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 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.