“Now, we are living as Australians, in the most exciting time,” espoused Malcolm Turnbull during his press conference to announce the challenge on Tony Abbott’s leadership. It was September 14, 2015 at 4:04pm. I felt compelled to record the date and time, for Turnbull’s words have stuck with me. Why? Because it is the first genuinely positive statement I have heard from an Australian (let alone an Australian politician) on what the future holds for us, since my arrival four years ago.
The curious absence of excitement was evident to me long before I moved Down-Under. I married my Aussie husband in 2009 while he was living in the UK, and through him I befriended some Australians. I was instantly struck by the palpable sense of negativity in regard to the future. The Internet, too slow. The distances, too far. The population, too sparse. The costs, many. The labour laws too harsh. The unions too strong, China too dominant, and coal too abundant for new business to thrive in Australia.
I was spared the full force of pessimism and negativity until I moved here at the end of 2011. It bowled me over. Julia Gillard was too busy fending off Rudd to set any agenda, positive or negative. That gap was filled by Tony Abbott and his “direct” agenda. No matter what was being discussed – carbon policy, the refugee problem, NBN, budget deficit – he would shred the policy to pieces without offering any viable alternative. If he could get personal and vicious in the process, it seemed to drive him further. (e.g. Why miss the opportunity to link Gillard’s childless status to the government’s baby bonus cut?)
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