An Atheist Female Prime Minister Of Australia!

When I first heard that the Australian Labor party had ousted Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister, I wasn’t happy. Labor wasn’t doing that badly in the polls, so I just felt they were panicking too much; indeed, I feel they’ve been doing this for some time now, which I think is the main reason why they ended up doing so badly in the polls in the first place. I think they’ve actually done a pretty god job of running the country under very difficult circumstances—for example, Australia survived the global financial crisis better than any other first world country. Yes, they’ve made some mistakes, but I feel their mistakes are vastly outweighed by their achievements. The problem is that their mistakes have all come in the last few months (with an election looming), and the electorate has a very short memory.

I also feel Kevin Rudd has been unfairly blamed for circumstances beyond his control. For example, he fought hard to get a deal with the Coalition on carbon trading, only to have it dashed at the last minute by a surprise change of opposition leader, accompanied by a complete reversal on climate change policy. Then he fought hard to get a deal at Copenhagen, but as we know that was dashed as well. Delaying further action on carbon trading was pretty much the only practical thing he could do under the circumstances, but the electorate saw this as a back down, and (I think unfairly) judged him to be without principles. Strange how his predecessor John Howard broke promise after promise, while the electorate just dismissed it as what politicians do, and kept voting for him. Ironically, Rudd was a victim of the fact that people actually believed he would deliver on his promises—and in fact he did when the circumstances allowed. But this back down made the electorate see him as another lying politician (once again, I think unjustly), and punished him in the polls for their disappointment.

Still, Rudd certainly wasn’t perfect. His devout Christian beliefs led him to make illogical decisions sometimes, such as his basically “go forth and multiply” population policy. This led him to continue the Howard government’s baby bonus, for example, which must be one of the worst social policies in Australia’s history: it is basically an inducement for people who can’t afford to have children to have them, which obviously has very negative consequences for those children and society as a whole. But like his predecessor, all Kevin could see was the fact that it raised Australia’s birth rate, which he saw as a good thing. His Christian beliefs also made him a social conservative, which meant that he refused to legalise gay marriage, for example. So while I felt he was a huge improvement over our previous Prime Minister John Howard (which he certainly was), it often seemed as though he wasn’t a true Labor leader; more a compassionate conservative. Hence, even though I was relatively happy with him as Prime Minister (compared to Howard), I would have preferred a more progressive leader.

So in spite of the fact that I don’t feel Kevin Rudd got a fair go from the media, the Australian public or his own party, I can’t help but feel elated about the leader who has replaced him. Much has been made of the fact that Julia Gillard is Australia’s first female Prime Minister, but for me the biggest thing about her is the fact that she is a childless and unmarried atheist—and even more remarkably, she has the balls to openly declare it publicly! And in the biggest policy shift since she came into power, she’s already announced a sustainable population strategy. This has been widely interpreted as simply immigration control, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she scraps the baby bonus after winning the next election (indeed, I’d be disappointed if she didn’t). And I believe Julia’s position is genuine: I do not think it is simply code for xenophobia and populism, unlike the opposition with their scare mongering over asylum seekers—Julia’s own comments in that regard have been very measured.

I feel very proud to live in a country where our leader can be a childless, unmarried, atheist female—and I’m even more happy about the fact that the Australian public seems to largely be responding to her very positively. I guess I shouldn’t get too excited until she wins the next election, but it has often puzzled me how politicians in Australia have always gone on about supporting nuclear family values by default, when in reality, the nuclear family is rapidly becoming the exception rather than the rule here. We have a so-called “Family First” party (although so far their only representative in the senate has just espoused the same old conservative values, often to the detriment of working families), but we’ve never had a singles first party, even though there are more and more of us here. Politicians frequently go on about Christian values, but until now, no one has ever been outspokenly secular, even though that’s what this country is really all about, and we have a huge (and growing) non-Christian population here, including many atheists. For the first time ever, we have a leader who represents these important, widespread, yet previously almost totally unrepresented values, which to me is a far bigger deal than the fact that she’s a woman (although that is of course significant).

In related news, there’s currently a senate enquiry looking into a proposal for religious organisations in Australia to have to pass a public benefit test to receive tax exempt status. Also, the Australian Secular Party (of which I am am member) has just been officially registered as well. At a time when we are threatened with having the most conservative, overtly Christian Prime Minister in Australia’s history (the leader of the opposition Tony Abbot), we finally have a completely secular alternative!

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Daniel de Culla

Romero

Lovely¡ Atheism is Life. To believe in god is death.

  
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While I agree that it is good that we have an athiest PM who is not afraid to admit it, I have always been less concerned with the religious beliefs of our politicians than their policies.
A Christian (or Jewish or Muslim) politician that espouses economic and social policies I agree with (or who can mount a convincing argument about why they are good for the country even if they hurt me individually) will always get my support.
I never supported Howard, not because of his religious beliefs, but because of things like Work Choices. I did however (and I still do) support the GST – but I also supported it when Keating wanted to introduce it in Hawkes first term.
As for Gillard, “sustainable” population growth is certaining a good marketing statement, but Australia is a large and rich country. We have lots of space – and provided we develop the infrastructure and do so with one eye on the ecology, we can and should support a larger population.
I support a more humane treatment of refugees. I don’t support the “tow the boats back” approach of the Liberals (or some Western Suburbs Labour politicians).
I support a Resource Rent Tax on mining – calling it a Resource Super Profits Tax is a mistake. Labour needs to get out and sell this for what it is – Australia taking a larger share of the profit from our dirt that is suddenly more valuable.
And yes, Tony Abbott as PM is the stuff of nightmares. If Julia Gillard can keep that nightmare at bay better than Kevin Rudd, I am OK with her taking the leadership. You have to win before you can implement your policies.

On a side note, keep up the good work Sachiko – I don’t always agree with you, but I always love to read your blogs – and look at your pictures :)

  
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@Chris – I pretty much entirely agree with you. That’s why I supported Rudd, because I agreed with his policies for the most part. I did have some small disagreements with him though, and I do think they can be at least partly attributed to his religious beliefs. Where Julia Gillard seems to me to be better than Rudd can also I think be attributed to her religious beliefs – or rather, the lack thereof.

As for sustainable population, I think this is a no-brainer as far as it goes. We can indeed support more people here, but we have to be more careful about how we do it, and how quickly. The brand new minister for sustainable population has already cited certain areas of Australia that are really crying out for more people, so we need to encourage people to go there, instead of our overcrowded capital cities. I also very strongly believe in immigration (after all, I am an immigrant myself) – I think we should actually be reducing the birth rate to keep the population sustainable. Politicians keep talking about the need for more young people to support the ageing population, but this doesn’t take into account the fact that the cost of raising children is far higher than supporting pensioners, and unemployment remains the highest amongst youth. I really think skilled immigration is actually the best way to give us the workers we need: that way we’re helping other countries with their own population problems, while we benefit from their skills practically for free. It’s win win for everyone.

Oh, and welcome to my blog Chris – I’m glad you enjoy reading it, and looking at my pictures as well. ;-)

  
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Too bad Australian politics are still irrevocably screwed up, more so than american politics. At least we don’t ban games and movies. We also have measures in place that actively stop the implementation of a internet filter (go go 1st Amendment!) Some one needs to tell the Australian labor party that China and Germany are two very bad role models to follow.

  
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@Brad – I have to say: from what I know about the facts of the internet filter proposal (rather than the media beat-ups), it seems to me that most people are seriously overreacting. It will just restrict the kind of thing that’s illegal in every western country anyway (e.g. bestiality, child pornography). Form memory, at this stage they only have a list of 140-odd sites that will be filtered, and there will be an independent ombudsman overseeing it (to make sure the government doesn’t use it to censor political material, for example). So quite frankly, I don’t have any problem with this proposal at all.

  
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Sachiko, while banning kiddy porn sites and known terrorist sites is all good and nice, I like to believe that one thing leads to another and allowing a government to step even as far as you are allowing them to step is what I would consider to be placing far too much trust in a government that does not deserve to be trusted. allowing them to take an inch will embolden them into thinking they can take a mile. It is just simply foolish to think that the internet filtering will end there. Filtration should be handled on the home level at the discretion of the computer’s owner. A more appropriate measure would be to introduce legislation that would force computer vendors and OS manufacturers to include an easy to use filtration software suite that the user could, once again at their discretion, enable and configure without too much trouble. A national filter is just insane.

  
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@Brad – Well we already trust the government to ban inappropriate books, magazines and videos – and nothing more. This just extends the same laws to the internet, and as I said, there will be an independent ombudsman overseeing it. For some reason, the internet seems to provoke people into paranoia and even hysteria that just doesn’t apply to other media. This is just another slippery slope argument, which I always hate: if something becomes a problem, you deal with it then. It is illogical not to do something that might otherwise be beneficial, just because it may become a problem later.

  
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I think Kevin made a big mistake taking on the miners.

  
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