From Our Aussie Correspondent

More from our intrepid Aussie reporter Georgia Lewis as she chronicles Australia’s recent attempts to win the World’s Dumbest Nation award.

I’ve just come back from three weeks in my home country of Australia – and it was a time of friends, family, beer, beaches, more rain than you might expect, a road trip, a lot of seafood and, in between the merriment, there were plenty of morons to watch. Here is a handpicked selection from Federal politics.

The obvious moron to watch is Tony Abbott, the newly elected Prime Minister and leader of the conservative Liberal Party. The Liberal Party is in power in coalition with the National Party, a right-leaning party that focuses on rural interests. At least this coalition makes ideological sense, unlike the shambolic Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition but a car crash has ensued since the election.

In the space of three months, he has presided over Australia-Indonesia relations reaching a new low over spying allegations, a Burmese asylum seeker from the seriously persecutedRohingya minority getting sent back to a detention centre four days after giving birth to a sick baby by c-section (Abbott is meant to be the pro-family, pro-motherhood, prolife Prime Minister…), a policy to buy boats of people smugglers resulting in no boats being bought from people smugglers, a revolt by state governments of all political stripes over a broken promise on school education funding, an Australian government no-show at COP19, the United Nation’s annual climate change summit, and the giving of gun boats to the human rights-abusing Sri Lankan government at CHOGM.

But obviously Abbott isn’t doing all this by himself. He is being ably assisted in these endeavours by the likes of foreign minister, Julie Bishop (the only woman in his cabinet), his Gove-like education minister Christopher Pyne, and Bronwyn Bishop, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives (the Aussie equivalent of the House of Commons) who has busied herself setting new standards in bias. It’s brilliant!

Now, about these spying allegations… The Australian government has probably been snooping on Indonesia well before Abbott was the PM. But the problem is that now Australia has been busted, the diplomacy by Abbott and Julie Bishop has been pitiful. In this instance, a humble apology by Abbott probably wouldn’t have led to Australia cutting back on its surveillance (please let us not be naive here…), but here’s the thing about diplomacy – it stops countries bombing the crap out of each other and it is important for maintaining trade relations, which any you’d think a capitalism-loving government would be keen to do.

Instead, we have an embarrassing regional spat. As a result, Indonesia is not really keen to help Abbott with his “STOP THE BOATS!” policy on asylum seekers arriving by sea. FYI it’s a policy that is basically a load of shouty, vote-grabbing rhetoric. And none of this nonsense does a damn thing to stop people smugglers, or to improve the lives of people who do take desperate measures to get away from awful situations (such as the Burmese woman who had a c-section and is now back in detention…), or to solve the problem of people who arrive in Australia illegally by plane, or the thousands of British and American people who are in Australia illegally and far outnumber asylum seekers from Afghanistan.

The Australian no-show at this year’s COP19 climate change conference in Warsaw was also pretty special. Admittedly, it was probably a tad excessive of Kevin Rudd, the former PM, to send 114 people to last year’s COP18 in Qatar in taxpayer expense. But to send nobody was pretty moronic on Abbott’s part.

Having been to COP17 and COP18 in the line of duty, I can indeed confirm that there is much hot air generated in terms of endless discussions on climate change and emissions targets. But if you want your country to have a say in agreements that have far-reaching implications for business, the economy and industry, it’s wise to send someone along. Hell, if Abbott stands by his climate change-denying views, what better place for him to try and convince the world to come around to his way of thinking than at an international forum?

But Abbott’s idea is being part of the international community is to attend CHOGM without questioning the human rights record of the host country, Sri Lanka, and giving them a couple of boats at a cost to the Australian taxpayer of $2 million to help them prevent people from leaving a frequently terrible regime.

But moronic behaviour is not reserved for the government. Kevin Rudd, as the losing PM in the last election, has decided to quit politics. He won his seat in the election so he could always try representing his constituents with dedication and dignity for this current parliamentary term. But he has thrown his toys out of the pram and now the people in his seat will have to go back to the polls for a by-election at further taxpayer expense.

Sigh… I’ve barely scratched the surface of Australian political morons. I am reserving judgement on whether billionaire Clive Palmer will be a moron MP until he actually says a bit more in the House. Then there is Gina Rinehart, the mining billionairess, who may as well be in Parliament for the influence she is currently wielding. And billionaire James Packer who has plans to build a high rollers’ casino in exchange for a $60 million “arts gift” for Sydney and the promise that it will not degenerate into yet another low-rent gambling venue full of poker machines…

Meanwhile, in overgoverned Australia, there are always morons to watch at state and local government level, there is all the fun of successive governments having no idea how to sort out public transport in Sydney, corrupt councils and nanny state road signs. Then again, I have come back to Britain and it’s moronic business as usual in the House of Commons here too.

A Guide to the Morons of the Australian Election (Part 2)

Aussie journalist Georgia Lewis (who also blogs as The Rant Mistress) takes a break from smoking her billabong to complete her guide to the 2013 Australian elections. If you missed part 1, click here to read it first.

I could have written reams and reams on why Tony Abbott, Australia’s opposition leader, is leading the way with a moronic election campaign, I didn’t even scratch the surface with his carbon tax nonsense and there was plenty more to be said about how Labor Prime Minister Rudd is about as close to the original ideals of his party as Russell Crowe is to singing a note. But you are all busy people and there are many morons to watch with the Australian election and I want to share as many of them as I can.

Here are a few more for your enjoyment…

Stephanie Banister didn’t really get out of the starting blocks, the poor dear. Despite facing charges for putting anti-Islamic stickers on food in supermarkets, she was poised to be a candidate for the terminally idiotic One Nation party until an excruciating television interview happened. She laboured under the misapprehension that Islam is a country, she confused the Muslim holy book, the Quran, with “haram”, meaning “forbidden” and after the usual whine about being misquoted, she withdrew from the race.

Just as well then that One Nation party founder Pauline Hanson is making her sixth political comeback with a bid for a seat in the Senate. Australia’s upper house of Parliament, unlike the House of Lords, is elected with a proportional representation system. Each state is allocated a certain number of seats based on population and this is where all manner of moronic politicians often end up getting a lot of airplay. This year could be the year Pauline Hanson is one such pollie.

In 1996, Hanson won the federal lower house seat of Oxley as an independent after losing preselection for the Liberal Party (Australia’s Tories…) over remarks about Aboriginal Australians. It didn’t take long for her to be nicknamed “The Oxleymoron”. Her maiden speech was a festival of idiocy, with her fear of being “swamped by Asians” ringing in everyone’s ears. She also had a policy of “abolishing multiculturalism” although it was never really clear how she planned on achieving this. She lost her seat in the 1998 election and since then, she has been convicted and then acquitted of electoral fraud, and, for no good reason apart from attention-seeking, revealed that she had an affair with her former adviser, David Oldfield, giving Australians a collectively unwanted mental image. She is showing no signs of overcoming her battle with extreme idiocy.

Sadly, it seems the Australian Sex Party may have jumped the shark in this election. Another party with high hopes for the Senate, with its tablecloth-sized ballot paper, this party has some excellent and non-moronic policies. These include ensuring churches pay tax, legalising same-sex marriage, a secular education system and the decriminalisation of personal drug use.

Unfortunately, if you vote for the Sex Party above the line on the senate ballot (whereby you put a number one next to the party of your choice and let the party to distribute preferences as they see fit instead of laboriously numbering every single candidate below the line), your preferences might go to some unexpected places. The Sex Party has given preferences to One Nation, single-issue buffoon groups such as the Non-Custodial Parents Party, Climate Sceptics and the Shooters and Fishers, as well as the loopy Bob Katter’s Australia Party ahead of parties whose values are way more in line with the Sex Party, such as the Socialist Alliance and the Greens.

And I can tell you’re dying to know more about Bob Katter. He used to be a member of the National Party, which forms a coalition with the Liberal Party, to form either conservative governments or oppositions. But it would appear this all became a bit too radical for Katter. So he took his footy and left to form Katter’s Australian Party. This has been formed largely on the basis of economic protectionism – all armed forces, police and prison uniforms to be made in Australia, increased customs duty on good being imported into Australia and the like… And then there is the policy of resistance to same-sex marriage and restoring individual rights such as “fishing freely and boiling a billy without a permit.”

But this is not surprising from a man who said he wouldn’t let a homosexual person teach his children and claimed there were no gay people in his electorate. He promised to “walk backwards from Brisbane to Bourke” if this was proven to be untrue. A gay man in his electorate did reveal himself to the media but Katter has not yet taken the 582-mile stroll.

It is hardly surprising former Prime Minister, Paul Keating once referred to the Senate as “unrepresentative swill”. It has always been a magnet for weird power imbalances and surprise elections of people who would not stand a chance in the lower house. This sometimes means ridiculous legislation is either stopped or amended. Or it means productivity can come to a halt. Either way, it’s certainly entertaining.

And before Australia goes to the polls on Saturday, we have time for one more bonus moron. Enter stage right, Jaymes Diaz, a Liberal party candidate for the Lower House seat of Greenway. He naturally supports his leader, Tony Abbott, in his “stop the boats” policy on refugees. It’s just a shame that while he happily trumpets Abbott’s “six-point plan”, he was unable to name any of the six points when asked by a reporter. He has hardly been seen since this gaffe and it looks like he won’t win the western Sydney seat. But, rest assured, there will still be plenty of moron activity in both houses of Australia’s parliament for the foreseeable future.

A Guide to the Morons of the Australian Election (Part 1)

Australia’s election is approaching, and the campaign is even more moronic than one might expect. We asked our Australian correspondent Georgia Lewis (who actually lives in London, and also blogs here) to stop drinking Fosters for a moment, and explain what is going on; she told us that one blog post would not be enough to summarise the stupidity; so here is the first half of Georgia’s Aussie election report.

At the time of writing, I am reflecting on the very real possibility that this time next week, opposition leader, Tony Abbott will be the new Prime Minister of Australia. This is the man who rose to global fame after former Prime Minister Julia Gillard tore him a new one over his ongoing, tiresome misogyny and the video went viral. He has also amused people around the world this year by saying “suppository of wisdom”. Abbott is leader of the Australian equivalent of the Tories, the mis-named Liberal Party.

The current Prime Minister is Kevin Rudd. He is also the former Prime Minister. He defeated John Howard in 2007. Then Julia Gillard ousted him as leader. Then he ousted her this year in a bid to not lose the election quite so badly. Rudd represents the Labor Party. Yes, that’s how we spell the party name in Australia. I think it’s to detract attention away from the party’s union connections but it’s not very effective. Maybe Ed Milliband could try that here?

But here’s the thing about the Australian election this year – the two leaders are not actually morons. Not in the academic sense anyway. Abbott was a Rhodes scholar and the equally well-educated Rudd speaks Mandarin-Chinese. And it is pretty obvious what they are both doing when it comes to trying to win the September 7 election. They are appealing to morons.

When it comes to policy on asylum seekers – “boat people” – there is no real difference between the two parties. Both have lurched so far to the right on this one, it won’t matter who you vote for. Either way, if people arrive in leaky boats seeking asylum in Australia, there will be no change to mandatory detention, there will be further reliance on under-resourced neighbouring countries for “processing” and nobody is willing to allow asylum seekers currently in detention to be allowed to work while they wait for a decision on refugee status. Abbot’s “Stop the boats!” rhetoric is proving effective. He knows it is simplistic and populist just as Rudd knows that as more progressive approach isn’t necessarily a vote winner either.

I do not know of any Australians who have been personally inconvenienced by asylum seekers in any way, shape or form, but this does not stop the border control fear-mongering from being successful for both leaders.

Abbott has also achieved bonus fear about the Australian economy. That’d be the one that survived the global financial crisis probably better than any other nation on the planet. But apparently it will all be so much better under an Abbott government. This is when his moron behaviour starts to creep in. Among his fine examples of promised economic management is a very generous maternity leave scheme – except that it will be paid for with a 1.5% levy for all companies with a turnover of $5 million or more. These same companies have been given a tax cut. Of 1.5%. Genius!

Christopher Pyne, the likely education minister in an Abbott government, told Lateline, the Aussie equivalent of Newsnight, that Australia had become “obsessed” with class size and that Australia should look towards countries where schools with class sizes of 40 were not unusual as an example.

So the man who will probably be the next Education Minister has no issue with a policy that will create more idiocy in Australia. Brilliant! Still, more morons is probably a good way to ensure these buffoons stay in power. Keep ‘em dumb!

And speaking of dumb, Tony Abbott can’t help but let his religious views creep into policy either. When he was Health Minister, he was no fan of Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. Despite being a prolife Roman Catholic, he wasn’t sure Australia needed a vaccine that would save the lives of women. Of course, this did not stop him crowing about it being finally included on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme even though this happened because of pressure from the likes of then-Prime Minister John Howard.

Abbott’s views on Gardasil and, in turn, women, are more accurately reflected in this comment he made on the vaccine: “I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated, maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.”

Just in case he looked like he was appealing a bit too much to the anti-science, off-the-wall, Jenny McCarthy-endorsed anti-vaccine lobby, he quickly qualified that statement with a hurried addendum: “If there is a national immunisation programme, I certainly will be making sure that they get vaccinated [with Gardasil] under the programme.”

But, let’s face it, he already opened his damn fool mouth to reveal he thinks that it’s a slut shot – just one jab and your daughters will be instant harlots!

In contrast, apart from an embarrassing incident in which Rudd was caught on camera picking wax out of his ear, he is not quite as gaffe-prone as Abbott. Then again, he does not wear his religion on his sleeve and, unlike Abbott, he did not tell the media that one of the party’s candidates for the election has sex appeal. But that has been regarded as a storm in a C-cup and, hell, it’ll probably make him appear more like a knockabout Aussie bloke to the electorate.

Instead, Rudd has a reputation for being ruthless and difficult to work with – personally, that still sounds better than sexist and a bit creepy, but the Australian voters will probably disagree with me next weekend. And it seems Rudd is now weary – resigned to electoral defeat, unsure what his future holds. That will depend on how badly Labor loses the election. Absurd asylum seeker policy aside, Rudd has not run a particularly moronic campaign. It has had predictable flashes of populism designed to appeal to morons but in a head-to-head battle for supreme idiocy, Abbott keeps coming up trumps.

In the last week of campaigning, Abbott got in one last blast to appeal to the redneck voters. He spoke out about how he finds the burqa “confronting” and “not the sort of attire I would like to see widespread in our streets”. This was in defence of one of his candidates, Ray King, saying it was a “sign of oppression.”

Now, technically, a burqa is actually a mask worn across the nose, made of either stiffened cloth or metal, that does not cover the entire face. King actually mean “niqab” but, hey, all that Muslamic clothing looks the same! It is not compulsory for Australian women, Muslim or otherwise, to cover their whole faces, it is not a common sight in Australia, and neither party has a policy on Islamic attire but I guess it’s good to know where two men stand on this issue apropos of nothing.

King also gets a few more bonus moron points for the time he proposed a policing system whereby suspects would be injected with satellite-trackable microchips that would be fired from a “high-powered sniper rifle.”

Abbott’s nuanced take on the situation in Syria is that is “baddies versus baddies.” With insights like that, he will have so much to offer on the world stage in the coming months if he wins the election. Which I am pretty sure he will. Moron watchers of the world should be on red alert – things can only get dumber Down Under.

Boris Johnson: Not a National Treasure

YawningBoris

 

Welcoming a new guest blogger: Georgia Lewis is a journalist, and a freelance moron-watcher on Twitter and via her own blog, The Rant Mistress.

“I love Boris Johnson, he’s great comedy value.”

Really? I live in London. If I want comedy, there are plenty of places I can go for that. There is no need to look to the mayor for rampant hilarity. Hell, why is he even considered to be so damn funny? The unkempt mop of blonde hair? The bumbling mannerisms? That time he got stuck on a zipwire? If that’s as good as British comedy gets these days, we may as well go back to watching re-runs of Dad’s Army.

“But he’s a national treasure!”

So is Sooty. But that doesn’t mean he should be the mayor.

All snarking aside, Boris Johnson does belong squarely on a blog dedicated to watching morons.

He has done an excellent job as coming across as the cool Tory, the Conservative who’s really quite progressive. He is so funky he even supports same-sex marriage, even though he publicly said he didn’t realise it wasn’t yet legalised here. But who needs a mayor who is aware of the laws of the land? Pish tosh!

Hell, with all his Boris bike antics, he has even managed to paint himself as the Tory who is ecologically friendly. Except he’s not.

Are you labouring under the misapprehension that he is the green Tory who cares about the people? This is the mayor who decided to give his mates in one of the most privileged parts of the capital a nice little tax break when he reversed Ken Livingstone’s decision to extend the Congestion Charge zone to the western part of central London. If someone has to drive into central London from a more deprived borough, it will cost them £10-£12 each time.

The latest stunt on the Congestion Charge is to remove the exemption for most hybrid cars and all cleaner diesel cars. Boris is expected to approve this plan so it comes into force in July. It’s not as if Central London is overrun with gridlocked Priuses and curiously, it will only add an estimated £1 million-£2 million to Transport For London’s coffers . Surely this could be achieved by, oh, I don’t know, extending the Congestion Charge to the west again.

I test-drove a Honda Jazz hybrid last year and for two days, I did the 16-mile round trip from my house in Zone 4 to my Congestion Charge zone office and back. Because this car operates in pure electric mode when driven at speeds of 20mph or less, and given the stop-start nature of driving in London, I spent most of my commute on both days emitting pretty much nothing. I used almost no petrol in two days. Forcing such cars to pay the Congestion Charge will do nothing to encourage people to buy more eco-friendly cars.

But why would he care about that? He has been busy spending £1.4 million of public money on an anti-pollution scheme that doesn’t work. In 2010, he heralded with much fanfare a trial of dust supressants on some of London’s dirtiest roads. The idea is that the pollution is literally glued to the road. Except that a study by non-morons at Kings College London showed that it was not working and that diesel was the main cause of pollution and that the attempts to glue pollution to the roads did nothing to reduce the grot in areas where the big problem is quite simply too much traffic.

Last week, Boris showed further signs of eco delusion when he announced grand-sounding plans for the Congestion Charge zones to be transformed into “Ultra Low Emission Zones.” Which sounds great on the surface. Except that trucks will be exempt from any restrictions. Oh, and this won’t come into effect until 2020. How useful.

His green credentials took a further nosedive in a ridiculous, science-denying column on climate change for The Telegraph last month. His incoherent rant featured reminiscences from his childhood, random observations from his bicycle, the admission that he was no expert, quotes from scientists that he didn’t know whether or not to believe, and the conclusion that all this chuffing snow means that climate change might be a big load of hooey.

And while Boris loves to tell the world that he has the best job in the world as mayor of London, it is indeed curious that he has taken time out of London this week to pop up to Eastleigh for a spot of Conservative campaigning.

The Eastleigh by-election, caused by the embarrassing downfall of Lib-Dem moron Chris Huhne, features the socially conservative Maria Hutchings as the Tory candidate. Despite being at odds with Hutchings on the issue of marriage equality, Boris felt that the best use of his time was a spot of campaigning miles away from the capital.

Tragically, the Tories believe that getting Boris out on the hustings for Hutchings will be a vote-winner. And, hey, who wouldn’t be swayed by his persuasive words, as quoted by Torcuil Crichton, The Daily Record’s Westminster editor: “It is our constitutional duty to kick the Lib Dems in the … well, do they have any?”

What a statesman.

Boris may say over and over again that he has no ambitions to be an MP again but he has a funny way of showing it. In 2011, David Cameron was quoted as saying his “number one priority” for 2012 was to ensure Boris remained mayor of London. Perhaps Cameron fears that a BoJo return to Westminster would be a threat to his leadership. Or Cameron has become so London-centric that he really doesn’t care about the rest of Britain, with the possible exception of Chipping Norton.

Either way, it would appear Cameron is happy to keep a faux eco warrior in charge of London. A faux eco warrior who put up bus and tube fares again with minimal protest.

But as long as people keep falling for his alleged charms and have no issue with voting for a man widely viewed as a lovable buffoon, there’ll be no breaking free of party politics at local government level any time soon. And the capital’s attempt at democracy will be more like an idiocracy. Boris voters of London, you have the mayor you deserve.