By Scott Ludlam, Senator for Western Australia
What a difference a year makes. This time last year, Malcolm Turnbull's challenge to Tony Abbott's cringeworthy Prime Ministership was still on the horizon, and the Coalition was still locked into the pretence that everything was going to work out fine. A year on, with the 2016 election now receding fast into the political rear-view mirror, it's a good time to think about our role on the national political stage as we enter more complex times.
We can't go further without acknowledging the (temporary) departure of Rob Simms from the federal party room — Rob, your indestructible cheerfulness and determination is already missed and we want you back as soon as possible. Politics can be rough, and the 2016 experience shows that effort and talent isn't always quite rewarded at the polls — the breathtaking close-calls in Batman, Wills and Melbourne Ports certainly bear that out. One thing is certain — 2019 is shaping up to be a breakout year for the Australian Greens if the hard-fought swings in these seats and elsewhere around the country can be extended a fraction more in three years' time.
In the meantime, the Australian electorate took advantage of Senate voting reform to elect the largest cross-bench in Senate history, largely ignoring how-to-vote cards and preferencing whomever they damn well felt like. Rumours of a sky-high informal vote turned out to be unfounded — surprise — and the makeup of the Senate chamber now more closely correlates to the popular vote — which, you would hope, is what an electoral system should be designed to do. Sitting through 28 hours of feverish Labor unhinging turned out not to be the death of democracy after all.
The upshot being, a big chunk of the popular vote has gone back to the hard-right following the inevitable self-destruction of Clive Palmer, Pauline Hanson is back in town, and Malcolm Turnbull presides over a grievously divided government through gritted teeth and a one-seat majority. Large sections of his back-bench have more in common with Pauline than they do with him, which would be quite funny if the stakes weren't so high.
Calls for a ban on Muslim immigration are moving from the fringes to the mainstream with frightening speed, correlated no doubt with the slide towards unapologetic fascism that has emerged during the Republican primaries in the US and the consolidation of ultra-nationalist parties in the UK and Europe. We will also be graced — thanks to One Nation — with a climate flat-earther who thinks the world's increasingly violent weather is being orchestrated by NASA and a United Nations conspiracy through something called Agenda 21 and maybe involving chemtrails. He sounds entertaining, unless you're a Pacific Islander organising for the evacuation of your homeland or an Australian living in a bushfire-prone area.
Don't believe the propoganda
Somehow amidst this swing to the right we mostly held our ground and now have a powerful opportunity to organise for real change.
There is a reason that media oligarchs beam 24/7 race-hate and paranoia into outer metro suburbs and regional towns hit hard by the slow-motion collapse of the commodities boom. There is a reason why people facing intergenerational unemployment and the privatisation of basic health and education services are offered Syrian refugees as convenient targets of their discontent.
It is an old bait-and-switch trick that is probably as old as politics itself: if you're focusing your grievances on people even less fortunate than yourself, it's much less likely you'll end up on the barricades going up against the 1 per cent.
As we link arms with those in our region and further afield doing it much tougher than ourselves, as we combine our numbers to support those here at home fighting for Sovereignty, Treaty and kids out of prison, and as we work every single day for the kind of economy that serves people and planet rather than treating both as disposable assets to be stripped and discarded, I can't help but recall the words of Arundhati Roy: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing.”