Nice bloke, but you wouldn’t want him to run the country. Once again, the failings of John Key on the world stage have been cruelly exposed. Over the weekend, Australia’s new leader Malcolm Turnbull played Key like some steely-eyed Aussie test batsman facing long hops bowled with a tennis ball. Key got smashed, utterly smashed. While New Zealand’s leader has been blithering on about mateship and the spirit of Anzac, Turnbull has given him nothing in return. If anything, the deportations will be sped up, the appeals process abridged, and those affected will have the option of returning to New Zealand before the heave-ho is officially confirmed in court. Thanks, mate.
No worries, though. Not while the national narcotic – rugby, rugby, rugby – is being mainlined 24/7 into the country’s veins. Hard to think of any other developed country where sports news routinely dominates the main news bulletins in the way that it does here. For Turnbull, there was no incentive to be kind to us. The Australian public have bought the message from on high that Australia is merely packing up a bunch of crims, deadbeats, and would-be terrorists, and sending them home. Why, inexplicably, would Turnbull show any mercy to such people? Why risk denting his sky high poll ratings by showing mercy to a bunch of Kiwi losers ?
The fact that the detainees are a mixture of hardened repeat offenders and ordinary people – such as a tetraplegic in a wheelchair whose ‘crime’ was to repeatedly self medicate for pain relief – didn’t matter a jot. If the families of these people are being ripped apart, if kids who think they are Australians are are being packed off to an alien country and if Australia is running detention camps for dozens of Kiwis and denying them ready access to family support, legal help and medical attention…then tough luck, mate.
Key promised to be ‘blunt’ and the talks were said to be ‘frank.’ But frankly, Turnbull didn’t give a damn. There’s a lesson in how Australia flicked us aside at the weekend. We may like political lightweights, but the country pays a price for that indulgence when we expect Key to perform on the world stage.
Meanwhile… all credit to Kelvin Davis for going to Christmas Island to speak up for the detainees, and to bear witness to the extent of this country’s humiliation. Someone had to.
The latest news on today’s general election in Canada is that Justin Trudeau’s Liberals seem to be holding onto their poll advantage over Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. The Liberals’ lead has blown out to seven points, mainly thanks to the continuing erosion of support for the more left-wing NDP of Tom Mulcair, whose total failure to personally connect with the public on the campaign trail has been a surprising aspect of this election. Tellingly, seven out of ten Canadians are telling pollsters that they want change. Yet this useful breakdown of where the three main parties stand on the issues shows how minimal that change may be under Trudeau.
Nationalism, and James Talley
Reportedly, Jimmy Carter’s favourite singer was the great Oklahoma folk musician James Talley. On Youtube, I’d hoped to find Talley’s definitive version of the old Woody Guthrie song “Deportee”… but no luck. Instead, here’s Talley’s version of “This Land Is Your Land.” It takes genius to take an old chestnut like “This Land” and make it sound fresh again. Talley combined the usual pride and awe at the American vastness with a sense of what’s been lost in the years since an Okie like Guthrie first had the gall to lay claim to a stake in his country’s abundance.
Not that anyone is willing to give up the ghost just yet. Townes Van Zandt for instance, could pull the will to endure out of even the darkest places: