Checkmate. Australia after the elections

In an article illustrating the echo to Australia’s election results from a European perspective former Swiss Ambassador to Australia, Daniel Woker, wondered “how and where to place Australia on the geopolitical chessboard in the Asia Pacific”. A justified question to which no one dared to give an answer yet.

Not only is the article worth reading, but I like the comparison with the chessboard since it helps to illustrate the damage done. Latter might be much bigger than those with political consciousness might dream in their worst nightmares. Even if I personally don’t think politics was black and white, I agree that in this case it’s difficult to make out white spots on a rather black background. Let’s face it, the new lower house will constitute of one green member against one hundred and forty-nine centre-right members and in the Senate it doesn’t look much better. How can you win a chess game with one king and two pawns against one king, four bishops, four rooks and twenty pawns?

Politics in a bipartisan environment is indeed black and white. If I have compared Australia to Spain before then it is also due to the political similarities the countries share. Australians, similar to the Spanish with regards to the socialist era, didn’t realize that the Labor government had done a very good job during a difficult global economic time. This might be due to Australia’s isolation but is nevertheless no good excuse. To pray to the devil for the king having had some losses in a battle he won against an all-powerful enemy is rather dull. It reminds me somehow of the farmers’ answer to the question about the positive effect of the applied pesticides: they always point out the success and if asked what it would have looked like if they didn’t apply any, they look puzzled[1]. It’s more difficult for a fool to praise something complex and thus not obvious than to put hope in god.

Coming back to the comparison with Spain, I have warned before that it might not take too long until Australians will regret for whom they elected. To me it thus doesn’t sound so strange what Labor MP Nick Champion is suggesting: to withdraw from a lost battle and leave the field to those who believe to do better. Or let’s say in other words, leave the field to those that have been appointed to reign. The sooner they fail, the better and, after all, in a democracy the minority has to accept the decision of the majority, no matter how foolish this one seems. Besides, as long as everyone is allowed to vote, we shouldn’t be surprised that the outcome doesn’t always make sense. I have explained before that while we need a license to drive a car no one needs to pass an exam to rule a country nor is anyone asked to have a political understanding in order to vote. What’s worse, in Australia people are forced to vote and even if they were smart enough to understand that they didn’t understand enough to opinion, the government would punish them for being so understanding. The consequence of an absence of political understanding is obvious. In Spain as in Australia, people vote against a person or a party not for a cause. And once the chosen ones don’t prove to be what was expected, they are replaced by their antidote during the next elections. One could indeed call that black and white.

It is clear that this is not a very constructive political path. And therefore I do also understand those who warn from throwing the towels. Withdrawing entirely might be very costly. In the case of Spain, people now realize that they chose wrong. However, the devil won’t leave so easily even if asked to. Might it be that Australia will face a similar future as Spain has been experiencing for the last few years?
Even if very different from Spain in many aspects, I believe that Australia might indeed face similar challenges. Australia’s economy is based in a bubble that is currently being bloated by a polluting mining industry and by a continuous construction boom[2]. Both do not look that healthy to me and will sooner or later collapse. Enough people have pointed out that it was about time that Australia started its transformation from an extracting economy to a more innovative one. With the Coalition in government, this chance has been missed for another couple of years at least.

constructionConstruction as a driver for the economy. How healthy is it? (Photo: globalvisionremixed.wordpress.com)

As regards the situation on the geopolitical chessboard it shouldn’t thus surprise if Europeans will pay less attention to Australia in the future than they already did in the past. Australia is on the best way back to pre-enlightenment and if nothing else, global citizens feel very much disappointed by the absolute anti-humane asylum policy Australia has been following lately.
With a climate change denier governing a country that has largely profited from international inaction on climate change in the past, it might further miss a chance that others (e.g. China) will certainly not let slip away. Australians shouldn’t forget that nothing lasts forever. Ten years ago one was thrown out if they complained about smoke in the non-smoking section of a fine-dining restaurant, today smokers have a hard time satisfying their needs anywhere in public. A similar thing might happen with the Kyoto Protocol: the US, Australia and other big polluters might not always have power in the negotiations and once the wind will change to blow from another direction, it will be too late for them to cope with the strong headwind they face.

Predicting Australia’s future might be more challenging than denying climate change, yet it seems pretty clear that for the moment Australia’s political chessboard looks pretty much checkmate. Unless the game starts over, there is little hope for Australia to be a player whom the world respects as being powerful and relevant.


[1] The point is that as long as you have nothing to compare against, you can’t say if a measure is effective or not. That’s why guides on best practices for spraying advice to have a small plot where no pesticides are applied. Only then can we know about the efficiency of what we do and eventually adapt. It is estimated that worldwide roughly double the necessary amount of pesticides are used every year due to misapplication.

[2] Spain’s economic existence was for a long time based on a real estate bubble that eventually burst with the real estate crisis.

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About blaubear

Born in 1973 in a small village in rural Switzerland and into a society largely dominated by cows (not only was the human population of one-hundred-and-forty outnumbered by them, but politics driven by unreasonable subsidies for diary products) I was connected with nature from early age on. Observing nature on one hand and the deficiencies of a dysfunctional Swiss agricultural policy with farmers that had lost connection to the land that provided their income on the other, I soon started to question society and the meaning of life. Suffering also under a farcical public education I developed curiosity to discover on my own. That was how I soon learned that little of what I had been taught was true. Skepticism and interaction with people from for me new cultures fostered my interest for the world and eagerness to leave a life shaped by federalistic layman-ship. At the age of twenty-three I hit the road for the first time, an event that later translated into passion. Traveling between cultures has since become part of my life. At the age of thirty-three I finally realized my dream and did a degree in Environmental Engineering from which I graduated in 2009, only to leave Switzerland once more for my "real home" Spain. Unfortunately, the stay was a short one: a couple of months later I was offered a job in Southeast Asia, where I worked and also lived (with some interruptions, e.g. I live in Melbourne since late 2012) ever since. Having worked for a Japanese company earlier in my life, I soon felt captured again by Asian culture and thinking which makes a lovely contrast to my European heritage. My journey through different countries and cultures has taught me that regardless of how different our thinking and values are, no matter what approaches we take, we all can learn from each other. And if we are open enough to see the common instead of pointing out the differences, then we have a chance to live in harmony and peace: Life is all about integration, not exclusion! It's an old wisdom that "knowledge is power", as such I never get tired of being around new people, having interesting talks, and reading lots of good books. I hope that my blog can contribute to the conversation.
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