Can Australian Politics finally cease being a Blood Sport?

Soon after Tony Abbott was elected PM, a rather macabre pun started doing the rounds within (progressive) not-for-profit circles that we were all now living in “the Abbott-oir”. And indeed, it is now widely accepted the first Abbott Government budget did go a long way towards justifying that view, with its attempts at ‘savage cuts’ to public spending.

But regardless of whether or not that was an appropriate moniker for the past 2 years, it is very interesting to see the BBC report last night’s events using that exact term, to describe Australia’s parliamentary system of late.

Under the headline “Australia: Coup capital of the democratic world“, the BBC journalist observes: ” A quarter century of Australian reform under Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard has been followed by an era of revenge… Covering Australian politics feels more like conducting a triage of the wounded and slain. The bloodletting has become so brutal that party rooms have come to resemble abattoirs.”

From a Words/Matter perspective, it is a sorry state of affairs that a journo on the other side of the world sees fit to describe Australian politics as having sunk to such a description. Certainly politicians are human – they make mistakes, they get flustered. But is it really too much to expect that, as the elected leaders of any nation, they are at least able to set the tone for relations between adults, and in turn set the example of behaviour for children and adults alike?

There can be little doubt that many in Australia will today be rejoicing the end of the Abbott ‘era’ (short as it was). But the big question, and the big doubt, is whether the whole sorry state of political affairs in Australia can finally move beyond the petty and the vindictive short-termism of the past 5 years or so.

We may have seen the end of the Abbott Government, but have we seen the end of the parliamentary abattoir? Let’s hope so.

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