When Dacey Rode the Mule

“How can we possibly nurture the things that we share?” asks Lenore Taylor, and it’s a question that deserves to be answered seriously.

An broad answer is that for too long, the right side of politics became so emboldened as to display public hostility to what were once accepted characteristics of Australia’s institutions and our (admittedly flawed and hard-to-define) national character.

Taking Matt Canavan: why would I seek common ground with a minister who openly declares his service to industry rather than the electorate? In the context of his position and power, that’s the only question that matters: any other interaction across party lines can only be seen as horse-trading.

His “serve the mining industry” Tweet is simply too great a chasm to cross: it’s contempt not only for the electorate, but for Australia’s constitution.

Barnaby Joyce defends dealings with water in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan for no better reason than to pitch it as a resistance to “greenies”. Where’s the common ground for a starting point there? How do you meet it half-way?

What is there beyond people saying “but that’s not the Barnaby I know? In private he’s not like that!”

And the list goes on.

As a serious debate over wealth inequality (and surely the “fair go” is at least notionally a “consensus Australian value”?) took hold, Andrew Laming reduced it to “you have a jetski and I don’t”, Alan Tudge says inequality exists only because we don’t define it properly, Scott Morrison fake-newsed the whole notion …

The same party looks for every possible opportunity to undermine any universal service (healthcare, the National Broadband Network); presides over a gathering destruction of our education system; systematically erodes citizens’ freedoms; delights in its atrocious treatment of refugees; protects racist white men.

And from the sidelines there’s a persistent political punditry telling people who aren’t politicians or political journalists that their incivility is a problem.

Or, in the case of Lenore Taylor’s piece in The Guardian, that the two sides of politics are somehow obliged to create some kind of “common ground”.

That it’s tragic when someone allegedly-talented has their career cut short, when the stated aim of that career is a dedication to cultivating the invasive weeds of the right wing Internationale instead of nurturing Australia.

The consensus of values I mentioned at the start were at best fragile and white and male, and centred mostly on the good manners with which parliamentarians were expected to display to each other, and a consensus of positions or opinions (such as the proper position of Aborigines in society) thankfully left behind.

And even at best, I suspect political commentators of 2017 are rose-colouring a past that never existed. Here closes “When Dacey Rode the Mule” from Banjo Paterson, published 1917:

“And from the beasts that made escape

The bushmen all declare

Were born some creatures partly ape

And partly native bear.

They’re rather few and far between

The race is nearly spent;

But some of them may still be seen

In Sydney Parliament.

And when those legislators fight,

And drink, and act the fool,

Just blame it on that torrid night

When Dacey rode the mule.

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