Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold ...
- WB Yeats
We have just heard that the UK parliament has rejected the Brexit compromise introduced by Prime Minister Theresa May. Yesterday 10,000 school kids marched in Brisbane because the older generation is not doing enough to prevent climate catastrophe. Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, held up a lump of coal in the parliament saying this is our future, an act he will surely regret. A friend got me thinking about things that are different in Australia since the 1970s. The changes I am thinking about were not brought about by the Left (or the Right).
They were brought about by the ‘sensible centre‘.
Things like user pays, goods and services tax, decline in real wages, increased casual jobs, fees for Universities, uranium mining and export, increased coal production.
The deregulation and privatisation of the banks, sale of Telstra, privatisation of the railways, the roads, tunnels, sale of publicly owned airports, supporting oil wars in Iraq, Syria, overthrow of Libyan government, bilateral support for US foreign policy, denial of climate change, taking away workers rights to strike … all were done by the centre.
I could probably think of more … but all this was done by governments, by people who argued that the Left (and Right) were not practical, lacked any sense, wouldn’t compromise. We got the GFC from the sensible people on Wall Street.
In 1983 Bob Hawke said it was “a sensible outcome that allowed existing (uranium) mines to keep operating” … the three uranium mines operating at Ranger, Narbalek and Roxby Downs yet Australian uranium helped fuel the meltdown in Fukushima. Hawke and Keating went on to introduce the prices and incomes accord that froze real wages while prices went up and thereby reduced union membership from about 60% down to about 15%. The centre sacked 1001 SEQEB workers in Queensland. They conspired to sack the entire Patricks workforce in the 1998 MUA here-to-stay dispute. They sold the Commonwealth bank in the 1980s, the airports in the 1990s and supported the first gulf war in 1991. They sold the first tranche of Telstra in 1996 that Howard finished off.
Yet Hawke claimed “he was “able to get a rational sense about this matter” around the cabinet table“! People in the Labour Party in Britain are challenging the sensible centre, trying to get the Labour Party to move to the Left … but not here in Australia. Howard took over from where they left off and went to war in Iraq in 2003, introduced the welfare basics card, the NT Intervention, refused to say sorry to first nations people, and so on … all from the centre.
A centrist Australian government is supporting a coup in Venezuela because of oil.
And, after all this, the centre continues to hold here in Australia. Why?