I couldn’t let last weekend’s historic election result go by without a short comment on this blog. While I’m still not sure I’ll like the new guy, I sure as hello won’t miss the old one.
I remember reading a column by Marina Mahathir (a hero of mine) some years ago in which she described the responsibility of leadership as leading people out of the darkness of their ignorance and into the light – or words to that effect. During his 11 years in power, John Howard has done the opposite. Howard played on people’s fears for political gain, demonising refugees, asylum seekers, Aborigines, Muslims, advocates, academics, gay and lesbian couples and families, the United Nations, anyone who relies on welfare payments to survive…in essence, anyone who didn’t fit his 1950s vision of a straight, white, middle-class Australia. He damaged our international standing on human rights and increased our vulnerability as a target for extremists with his uncriticial support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There is some comfort in the thought that he’s most likely to be remembered for being a nasty, closed-minded ideologue who couldn’t bring himself to say sorry to Aboriginal Australians for the horrors visited on them as a result of white settlement in this country, and who turned away not only boatloads of asylum seekers, but a Norwegian ship that came to one group’s rescue. I just wonder whether his damaging legacy can be undone.
Earlier this week, I was in Mildura in northwest Victoria. I woke up Tuesday morning to a headline in The Age, ‘We will say sorry: Rudd‘. And while I know it’s only a start, it lifted my heart and made me think there might yet come a time when I don’t feel ashamed to be Australian.