||Issue No. 123||21 December 2001|
The Unmaking of History
International: Global Year in Review
Unions: A Year at the Barricades
Technology: Unions Online 2001
Republic: Terror Australis
Economics: 2001: Annus Horribilis
Campaign Diary: Melanie and Me
Politics: Tony Moore's Final Word
Review: You Are the Weakest Program
Legal: The New McCarthyism
The Locker Room
The First Bastion
Tom Collins' Christmas Wish
Tool of the Year? You're Standing In It
After a year when Australians brought out the worst in themselves, we all stand condemned for a stint in the Tool Shed.
The contrast with 2000 could not have been starker. A year after we embraced the world in a group hug and an orgy of golden moments, we stand as international outcasts - a morally rogue state who has allowed itself to be manipulated by a calculating leader who put his own lust for power ahead of the national interest. Whether we joined the Tampa cheer squad or were reluctantly cowed into silence in the misplaced hope that our acquiescence would deliver power to Labor, we all stand condemned for our part in the sad farce.
While nations around the world grappled with the crisis of people smuggling and refugees, we alone chose to slam our door on the problem, mobilizing our navy to cast desperate people adrift. After the planes slammed into the World Trade Centre on September 11 we alone allowed the fiction that terrorists were on the boats to take hold. And when it emerged the Howard Government had spread false allegations about asylum seekers throwing their babies overboard, we turned this into an electoral advantage to the perpetrators of the lies.
The events of 2001 betrayed a deep immaturity in the Australian psyche, a strong residue of the historic fear of the Asian hordes and a deep lack of appreciation of our place in the world. The way we were sucked into this fear of the Other exposed the fake smiles and childish excitement of the Olympics as the sham it was. We were not celebrating the world in Sydney 2000, we were just getting off on being the center of its attention. The minute the hard questions were put, we turned in on ourselves.
For Labor the shame is two-fold. Not only did we lack the will to take the principled stand, we allowed Howard to outmanouvre us into a most ignomious of losses. And in the wash-up, what do the remaining representatives do? Gather together to reinvent a party that sits as the moral voice of the ordinary Australian? No, it seeks to trash its historical roots with the union movement to protect its new leader from the Tory gibes of being an ACTU hack. The courage so clearly lacking in the election campaign would have taken a stand for organized labour as a social good; instead Labor has reverted to regard its key asset as a social embarrassment.
The only positive from the year was the demolition of One Nation. The tragedy was that its demise was the result of the appropriation of the Hanson-ite policies by the major parties.
The Khaki election may have passed, but we all carry its legacy. Our challenge in 2002 is to confront issues of our place in the world with more enlightenment, more courage and more heart. For those of us in the union movement, the first step will be to reassert our influence over Labor policy and force a change to the Party's unconscionable policy on refugees. Once we wipe out this sad post-script to the Beazley era, perhaps we will be able to move forward and recreate an Australia that we can be truly proud of, that is comfortable with its place in the world and does not need to refer to medal tallies to gain a sense of itself.
It will be a tough job, but a just penance for a nation that has carried on like a mob of Tools for the past 12 months.
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