As I write this on the evening of Tuesday the 23rd of October, the results of the by-election for the Division of Wentworth are still officially unknown. It is assumed that Dr Kerryn Phelps has won the election but there are still pre-polling and postal votes that have yet to be counted and given the fact that the number of still outstanding votes is larger than the margin between the candidates, it is too close to call.
Nevertheless, event if Dr Kerryn Phelps does happen to win the by-election, she has promised to support the government on matters of confidence and supply; which means that the only way that we will get a change of government is by a general election and that will probably not be held until at least March next year As far as I'm concerned, Dr Kerryn Phelps is a waste of time; which because I am an equal opportunity curmudgeon, she is equally as much of a waste of time as the Liberal candidate David Sharma or whoever the Labor or Green candidate was.
For everything that Dr Kerryn Phelps is supposed to represent, the statements that she has made, even just two days into the job, are as far as I am concerned, a waste of time. Here are three issues at least, on which Ms Phelps appears to be a Liberal under an Independent banner.
The change of Prime Minister from Malcolm Turnbull to Scott Morrison has in all honesty achieved nothing. The change in personnel has brought event precisely zero changes in policy direction in many areas and our treatment of asylum seekers is no exception.
Australia's policy with regards asylum seekers and refugees is to continue to lock them up on tropical gulags and leave them to literally rot. The Nauru Government has expelled foreign journalists because it doesn't like the publicity but does like the money that it has been given and it has now expelled Medecins Sans Frontiers in case it happens to report what it sees. If there is no information coming out of Nauru then we can not get angry about it. Whoever gets to write the story controls the power.
This afternoon, the Greens, or specifically Adam Bandt, introduced a bill called the Migration Amendment (Get Kids Off Nauru) Bill 2018. I personally think that as a first world nation with the pretense of democracy and civility that this should be a non-event but when pressed this afternoon, Dr Phelps said that she would review the bill on merit. I have no idea what ill-merit there could be. Human dignity shouldn't need to be debated on the floor of the parliament. Speaking as someone who doesn't like to see people suffer and doesn't like to see people suffer in the name of my country, I have serious difficulties understanding why this is a matter of merit.
Australia has since the day that someone decided to stick a flag in it and call it British, rolled over on any foreign policy that our big brother at the time told us to. Currently our big brother is the United States and because they decided to move their embassy to Jerusalem, we decided that we had to as well.
The two political parties in the United States view the voting public as vote vending machines. If they put magic words in then they get votes out, and are then given a free pass to do whatever they like. With regards Israel, the evangelical right sees blessing Israel on exactly the same terms, if America blesses Israel, then God will bless them in return and both Israel and the United States can continue to do whatever they like. In the case of Israel that means sending the occasional rocket into Palestine and building settlements on the West Bank, in complete violation of whatever peace agreements might come about and the generally accepted view that everyone will nominally leave everyone else alone if the 1967 borders are respected.
By moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the United States took the very visible stance that it was prepared to support the very secular and increasingly hard line Israeli Government. Australia made the announcement to move our embassy in the week before the by-election, not because the Australian Government wants to make any show of solidarity with the people of Israel but because the Morrison Government wanted to use the decision to buy votes. The only thing that this has achieved and will achieve politically, is the equally visible statement to the world that Australia is America's lap dog. The announcement infuriated our neighbours to the north, Indonesia, who have also made the announcement that they are not as keen on trying to stop asylum seeker boats from leaving Indonesian territorial waters than they used to be. There are also issues surrounding tariffs and trade which Indonesia has said that they will consider implementing.
Dr Phelps fell very quickly into line with the government's rhetoric on asylum seekers; which is unsurprising because of the electorate which has just voted for her.
This bothers me deeply. Dr Phelps has indicated that she will support the government in both the passage of proposed tax cuts for small businesses and an increase in the GST from 10% to 15%.
Companies are already used as a tax minimisation strategy by people who are well off, and the GST because it is a tax on consumption falls more heavily on those people who consume a greater proportion of their income (which are poorer people who live a hand to mouth existence and retired people who are in a period of dissavings). I know that this plays well to the Division of Wentworth and rational self interest means that is course richer people benefit from these policies (Wentworth is the richest electorate in the country) but this is bad for everyone else. This is class warfare and the rich are winning.
Dr Kerryn Phelps was probably the best candidate to represent the people of Wentworth, as the Liberal Party has moved further to the economic right and has become culturally more conservative, as she is more of a cultural progressive. This just means to say that the Division of Wentworth stayed almost exactly where it was politically while the Liberal Party shifted, and Dr Phelps is just another tory who has benefitted from the lack of a label. This election was interesting insofar as much as it is a statistical anomaly, with this being the first official change of hands of the seat since Federation but it changes nothing politically as far as I can see. The Morrison Government and Australia more generally, is still prosecuting the case that we are ambivalent towards the vulnerable and the people who actually own the country are running the show.
I don't really care which team happens to be in charge but it does bother me when we as a nation engage in cruelty. Dr Phelps said some magic words but the real trick here is that nothing of import happened. We won't get a change in government or the policy direction of the governance that we currently have.