Australian Politics: If We Don’t Laugh About It, We’ll Cry About It

It’s no wonder that the Australian youth are disengaging with politics at a staggering rate, and the recent events in Canberra merely serve to consolidate this.

The main reaction from the youth, mainly via social media, has been one of cheap humour and (some brilliant, some awful) puns, and it is completely understandable: if we don’t laugh about it, we’ll cry about it. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion”, and it seems that the youth have chosen to resort to this laughter in response to their frustration and exhaustion with the political system, and the tears may well come in the future when the reality sets in.

Australian politics has boiled down to soap-opera levels of ego, personality, and petty drama, and there’s little doubt that this will only increase in the lead up to the hopefully-soon election.

The deposed Julia Gillard had made some real and significant policies which will hopefully have long-lasting consequences, but her inability to communicate this, the oppositions constant negativity, Kevin Rudd’s destabilising efforts from the inside, and the media’s focus on entertaining dramas, meant these went largely unnoticed.

Kevin Rudd is largely seen as a more popular character than Gillard because he is a better speaker and public presenter, not that he is necessarily a better politician, and this typifies how our political system is increasingly focusing on personality and larger-than-life characters, rather than the things that really matter.

Imagine watching these dramas from an outside perspective: a country becomes awed and adoring of a politician elected on the back of tacky catchphrases (Kevin07) and ‘relating to the youth’ (see: Rove). The country then rethinks this position and becomes very anti-Rudd after a series of media exposés and dramas, as well as some mining interferences, and eventually leads to his deputy knifing him and becoming the country’s first ever female Prime Minister. This PM marginally wins the election on the back of a very hung parliament and proceeds to deal with constant insults, snide comments, and sabotage from the inside. Eventually, after three years, this PM becomes so unpopular it rivals Rudd in 2010, leading her to be deposed in the exact same fashion as she became leader, but not by a fresh, new face that Australia hadn’t already had the chance to judge, no, in comes the same man that was ‘knifed’ three years ago.

Julia Gillard was preceded by Kevin Rudd, and Julia Gillard was succeeded by Kevin Rudd. What an absolute embarrassment.

We aren’t presented with any real choice; there are no genuine, significant policy differences between the two major parties, and even if there were, we wouldn’t be hearing about them with the Opposition’s apparent tactic to avoid any talk of real policies.

And the real problem is that they don’t need to. The coalition will win this election by merely not being as bad as their opponent, and that is a serious and dire indictment for Australian politics. In a democratic system, we should never have to pick the lesser of two evils.

Something that seems to constantly slip peoples minds is that in Australia’s political system, you vote for a party, not for an individual. While Rudd and Abbott may serve as the figureheads of their respective parties during the election, the choice is a vote for Labor or the Coalition, and the overwhelming focus on individuals has contributed to the dumbing down and over-indulgence of Australian politics.

Let’s make a stand, and demand some substantiated answers to some vital questions, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a worthwhile and re-invigorating return to a vibrant political system, because, in it’s current state, it is a farce, and the Australian population, the youth specifically, deserve better.


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