lonely time for expats, far from home, family, friends and traditions. I have attended many Christmas markets, parties and dinners in not one, but two countries, and dodged mini-firework bombs and danced til 5am on New Year’s Eve. I have also spent an inordinate amount of time trawling the internet for photos, blogs and articles about the holidays in Australia.
It was not comforting.
There is something deeply disturbing about looking at photographs of friends on the beach in Queensland in one tab, and opening in another an article about the current government’s plan to expand a coal export port which threatens to destroy the Great Barrier Reef. The same goes for chatting with a friend travelling around Tasmania having just heard of the plan to remove the World Heritage listing of the Tasmanian forests. Whilst travelling through Germany and driving past entire fields of solar panels and wind farms, I couldn’t fathom how a European country, for which the sun is a mere memory for six months of the year, could be so much further ahead in investing and developing this technology than Australia, the self-avowed sunburnt country. And then of course there is the irony that I am creating my online soapbox using the cheapest available Internet plan that delivers twice the maximum possible speed than the network the Abbott government is intending to “upgrade” to.
This government has made many decisions and taken many actions that I disagree with. I find their unwillingness to engage in discussion with the public alarming and disheartening. I wish that as an Australian citizen my desire for information was respected enough to provide me with access to policy details and not just catch phrase slogans. I wish that this government acknowledged that as the elected representatives of the Australian people they should be open to considering widely held views, for example legitimising gay marriage. I wish that my Prime Minister didn’t consider me as having lesser capabilities, merely because of my gender. But these are all the smaller issues that create my biggest fear.
I fear that Tony Abbott will make me homeless.
I have only lived overseas for five months, and Europe is not yet my home. Yet I see from afar the path that the Abbott government seems intent on taking, and I fear that by the time I return to Australia it will no longer be the country I recognise as home.
Australian society, for all its flaws, has some admirable principles instilled in its core. “A fair go” is pretty much our expression for equal opportunities for all. Australians stand up for the underdog, which means we support those who are at a disadvantage. With this in mind, the Abbott government to me appears distinctly un-Australian.
I fail to see how discriminating against asylum seekers, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people on the planet is supporting the underdog. I fail to see how playing mind games over funding to address the equity gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students and schools is giving everyone a fair go. I fail to see how refusing to help a struggling national automotive industry is standing by your mates. And as for the blasé attitude towards the environment and climate change, that’s not simply un-Australian, that’s just plain stupid.
I have stopped reading the Australian news. It makes me embarrassed. I don’t want to be proud of Australia’s past, I want to be proud of Australia now. But I have low expectations of finding much cause for comfort within the next three years. All I can hope is that Australians show once again their tenacity and fortitude under hardship, crack a few jokes (maybe drop the racism) and come out the other side still holding dear the principles that make our society so great.
At least the cricket team is doing alright.