simon copland 420x470Whenever I think about Australian politics now, I get quite depressed. My usual rational approach to politics has been replaced by a world of feelings about the state of our discourse.

Just think about the asylum seeker debate last week. You’d think it couldn’t happen, but the Coalition has become even more disgusting on the issue, calling for ‘behaviour protocols’ and ‘community registers’ for asylum seekers. Senator Eric Abetz even compared asylum seekers to paedophiles.

“There is a register in relation to those sex offenders and the community has spoken in relation to that, that they do want a register,” he said.

“If I might say, I wouldn’t put the two (paedophiles and asylum seekers) in the same category, necessarily.”

It’s a classic example of the kind of conservative, racist, sexist, classist, homophobic fear-based politics that the Coalition has become expert at.

Yet, what is more depressing than this is that the ALP has no real defence to these attacks. Yes, Scott Morrison and Abetz are being awful, but at the same time, the ALP is locking innocent children up in detention centers in Nauru and PNG. Look everywhere and it’s the same – an awful marriage of right-wing policy and discourse.

It makes me think of 2007 – the mood for change, the excitement about what was ahead, the thought that we were about to defeat the conservative mood of this country, and push it back hopefully for at least a decade.

Six years later though and it feels nothing like that. Getting action on climate change has been a real slog (and with all the coal mines we’re approving, the action we’ve had is being cancelled out), our asylum seeker policy has become even more cruel, we’ve apologised to indigenous people, but then followed that up by expanding the Northern Territory Intervention, we’ve cut money to single parents on welfare, and we’ve caved in to the religious right when it comes to queer rights.

For me, that mood for change has become a slow depression. I’m certain I’m not the only one who feels like this. But, I guess that’s the good part. I don’t think anyone is really happy with the state of politics today – meaning we can do better. I’m tired of the awful discourse, the right-wing marriage, and the reactionary approaches. But I also think we can change it all, and maybe it’s time we strengthen our resolve to do it.

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